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Fire Frog's
ICH Symptoms

Memory Loss

I kept forgetting the words for pen, car or table. The doctor said getting forgetful was what happens with age. Everyone does it. Forget. Well, up to then, I never had. I could remember knowing all the words in a sentence. It hadn't been that long ago, and I was only 21 at the time. What was wrong with me? (Senility, Alzheimer's, insanity?)

I actually tried to monitor my memory over a couple of days and the results shocked me. 20% of the time I couldn't remember the name of an object, or finish the end of a sentence. To hide this fact I would use descriptive terms - the thing you write with, instead of 'pen' for instance. For some reason catch fraises from movies, books and TV show's were easier to bring to mind than short every day words. I began substituting them and it really made it easier to finish a sentence.

I did however become an eccentric speaker, peppering my conversations with quotes that no one else had heard of, or could understand. Some times the quote was the closest I could get to what I meant, but wasn't exactly right. Like "He's gone, he's gone, and never called me Mother!" This is a phrase taken from a musical skit that I have used on occasion to mean -"We're out of glass flasks" "My shift partner wont be in today." And "I can't find my cat anywhere, and I have to give him this pill."

"Ann-Margret comes up with the strangest things out of the blue." people said. Better eccentric than stupid seeming, which starting a sentence and not being able to remember how you had planned to end it makes you appear. A memory loss can happen any time and I know that in a middle of a conversation I've been abruptly forced to cut my answers down to two or three words.

It must seem as if I've suddenly lost interest in the conversation, or in what others around me are saying. But the truth is, I've been abruptly trapped inside my own head and can't reach out. When that happens and I find myself behind the glass wall, unable to touch the world, I withdraw inwards even more. Better to keep it all to myself than try and make contact and come across as a fool. On bad days, I forget up to 70% of words, which makes talking in coherent sentences impossible. I keep silent on those days. No one notices.

Highly unflattering as it is for them, I sometimes forget people's names. It can take years for someone's name to stick, and even then I can still forget it. I have learnt at these times to call people by extravagant titles, like "Excuse me, my little potato pie, where does this go?" People accept this better than "Hey, you, where does this go?" Or making a big production about trying to remember who they are, that annoys them. I like people who look like their name. If Peter looks like a Peter, great! I wonder if I look like an Ann-Margret? Hope so!

Ever gone into a room and forgotten what you went in there for? Done it more that three times a day? Ever stopped at a stoplight and suddenly been unable to remember which colour is the stop, and which the go? Looked at a list of numbers to type into a computer, and by the time you've looked over at the keyboard, forgotten what they were? Do you have a story to tell yourself, if you ever forget your first name and need a reminder what it is? Welcome to my world.

I wish people wouldn't tell me directions or phone numbers, I almost never remember them, unless I write them down. Thanks to a course I went to through work, I have begun to keep a diary (that I call Chaos, because Chaos is my life, heh heh hee...) It is great for keeping track of things! Now I remember if I have to phone someone, and what their number is! So long as I remember to A) write in the diary, and B) read the diary, it's almost as good as a real memory. Almost.

I hope I'm not making a big deal of the memory thing, but it has had the biggest affect on who I am, and who other people think I am, too. When I am remembering words well, I chatter like a monkey, when I don't, I shut up like a clam. If I tell a story, and I can't remember all the details, I tend to guess the blanks (names, dates etc). Unfortunately, I forget who I've told what, and will happily tell someone the same story again, filling in the blanks with different names, or even the correct ones, if the memory will allow. Do people think I make my stories up, I wonder?

I've also told people I would do something for them, or get something from home for them, and forgotten to do it. What a cheapskate they must think me, to promise help or items of interest, then not produce them. And I won't even remember about it for months, even years later. Too late, anyway. I try not to make the offers any more.

I've been forced to be an introvert, when I am anything but. When the ideas are bubbling, or a conversation is going well and I want to join in, but can't, that's when I feel it the most. A focus-less anger and frustration. I want to hit things, tear things apart. Back when this was at it's worse, before I had had treatments and didn't even know why it was happening, it drove me frantic!

I'd try to talk, and out would come a jumbled mess. People would look at me condemning-ly. /She's an idiot/ they thought. (Or I thought that for them). Some times they'd tell me so, or tell someone else in a loud voice so I would over hear them. I hate that. Silence became my only security from ridicule. And I hated silence. Still do. What's that old saying? 'Everybody is entitled to my opinion.' Yeah. J

The after affects of a bad memory loss time stay with me. The other day I went shopping with my mother. We ran into some guy, a friend of hers. She waved at her friend, I gave a distracted 'hi' smile, and we moved on. "You two not talking?" she asked "Hmm?" Turned out he was this guy I went on two dates with. I remember them, vaguely. But I don't remember him, definitely don't remember what he looks like. What else has gone? What memories, who's faces? This is scary.

Another thing I have started doing to help me remember people is keeping a memory board. I brought an I-Zone instamatic camera that spits out little pictures with sticky backs that develop themselves. I temporarily stickytape them in Chaos, and write the name, phone number and brief description of who that person is besides it. Then I transfer all that onto the appropriate memory board when I get home.

Word of warning, people are strange about having their pictures taken. Me, I wouldn't care, unless I was having a private moment of grief (ie bloodsucking journalists at a tragedy better not come my way or I'll put aside the grief in favour of some ass kicking instead.)

But some people hold their image sacred, so explain to them and ask them if you can take their picture first. Yes, even though you are the only person who will see the picture, and it is for a good cause, they may still say no. Learn to live with this, and resist the urge to make tiny effigies of wax and, with a long, heated metal pin ... ah. Um. Just let it go, 'kay?

PS, sneaking up on someone, getting them in your sights with the camera and saying "can I take your picture?" apparently does not count as proper 'asking'. Yes, even though if they say yes you get a much nicer candid shot that actually looks like the person and not like an add for toothpaste. I have been told that the sneak attack is 'bad' and will make people 'cross' and more likely to say 'no'.

Bastards.

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