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Hydrocephalus: The memories we retain (or forget) aren’t by choice…

With memory issues being a challenge on any given day, a side effect of Hydrocephalus and the subsequent brain surgeries, it’s a pity we don’t get to choose which ones we retain or forget. (Don’t get me wrong, ageing definitely plays a part in it too but remember, this condition affects people of different ages. However, the reason/cause is not the same as that kind of forgetfulness, especially for someone who hasn’t quite reached senior citizen status). People often tell me “Oh my memory’s just as bad” and, even though I’m sure for them it may seem that way, I don’t feel they truly understand what I’m talking about when I refer to my own memory challenges. There’s a difference between someone who has had brain surgery, TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and someone who has a normal healthy untouched brain. I often think about the many arguments my husband and I’ve had over these past few years since I was diagnosed. The sheer helplessness I felt each time I got something wrong, forgot to do something or anything which required me to make a withdrawal from my memory bank. The “Insufficient funds” message received loud and clear, staring me down… As an example, I’ve lost so many house keys, a longstanding “joke” between my husband and I (this wasn’t always the case). I’ve forgotten things within a nanosecond of it entering my brain and felt paralysed because of it. I’ve literally felt like an idiot because I’ve forgotten how to do simple tasks I could easily do before, without thinking. (This mostly being the case in stressful situations or for some time after surgery – thankfully, it got better with time). I could go on and on… Then, there are those memories, engraved in my mind’s eye. The sights, sounds, smells and even feelings that go along with them…etched in the crevices of my memory bank – refusing to leave me. Some I’m eternally grateful for, like the birth of each of my children. But some, well let’s just say, if I were given a choice of which should stay or go, I’d fling them into a dark abyss never to be seen again. But, sadly it doesn’t work that way. I’ve come to accept it as part of the package, a side effect that I need to take in my stride. Reminding myself that I’m not responsible for it, nor am I the cause of it and, I sure don’t have control over it. I might not like it but that doesn’t mean I let it bring me down low enough for me to not get back up. (Like the house keys I lost. What’s the use of stressing or feeling bad about them at this point in time? We live in a different country altogether now and don’t even own the house we used to live in). It’s like anything in life…you take the good with the bad and the rest – well, I ask myself, “Will it really matter once I’m gone?” If the answer is “No”, then there’s just no point in getting myself all wound up and anxious about it…I move on. Some memories are fragmented or distorted in places. Yet, I remain grateful for some of them. One such memory is the sound of my unborn foetus’ heartbeat while I lay in ICU. Waking up confused, slipping in and out of a coma after 3 brain operations over 3 days. I reckon, even though I can’t remember anything from the night before, that week or conversations I apparently had with visitors, it’s not a bad memory to have retained. I treasure the memories I do have and don’t focus too much on the ones I’d rather forget. If anything, I try to forge new ones and focus my energy on getting them to stick instead. Keyword being “try“… The next time you feel bad about your memory issues or get into a tiff with someone you love, who doesn’t understand your challenge…ask yourself the question above. Don’t be hard on yourself but more importantly, don’t give someone else the power over you, not when you’re already facing an immense challenge. Just let it go and move on…