Back in 2010 I was on a high Prednisone dosage to keep my lungs working when they wanted to quit. It saved my life. It also caused side effects that included manic episodes. Accompanying those episodes was severe short-term memory loss and no sense of time.
Fortunately, those days are gone, though there was minor bone damage and what I call lingering Prednisone Moments. They’re scary, leave me questioning my sanity, and on occasion reduce me to tears. Thankfully, their duration is literally but a moment and they’ve become more widely spaced over time.
Needless to say, when I worked as a CNA I had great sympathy for the seniors who were grappling with memory issues, especially those first encountering the problem. Often they were stunned when I’d describe what the experience felt like—and then they’d meet my eyes and give me a hug. For me the worst was over, but for them it was just beginning. It tore me up inside.
Memories: so many are precious and most of those are tied to my children. Others have faded with neglect. Yet, too, there are the odd memories, those of questionable importance that have endured. Why is THAT stuck in my head? For instance, I recall riding in the car with my mother when I was six years-old. The radio was playing Downtown by Petula Clark. That’s it. I like the song, but there are many songs from 1964 (the memory is from ’65) that I also like, but I don’t have a memory associated with most of them. Why that song? I have no idea.
And then there are memories that should be present, but aren’t…
I’ve discovered there’s this thing I do. Yes, a thing. We all have a thing or things. Of course, they’re of little consequence to anyone else without an explanation…
At times I twist my head around and look to the side when trying to evade the thought or image entering my mind. You know, like when a scene in a movie is too painful to watch and narrowing your eyes to slits is insufficient protection. Like that. The difference is I do it in reaction to what others can’t see.
I turn away from what I wish I couldn’t see, what I wish I could un-see.
I can initiate the reaction on my own, but as you might expect it more often follows someone else trying to force a memory to the surface. There’s much I’d rather not remember and so I resist, I turn my head, and I close my eyes. If needed I turn my head in the opposite direction. It bears a resemblance to a wince.
And all because a traumatic memory that begins suddenly ends as if someone switched it off.
The story of me is an incomplete tale, for long ago, when I was barely old enough to lift a shovel, I buried memories in a place where I watered the ground with tears. Such moments remain a thicket into which I fear venturing, but sometimes the key to how I cope in the present is hidden there.
What about the story of you?
Perhaps you turn your head to look away? You aren’t alone. Maybe you cover your face and squeeze your eyes closed tight? You aren’t alone. If there’s a painful past you’ve cast into darkness—you aren’t alone. It doesn’t make you strange or weak. It’s your pain and that alone makes it important, but if you choose to go back where the deepest pain dwells don’t go there alone.
There are trained mental healthcare professionals for a reason. Don’t walk into that creepy forest without someone watching your back. This is serious stuff. If it wasn’t you’d be able to remember.
Do you want to dwell in your past? Absolutely not. What’s important is living healthy in the present. Touching on my past (with aid) helped me understand why I do what I do in the present. Believe me, if some of what I do now wasn’t self-destructive I wouldn’t have agreed to go back.
Just please remember: you aren’t alone. Please remember that. Bad things can and do happen to good people. I’d like to think I’m good people. I’m sure you’re good people. That makes at least two of us. So, you see, we aren’t alone.
Let it be that we heal and realize our true selves. Stay healthy. Stay safe.