Between the devastating psychological testing results and the intensity of planning and carrying out a surprise birthday party for my mother, who has now completed 85 years on the planet, I have not been in the mood to sit and write.
The party came off last night, a huge hit. My mother has been a very active part of her community for forty years. Everyone came out to celebrate with her. At least a hundred people. It was, as I have said, huge.
I hired the local Klezmer band. People danced with the children. Not to say that children aren’t people, but, oh, how would you say that anyway? You know what I mean. Grownups got up and grabbed up the children and danced.
Everyone brought food. Five long banquet tables groaned under the weight of finger foods and covered dishes. Another table for wine and beer, another for hot drinks, another for deserts. The Cake, too. Egad, there was a lot of food, and it all got eaten up. What little was left I sent home with my son, to take to his lab full of hungry graduate students.
A wonderful friend of mine, a fine fine fiddler, came out, and we had a few tunes while the band took a break. That was a real treat.
For those of you who don’t know, I’m an old-time clawhammer banjo player http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/laurapschulman
You can click on the tunes and hear them for free on there.
After my last post, which had a lot of doom and gloom about it, I put in a call to my psychiatrist. I left him a message, carefully worded, no drama, one doc to another, you know.
And I know that what he heard in my carefully controlled message was: help, I’ve just been diagnosed with a wormhole in my mind, what the hell has caused this, and is it likely to eat the rest of my already poorly functioning brain?
He sent me a text message. My shrink likes text messages, I don’t know why. The text said, in all caps, “MEANS COGNITIVE IMPAIRMENT PRIMARILY SHORT-INTERMEDIATE MEMORY FROM CHRONIC BIPOLAR DISEASE AS MAIN CAUSE”.
Somehow I found that soothing, as if by confirming the meaning of the diagnosis without addressing my deepest fear, that fear would be ablated. Or maybe I would just forget to be afraid. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Ah, but I’ve forgotten to tell you what all of this is about. Wouldn’t you know it.
This past month I spent two days having a battery of cognitive testing done.
One of the neuropsychiatric tests I underwent was the “Story Recall Test.” The tester reads you a short story that is designed to be very interesting and filled with unique and colorful words. You are then asked to repeat the story verbatim, using as many of the original words as possible. This process is repeated twice more, so that you have the opportunity to listen to and repeat the story three times.
While listening to the story, I had a feeling of near-deja vu. Why? Because I was experiencing the exact sense of loss of control of my memory that prompted me to ask for the whole battery of neuropsych testing to begin with. I listened to the story, heard it, understood it, and then it was as if I could actually see the story vaporizing before my eyes. Poof. Gone. All those beautiful words, up in smoke.
I was able to recall seven percent of the story. SEVEN PERCENT! Barely a skeleton.
When I think about the irony of this happening to someone whose entire life has been devoted to listening to other people’s stories, waiting until they leave the room, and then writing those stories down, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I have been doing both, by turns.
My psychologist is triumphant. She has been telling me for years that I cannot possibly return to the practice of medicine, and although I have not done so for sundry reasons, she now has objective evidence to back up her assertion that I would fall apart like a box of matches under the strain of any of the myriad tasks necessary for returning to practice.
I am being patient with her. She is right, and I know it. What I would really like to do is scream and throw chairs in her office, but it would frighten her, I think, and it would certainly traumatize my dog. So for now I am trying to content myself with ceasing to feel guilty about being really and truly disabled.