I’m having a shutdown

If you are reading this, I am having a shutdown. I might have told you what it is, but due to what my shutdown is, I have no clue whether I did. Because my shutdown is the brain switching off. All of it.

 

How it started

In 2015, I had an accident that left me in lots of physical pain. I ate opiates like candy, except candy is nice. They took the edge off. This might (not) come as a surprise, but being in so much pain sometimes you have to just lie down on the floor as tears roll down your face and you’re waiting for the extra (which you’re not allowed to take) painkillers to kick in is quite depressing and draining.

Tramadol, my painkiller, is actually known to cause sleepiness during the day and insomnia at night. (Gotta love it.) So, when sometimes I would just have to go to bed, I blamed the medication. It would happen 3-4 times a day – I would just have to lie down with a blackout mask, in a room with blackout curtains, earplugs in, weighted blanket on top of me, basically creating as close as I could to a sensory deprivation chamber. After about 45 minutes, give or take, I’d emerge smiling and energetic again. (This sometimes freaked out people who could see me in person doing that.)

In early 2022, I came off painkillers completely. Coming off tramadol after you’ve been taking it for years makes root canal without anaesthesia sound compelling. (I’ve had one done – I couldn’t afford extra €7.50 for anaesthesia back then – so I know what I’m talking about.) But the shutdowns didn’t stop. They were not caused by the painkillers.

 

How it’s been going

My shutdowns have evolved since then, but the main principle remains the same. My brain switches off. Without a warning. *Snap* and what was sentences a second ago is now a word salad. This is the worst when I am having a private conversation with someone, especially when they are talking about something shit that is happening to them, and I have to say – sorry, shutdown time, I have to go to bed for a while.

This is actually an expression of respect from me, even if it doesn’t sound like one. Because I genuinely have no clue what you are saying, and I care enough to want to know, to understand. It’s just that I don’t. When I hear about brain fog, it’s like having sudden fog, I suppose. Very thick, too. Once I have had my rest, I will come back and know, again, what I am doing and what we are saying. Some people take this really badly, though, which is why I am writing this post.

I was – still am – going through complex PTSD therapy. My brain has to handle the memories it has already recovered, the ones it’s still keeping repressed (repressed memories are repressed for a reason), and just functioning. You can’t go around thinking about having been abused for years in numerous ways all the time and function on any level. So I use so much energy to not think about it, that at some point it suddenly runs out.

Late 2020-2022 were very bad years for me and not just because of Covid. My shutdowns were actually dangerous. One happened when I was not at home, and if not for Husby, I wouldn’t make it – I was about 100 metres away, but I didn’t know where to go. I couldn’t use Google Maps, even, because I didn’t know what that was and how to use it. If he was not there, I don’t know what I would have done. The worst one happened during cooking. I was making a quite complicated dish, picked a pan, and saw that I completely burnt the cabbage. SHUTDOWN. On my way to bed I saw Husby lifting the pan, with something blue and gooey not unlike cheese on the pizza on the bottom. How odd, I thought, the cabbage was inside. (I no longer remembered what cabbage looked like.) I put the hot pan on a plastic cutting board and just left. Had it not been for Husby being around, this could have ended very badly.

 

How it’s going

Much better, which is not to say I am done with the shutdowns, sadly.

My subconscious took a lesson from nearly burning down the house and it never happened this way again. The shutdowns became gradual, starting with my feet turning very, very cold, so I had a minute or two to stop doing what I was doing. (My subconscious still hasn’t figured out that you can’t press pause on cooking, sadly.)

Nowadays I don’t end up in danger. I just feel as if my IQ dropped by…a lot. I am writing this because of a chat I was just having with someone who either knows about my shutdowns or not. I had to interrupt and say I was going away. Every time I set an appointment, I have to warn this can happen. And explaining it, as seen above, takes a while.

So – to sum it up – if I just told you “I’m sorry, I’m having a shutdown, I’ll be back” what I mean is – “I am really engaged in whatever we are doing, but my subconscious needs to recharge, and it doesn’t care what I want. Please don’t think I got bored or that I am rude. I care. That’s why I’m saying this instead of shutting the laptop and going away.”

 

TL;DR (which should have probably been at the beginning)

Sometimes I have to go away for a while, it has nothing to do with you or what we are doing/talking about, I can’t control it, and I will always be back. I’m not going to say sorry for something that I can’t influence, still, I hope you don’t get upset, and that you understand.

Thank you for reading this.

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