If I Only Had My Brain

I don’t remember my wedding. I don’t remember college. I’ve been to Brazil, apparently. I’ve seen Bruce Springsteen on Broadway, sat in middle of the first row. (First row!) But I don’t remember.

Reading is really hard now. If I see too much text at once it gets overwhelming. (Plea to people who text or FB messenger me: please don’t.)  Following directions is difficult unless there are 2 steps and they’re really straight-forward. When I watch television, it helps to have the captions on.

I wasn’t always like this. I used to have a pretty kickass my brain. Really: a spelling bee-winning, National Merit Scholar, Mensa-joining, obnoxious correcting others’ grammar type of brain. Since my 20s I felt it slipping away. I thought it was all my imagination, just being out of college and a natural consequence of being away from schooling. But now I see that I was right.

About 10 years ago I was diagnosed with epilepsy when I started having seizures. The kind I typically get are just preceded by an aura and then a loss of language skills for a few minutes. I sometimes get just the aura without the seizure, and once I got a grand mal seizure at work (the kind that scare the people who actually witness the convulsions.) All of this would be no big deal at all, if it weren’t for what the seizures do to my brain. Each one kills brain cells in my temporal lobe, where memory lives.

An MRI found I have focal cortical dysplasia, also known as Taylor dysplasia. It happens during development of the brain in utero, so I’ve had it all along.  There is evidence of chronic microvascular ischemic change – meaning that the electrical mis-firing has been going on a long time and have left evidence suggesting my brain has been sparking for years, long before I noticed it or knew what was going on. Epilepsy like mine can often augment depression and anxiety; “psychiatric co-morbidity” — mood, anxiety and psychotic disorders — are two to three times more common in people with epilepsy.  Hard to tell what’s my brain acting up and what’s been a rational response to real life.

Anyway, I take various medications now to keep all the seizures down to a dull roar, though I still have them occasionally, and I have the prodromes on almost a daily basis. I can opt for brain surgery, but there are so many risks that I prefer to not do it if I don’t have to.

Look, everyone has something. As things go, this is not terrible. I have all my limbs, I don’t have pain or cancer or countless other maladies, so I’m pretty lucky. I don’t want to gripe or grumble. I don’t want to complain, but I do want to explain. When it comes to my friends and people I care about, I feel ashamed and embarrassed. If we have a conversation, there’s a really good chance I won’t remember it next time we meet. I may not remember your children’s names, or if you even have children. Neighbors, we may have met before several times before, but I won’t recognize you in the elevator. People I may have known for years, I may introduce myself to you at a party.

If I pass you on the street, please don’t think I’m rude. If I don’t remember your divorce, your mother’s death, or the time we went to Disney World, please – please— don’t think I don’t care about you. I do. I really do. And the idea that people might think they don’t mean much to me is so painful.

What I always seem to be able to remember are two things: song lyrics, and the way people make me feel. I can’t remember all the names of co-workers from past jobs. But when I see photos I absolutely remember if they were nice to me or not-so-nice. I really don’t remember my wedding, but I can remember what my sweet friend Allison said to me, I remember feeling a wave of love for Jennifer.   I remember how I felt when my dad let me down, when my uncle rolled his eyes.

My love and affection for people shines out like a laser against the dark. Scattered beams of feeling cut through the fog of the past. Feelings of hurt and fear, and gleaming love and gratitude.

So all of this is just my way of explaining why I don’t remember about your break-up. I did care about it when I heard about it. Please feel free to tell me about what a complete jerk he was again. I will NOT be bored. I will sympathize and be outraged all over again, just like the first time. Because for me, it will be the first time. Anyway, he’s still a complete douche. And I still really, really love you.

Dixie Laite - Dame Town Writer

Author: Dixie Laite

Hi, I'm Sarah "Dixie" Laite, and I live in New York City with 5 parrots, 1 dog (Dr. Waffles) and 1 husband (Jeff). I love classic movies, animals, and haunting flea markets, ebay and TheRealReal.All my life I've been obsessed with figuring out how to navigate life as a woman. There are endless books, TV shows, gurus, guys, movies and magazines out there to guide you. But now that I'm closing in on 60, I noticed that the old rules don't apply, and most of the role models aren't old enough.I'm older now, I know more and weigh more. I'm eager to be inspired and to inspire others in return. Let's get a handle on this shit and figure it out together.

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  • I have no words, only love SG. The fact that you remember HOW people make or have made you feel…for me…feels like such a huge, huge loving thing. Like your most important internal compass is guiding you, no matter what. Thank you for your beautiful, powerful share. Xo

  • So sorry to hear this, Dixie and appreciation for your stance. My 17-year old niece/nephew was recently diagnosed with epilepsy after repeated seizures and I have heard how terrifying it is for the family. All my love.

  • Thank you for your authenticity and for sharing your story with us, Dixie!
    While I am sorry you have been dealing with this, hopefully your story gives others who may have similar challenges, the strength to move forward with their lives and goals as you are! THAT is very inspiring!! Also, your writing is beautiful:)

    Great Heath and joy to you!

  • So sorry to hear, Dixie. You are a sharp tack and even with neurological problems it’s very plain to see. I’ve been watching my dad with his “alzheimer” that isn’t, or he would have long forgotten my name. It’s funny how he can tell long stories, or remember complicated medical terms or entire sets scientific of logic yet is flummoxed by an elevator button. He scored in the bottom 5% adjusted for age when it comes to executive decision making, yet 85% in articulating ideas. Go figure…the brain. I’m glad Jeff will be there for you. It’s always great to see you two. My memory isn’t what it used to be either, but I do remember the day I met you two at the flea and going home to Laura and telling her “I met the neatest couple today.”

  • boy do I love you Dixie Laite. I remember the way YOU made me feel. That day I met you at Nickelodeon. That you sincerely took my curiosity seriously. That you so graciously shared your wisdom and wit as my first mentor. I am so grateful to have crossed paths with you in this life.

    What’s the ‘seeing the aura’ thing like? What color is Jeff’s?

    with so much love,
    Lucy 🙂