Brain on Fire

Brain on Fire June 15, 2019

The world is alive and feeding me the living bread and mercy wine; I’m in communion with my life.

Yesterday, in my Morning Prayer time, I felt the need to grab a few men (husband excluded) in my life by the shoulders and violently shake them, screaming, “How dare you not know how to care for me?”

I allowed myself to yell “I hate you!” over and over… and over again

After this emotional upheaval, I was spent. I realized my current life was giving me plenty of opportunity to continue to love the abandoned little girl inside. That was the feeling in the end: recalling aloneness, resurrecting fear, echoing sadness.

This process of restorative healing has been intense and beautiful. Integrating my rejected parts ultimately allows me to show up with more of the real me.

I could not have known that mining my anger
would alchemize into writing gold the next day.

The morning sun was bright, and I couldn’t decide whether to keep the warmth on my face or, if overheated, I’d need to retreat to a swath of shade a few feet away. I sat in a weather-beaten, Adirondack chair on my front lawn in South Jersey—across the street from a small river. I wished it were more visible, but spring’s green growth blocks my view. I was left longing for the aliveness of what I knew was just beyond the thick hedge.

I was nearing the end of an amazing book—Brain on Fire. I had no idea it existed on a shelf in my 21-year-old daughter’s room, but when she made a pile for Goodwill I found myself attracted to the title, the subtitle maybe most especially: My Month of Madness

There I sat, in that chair, crying again,
as truth reached in to melt a protective icy layer over my heart.

Last evening, in the hammock, I had been reading. It had taken a good long time to get quiet; I may have even drifted off. In that meditative space, I recalled the many times I had ventured into the crazy realm. I was often the mom who ‘freaked out’ and then asked my friends if they ever felt out of control when angry. “No,” they’d often responded. “I mean, we yell and feel badly, but ‘out of control’? That seems dramatic.”

Sure, I was dramatic. Sure, I had mood swings which pushed loved ones away. I even hit my husband once. I hit my teenage son, too. Angry outbursts. A PMDD diagnosis. A text mistakenly sent my way by someone exclaiming: “I’m not putting up with her bipolar bullshit any longer.”

I had grown up an observer and receiver of darkness. Pain sacrificed for the sake of peace. That lasted decades.

Decades of carrying the weight of a torturous secret in my chronically irritable belly.

A giant pause button seemed to have been pushed on my well-being. And so, while I pressed on my tender belly, and with a voice of enormous despair, I asked God: “Will I NEVER heal here?” In that moment I heard a new voice arise —

“My love lives in your pain.”

Back to me: the book, my tears, and my own madness. The author, Susannah Cahalan, is a gifted writer. The way she portrayed the loving support of her parents, most especially her father, was moving. For the month she went undiagnosed, her parents and her boyfriend insisted that ‘she’, the old Susannah, was still in there.

So today, this sunny Friday in late May, I am tapping into this experience of a unique presence INSIDE—who knew the real me, who knew my potential. I call Him Jesus because He revealed His name to me. Others might experience this inner-truth and call it a different name. My Jesus does not get offended by these other names.

I must allow my past to combust; set my brain on fire, lest I continue to be consumed by my own claustrophobic thinking.


Fresh tears, streams of living water, erupt from a deep well of inner-connection. I declare:

I see you

I will hold you

I will carry you

I will not let you go

Together, we will walk across this water

We will not drown

I will keep showing you who I am

which is the Truth of who you are

and when you were in darkness

when you were lost from your own self

I came to rescue you

and I let you take most of the credit

for rescuing yourself.


Ultimately, I do not want to be my own savior.
I surrender to all the ways I am like Eve,
tempted by a path of destruction.
Ultimately, the one I know as ‘me’
desires to be sacrificed on the altar
of Eros and Agape
so that in my Christ-self, I am wholly healed.
Completely complete.
Sacred reimagined.

About Anita Grace Brown
Anita Grace Brown was a regular contributor to the Patheos blog Emerging Voices—you can find those posts here. She is completing her first book "Kamikaze Yogi: Love's dying to to resurrect in you for Christ's sake" and has been sharing her signature-style of Jesus yoga at conferences and festivals for over 8 years now. She lives in South Jersey with her husband of 27 years and her adult children attend Syracuse U. Anita runs retreats for women to experience the freedom Christ has to offer in claiming their embodied souls. You can try this style of practice for yourself on the podcast "It's 5 o'clock Somewhere" because at the end of the day, God's healing, grace and peace are poured out abundantly for us all to live a life of flourishing. You can read more about the author here.

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