Life with a short term memory loss

I stared at the girl in the photograph. She looked so familiar, but who was she? Had she been a classmate? A neighbor? Had she and I worked at the same place? There was so much I didn’t know. my body had healed since the accident; I was walking and lifting weights two days a week and do 15 lapses in swimming 3x a week and trying so hard to feel strong and to be strong. But my mind was muddled. I’d remembered my family and my boyfriend, but I’d lost many of the details of our lives together. I couldn’t recall the trips few months ago my boyfriend said my favorite. I couldn’t remember my crush or the boy who wrote the most heartfelt offering in my yearbook — “I still remember the time you cared enough just to talk. If you hadn’t been there I wouldn’t be here today.”  Had I saved him from suicide? I didn’t know. Sometimes I would run into people at the mall and they’d swear I knew them but I’d have to say no, I didn’t. At least not anymore. and sometimes, I just had to pretend I do recognize them and just go with the flow during the conversation.

There’s a cliché saying that memory makes us who we are; I disagree, experiences do. Memories are just a part of who we are and memories come from those experiences.  On March 23 2001, I was involved in a car accident. Broken ribs, paralysis, deep coma, and traumatic brain injury.  I was unconscious for 2 weeks. The longer someone is unconscious, the worse the outcome after they wake; if they do. After spending 7 weeks in the hospital, from a car accident/brain injury, I came home to reacquaint myself with everything. It wasn’t until several weeks after getting home that I realized that I  had no reference to my 21 days of life.

I  knew I had amnesia when I  was in the hospital, but I was so focused on getting home, that it never hit me how bad it was. I was  told that I  still the basic same me as I  was before the amnesia. Without memories to pull from for reference, I  was a blank canvas, personality-wise. What I  have is Anterograde Amnesia; would be forgetting what is happening now,. Being able to keep new memories is a gift and what was and is important. The first type of memory issue I  recognized was language: aphasia. I  didn’t understand what words meant at times; didn’t understand sarcasm; I  called things and people by the wrong names; and I  didn’t know how to take a joke.  I  also had Broca’s Aphasia (expressive) — I  had a hard time getting the right words out to get the point across and it got frustrating when someone didn’t understand. It was also frustrating for others who couldn’t grasp what I  was trying to say so they could help.

Memory isn’t stored in one area of the brain, it’s spread out everywhere. Sometimes one comes back. It was really strange at first to get a memory back because it was really confusing what was happening and why. It was like feeling lost in time and space. Sometimes the memory came with uncontrollable emotions. Over time, I  noticed that any of my senses could trigger a memories. They came mostly from external cues, sometimes internal cues. Most memories that come back make sense. At times they are whole memories, but sometimes they are partial, like puzzle pieces and they put together a picture eventually.

The changes and memory challenges were weirder for my family than her. One of the biggest challenges is when I don’t recognize people I  should know. but by the help of social media I  was able to know how they supposed to look like, (that’s why I always check their profile before meeting them) also by the help of my partner, I  was able to know how I meet them, and so on…. I am  not getting any younger, pain is a constant issue and Alzheimer’s Disease runs in my family; my short-term memory issues are slowly becoming an issue. I  do what I  can to keep my brain strong; puzzles, word games, hidden objects games, and writing. I  love spending time at home with my family, They are such good therapy for me. Because I am unable to work, I   pass the time by writing. cooking, and photograph.

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