Think of it: What would you do if you woke up and a year or more of your memories were missing? Would it be a gift or a curse? Most of us have considered at one time or another what it would be like if we could choose to erase some of our memories. We contemplate whether it would be for the better or worse if some period of our life would be wiped away as if an eraser made it disappear.
As I went to sleep one October night before my brain surgery, I remember having the first seizure. During the postictal stage of the absence seizure, my fingers did not seem to be all there. I knew I was not going to recover from this episode. I knew to prepare my body and alert my husband that something was very wrong. A tonic-clonic was quickly approaching. Then there was a long time of nothingness.
I woke up in a hospital room. After the fog began to lift, I remember requesting the medical staff show me their ID badges. I wanted to be sure of where I was. That is when the confusion began to settle in. In my mind, I fell asleep in our rented townhouse in Virginia. My husband was stationed in Norfolk. We had an infant daughter. She was tiny with curls in her hair. When I awoke, I was in Iowa. We owned a house. We had purchased a new vehicle. My husband was no longer on a ship but now a Navy recruiter. Most shockingly though, the baby they brought into my room was no longer my only child. They also brought in a toddler with curly hair. The young baby had been born four months before. She was ours. My oldest was walking now. My seizure that night had not ended for hours. I had gone into status epilepticus. During these missing hours, my seizures completely wiped away over a year’s worth of memories.
Upon recognizing this, surprisingly enough, I did not set into a frightful panic. It was more of an amazement and awe that filled me. I was even slightly humored of my fine taste in our new house, of our nice new van and of our ability to create such beautiful children without my knowledge.
It took a few weeks of tests and changes to my medication before I was finally discharged. My memory stayed fragile leaving empty periods of time I cannot recall. To this day, there are many memories I never was able to recover. Other memories have come back to me. Yet, sometimes I wonder how genuine those memories are. I have kept journals off and on for quite some time. Between rereading those and revisiting pictures many times, I am curious how many memories are really mine and how many were recreated through hope and repetitive learning.
I had to meet our neighbors all over again. I am sure it was as uncomfortable for them as it was for me. I was previously a familiar, chatty person in their eyes. Now, they were strangers I had never seen before. There have been a couple of times a conversation has come up with my family about something negative during that missing time. I’ve asked not to relearn those memories. Yes, our struggles do make us who we are at the present time. But really, if we all could just completely forget some things from our past, would that be so bad? Some memories are still missing, and I will be grateful if you continue to keep it this way.