Ah, the frontal lobe…memory, emotion, speech. Let’s take a look at memory for a minute.
Everyone forgets things every day. Ever walk into a room and forget why you went in there? Gone to the grocery store and realized the moment you got home that you forgot the one thing you really needed to buy? Forgot a birthday of a loved one? Forgot to pick your child up from practice? You know what I mean. Everyone forgets. Our lives are over-busy, over-scheduled and over-stimulated.
While I was recovering from surgery – idle time is not good for me – I was going back through the previous year and wondering…was that an unreasonable amount of forgetting? What about that? Now, that wasn’t normal forgetting, was it? I was looking hard and finding all kinds of examples of where my brain may not have been functioning ‘normally.’ Many people have told me when I’ve mentioned these examples that they experience the same kind of forgetful moments. So, were they signs or was I just a regular ol’ over-worked, over-tired, over-stimulated human being? I really don’t know.
Then, I have days that I straight up don’t remember. I have days or moments that I feel like I’ve forgotten, but then I get a prompt from my husband and I remember, mostly. I have moments that if I think hard enough about the context around the moment, I MAY remember. Then there are those strange, unnecessary memories that I pull out of my head without hesitation – like our phone number from 10 years ago or a name of an actor from some random show I watched twice in the ’80s.
The most unsettling, as you might imagine, are the days I don’t remember at all. The days in the hospital before surgery. Most of the days following surgery. Some moments during chemorad. The days after my second seizure. Having absolutely no memory of those days, having to be told what happened, what I said, what the doctors said is very strange and frustrating. Luckily, I didn’t do or say anything during those times that I’d be embarrassed about – so it’s not really like drinking WAY too much and blacking out. I don’t like feeling out of control, which is why I’d never make a good drug user. These days that I have no memory of are terrifying to me (and frankly to my husband and kids), but they’ve luckily been few. I’ve had people who love me there who can later remind me that it was all ok and I didn’t dance on the tables in my underpants trying to sing some MC Hammer.
The anti-seizure drug (Keppra), when my dosage was increased, made my memory worse. It’s a common side effect (not an uncommon one, like possible brain tumors from radiation treatment…for brain tumors.) I think it got better as I acclimated to the dosage. But, I find that sometimes my internal thoughts veer off from the words coming out of my mouth. Most of the time, I catch it and get back on course after explaining what I really meant to say (like when I told my husband that my sister-in-law really said TORNADO warning, not TOMATO warning), but sometimes I don’t. I used to be able to make lists in my head and remember them more than 5 minutes later. I’ve always been a list maker (and yes, I’ve sometimes written down ‘take shower’ just to have the satisfaction of crossing it off), but now I have to write it down immediately or I’ll forget. Even the simple things – do laundry, fill bird feeders, clean up that huge pile of papers sitting in the middle of the floor that you have to step over to get out the door (ok, maybe not that one). I used to be able to multi-task, now I can’t do more than one thing at a time if one of those tasks requires any level of concentration. I have to write things down to remember them most of the time. I’ll sometimes get an email or voicemail from a friend or family member and if I can’t respond immediately, I’ll forget to write/call back for days until I happen to stumble across it again (my apologies folks, but don’t take it as a sign that I’m ignoring you, I’ve just forgotten temporarily.) That’s not so bad in the grand scheme of things that could have happened to my memory. And I’m learning that maybe my expectations for myself are sometimes a little too high and looking for those examples of imperfect memory is probably a waste of my precious time.