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Amy, Hippo & the war in Ukraine 
The Amygdala, the Hippocampus and learning difficulties in childhood trauma.
 

Dasha sat down in the bunker, trying to block out the noises and visions she had taken down with her. Her mind wandered and wondered. She couldn’t concentrate with the noise of the bombing outside. “Always stay on alert Dasha, or they will find us,” her mum had told her. Dasha had a lot to worry about, like protecting and feeding her younger siblings.

There was a lot of activity going on in her mind that she wasn’t aware of. Her brain looked like a war zone as well; lots of little soldiers running around, connecting one neuron with an axon, and rewiring everything. Dasha had no idea what a neuron or axon was, or what this rewiring was about. Suddenly, Amy the Amygdala propped up with her nickers all in a knot.

“Where on earth are you Hippo sea horse?” Amy couldn’t see the Hippocampus anymore. The Hippocampus, in the shape of a gracious sea horse, had gotten smaller and smaller.

“What are you doing down there, all tiny and curled up in the dark? You should be out there learning, exploring, and storing information.” Hippo, whose job was to gather information and learn, sighed, and became even smaller.

“I’ve got bigger fish to fry. I got giant problems; I don’t care if 1 + 1=2; that is not going to help me. Something is going on with Dasha, and it’s making me shrink. I don’t want to know anything anymore; I don’t have room for it; I must think of how to survive.”

Hippo, the sea horse sat all sad and fearful because of the noises he could hear inside and outside Dasha’s head. The more Dasha worried, the more he feared, and the more he became tinier. Then, Mr. Cortisol arrived with his big army of hormones, they started multiplying and attacking all the connections between Hippo and his other brain friends. Hippo could no longer communicate with Amy the Amygdala because so much was getting in the way.

The more Dasha stressed, the more changes happened in her brain. The white and grey stuff in Dasha’s brain was shifting and moving about and getting bigger and smaller…Oh my goodness, what was happening to poor Dasha? Nothing was what it used to be in her head anymore.

Amy the Amygdala in the meantime, was getting bigger and bigger. Amy, who had the job of controlling emotions and fear, was filled with all the fear floating around in Dasha’s head…it was too much for her to contain. Amy was getting larger and more bloated, which meant that if something happened, Amy would not be able to control all that emotion, and she would burst or freeze!

Something had to be done to bring some order back!

From far away came a glittery light, it moved fast, and it was so bright that it caught Dasha’s attention. Suddenly she had forgotten all her worries as all her focus had been hijacked by this light that was making its way through the cracks. With eyes wide open Dasha watched the glittery powder erupt like a volcano, filling the room with smoke that smelt like a sweet, candy powder.

Then, when the smoke faded, what was revealed was something extraordinary and magical. Dasha couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She closed her eyes and opened them again, but they were still there…three Art Fairies with all the colours of the rainbow following. AND they were flying inside her bunker! Wow…were they the art fairies that came to heal Ukraine?

They were frantic, setting up all sorts of colourful objects; papers, paints, paintbrushes, glitter, crayons, and other things Dasha had never seen before. Out of the magical trolley, they pulled out streamers, fabrics, and long fluorescent threads. Dasha couldn’t believe her eyes as her lips curled up in a smile.

Meanwhile, the cortisol army and all the other inhabitants in Dasha’s brain couldn’t understand what was happening. “Why is Dasha not producing cortisol? What is happening out there? This is too quiet and peaceful for me,” yelled Mr. Cortisol, “I’m getting out of here.”  

“I’m deflating,” Amy the Amygdala yelled with happiness. Now she had a bit more room to move around in. “I feel great, and I can manage fear better now”. Amy suddenly thought about Hippo the sea horse.

“Oh dear, did Hippo disappear altogether? Hippo, where are you, are you still here with us? Hippo answer.”

But Hippo couldn’t hear anybody and could not find his way around his house anymore; it had all changed. He felt overwhelmed and confused with all the rewiring and unwanted visitors coming and going. Then he heard the voice.

“You can come out now Hippo; everyone is leaving.”

Hippo looked around fearful. “ok…I’m coming out.” He said as he floated back to his position. That was one rewiring that would not pass an electrical safety inspection.

The Art Fairies had set up the best art bunker ever and showed Dasha all the interesting things to create and do, and she loved it! Dasha however, had difficulty concentrating; the Art Fairies needed to get inside Dasha’s head and grow some new neuron cells and change the connection to some wires…there was a bit of cleaning and sorting to do. How were they going to do it?

Suddenly, Grandpa Elf came wobbling into the bunker with his walking stick asking what was so urgent.

“You made me come here for something you could have resolved yourselves? Don’t you know that the brain doesn’t always know the difference between a memory and a vision of the future? The brain can play back a memory in fast forward. Therefore, Fairies we need to trick her brain so tomorrow when she thinks of today, she will project this art bunker with streamers and colours not the war. Come on let’s go and create the placebo magical potion.”

“That’s great, but don’t you think it’s better if you get in her head and do some scrubbing and ordering first and maybe kick out who shouldn’t be there?”

“She needs to learn to do this herself; we can’t be here all the time to help her.” Grandpa Elf said. “Now let’s hurry along; we need her with eyes closed, relaxed, and breathing slowly. Come on, let’s get to work.”

Fairy Ira, whose name meant peace, sighed, “I guess you’re right.”

“I know I’m right. You’re the perfect person to show her how to be more peaceful, teach her to visualize your house and where you come from, and tell her all about your magical friends and all the things you create. Happy thoughts help bring all the wiring back to how it was. Go on then…what are you waiting for? We have lots of work to do.”

Fairy Alla, whose name meant ‘handywoman’, wanted to be handy and kept flapping her wings in search of something to do. Fairy Ira saw her and thought she had better give her something to do, and FAST!

 “We must perform for Dasha. We must act out our Artland and all our fairy friends and tell her a story of all the magical things we do. Then we will do something these people call therapy and mix some paints. It sounds more fun than relaxing if you ask me, but Grandpa Elf said it will relax her. Come on let’s go.”

The two fairies buzzed towards Dasha and Fairy Nina, who was dreaming away while she was flipping the bunker into an art palace. Dasha looked around the palace and felt calmer already. She didn’t even feel her rumbling tummy from lack of food anymore; she had too much to explore and create. The messier the better…were the instructions she had been given. Dasha poured the glue and sprinkled the glitter, she curled the streamers and mixed the paints, all the while the fairies were acting out their roles and dancing around, singing sweet melodies. In no time Dasha had turned that bunker into the best art bonanza ever with her own to hands and the power of imagination.

Nina sewed a soft doona for Dasha; it was pink, and cream and it smelt like lilies. Dasha’s lips curled up as she snuggled under the doona and soft pillow. Wow! Fairy Nina really lived up to her name of being a dreamer and delivering dreamy nights. as Fairy Nina twirled and turned the streamers around like an acrobat, Dasha’s eyes followed the pink and purple streamers until her eyes became heavier and heavier and finally closed.

The Three fairies and Elf looked ad Dasha sleep peacefully. Upon awakening Dasha would find herself in the old bare bunker again, but now she had her wonderful memories that would keep her company as she recreated an art palace in her mind, while still attending to her siblings as she took on the role of a mother, the mother the war had taken away from her. She would do everything the fairies had instructed her, and without even knowing it she had started the process of rewiring, sorting, and bringing order back in her mind.

The Art Fairies travelled from child to child and from mind to mind around Ukraine, healing and bringing some magic to a wounded country. They hovered above the delivering hopes and dreams of a better life ahead.

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