What do you do when something you used to be good at and could do easily is now difficult or even impossible?
I have had a mental short circuit. My short term memory has been affected and as a result my world has changed. I hadn’t realised how many activities and tasks I actually rely on memory for!
Imagine what it is like to not remember how to sign your name or what the PIN number on your bank card is.
Many people have to deal with reduced physical capacity due to illness or injury.The suddenness of a change has some shock value. As people age the reduced capacity is often a gradual change over a long period of time and I suspect allows people to adapt gently.
I am certainly not as fit now as I was in my late teens and this doesn’t bother me. Dealing with a sudden and significant reduction in mental capacity really irks me. I used to be able to rely on my mind. I was sharp, onto it and had been quite successful as a result. The blank spaces that are there when I try to recall what I did yesterday or last week or in a meeting I attended 2 hours ago scare the crap out of me.
Losing chunks of memory makes my mind seem like a defective and untrustworthy apparatus. I am told that I am not my mind but my experience is that when my mind lets me down I feel defective and broken not that I have a piece of me that is defective or broken.
Strange isn’t it? I have broken my collar bone in the past and I experienced “I have a broken collarbone” not “I am a broken collarbone” but with my mind it’s different. I have trouble identifying with the concept that I am not my mind. Perhaps I have become so fused with my mind that the “I” that is aware, can no longer view it as something belonging to “I”
I feel like the slow kid in the classroom who just doesn’t get it. It is as though the world is moving along with speed and complexity and I just can’t keep up.
Intellectually (how ironic) I get that I am not my mind but it is such a large part of who I am that it appears to define me almost by default. I could be a good father even if I had lost a leg and I am sure my daughter wouldn’t view me as any less of a Dad without it. No longer being able to jump with her on the trampoline only affects the future it doesn’t take away the happy times in the past when we bounced away together. However when my daughter says to me “Hey Dad remember when……?” and I cant recall the event I feel robbed of a special bond between a Dad and his little girl created in the past. Not being able to remember things may be great especially if they weren’t that pleasant but what about losing the good memories too?
Many current ideologies talk about living in the Now and not living in the past or the future which takes us away from being fully present. I like the idea of being able to be fully present yet only being able to be present in the now means that the past or the future don’t exist and if they don’t exist I lose the ability to remember or to imagine which seem like essential ingredients to bring contrast and meaning to everyday moments.
I had never contemplated what it would be like for someone with Dementia or Alzhiemers. The idea of losing one’s mind has been a fairly abstract concept for me. It didn’t occur to me that you could be aware of the loss and that this awareness could cause distress. The other day I had a person come up to me and greet me with enthusiasm. The enthusiastic greeting was an indicator that the person was more than just a passing acquaintance. They looked somehow familiar but I had to bluff my way through the first few minutes of conversation looking desperately for clues. Eventually it came to me that this person worked for a company that I did some consulting for only 6 months ago and I had spent a week working in their offices and had spent a couple of hours interviewing the person, something I would have easily remembered in the past. The memory was eventually retrieved but the length of time it took to dredge it up felt embarrassing.
It’s quite possible that I will forget writing this post. I have looked at my notebooks and seen notes I have taken of a meeting I attended and even with the aid of the notes I couldn’t recall attending it.
Anyway where was I?