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My Love/Hate Relationship With the Brain

01/03/2013 08:48 pm ET | Updated Mar 06, 2013

Watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post.

I don't feel perfect. I don't feel whole. I don't feel beautiful. I haven't found euphoria. I haven't found peace. I haven't found nirvana. I know that as a medical student and a fellow miraculous survivor, I should, like Jill Bolte Taylor, maturely and gracefully appreciate the awesome intricacies and tenacious strength of the brain. I should be awed by its capabilities, and indebted to its powers. I should be, but I'm not. Instead, I'm totally disgusted by it.

A best friend's life has permanently become one of prescription medication and humiliation because of one minuscule chemical imbalance in the brain. A fellow patient's life has irreversibly become one of rehabilitation and regret because of one seemingly minor injury to the brain. A 23-year old girl's wonderful life has painfully become one not even worth living in a matter of a second, because of one tiny, uncontrollable mistake by the brain. No one man, no one weapon, and no one organ should have all that power. I went from a near perfect existence to one where I barely existed and barely mattered, all because of the almighty brain. I don't understand how one minor mistake in blood flow in one tiny portion of my brain, could cause such widespread, devastating, unbelievable destruction to every single inch of my body, muscles, nerves, and spirit. This awful error by the brain not only robbed me of my youth, but also of my untouchable happiness and my unabashed optimism, all of which no amount of rehabilitation can ever bring back.

I was blessed and cursed with a very unique stroke. Because my stroke was in the brain stem, it managed to massacre my entire body physically, but it surprisingly left my mind completely untouched and unscathed. - Harshada Rajani

I think I hate the brain so much because I understand its beauty and its madness way too well. I was blessed and cursed with a very unique stroke. Because my stroke was in the brain stem, it managed to massacre my entire body physically, but it surprisingly left my mind completely untouched and unscathed. Ever since the moment I woke up in the ICU, I have been so acutely aware of the limbs, love, and life I irrevocably lost. My mind even remembers my glorious past so vividly, and obsesses over my tragic future so frantically, I don't have time to appreciate anything in my lackluster present. Because of my slight medical background, I even understand all too well the limitations of my muscles and the uncontrollable nature of my neurons. I try each and everyday to escape from this painful reality into my dreams and even into my nightmares. I try each and everyday to escape from my stubborn, loud, logical left brain into my free-spirited, blissfully unaware right brain. But I can't. The omniscient and omnipotent brain won't let me, and I hate it.

Despite feeling completely at the mercy of my sometimes ruthless brain, I surprisingly haven't fallen into the inescapable realm of pessimism. I can still keep it real, while still being hopeful, because of people like Jill Bolte Taylor. She is a living, breathing example of neuroplasticity -- the brain's amazing ability to recover and reorganize after injury. Neuroplasticity is the reason why though I couldn't breathe, talk, walk, or move during the first few months after my stroke, I can do ALL of them now, albeit not well at all. It's the reason why I still have the will to keep fighting, despite my frustration. It's the reason why I still have the hope that I will eventually get my life back. It's the reason why I can still smile, through all the setbacks, all the frustration, all the fighting, and all the tears. If my brain can work its magic (and its science), use its power for good, and reignite life into my muscles and my heart, I promise I will love the brain more than anyone. For now, I'm still relatively powerless, so I'm still relatively skeptical. But, if in four more years, I have even half the class, passion, and health of Jill Bolte Taylor, I will truly feel perfect, whole, and beautiful.

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