woman lying on bed covering her face surrounded by photos and white camera

What No One Tells You About Memory Problems

I have a big fear of losing my memory. I don’t want to make excuses. Yes, I survived a coma. I still managed to pass college. It was almost a blur—there was lots of crying and ADHD symptoms. Moments where I would repeat the same 5 lines in an essay I wrote because I couldn’t get my mind to quiet as I wrote. I would also write in 24-point font because I figured I could see the writing in the correct order that way. It didn’t help. I would also get lost in the tail of a “q” and suddenly see the letters around it flipping and falling off the screen. My mind would race and I would place my index fingers in my ears to block out the hum of the computer and the tapping of the keyboard.

Although it’s been years since college graduation, whatever learning disability I had then is reawakening now. I sit at my reception desk, half afraid that I will miss a call. Three calls, then a voicemail, then someone buzzing the front door. It’s the mailman. It’s the package carrier. It’s the third homeless person hoping to come in.

These sounds and tasks become convoluted. They are not pleasant. I am supposed to be an adult who has it together. And I do—half the time. I think I do half the time. I wake up every day at 4 a.m. to prepare my breakfast or lunch and then head to the gym. The other half of me is angry that I would forget my bra at home, only berating myself while changing. I’d forgotten it again; instead, I strung along two pairs of socks and two pairs of underwear. I could have sworn that the three attempts at packing everything in one sitting the night before was enough to have my memory shut up about the whole debacle.

I guess it’d be cute if I were 17 years old and people saw my forgetful, clumsy self as quirky. I am in my 30s, though. I can’t rely on cuteness to push me in life. Nothing works that way at my age.

For some people, memory problems can alter the brain’s structure and function. I survived a coma. I’ve now come to accept that I survived a brain injury, and unless you were in one yourself, it is lonely. There’s not a lot of people who survive and have the ability to speak. I directly correlate my time in a coma to my memory issues, but I don’t rely on this reason for everything. Memory problems range from absentmindedness to blocking or the tip-of-the-tongue feeling and then bias, meaning that your feelings can be altered by present feelings. Memory is a strange concept for someone like myself who has an onslaught of depression in the summer. Sometimes I am not 100% certain what my memories are supposed to validate, real or not.

It’s been about 17 years, and there’s a little too much time between the time I woke from the coma and how I am today. I feel broken. I can remember dire conversations that happened three months or three years ago, but ask me what I did last week and I blank. Probably nothing. Probably went to the gym, went home, ate, and then slept. I am very afraid of going out and meeting new people because I have the feeling that I will forget my rings or my phone at whatever restaurant, car, or park.

Many people ask me what I do for fun. I can’t shut up the honesty in my head, so I spew, “Nothing.” Literally nothing. I am afraid of losing my keys, my camera, or the time to get eight hours of shut eye. It sounds dramatic, but I am serious. There’s a persistent nagging in the back of my head that I would lose myself if I were to drink or let myself have fun. I know this is detrimental to my health. It sounds out of whack, and I suppose that is what is happening in a moment of transient global amnesia (TGA). TGA patients keep their personal identity, consciousness, and the ability to perform complex routine tasks, but during an episode of forgetfulness, they are unable to form new memories. Overcoming these memory issues may take a while with therapy and cognitive approaches.

I can remember things, I can form memories, but imagine completely losing that ability? I already don’t remember my dreams if they are not nightmares. It’s sad admitting this. I don’t want to let great moments pass me by. I too would like to know the way to retain and experience the good in life. I stick with the therapy that settles my sadness and I use the cognitive approaches known to help. I don’t want to lose my memory, so I write and take many pictures. I refrain myself from doing anything more than the usual.

I am sticking with this method for as long as I can. I am just so afraid of losing it all.

She’s a cutie patootie big fat bootie.

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