I understand laetrile. Remember laetrile? The peach pit pseudo drug that was supposed to cure breast cancer and instead killed women? I understand why women took laetrile. I have my own laetrile. Meditation. And I’m clutching it as tightly as I can. I want it to work.
I had to choose and read a research paper for my neurobiology class and I chose a paper on the effects meditation has on the brain. Briefly, just as you can exercise and grow muscle mass, you can meditate and grow brain mass. The researchers selected two groups; one comprised of regular meditators and one comprised of those who don’t meditate. Because there are many ways to meditate, the researchers chose to limit the meditation practice to Brain Wave Vibration meditation .
The researchers took MRI images of the participant’s brains and discovered specific areas of the brain where the meditators had more brain mass than the same areas in the brains of the non-meditators.
So what? Glad you asked. Several years back, I read a paper about physical changes in the brains of people suffering from PTSD. There were deficits in brain mass in specific areas of the brain. More recently, I read about deficits in brain mass in specific areas of the brain of those who have bipolar disorder. This explained – or seemed to explain – why I have trouble concentrating and why I have scattered thoughts.
Does each form of meditation grow brain mass? Does each form target specific areas of the brain? If so, can a specific form of meditation replace the brain matter my bipolar/PTSD brain is missing? If so, will that cure me? Did the bipolar disorder cause parts of my brain to atrophy? Or did the brain deficits cause the bipolar disorder?
I don’t know the answers to any of those questions, but I’m not waiting for more research. I have taken up meditation although I’ve taken a scattered approach to the form of meditation. I have an app on the iPad that gives me choices of a whole lot of different types of meditation and different topics of meditation. Calm anxiety. Visualize health in your body. Healing grief – a meditation that triggered a wave of PTSD flashbacks. I want my brain back. I want to be able to concentrate without thoughts flying around like billiard balls after a successful break. I want this NOW. Except meditation doesn’t work that way. The brain mass grows gradually and I won’t be able to chart the growth the way I can chart weight loss.
Psych meds treat symptoms of mental illness, but they don’t cure mental illness. Pysch meds are expensive in several ways. Without insurance, my generic mood stabilizer would be more than $128 a month. My mood stabilizer keeps me from screaming, but it gives me brain fog. My scattered thoughts scatter farther and my concentration decreases. At least I’m not screaming.
I want a cure so I hang on to my laetrile known as meditation for dear brain health.
Today is International Women’s Day. When I entered college the first time, I was 25 years old and women had to have higher SAT scores and higher grades than men needed to be admitted to college. When I graduated in 1981, I had earned two degrees, one in journalism and one in biology. At that time, there were two women professors in the biology department of Buffalo State College and one allowed students to address her as Mrs. Wilson rather than Dr. Wilson. One of my physics classes had a higher than usual number of women. There were five of us. One was planning on being an engineer. I was in the biology program. I don’t know about the other three. There were no women professors in the chemistry department. One chemistry teacher told me I was incapable of learning. Another refused to answer questions asked by female students. Until the day I forced him to answer my question. He told me he had been teaching for 26 years and he never met anyone as insolent as me. I told him I’d been learning for 26 years and I’d never met a teacher who refused to answer women’s questions. I could feel the other students’ fear and shock.
I started law school on my 38th birthday in 1990. Mine was the first law school class that was 50% women.
I’m now in a neurobiology class that’s roughly half women and is taught by a woman. One day, I kept track and discovered that the male students asked or answered questions approximately twice as often as women. Real changes in the sciences, like growing brain mass, take an inordinate amount of time.
To every woman in a STEM program or working in a STEM field, I offer this advice: Never let the male motherfuckers stop you.
I’m linking with Nina Marie here.