Maybe folks will look at this headline and think, “Big whoop” or less charitably, “Duh.” Actually, as a relentless over-sharer, my adding another confession to my list of not-so-secret-secrets will most likely have folks saying, “Please, stop.”
What makes this not-so-secret secret different is that I feel ashamed. See, I’m not used to feeling ashamed. Generally, I operate on the principle that if something would make me feel ashamed I wouldn’t do it in the first place. While many could (and do) argue that I SHOULD feel ashamed more…well, I just don’t.
But in the last few years I’ve had occasion to feel this new shame emotion, and it doesn’t feel good. Since I’ve heard confession is good for the soul – and since my soul could likely use a good polishing – each week I will somewhat reluctantly share some things about which I am embarrassed and maybe it will ease my mortification.
I’ll start with the fact that my brain no longer works so well.
My brain – that used to be my jam. Growing up, I knew I wasn’t pretty, or athletic, or particularly loveable. Being adopted, I was always worried my parents felt ‘gypped’. School was the only place I felt confident, the only thing that felt easy. When my county instituted an off-site program for “gifted” public school students, I attended a special school twice a week. To get in kids were nominated by teachers and then took an IQ test. Without my fanfare, I remember my mom telling me I had a “genius IQ”. When I asked what that meant (the only thing the word genius conjured up for my 8-year-old mind was Albert Einstein’s messy hair) my mom told me it meant I was smart but not to ever mention it, ever. I guess she didn’t want me getting too big for my britches. (I should mention here that there was absolutely zero danger of that; my britches were plentybaggy.)
Now, if my life has taught me one thing it’s that no one gives a shit about your intelligence. Only within a handful of contexts – National Merit Scholarship, SAT tests, Spelling Bees, annoying people – does it have any effect whatsoever. Still, it was all I had. It’s like if you can do a handstand. No one really cares, but it’s good to know you can whip it out every once in a while if need be.
A little over a decade ago I started to have seizures. Rarely the big, scary kind – just a tingling in my feet and hands that tell me they’re coming, then for ten minutes or so language escapes me. If I try to write or talk I’m literally at a loss for words. I’ve had tests, I’ve been hospitalized, I’ve tried different meds, I had a grand mal seizure at my job and co-workers saw my underwear. Nothing tragic. (Although those poor co-workers might disagree.)
But the medications make me terribly fatigued, so much so that I go through much of my day in a somnambulistic stupor. Without a disco nap – and sometimes with one — I don’t have much energy to go anywhere at night. (And you may be surprised to learn that awhole lotof stuff happens at night.) Even worse, each seizure in my left temporal lobe destroys brain cells. Basically, it’s seriously affected my word bank, my retention of facts and information, my long- and short-term memory, and my ability to recognize faces (Prosopagnosia). I also sometimes have selective attention to what I see and hear. (I always had that – my brain has always gone “la, la, la” when anyone starts talking about physics, football, or my computer or investments.) I have difficulty retaining new information or following manuals’ instructions. (Ask anyone who’s seen my try to work my DVD player.) Occasionally I have difficulty understanding spoken words. (The latter is especially bad when Republicans or Evangelical Christians start to talk.)
So, my brain, the one part of my body I actually liked, is broken. I can’t understand tech manuals, remember verbal instructions, and often get lost when written instructions exceed 3 bullet points. (Much like our President.) I can no longer summon a dozen synonyms for most words (which may be of great relief to friends and readers). I can’t remember movies I’ve seen, concerts I’ve attended, most vacations and events. I live in terror of seeing people I know and not recognizing them and have them think I’m an idiot, or much worse, uncaring and snotty. (Recently there was a 20threunion that I wanted to attend but didn’t; I was too worried and guilty that I wouldn’t recognize people who recognized me.).
My confession is I’ll be limping through the rest of my life with my bruised and broken brain, averting my eyes and shuffling in embarrassment around all the bright and shiny brains. Don’t fret; I do not need pity or sympathy. But cut me some slack if you can. And please don’t get offended if I don’t recognize you right off.