Monday, January 5, 2015

2015: Dear Karen, Stop. Now. Love, Your Brain

I'm always searching for signs. When I can string together enough curiosities to see a pattern, I announce I've found a truth. When I looked back on the past year, I finally saw it. Inside my own head, I found a curious pattern, and, like it or not, I have to accept its truth.

Twice I experienced Transient Global Amnesia (TGA).

The first episode happened while I was cleaning up the garden. I carried leaf bags to the alley, turned around to step through the garage door into the backyard, and nothing made sense.

I was Alice falling down the rabbit hole into a nonsensical world.

I didn't understand why the clippers were on the sidewalk in front of me. I didn't know why I was outside. Cliff was raking in the front yard and said I came out the porch door and announced, "I don't know what I'm doing."

He and Maggie put me in the car. As we sat in the ER, I kept asking, "Why are we at the hospital?" They explained. I asked the same question again. A series of tests determined my brain was normal, and in three hours, my memory returned. Doctors said a shut-down of short-term memory was extremely rare and would probably never happen again.

It did.

Although the second episode was different, the sensation was identical. I raced through my brain for information, opening one drawer after another. Valuable files were empty; papers were scattered everywhere. Nothing had labels. Lost inside my own head, I couldn't connect the dots on anything because I couldn't remember what I was looking for. When short-term memory shuts down, nothing sticks. The brain becomes a sieve. In three hours, I was fine again.

The neurologist said there was only a 3% chance that it would happen a third time. Science has no explanation for TGA. It might be a side effect of statin medication to lower cholesterol. I've stopped taking it. It might be caused by strenuous exercise. That would not be me. It might be the result of stress. At one point during my first hospital visit, a doctor asked me to describe my life. When I was finished, she said, "Wow. No wonder your brain shut down." Bingo.

Before each event, my mind had spun on a hamster wheel of worry--crazy worry that raced from anxiety to panic. I've always been a master juggler of stress, but I'm now over sixty, the average age for TGA to strike. My brain is no longer nimble. Both times it picked up an item that eluded my catching ability. Three apples were juggle-able, but the added fourth, a pineapple, was the tipping point. My brain collapsed. Fruit rolled everywhere.

Or something like that.

So for 2015, I'm sorting and sweeping and stopping. I can't do everything. I can't control everything. My brain, realizing its cautionary whispers weren't getting through to me, flipped the switch and turned out the light. My brain needed darkness for a nap. Temporary amnesia was its only ticket.

A brain has only so many choices.

In 2015, I'm looking for reasons to stay calm. Sort, sweep, stop. I need to simplify my stressors, not multiply them. I smiled when I found this apt quotation:

                                      I've got 99 problems and 86 of them are completely 
                                      made up scenarios in my head that I'm stressing about 
                                      for absolutely no logical reason.

My sign. My truth.

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