2 days ago, I had my 3rd jab of this new drug. I haven’t felt any dramatic side effects. However, there have been some creepy changes.
As a child, sitting in the back seat of the car, looking out on the world around me, I was often bored. At some point, I began making patterns out of the digits on cars’ registration plates. This was part of my tendency to render the world peaceful and orderly. I’d read billboard taglines and let my mind wander.
This sharp mental calculating stayed with me. By the time I entered the working world, I knew my bank account number, branch number, credit card number, identity number, phone number off pat. No big deal, right; most people know that stuff. During my first job, I found it far more efficient to memorise information than to have to look it up. I was extremely competitive – with myself. More bank account details, phone and fax numbers of at least half a dozen customers, cell phone numbers, car registration numbers and birthdays of family and friends. In fact, I still remember my very first boss’s mobile number from 19 years ago. It’s no longer in use and he’s been out of the country for over a decade now so I can tell you that it was 082 455 8787 – and a former colleague can corroborate that, if she goes back into the files.
I had a point…
I’ve never really enjoyed shopping but now I find that without carrying a list, I can no longer remember the entire shopping list I wrote on my fridge door. There are blank letters even in the shortest acronym for a list, like COMBED for carrots, onion, milk, bread, eggs, dishwashing liquid. Even if I forgot what a single letter stands for, I could remember – usually photographically – that item from the fridge door.
See, I’ve always been pretty mentally sharp so you’ll understand how something else I noticed today, was disturbing. I was walking out of the mall to my car and I had a completely disjointed moment where I couldn’t work out which end of the mall I was at, even though I could see the familiar stores around me. I didn’t stop in panic. I knew I was where I was meant to be. (Before I’d left the car, I worked out my route around the mall; I get tired so I make sure I don’t double back.) I kept walking, knowing that the shock of that realisation would make me remember where I’d parked! That’s my newest usual thing I rely on. Usually, I can trace my steps backwards in an instant but I was drawing a blank. I knew this had happened before and that I’d laughed it off but the fact that the information was coming back in such slow spurts, was upsetting. And it’s getting worse – very slowly.
The creepy changes
To spell it out, the past few months have brought more and more vagueness including details from conversations, where I’ve left things, etc. Well, I’ve had to sit down and think back to how often this has happened to a lesser degree. Clearly it’s been creeping up on me like a clown in a horror movie; only when I turn back to look, do I notice it and sit up in shock. I’ve been relying more heavily on my diary and phone for reminders to avoid the stress of having forgotten something. Scoff all you want to and write it off to age but considering the sharpness I’m used to, this reduced capacity is usual for perhaps an 80-year old (my own exaggerated opinion but you get the point).
It does have advantages – I space out in a relaxed mode more, no longer challenging myself to come up with something quicker or in a different way (to remain engaged in a task). This means I’m generally more (involuntarily) relaxed. Even if I do realise I might’ve forgotten something, I let it go because some hole in my mental functioning has changed.
Losing my mind
I’ve left the past few months largely unanalysed for the reason that I was warned the changes would be cumulative. I needed to let them build up to discover them. I’d come to terms with my weaker physical body and its limitations. This mental side has been a shock. I feel like I belong in a Pixies song.
I guess it’s like losing your mind – you don’t suffer much because you don’t realise that you’ve lost anything – except I’m still too sharp for that and I have noticed. Forget multi-tasking, though. Here’s to an even slower-paced, relaxed life of contemplation.
*In case this development has caused any stress and upset, I don’t have Alzheimer’s; I’m just slightly cognitively impaired. Now that sounds far more civilised and acceptable. Go with it.