Trauma Happy Finance: Give Your Good Brain a Break

Welcome to Wednesdays here at Trauma Happy Finance! Every Wednesday I’ll be writing to my younger self.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to know what choice to make in life. And with growing up like I did with paranoid schizophrenic Mom, I didn’t have a map for where I wanted my life to go. Life at home didn’t look like anything I saw on TV or anything like what my friends’ lives looked like. These letters to myself are me trying to heal myself by talking to a ghost of the past and maybe quelling this guy’s fears will help give me some peace right now.
——

Younger Miguel’s focus was often on short-term crisis containing things. Like, “Shoot, Mom’s yelling at that employee because they moved the fresh corn and she’s convinced it’s a government plot against her family, what can I do to get her to stop?” And sometimes, “Mom and Dad are fighting downstairs and I can hear them through the walls, let me just turn up the volume really loud on blink-182 and try to fall asleep, the homework doesn’t matter.”

Young Miguel also wasn’t good about writing things down. He kept everything, all his anger about his family, homework to-do lists and where to go next in video games all in his head. But as the family situation got worse and Mom got worse it was more and more of a challenge to remember things I wanted to remember. Or I just stopped caring. So I’m gonna try to get Young Miguel to understand the benefits of writing stuff down and show him some much needed compassion.

Hey Miguel,

Right now, you have a lot of things in your head that you’re trying to keep track of. Where to go next in Kingdom Hearts, movies you want to watch, when your algebra homework is due, and what thing you can try to do to win favor in Mom’s eyes so she won’t blame the conspiracy against her on you next time, maybe.

You have a lot of important things to remember!

But remembering takes brain power and you know that dealing with Mom takes even more brain power. So to offload some of that brain work I recommend that you start writing things down. I know it feels fun and easier sometimes to just remember stuff. And I know you feel like you do enough hard work dealing with Mom that writing things down is a wasted effort, but hear me out.

You’ve got a good brain. Your brain is working hard. Your empathy engine is always running hot trying to feel what Mom feels. And your guessing motor is revving quick trying to guess what Mom will say next.  Your whole brain is working too hard with Mom. MiguelBrain deserves a break. You’re not failing at understanding Mom, your brain is working so hard to define and rationalize an inherently irrational and chaotic situation: the broken mind of a paranoid schizophrenic. There are no patterns for poor MiguelBrain to discern. This is not a situation of just having to grow up faster. Even the smartest adults you know wouldn’t know what to do either. I’m sorry to say that dealing with Mom is not like a Zelda dungeon that you just need a ten minute break to figure out where to go next. Your CPU cycles are being wasted on an impossible task.

But you won’t listen, not even to me. Because you want to be strong, you want to be the man of the house. You want to be a good boy in Mom’s eyes and the family’s eyes and your sister’s eyes. And you believe in your heart, your bleeding, caring heart that you’ll get it right. That one day you’ll have the right answers and right actions for Mom every single time and she won’t ever doubt you again. She’ll never insinuate that you’ve got an agenda with the FBI and CIA. She’ll love you unconditionally, without paranoia. You won’t listen to this letter. So I’ll give you the best bandage I can think of.

You’ll give MiguelBrain a little break every single day if you start putting things you want to remember into paper and not into neurons. The cycle then becomes, think of an idea, write it down. And when you want to think about that idea again, you know where to go to read it. Rather than spending time digging it out of your head. Trust and Truth live in the notebook.

With how it is growing up in that house, with all these projects you’ve endowed yourself with, your brain deserves every moment of downtime you can give it. So when you’re at daydreaming at school and you think of a good tactic for grinding Munny to buy that Keyblade upgrade, write it down. When you think of a line from blink-182’s Dude Ranch that suddenly has more meaning to you, write it down. And when you think of a new strategy to try at the grocery to see if you can keep Mom from getting agitated, write it down. And when you need to remember what that thing was, it’ll be right there in your notebook.

You’ve got a good brain, Miguel. It’s racing all the time to think of what the right answer to Mom is and it’s also drowning in the fear that she can’t help but emanate. Because her brain used to be good but now is broken and it’s scary for her. So write things down, it’ll give your brain a rest, even for just a moment when you’re just trying to remember the opening words to Apple Shampoo.

I love you,

Miguel

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