Share your stories

I went to a Thai restaurant last week and they gave us fortune cookies at the end of the meal. I opened mine up and was really disappointed: it was no good for the “in bed” game and seemed to imply that I’ll be developing Alzheimer’s Disease when I get older. It wasn’t until a couple days later during a long walk that I wished I had kept the fortune instead of leaving it on the table when we left. It said something along these lines:

Share your stories with others so they can remind you when you forget.

“Great, I’m going to forget everything when I’m old.”

But during that long walk is when it occurred to me how poignant that fortune actually was, given how much of my past I’ve already forgotten.

I know I’ve probably talked about this before and also probably mentioned that it makes me a little uncomfortable, but I’m sharing nonetheless. This may be intriguing, it may be relatable, it may be nonsensical. I may be sharing it with you, I may be sharing it with others, I may be sharing it with “The Cloud”. (Given that the Internet is forever, that’ll help me remember just as well as telling other people.)

Anyway! The shortest and most likely explanation for the lack of memories is because of drugs. More specifically, medications to prevent epileptic seizures. And as a reminder, epileptic seizures are caused by excess brain activity, like neurons shooting sparks all over the place so that other neurons can’t fire properly.

As great as technology has become over the years, there are a lot of things we don’t know about brains and brain chemistry. Thus, when the doctors weren’t sure exactly what was causing my seizures (I’ve had CAT scans done on my head that show a very pleasant and non-damaged-looking brain), they tried a handful of different medications to see what would work.

I honestly don’t know how many we tried. I’d guess five, but that’s just a guess. One thing I do remember is that I was taking toxic doses of a medication at one time, but the doctor thought it’d be okay because I was “a big guy.” Turned out that wasn’t the winning combination for preventing seizures, so we moved on to a different kind from there.

Lots of different chemicals plus lots of brain cells, stir up the pot, see what kind of mixture we get and the result was a hack job on my long-term memory pre-2002. (I spent about a week and a half in the United Hospital epilepsy ward with a bunch of wires glued to my head and we were trying to induce seizures, figure out where the excess activity was originating. It worked well enough that we found two medications—lamictal and depakote—that have kept me seizure-free since April of 2002.)

As a side-note, if any of you has ever wondered why I don’t attend any of my high school (’95) or college (’99) reunions… there’s a reason.

Someone once tried to tell me that my problem wasn’t out of the ordinary, that a lot of people forget stuff from their high school and college years when they get older. I think an apt comparison to that conversation would be to tell someone with depression, “Hey, everyone gets sad once in a while.” Not at all offensive and trivializing, right?

I actually kept a journal for a while in high school. I found it in my desk one afternoon, opened it up and read what might as well have been someone else’s autobiography. Aside from my handwriting, there was nothing familiar about it.

When I was eating my lunch one day during law school, someone snuck up to my table and sat down. She was a sophomore at Blake (high school) when I was a senior and we were on the verge of being an item at one point. We talked for a couple minutes and at one point, she asked for my forgiveness. Apparently, she had done some really shitty things to me that year. As it turns out, it’s really easy to forgive someone for something when you have no idea what it was. (Conversely, it can make other people really pissed off when they ask for an explanation about something and you have no idea what they’re talking about.)

Will my memories ever come back? I doubt it, but like with any problem, you accept that it happened and move forward from there. Share the few stories I remember, share the new stories I’m experiencing… this could be like writing a new version of my autobiography. Except this time, I’ll be starting in the middle of Chapter 12.

Some emotional memories die hard

Some of you may have already noticed the change in the menu bar at the top of the screen: there’s now a page that has YouTube videos of every episode from Season 1 of Beauty and the Geek (there’s a link to the VEVO page there that has seasons from the U.S., the U.K. and Australia). Putting all of those videos here on the blog required getting their web addresses, so I went to each one, copied the address, then decided to check out all of the comments sections as well.

Comments were sparse compared to chat boards when the show was on the air, but that’s kind of a given since it was eight years ago. Still, there was one… I don’t want to say it struck a nerve, but I almost responded to it. During Episode 5, she thought it was sad that when Scarlet was so pissed off at me, “no one stood up for Shawn, not even Shawn himself.” My response would have been along the lines of “It’s hard to stand up to someone when you agree with her.” And for some godforsaken reason, that inspired me to watch our final confrontation. [Insert ominous music here]

She asked me if I wanted to come pick up branches and I knew she was going to yell at me again, so there wasn’t much point in delaying the inevitable. That time, though… I’ve probably described it in here before. I can’t remember the last time I’ve come so close to snapping. If she’d said one more thing, I would have. I knew I would have. And as I watched it happening again on my computer screen, I suddenly realized that I was clenching my jaw. Hard.

I turned the video off pretty soon after that, then brought my laptop downstairs to my room. Strangely, I’m in “the basement” even though it’s at ground level. I decided to play a game on my phone for a little while, then heard a noise. Out in the driveway. The sound of a car door slamming.

My first thought was wondering why my parents were home from the family cabin so soon. My second thought was that they took the vehicle that’s parked in the garage and there was no reason for anyone to be in the driveway. My third thought was remembering when someone tried breaking into our house while I was home. Into my room in the basement while I was in bed.

I leaped out of bed, grabbed some clothes, grabbed the shorts that had my keys, started to move to the stairs, then reached back to grab my phone. In retrospect, I could have used the house phone to call the police, but my first instinct was that I’d need to call using my phone.

I bolted upstairs and ran to my dad’s room that has a good view of the driveway. I saw his truck and my car, but nothing else. (That’s why I brought my shorts with my keys: if someone was there, I could hit the button to set off the car alarm.) I moved to another window and looked out. Nothing at the end of the driveway or in the street. It really didn’t matter that I could see outside. The sky was dimly lit at 5:30 in the morning, but it would only take a couple minutes to get in, grab some valuable stuff and get out.

I finally sat down on Dad’s bed and realized that I was shaking, breathing too quickly and it felt like my stomach was twisted into knots. I tried to relax, standing up to look out the windows now and then. Still nothing, but that didn’t stop me from shaking.

I eventually got up and went to another room where I could see behind the house and the fronts of the vehicles. They looked fine, so it was probably an acorn or branch or something that bounced off one of them. Either that or someone got into and out of one of the vehicles without making any noise, which made staying inside a great idea.

I sat down on the recliner for a while and hoping that it would help me calm down a little. And it did. A little. Then I decided that I wanted to grab my laptop so I could either chat with some people on Facebook or write a blog entry. (Kind of ironic that I was thinking about writing about emotional memories and my jaw clenching when watching that video from Beauty and the Geek.)

So I stood up and walked toward the stairs. It was just a couple strides before… have you ever been cold, but not cold enough to shiver? It builds up in your system for a couple seconds, then there’s just one big body spasm? That’s how the shaking started again. I was okay at first, but pretty soon, I was shaking again. Still, I was committed to getting downstairs and getting my laptop. I needed some sort of connection: I didn’t want to just sit in the recliner by myself.

I got to the top of the stairs, made it three steps down before I sat down and started crying and hyperventilating. I would have been sobbing, but my breathing was too fast and shallow. I couldn’t do it. (It was bad enough that I’m tearing up writing this.) I got just calm enough to stand up and head back upstairs.

A few minutes later, I got mad. I put on my best scowl and started thinking, “I’m not going to be a victim in my own home. I’m not going to be a victim in my own home. I’m not going to be a victim in my own home.” That scowl stayed on my face the entire time I was downstairs and I kept that thought in my head as I quickly grabbed my laptop and walked back upstairs: “I’m not going to be a victim in my own home.”

It worked long enough for me to get back to the recliner so I could sit down, turn on the computer and log onto Facebook in hopes that I could find someone to chat with at 6:00 in the morning. Sleep was not an option. Unfortunately, I wasn’t getting any replies, so I went with what was behind Door #3: write a blog entry.

It’s helped some. I got to write about emotional memories (and had two examples instead of just one!). Focusing on writing has helped me get rid of the shakes, though I’m still tearing up from time to time. Sleeping might be an option eventually, though this recliner feels pretty comfortable compared to my bed downstairs right now. In the meantime, maybe I’ll try to find someone to chat with on Facebook. I could try calling someone on the phone, but if my hand starts shaking again, I might drop it, which could sound a lot worse than a car door slamming.