I can’t clearly remember when the first time was that I noticed the cognitive challenges I was facing. In fact, most people around me seemed to dumb it down or just plain dismiss the very notion from the start. I know I had memory issues especially after my first operation and this was hard enough to convince others of, it still is. Some days I convince myself that they are right and I am wrong…
Somewhere, deep inside is the person I know who used to be on top of everything. A person who seemingly had it all together and never lost the plot…at least not on a daily basis.
Of late, I seem to be struggling more and more…it’s a major concern for me. I don’t know how to find my way out of the maze of confusion and I just don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel either. At first, I panicked and then dismissed it along with those around me, who knew me better than this apparently fragile being I sometimes see when I look in the mirror.
In my book, Hydrocephalus: Floating Faithfully I describe an incident at the supermarket where I couldn’t decide on a bag of potatoes. The reason for this was because there were just too many choices for my brain to process between. I have had many instances before and after this one, where I literally felt paralyzed with indecision.
For the past couple of weeks, I had been tasked with the dreaded (in my opinion) job of verifying our computer assets. I know I spent way more time on this than I should have. It had me near tears so many times…each time I became frustrated, I got up from my chair and walked away. I wished it away with all my might but no matter what I did, I had to come back and face it again because, in the end, I had to submit something. Being a perfectionist doesn’t help either…there was no way I would return anything without it being near perfect. I found myself going around in circles like a dog chasing its tail. I’d go home after working on the list for a day and come back having to remember where I was or what I had done, the stress of knowing what I had to do, made me panic.
I created duplicate spreadsheets of the same information, moved from using Excel to Access because I know Access won’t allow me to have a duplicate primary key. Then only, later on, realized that with Excel, you can put in conditional formatting to highlight duplicates. It was crazy…in the end, I placed little post-it notes with numbers and alpha lettering on it. I made a list of everything using the numbering system and that seemed to work. At least now I don’t feel like I have too many choices or assets staring me in the face as I work my way down the list…one at a time.
I even struggle to explain this to anyone…I cannot formulate a clear plan in my head for most things, which require a decision.
I feel like I have been swallowed whole by my own thoughts…picture a flushing toilet. Feelings of helplessness, shame and inadequacy are just a few emotions, which come to mind. Where have all my brain cells gone? What happened to them? It sometimes feels like my brain has become the Bermuda Triangle where nothing stands a chance of recovery/retrieval.
I remember when I started this position, almost 2 years ago, I wanted to run for the hills. Nothing anyone said to me made sense. I put so much pressure and stress on myself to do it right that I didn’t realize how it was affecting me physically. I would have a conversation with someone and literally, forget everything after the first 2 words because I was concentrating so hard to remember every word they were saying. At the end of it, I walked away not knowing anything and feeling like an idiot. The words literally went on vacation and made the grave mistake of passing through the Bermuda triangle of my mind.
With time (and loads of repetition), I have become better at doing what I do. I make notes of everything I need to do. I write down what I’ve done so I can track the status and use it as a checklist going forward especially if I need to revisit it at a later time. I break tasks down into smaller chunks and do ONE thing at a time..simply because I can focus my full attention on it. I am lucky in the sense that I have support at work and an understanding team who are aware that I have this condition but will never understand exactly what I go through (and that’s OK). The important part of it all is that I have learnt to not be so hard on myself and say out loud when I don’t know or own up when I’ve messed up.
I often make light of it to other people and say that the doctors messed up my brain when they scrambled it all around. (I literally conjure up a picture of scrambled eggs in my mind’s eye). Every day, in the working society, it feels like a battle to keep treading water. When I say this, it’s not to prove a point or drive the message home…it’s not inflated. But, it’s how I experience things for myself and feel when I have a challenge before me…
I’ll be the first to admit, my brain is not fully numb. There are still parts of it that work, like glimmers of hope telling me that I still have something to offer. However, because I am a forward-thinker, I worry about the future. I have started wondering what I could do differently career-wise. There has to be something where my cognitive functions won’t be detrimental to my survival as an employee. Somehow, there must be something I can do to add value to society, contribute to my family’s income and not feel like a failure…I would hate to think that I let them down because of something, which I know is not within my control anyway.
I know I love writing, which is why I started this blog and wrote my books. I know I love animals and wish to do good in this world before I die. I also know that studying is not a viable option, at least not anything too brain draining or something, which will cause me stress.
So I have options…I’m not going to let my cognitive challenges pull me down completely. I’m going to embrace them and help myself, against all odds, maintain my own sanity.