One of the problems with trying to write historically about my brain damage, is that there are large periods of time I don’t remember. This is not to say that I don’t have any memories from those periods.
The type of memories I have retained is often less similar to visual recognition, that is, less similar to being able to tell from a few seconds of a movie whether or not you’ve seen it, than it is to a familiar feeling.
There was a period of time when I could watch a movie as if for the first time, till something at the end struck me and I realized I’d seen it before. This is not the same as suddenly remembering; rather, it’s a feeling at the end of the film that’s suddenly familiar ~ “Oh, I’ve been here before.”
In my experience, feelings are quite sturdy things.
Not only do feelings endure long after characters and plot have dissolved from mind, they can persist in an unsettling way in relation to a large array of daily events that are otherwise forgotten.
For me, feeling and thinking share a teeter-totter: I can feel overjoyed at the sight of a completely, perfectly beautiful chrysanthemum, or I can think about the soil, water and sunlight that went into growing it. If feeling is up, then my thinking is down, and vice versa. Perhaps the name “see-saw” gives a clearer picture, since it suggests how one minute we see something, and the next minute, we saw it.
In terms of feeling and thinking, when I feel dragged down by depression, my thinking is often “up in the air” weightless and useless. For instance, I have noticed repeatedly and consistently that when I am depressed, I can seldom think of anything good.
I have a growing suspicion that the fact is not that I cannot think of anything good, but rather that I simply cannot think, not in a flexible, agile way.
When something happens and I recognize it as something “bad” it may seem as if I thought something bad had happened, when in reality I thought nothing but only saw. Take a bright orange utility Disconnect Notice on my door, for example: I see it and immediately feel fear, apprehension ~ even dread. These feelings may overwhelm me for hours or a day.
If I didn’t have brain damage, my thinking would kick in with several approaches I might take, like calling to see if I can make a partial payment, if they have a copy of my medical certificate, if I can get an extension, etc.
But, I do have brain damage, so rather than thoughts occurring to me, my dark feelings combine into the heaviest thing around, gaining the weight of a steely, so to speak. Remember steelies, the big ball bearings we used as kids to knock the opposition out of the ring in games of marbles? Steelies were so fearsome, because their weight alone could determine the course of a game, that they could be declared, “No fair.” In my mind, the only thing being knocked out is my thoughts, and with them gone, the Steely circles round and round, roulette-wise, only with no stops. Could it be that someone else was thinking along these lines when the phrase, “losing their marbles” was coined?
Under these see-saw circumstances, when I “think” about my situation, nothing comes to mind, only that’s not what I perceive to be happening. I have the impression, vastly wrong though it is, that my mind has assessed the situation and arrived at an image of the present moment as the most important to consider, if not the most seminal moment in every respect. This impression adds further spin to the Steely depression.
I may try to think of better times, and failing to bring any to mind, think that there were none.
So, it is the failure of my mind to know where it is in my experiences, just as it had failed to know where I was in Santa Fe, that is the problem. If my thinking were functioning, I would “see” that in the sequence of events in my life, a Disconnect Notice is ultimately not that dire. In fact, of the times I have been home to receive them, my utilities have not been disconnected. So, if I reflect on actual past events, Disconnect Notices have been challenges which I have successfully met many times.
What is different when my thinking is not functioning, is that I don’t remember ever being successful. I don’t remember being happy. I don’t remember to ask for help. My awareness is completely occupied with the depressed feelings which seem to have a life of their own as they move in unrelenting circles.
Now, suppose I have trained myself to take a vitamin B12 sublingual methylcobalamin in this situation. Then what happens? First of all, I feel hopeless, so taking the B12 is counter intuitive. I take it despite the fact I feel certain it will do no good. Sometimes there’s almost a sickening feeling: to “know” I’m doing something useless despite the fact I know it to be useless. Generally within a few hours, sometimes in less than an hour, I’m thinking again ~ various things are coming to mind and I’m navigating between them, making choices and moving forward.
Skipping ahead: As luck would have it, on Christmas Eve, 1997, I went to a doctor’s office near my home that I hoped would be more efficient than the low-income clinic where I’d been going. In fact, the doctor listened to my answers to his questions, then said something no one else had, “If your mother had pernicious anemia, you most likely have it too. It’s hereditary.”
He said that since I was going to need a B12 shot a month for the rest of my life, he would have his nurse show me how to inject myself. I must have gotten pale, because he asked if I could handle that. Before I could say NO, he said it would make them a LOT cheaper if I could.
“Oh, Okay,” I said, and he wrote me a B12 prescription.
Right now, manifestations of the brain damage I have include things like back in May, 2004, after the nightly news when I was mailing out B12 warnings and I meant the subject to be, “Follow up: the numbers” but I wrote, “Follow up: the flooding” ~
When I sort papers I have a really hard time getting it right, no pile is ever composed of only the papers I meant to have in it. To expand on that, let me say that I think the problem is a function of my thoughts no longer staying clearly differentiated when I try to think about two things at about the same time (which of course is actually a part of choosing, selecting and weighing different options). Say, for example, that I’m talking about the difference between kale and cabbage in terms of digestion and health ~ I may begin a sentence thinking about kale and talking about it, but by the end of the sentence I may be using the word cabbage.
Where this problem makes me want to cry, is when I want to think about an idea and I can’t keep its separate parts straight. In university I loved philosophy, now I can read it for enjoyment, but I can’t compare and contrast ideas as I was formerly able to do.
Or, when I study something, it is clear as can be while I’m reading it and agreeing. But next day I may have no idea what I read, much less an idea of the nuances.
I used to love writing about different things in such a way that a connection between them could be seen. Now, when I want to write, I think thinks like, “Vegetables are good for us.” Or, say I want to comment on a particular program I watched on telly, I am reduced to thinking nothing more complex than, “I’m glad you ran a program on…”
This last bit has a lot to do with Haldol, and an experience which I was loath to write about when I began this page. If I had been injected with Haldol prior to my IRS letters, I could NOT have written them.
In 2001 I fell and hit my head on the brick floor in my condo that was built over a full, outdoor toilet pit. The fall caused a traumatic brain injury which is different in that while B12 was not able to help as completely as it had in relation to the low vitamin B12 brain damage.
Because I appear to have to make my neuro-psych test report a part of the public record in the foreclosures, I want to post it so that everyone can see it with the corrections to the history that should be made. 3/16/05
List of Symptoms of Cognitive Disorder, Areas of Cognition and What Neuropsychological Testing Looks For ~