This is one of the most calming videos I’ve watched in a long time. The level of care and attention that woman provides to that tiny, helpless, brand-new human? Oh gosh; it gives me the cutesies.
My limbs, it seems, have resolved their life-long impasse with my brain. This reminds me of something very important: the brain’s capability to learn and change.
I grew up rather fond of tapping out beats on tabletops with pens, but that’s about where my percussion experience ended. A drummer’s ability to drum has always fascinated me. So many beats. So many limbs.
That pint-sized brain of mine, tucked inside my skinny little body that wore a hefty neon pink and yellow backpack, heard only one thing: you could have done better.
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She loves music, listening to bird calls, and reading. Although she’s just in her early twenties, she’s already been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and dysthymia. Her diagnoses follow a difficult and abusive childhood.
What makes Sveta’s story a bit different from most stories of PTSD and abuse is this: she’s also blind.
Although she can perceive colors and shapes, and distinguish between light and dark, that’s the extent of her visual ability. The blindness affects everything from her ability to escape triggering situations to her anxiety coping strategies. Her parents still largely control the minutae of her everyday life, so Sveta finds herself struggling to carve out her own strategies for controlling her environment.
Summer: Have you always been blind, or were you able to see at some point in your life?
Sveta: I was born 3 months and 2 weeks early. I was put on oxygen because I couldn’t breathe. The result was that not only could I breathe, but the blood vessels in my eyes grew too fast, forcing the retina and the eye apart.
SB: And you suffer from an anxiety disorder, correct? Do you mind sharing your diagnoses?
S: I have been diagnosed with dysthymia, also known as chronic depression and complex PTSD, which is like BPD but to a lesser degree.
SB: Do you feel the dysthymia was always present, or did it develop at some point in your life?
S: The dysthymia was always there for as long as I can remember. My parents used to make fun of my love for minor keys saying, “You only like songs where someone dies”. This, of course, isn’t true. I like the minor key, not the death. It happens, sometimes, that songs where someone dies are in minor keys. It also happens that in songs in minor keys, sometimes, someone dies.
I can’t think of any other creature that can be practically invisible, then suddenly appear in quite the way spiders do.
It’s the Contrast Principle in effect: during the day, there are so many sounds in nature that we’re unlikely to hear a tiny mouse scurrying near our feet. But at night, with its absence of light, dull orchestra of crickets, and an imagination open wide, tiny sounds get amplified by our minds.
As we learned in my last blog post, in a tent full of scared eleven-year-old Girl Scouts at summer camp, a field mouse scurrying through the leaves = a big hungry bear searching for a late-night snack. At the right (or, well, wrong) thoughts and a tiny mouse becomes a big bear.
It doesn’t necessarily need to be dark outside for our mind to amplify the wrong message. When anxious, small things sound like big things. When sick, small things sound like big things. When depressed. When overwhelmed. When tired.
I mean, think about it: when’s the last time something small — say, washing a load of dishes — seemed like a gargantuan task? Maybe it was yesterday when your nerves were already abuzz thanks to your colicky little one screaming her head off.
At night, the nature sounds were glorious: crickets, whipporwills, and the occasional owl. These sounds lulled me to sleep. Well, most of the time.
Jemima is in her late twenties and works in television production. She describes herself as a “lover of anything with a beating heart”, but quickly notes that bears are the sole exception to this rule.