helbling: (vampire)
[personal profile] helbling

I've managed to make you read the title in Professor Farnsworth's voice!

Ahem. But genuinely, I have a positive-feeling thing. It is not a thing I have talked about in public before, so bear with me. But the good thing is! My memory loss is not permanent!

...actually, it is, but it's not immovable! This is a good thing! Huzzah!

Ok, so, let me catch everyone up.

So, the funny thing about memory damage is that, like many things that the movies have lied to us about, there is no one morning where you wake up, sit up in bed and go 'aha! I remember it all!'

The funnier thing is that if, some months after a relatively severe concussion, you're still having short term memory problems, there's no good way to know if you're stuck with them, or if they'll go away, or if they can be worked around. The best that anyone can tell you is 'wait and see if you get better'. The doctor I spoke to about it was even extra unhelpful, and pointed out that as long as I was functioning properly and it wasn't impeding my day to day life, they couldn't even track improvement in anyway that would be meaningful. The best they could mutter about was PCS.

So, after the crash which was...gosh, nearly 2 years ago now! I had short term memory loss - this was not unheard of, and it did improve after a while. But then...it stopped improving.

Do you know that suddenly being less smart than you're used to being is a really fucking weird sensation? It honestly is - you'll reach for a word, or a piece of information, or a turn of phrase that you know is there somewhere in your head but you can't grasp what it is. It's like having a word on the tip of your tongue 247.

If you can imagine how frustrating, humiliating and frightening the knowledge that you might be stuck with that sensation, like, permanently, is then you might be able to grasp why I have not been flinging this knowledge about. I think I've mentioned it* in passing as if it was no big deal to a couple of people. I have not told people how occasionally I've walked away from things and cried because I KNEW there was something I was missing, and I just could NOT get my brain to work and hand me the information. Mostly, because thinking about it was extremely depressing, I have been doing my best to chug along, focus on what is immediate and in front of me and not think about it. Too much.

What makes it more annoying is it is JUST short term memory. In computer terms, my processor and my harddrive are untouched, but my RAM sort of got peed on. I can still work out implications from pieces of information, but what information I can hold in my head at one time was vastly diminished. And there is a certain amount you can compensate for that, but there is a wall you hit very quickly on anything intellectual or taxing or, heck, murder mystery-based.

There was a chance it would go away. But as time passed, this possibility grew more and more distant, and it was looking like what I'd got was what I'd be stuck with. But the brain is a marvelous organ, and can rewire itself, if you put enough effort in, but it's hard and doesn't always work.

I have/had coping methods for this. At work, I carry a notepad with me everywhere, because whereas before I could hang onto multiple phone numbers without repetition, now I can't remember a 4 digit code for the 20 second walk between the far side of the office and my desk. I document everything. I leave myself physical reminders for where I've put things like keys, wallet, phone (most of the time - sometimes, I forget, as anyone who has seen me panickedly searching for said phone can attest), and shopping without a list Does Not happen. The Diplomancy stuff? Holy shit, you should see the background workings for that, I have tables upon tables, information duplicated 3, 4, 5 times in different places so I could be sure I wouldn't lose it. I turned up with such a huge file on the night because I genuinely couldn't be sure I'd remember the important stuff, and sure enough, there was one thing I had to quietly sort a second time once I'd gone and read up on it. (This is not the incident that someone died in, that was entirely not me). And even then, that was relatively recently - I could not have run that a year ago.

But I have been working on it. Mental exercises, memory tricks (can't quite remember everything on a list? Then just remember the number of items on said list, and you will be surprised how much farther you get. Also, memory palaces are fucking hard work guys!), writing, reading (pointedly reading. Anything, everything, the only rule is internet stuff does not count), reviewing...all of it.

The last couple of days is the best opportunity I've had so far to compare how I am to how I was. Because of course, the time in our lives when we're most tested and can see how we do against our peers is in school, in a classroom environment. And yesterday and today, for the first time in years, I have been in a classroom environment. With my peers.

It has been such a massive relief. This is working guys.

Compared to how I used to be, I'm still not there. I still miss things. I still forget some things entirely, even if they're written down. I do still glance back at notes I made only half a day ago and realise there is some stuff there I don't remember writing.

But I am better than I was. I remembered 7 things (7!) for a whole 5 minutes. Mainly because I then had to recite them in front of a class and public humiliation is ever the motivator. But I am getting and grasping new things, and no, I'm not as fast (isn't it odd? It's only now I can say that actually, fuck yeah, I was really very quick on the uptake back in the day) as I once was, but I am matching, and in some cases, outdoing the other people on my course.

Had I done this 6 months ago, I don't think I'd have managed that.

And I AM getting better. This is an upward slope. I will get there.

So, inevitably, what can people do to help?
- Don't volunteer information if I have not asked for it. Don't bottlefeed me information. For the love of god, don't. That struggle is what makes my brain work out new pathways (I'm told) for getting at information that was previously blockaded. If you can see me obviously having forgotten something (assuming it's something non-important; if I've left a laptop out in the rain or something, that obviously doesn't count), by all means ask if I'd like reminding. But often if given enough time, I will get to it, and that getting to it is important.
- If I have walked away from something, let me go. There are still mountains I cannot climb yet, and trying only makes me upset. LARP plot is a good example - I'm so, so glad that Snipe is a loud mouthed enough character I can get away with her only be tangentially interested in plot, because I can never tell if information is something I've missed or forgotten or something the GMs actually want us to work out and haven't given to us yet. I try my best to handle this IC, but if you see me removing myself OOC, please let me walk away rather than following me with the conversation.
- Do remind me if I've said I'll do something and I haven't. It is likely not malicious, I have just forgotten, and my being reminded and thus forced to remember is good for me.

Er, I think that about is everything. But you wait, I'll have bloody forgotten something....

* - you might have spotted that phrase cropping up in more of my conversations nowadays - that turn of phrase that isn't 100% certain if I've done something. THIS IS THE REASON.
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June 2016

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