Once upon a time, in the dim recesses of my past:
April 2003. I’ve just passed my 24th birthday. I have two boys at home, one that’s 2.5 years old and one that’s not quite a year. I’m working as an IT tech and we’ve just finished a huge four-month-long project that had me setting up new computers, disposing of old computers, training employees on the new system, setting up all the security clearances, and about a dozen other things, all while still fixing stuff that broke. I’m the only tech employee in our local region and am the go-to for project management, training, setup, security, networking, and help-desk repairs. My brain is in overdrive, which is lovely, because I’m in a seriously bad place in my life and I want nothing more than a major distraction from myself.
Then the project comes to an end, and my brain just…blanks out. From April until August in 2003, there’s almost nothing but white fog. A hole in my memory. A few mini-memories, like a week spent away from home for training, or a conversation with a drunk friend who’s moving across the country. It’s not just blank in my memory, though – it’s blank in the day-to-day second-to-second living. Dangerous times, like the time I nearly blew through a stoplight because I didn’t even know I was driving a car until I was at the intersection. It’s as if my short-term memory capability has disappeared. I retain nothing from minute to minute. I never know where I am or what I’m doing. The very definition of brain-dead autopilot.
Why this story is relevant today:
Thankfully, I survived that summer. To this day, I have no idea what happened to me. It was nothing I’d ever experienced before, and nothing I’ve experienced since. For the last fifteen months, however, it’s been a very near thing. Not long before we moved to Wisconsin – when we were in the middle of reconstructing our entire house due to termites – my short-term memory capability dropped to about 20% capacity. There was no white fog, but I couldn’t really remember very basic things. No concentration, no focus, no creativity, no communication. Books I read went right through my brain without sticking, and I struggled to put together sentences when I tried to review them. In conversation, I’d trail off mid-word and have no idea what I was saying. I’d have an idea of what I wanted to write in an email but would lose the words as soon as I put my fingers to keys. Multi-tasking or following multi-step directions was impossible.
The situation grew worse after our move. For anyone who knows me on other social media platforms, you may have seen me disappear this last year. My brain didn’t have the capacity to fully interact. Even on a site as simple as Instagram, my posting cut by at least 2/3rds. Depression and anxiety caused my brain to grow worse through the fall, compounded after the election and by the lack of available mental health care where I lived. There was a short respite when my doctor put me on an anti-depressant, but soon the medicine also worsened the situation. By the time I had my mini-vacation in February, I had so much trouble having a full conversation that my family and friends back at home noticed and were concerned. I thought maybe it would get better once I got off the new med – and it did, briefly, before the blanket muffled my head again.
Unfortunately, things have not gotten any better. I could blame stress or insomnia or depression, but I don’t think any of those are the real root of this, as it hasn’t changed when any of those lessen. Maybe some kind of imbalance or hormone issue or some other physical problem, I don’t know. I have appointments scheduled with my family doctor and a neurologist who specializes in sleep disorders, so I really hope I might get some answers in the near future. Living like this – not remembering anything that’s happening around me, not able to function in a meaningful way, struggling to remember even the most basic words to speak or write – is terrifying. I want answers. I want my brain back.