My Bowl Overflowing With Thoughts

Brain Puzzle

It’s time I give you a better sense of what it was like for me in my new home: the hospital. First, however, I’ll tell you the way one doctor explained my brain problem to me.


“Marianne, think of it this way,” he started to say, while putting his two hands together, forming the shape of a bowl. “Most all our thoughts easily fly around in our brain. Everyone’s brain has, however, something like this bowl inside. Facts we rarely have to think about stay in that bowl. When one of those facts are needed, it quickly pops up out of the bowl, allowing the person to share that information easily. But the bowl in your brain, because of encephalitis, holds not just a few, but most all of the facts you’ve learned, and with the weight of so many, it’s hard for them to come out. Facts you have known for years, like what a car is, to facts you learned today, like what you just had for breakfast, now seem impossible for you to remember. Many facts we can hopefully get to come out of that bowl will go back in as soon as you stop thinking about them. These next few days we are going to work on ways to make facts you know come out faster and help keep them out.”

How he explained it made total sense, making me determined to start unloading that bowl.

Those last few days at the hospital were geared to help me do just that. For example, therapists had me try to repeat the names of many things they showed me: toothbrush, hairbrush, spoon, fork, Kleenex, pen, socks, clock—the list was endless. Being told what shampoo was for made absolutely no sense whatsoever, but, oh well. I trusted my sister when she tried to explain it to me before I had to even learn what a shower was all about. 

“Okay, Kelly. I’ll do my best taking, I think it’s called, a shower, making sure I get all these bubbles out of my hair . . . what ever they’re there for.

My husband, Chris, demonstrated amazing love, ingenuity, and patience throughout this time. On a bulletin board he placed pictures of my family with names attached. In this way I started to relearn the names and faces of my loved ones, hoping their names would begin to stay out of that bowl. Not easy.

I’m so thankful I can laugh at a few things that took place. For example, one day a few girlfriends from church stopped by the hospital. I didn’t really remember them all, but I trusted who they told me they were. We were all watching TV when I wondered aloud how people could be so small.


I mean, how in the world could so many people, that were wearing weird clothes, actually fit inside that small box attached to the wall?  

Yes, you can laugh.

God was still in my heart even though I didn’t remember anything about Christ, the Bible, or what being a Christian even meant. One thing was clear, however. Something was still floating around inside my confused brain that knew the truth. I just wasn’t sure yet what that truth really was or meant, or why I thought one of my brother’s name was Jesus.     (My permission again to laugh.)

Finally, the doctors felt I was ready to leave. Eighteen days after that ambulance took me to Highline Hospital, Chris was by my side as we walked to our car, which, to me, felt like the first time ever. And today, thirty years later, I can still feel what that drive was like as I was nervous yet excited to be re-introduced to the world.


Marianne Petersen’s book God and My Pillow is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. 
Follow Marianne on Instagram and Facebook.

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