Curse or convenience?

I think I’ve mentioned that I undergo ECT to battle my bipolar disease.  I may have also mentioned that it has been utterly devastating to my memory.  The year 2011 is, for the most part, lost to me completely, and much of 2012 is a blur.  I keep hearing from Dr. Ted Danson (see my other ECT posts…..) that I will likely eventually regain a good portion of what has been “temporarily” lost, but I still have my doubts.

I’ve come to realize that my short-term memory loss can be a real curse.  I often look at photos on my computer in the hope of “refreshing” my memories, but it only makes me feel like another person took those pictures because there are so many faces and places and events that seem like they must have happened to someone else.  I often find myself repeating certain things to my family, and my kids are always quick to point out, “Mooooommmmm, you already TOLD US THAT!  53 times!!!!”  It’s annoying to them, and aggravating to me, because I honestly don’t remember telling them even once.

Memory loss is incredibly embarrassing, as well.  “Hey, do you remember when our families went canoeing on the river?”  (Nope)    “Hi, nice to see you again.  We met last summer”.  (No, sorry, I’ve never seen you before)    “Do you remember how to get to that street faire we went to a couple of months ago?”  (Absolutely no clue)    “How can you not remember that we share a birthday?  We celebrated two years in a row together!”  (oops?)  “What’s the name of that family that moved in down the street last summer?”  (a new family moved in?).    “Where did you get that dress you wore to your cousin’s wedding?”  (my cousin got married?)

Of course, there is the “up” side to memory loss.  It can be convenient.  If I’m really lucky, I forget things like how sick I was following my last ECT session.  Or when my teenage daughter told me I promised to take her to a particular R-rated movie, I can cite my poor memory and tell her, “There is no way I would ever have agreed to that”.  If I forget to show up to an appointment or forget to sign the permission slip for my child to go to the field trip or forget that there is a field trip, most people are pretty forgiving because severe memory loss has been such a huge part of my life for nearly two years.  Sadly, people are getting used to it as being part of who I am.  Sadly, I am getting used to it as being part of who I am.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to forget the things that bring me the most emotional pain.  I’d love to forget that my dad died while I watched.  I wish I could forget that my husband has left me, and why.  I would like to not remember all of the terrible behavior I exhibited when I was at my sickest.  I would love to forget some of the horrible things I’ve witnessed.  I pray to forget much of my recent past.  If I’m going to be cursed with memory loss, why can’t I at least get to decide what I remember and what I don’t?

And I could easily make memory loss more of a convenience than it occasionally is.  I could lie about having forgotten this or that.  I could use it as an excuse.  But truthfully, I’m afraid that if I take advantage of my faulty memory, it will come back to bite me in the ass.  Kind of like when my mom would say, “Don’t make that face; it might stick like that”.  I could so easily lie my way out of many situations and blame it on my ECT-induced memory loss.  But with my luck, it would then become the truth.  And I can’t bear losing any more memories, even the bad ones.

So, chaos or curse?  I’m leaning heavily toward curse.  But I have my sights set on the day when I wake up to find an old memory has returned to my scrambled brain.  I look forward to regaining my happy memories, one by one, regardless of how much time it takes.

In the meantime, I’m going to remain optimistic.  For as long as I can remember what “optimistic” means.



2 thoughts on “Curse or convenience?

    • No! Please don’t be scared! I’m being honest with the memory thing from my experience, but not everyone who undergoes ECT will suffer such memory loss. It’s different for each patient. But I would not trade the “wellness” I’ve gained for anything. I’ve been assured by my doctors and all the research I’ve done that much of my memory will return, it will just take time. And I’d rather be symptom-free much of the time. It’s not for everyone, that’s true. But talk to people who have gone through it – ask your doctor for referrals. Send out a plea on your blog – surely one of your followers has gone through ECT? Also, I recently wrote about a book I read that talks about a bipolar treatment that is endocrine-based. It’s a new kind of therapy, but maybe worth looking into? The book is called “Chaos to Cured” by Kirk Miller. You can read it in a few short hours. That therapy changed his life, and he never had to go through ECT. Please look into it? Keep me posted in your progress. And don’t be scared. Be brave – your life is worth it.

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