Tag Archive | memory

Behind Sad Eyes, Green Eyes, Blue Eyes

I’ve had the echo of a song in my head for days and was struggling to place it. My memory gaps have hit especially hard in the musical and lyrics area. I can no longer sing along to songs I’ve known my entire life. I kept getting the phrase about sad eyes and this haunting melody, and thanks to the miracle of google I figured out it was The Who “Behind Blue Eyes”. Makes sense I made it sad in my memory since this song expresses such pain. My eyes are not blue, they are green, but they are sad, always sad, even when I smile and laugh, the sadness never disappears. I see it in the mirror, I see it in every picture, others see it too – if they actually look.

I wanted to share the song here, and I found a lovely cover instead, by Janet Devlin, who may be a magical Irish elf, her voice gives me chills. Be sure to check out her other songs when you get a chance. Her singing this song gave more meaning to me. I look a bit like her. Or I used to, a few years ago. When I visited Ireland everyone thought I belonged there, finally no one thought I was too pale. My hair was redder before the whites took over and I had to color it browner than my natural shade, because I’m allergic to red dye, of course.

Anyways, here’s the song, have a listen, then I’ll talk about why its on my mind.

I am not well. I am not doing well. I am not feeling well.

I need to find a way out of this hole. I’m not sure that this is depression exactly, as I’m eating well, exercising, have good hygiene, going through all the motions that usually stop when depression hits. Some of the grief has lifted for losing my parents so that has actually improved.

But my attitude is terrible. I’m angry, irritable, annoyed at the world. I really don’t want bothered. I’m finding every human to be a huge nuisance and I keep them as far from me as possible.

My life is difficult. I spend my days doing physical therapy, brain rehab, and vestibular balance exercises – all to keep from getting worse – nothing seems to be improving. I’m tired from this constant effort and getting nowhere. But if I stop I do decline rapidly, so I know its important. My knee complaining in its brace and my new sciatic pain is proof of that. I have to keep up my strength and flexibility or I hurt myself when I try to do something so outrageous, ya know, like walk on a slightly uneven path to take a photo of a wildflower. That was over a week ago and I’m still in so much pain I can barely walk across a room. I am waiting to see an ortho for the nice popping sound my knee is making.

Yes I’m complaining. I’m in a sorry state of mind, a dark, foul pit. I don’t like it here. But I can’t pretend I’m not here and conjure up some rainbows.

I stopped at the liquor store the other day, held the bottle in my hand, put it back on the shelf, and went back out to my car to cry. I have not used alcohol to escape or hurt myself in years. I was very close to it. I wanted some freedom to not feel like this. But I know it will hurt me, cost me loads in recovery, and cost my family too. So I put it back.

It seems my only tool is distraction in the form of video games, netflix, and sleep. I can’t keep up on the video games any more, so I play them and try not to care that I don’t do well, my reactions are so slow now, my visual processing delayed. I exist in this zombie state of tv and light sleep mainly that passes the time when I can’t do anything else.

I actually hate my life. I do not look forward to anything. I hate that I wake up each day. I try to be grateful and feel horrible that I genuinely am not. I don’t want this. Yes I know it could be worse. I could be blind or deaf or in a wheel chair. I don’t feel grateful to sort of be able to kind of walk a little.

My daughter was being silly this morning, and for a normal human this would have been silly. They were ringing a bell and placing it on each other. She got it ringing and came up behind me and touched it to my ear. I screamed in pain and lost my balance, barely catching myself on the counter. It is hours later and I can still feel the fullness in my ear, the tingling in my face, the pain in my head, and the after effects of that much adrenaline. I nearly blacked out. From a random sound near my ear. Yes the doctors have documented all sorts of abnormal acoustic reflexes for me that activate my central nervous system. No the doctors can’t do a damn thing about it. My daughter was scared to death by my reaction and I had to minimize the pain I actually felt, try to gather myself together, recover, and get them off to school with partial tunnel/slanted vision. Sometimes I’m not sure I should be driving like this, but I seem to be able to see through it as long as I’m careful. I never take chances, I wait until no cars are there before I pull out. Sometimes I can’t see well enough, and then I don’t drive. My ears are still ringing, screaming from this morning. My nerves have otherwise mostly calmed back down.

I hate living like this. How am I suppose to heal from PTSD when my world is actually hazardous to me, when ordinary objects: sights, smells, sounds – can overload my brain and ruin my day in a second? So yeah. I am paranoid. Looking for things that will hurt me, make it so I might not be able to walk or drive home. I have gotten stranded too many times. I have people relying on me, with schedules, or it might not be so bad to be patient and wait it out.

New doc adds chronic pain syndrome. Basically means I’m a nervous wreck. Yeah seems to fit.

I’ve just been stuck here too long. 3 years now since I stopped working. I’m in the middle of applying for disability which is not a fun process listing everything wrong with you. I know that’s part of this dark mood, that horrible paperwork.

Another part I still the constant stress from Hubby and this broken relationship. Most days right now my dislike and resentment for him border on hate. I have repeatedly told him I have no feelings for him and he continues to try to get affection from me. I have no where to go, no money, no family. I can’t leave him and he won’t go, so I am stuck in this house with him. We try to be good to each other, make a pleasant home for the kids while giving each other space. But then he gets lonely and “forgets” some of my biggest triggers, like touching me while I’m sleeping. He did it again this morning. Maybe another wife would like to be woken up with a foot rub, but for me it is terrifying, and I hate having to tell him to stop, and I hate the mental workout it takes me to be able to say stop, and I hate the anger I feel, and I hate the fear, and I hate the fatigue that comes afterward. Just leave me alone.

I feel like other people get a break from stupid life, get to enjoy things like games, concerts, movies, festivals, amusement parks, sports, camping, boating, painting, writing, reading.

I have nothing. I can’t tolerate anything for long. I lost my ability to create, and I can barely experience what others have created without causing myself pain. I’m trying to find balance….trying….but these scales seem tipped, not in my favor at the moment and I don’t know if my rotten attitude is blocking the solution or this is how it has to be.

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Nearly normal

Feeling nearly normal for 2 days. No new hemiplegic migraine attacks. I am following a strict no trigger diet: avoiding bread, malt, yeast, cheese, fermented/aged items, limiting alcohol, dairy, caffiene, chocolate. Eating real whole foods, nothing packaged. Logging a diary. Up to 3/4 dose of gabapentin. Trying to very hard to be healthy and overcome this.

I quit my side job of teaching art lessons. I thought I would feel sad or disappointed, I just feel relief. One less thing to worry about. I guess I wasn’t that attached to it.

I’ve been up out of bed and trying to recover. I don’t have all my strength back but not limping or twitching. My thinking feels slow, I stare off in to space trying to work, trying to remember the next step. Having trouble getting from A to B mentally. And finding it impossible to find C. I used to do A-Z with no effort.

Example, my mental math is gone. Doctor asked the age of my AF when he died. I don’t know this being estranged from him, but for some reason recalled he was born in 1943. But then I could not do the simple math.

Example, my daughter wanted me to do a math trick she learned. Mom, think of any 2 digit number and add the 2 digits, then subtract that number from the original number…I couldnt do it. I thought ’32’, 3+2=5, and then it was all a blank. completely blank, the number were GONE when I tried to think about what she asked. I could hold on to 32 or 5, but not both together. It was the weirdest feeling, grasping for something so simple, and I thought of the hundreds of students I have seen stumped over the years. It was scary and fascinating at the same time, making me wonder how the migraine had disabled such a selective bit of my functioning – my working memory – or short term memory.

The scientist in me is actually enjoying figuratively dissecting my own brain. I NEED to know how this migraine thing works.

Link to learn about the brain areas

excerpt from above link In the course of a day, there are many times when you need to keep some piece of information in your head for just a few seconds. Maybe it is a number that you are “carrying over” to do a subtraction, or a persuasive argument that you are going to make as soon as the other person finishes talking. Either way, you are using your short-term memory.

In fact, those are two very good examples of why you usually hold information in your short-term memory: to accomplish something that you have planned to do. Perhaps the most extreme example of short-term memory is a chess master who can explore several possible solutions mentally before choosing the one that will lead to checkmate.

This ability to hold on to a piece of information temporarily in order to complete a task is specifically human. It causes certain regions of the brain to become very active, in particular the pre-frontal lobe. (located at the very front of the brain in the forehead)”

Emotions and Memories

A short, but interesting, article discussing a part of the brain that seems to be responsible for connecting emotion to memories.

http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/07/13/study-finds-key-brain-region-that-ties-memory-emotion/57151.html

I don’t know anyone with this disease – but I know firsthand what happens when the emotion-memory process has gone haywire.

My first thought was actually my abusive father. I’m wondering if a problem in this area of the brain could also contribute to the creation of a cold, cruel psychopath. To me it seems he didn’t have human emotions at all though – none to attach to a memory in the first place. I wonder if the people with FTD in this article had the appropriate emotional response at the moment, but then can’t attach it to the memory? No time to explore that right now.

If anything, I do think I have the opposite issue with PTSD. I tend to attach very strong emotions to somewhat neutral events. But then I tend to experience strong emotions regularly. I have a big heart that I no longer mind wearing on my sleeve.

I used to think emotions were weak and girly and should be suppressed. (Gee, who taught me to think that way?) Now I know they are beautiful, and are the essence and language of our spirit. Emotions, good and bad and in between should be embraced, explored, expressed, and shared.

Was

Blur 1 copy

Life’s a blur (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No slowing down
No looking back

Life speeds ahead
Right on track

Learn from the past
But let it go

Each day so fast
Each life so slow

What was, still was
but now I see

‘Was’ only is

a memory

Surprising Myself – PTSD Memory Theory

One of the positives (maybe the only positive actually) of having an impaired memory system is that I often surprise myself. I have the ability to completely forget something my foggy brain has done.

I think everyone does this from time to time, not just PTSD sufferers, like when you search for your car keys because you don’t recall where you set them down, and find them later – in the freezer. You get a nice moment of surprise and quick little giggle at how imperfect we really are. We try to hold so many things in our working memory at once, pay attention to a zillion details, and can easily lose the little ones that slipped away, never to be transferred into long term memory.

My happy surprise was a note to myself that I found in my purse, and that I had no memory at all of writing.

I was sitting in my therapist’s waiting room, digging for a blank card from my purse, when I found one with this lovely message on it:

“Connections make you strong within your kingdom. Castles are only strong when you stay inside of them.”

Isn’t that a great surprise to myself? I can be so thoughtful, it seems, just wish I could remember that. I stared at that card in disbelief. It was my handwriting on my card in my purse. I’m no detective, but I’m pretty sure I wrote that. I wonder where I heard it?

And then I let the meaning sink in of those lovely words. And I wondered if I had previously let the meaning sink in, when I wrote it, and I was able to now have a new reaction to it. I used to live all alone, safe in my castle, but it was a haunted castle full of ghosts from my past. I’ve written many posts about it, sometimes calling it: tower, fortress, walls, prison, etc. The meaning is the same no matter what you call it and I was stuck inside, of me, and had no outside connections.

I didn’t know how to make connections to anyone outside my castle. Not even my husband knew what was going on inside of me. And so I started this blog, to figure things out, and with the strongest hope of making a connection to someone, anyone, who may understand me. My connections here, my amazing blogging friends, not only understand me, but also accept and validate me. It was through their support that I was able to find myself and continue reaching out to others.

Brains and memory retrieval are fascinating to me, and I have learned so much since my PTSD diagnosis. And my knowledge is helping me to heal. I see the brain as needing to file and organize all of the data it receives. Ordinary data is filed in ordinary places. Extraordinary or traumatic data is often filed incorrectly. If you will, the secretary in the brain responsible for putting away the memories does a great job with how much there is to process.  But when something happens that does not fit, uses too many emotions, does not make sense, or is just too large, well it is left un-filed. Picture a secretary holding our memory folders, happily humming and filing each and every one, and all of a sudden the fire alarm sounds, and she must drop the folder and evacuate to save her life. That folder did not get dealt with properly during the trauma and now is out of place, and will be found later, once the crisis is over and the secretary resumes filing.

So to me, a PTSD flashback is simply a memory folder that was dropped in a time of crisis, that we now need to examine the contents and either discard if no longer needed, or deal with properly and store in the correct location of our brain. This is my own theory based on my experiences, and may not apply to anyone else. For me, once I actually examine the flashback, look at it directly, feel the depth of it, do what needs to be done with it – usually cry and grieve since I was unable to do that when the trauma happened originally – then I can toss out the extra baggage, and file the memory as a simple memory. When I recall a processed flashback, it no longer has power over me, it is no longer devastating once it is filed properly. And it stops coming up and demanding attention. It is just a memory that I can recall when I try, but it does not force itself on me any more.

So I now understand my goal. I need to find each misfiled memory and put it where it belongs. That doesn’t sound scary when I put it that way. I also think I won’t be completely ‘healed’ until every folder has been examined and relocated. And with so many traumatic events in my life, I still have a towering pile of folders strewn about. But I know I have support. I could not even open these file folders until I had made connections (and got out of my castle!) and found support and truly trusted in my husband, therapist, and even a bit in my blogging friends to help me sort it all out.

Alphabet Soup in My Brain

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PTSD for me seems to cause symptoms seen in ADD and OCD. It seems my brain gets stuck, or gets scrambled, and is rarely just buzzing along nicely. I generally have too many thoughts, not all negative thoughts any more, constantly bumping into each other in the most rude way. See just as one thought gets started and I think, Ohh that would be interesting, then another thought carelessly interrupts and off I go in another direction.

Here’s an interesting article about PTSD and the brain:

http://www.brainexplorer.org/ptsd/ptsd_aetiology.shtml

Excerpt “Many parts of the brain are likely to be involved in PTSD.  However, in recent studies two structures in particular have been highlighted – the amygdala   and the hippocampus  . The amygdala receives inputs from the thalamus   and the cortex, and sends efferents to the brainstem  , hypothalamus   and striatum. It is possible that these circuits are important in responding to threatening information from the environment via the autonomic, neuroendocrine and motor systems. Preclinical studies indicate that amygdala circuits are involved in fear conditioning and extinction . . . The hippocampus receives inputs from and sends efferents to both amygdala and the cortex.  The hippocampus plays an important role in memory, and these circuits may be involved in mediating explicit memories of traumatic events and in mediating learned responses to a constellation of cues (“contextual fear conditioning”).  Furthermore, preclinical studies demonstrate death of hippocampal neurons and hippocampal shrinkage after exposure of animals to chronic stress.”

I score high enough on the ADD and OCD tests to be medicated, but have chosen to try behavior/thought modification first and continue on my med-free healing path, thinking the main issue is PTSD. I am coping fairly well, but often have this feeling of disorientation, like thoughts are not in the right order in my brain. I have too many related thoughts all flooding the gate at once and I have to work so hard to focus on one. And then I get stuck on it, but it feels so good to be stuck and focused, no more interruptions, except I actually can’t stop then and nothing becomes as important as my new focal point.

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Around noon I open the dishwasher, start unloading it. Then remember that unloading silverware is the 4 yr old’s job, so I call for him. He does not come immediately, so I see what he is up to, and break up a lego fight between brothers. Then I supervise while they make up, and put some legos away. Then I put some dirty laundry in to the hamper. Then I see my book and look at the clock and think I don’t have time to read now.

Then the kids are hungry, so I fix some lunch. I get annoyed that the dishwasher is open and close it to avoid bumping my ankle. As I clean up lunch plates, I see the sink is full, completely full and can not hold anything else. I open the dishwasher and take out a bowl. I can’t remember which shelf we put these on now. I open every cupboard and find similar bowls. I need to nest them to have enough room, and I find some christmas gift cards we tucked up there for safe keeping. I get online and check the balance.

Kid 2 sees me on the computer and asks if I’ll play a game with him. We play together a bit and then a text comes in, Hubby is leaving work and asking do I need anything from the store. I leave the game and look in the fridge and pantry and text back a shopping list. I get thirsty for something in the fridge and have to get a cup from the dishwasher, nothing clean on the shelf. I stack all the cups from the dishwasher together to put them away, but leave them on the counter when I hear my work email bing. Team member asking a question, needs a quick reply, but it doesn’t have a quick answer so I work on that. I get tired from the research and re-writing that email so many times to get my message across clearly. I feel tired and think of my bedroom, currently being re-painted, and think I should shop online for a new comforter. I spend over an hour going from site to site even though I will not be ordering online, because I can’t buy a fabric without touching it first – it has to be soft. I feel angry for wasting time, and then very very overwhelmingly tired. I think I must need coffee.

Stacks of cups are blocking the coffee pot, so I put them in the cupboard first. I can barely get water out of the faucet because the dishes are piled so high, so I open the dishwasher again. I’m feeling tired and restless now, and see the spatula and think it would be nice to make some cookies. That’d be a nice surprise for Hubby to come home to fresh warm cookies. But my counters are a mess, full of dirty dishes that don’t fit in the sink. I keep unloading dishwasher. And then hyper-focus on the kitchen. Nothing distracts me this time so I get stuck and clean feverishly for the next 2 hours.

I didn’t think to start any dinner though. I didn’t make any cookies. I didn’t get back to work yet. I get angry at myself for wasting a day. Somehow, it is 6pm, and all I did was clean the kitchen a bit, and I still have 6-8 hours of computer work. But wait – didn’t I work a bit? I remember some emails. I have to look up the times I sent replies to fill in my timesheet. I forgot to record my earlier work. Now I scan my memory, surely I worked in the morning too? Look at recent docs, internet history and figure out I actually worked quite a bit already but did not record any of it. Good news, but frustrating to try to accurately get paid that way.

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Enough of that. Just trying to illustrate how irritating it is to be me, to be so forgetful, so easily distracted. It makes it difficult to trust myself. And it is uncomfortable. I never did get a drink, or the coffee, and probably didn’t eat lunch. I lose time so easily and always need to redirect myself. It is exhausting, like monitoring a child, but it is me.

I have so many lists, charts, and calendars to keep me on schedule and not forgetting anything major. Just have to remember to look at them.