One good thing that comes from experiencing amnesia is you learn the true significance of embracing each memory and trying to cement it in your mind. I understand what Bruce Springsteen was singing about when he spoke of our glory days and how “they’ll pass you by … in the wink of a young girl’s eye”. I not only lost my ability to recall glory days but all memories. My memories were gone not in the wink of an eye but through a rapid series of seizures. Now I savor each moment understanding it is possible to no longer hold in my mind the happiness and hope I fondly recall.
This past week was filled with memories I know I’ve been captured as glory days. I was a guest in front of a live studio audience on The Jeff Probst Show. I had special people visit from out of state. I had my daughters hold my hand and tell me I’m a great mommy. Little moments can easily pass us by. Often times you do not realize the importance of these moments until they are gone.
Tomorrow you may look back and realize the impact someone made on your life today. It often takes the passing of time to recognize what positive changes came from it. Someone else may look at the gifts you gave them today, whether it was a simple smile or a kind word, and tomorrow -or days down the road- they’ll remember what an amazing difference you made for them. They’ll never have the chance to tell you they still fondly think of you. Hold on to every gift of joy and happiness you experience. Someday, somewhere along the line you may look back and realize today was one of your many “Glory Days”.
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.
Rags to riches can be defined as when someone alters their life to rise from poverty into wealth or from obscurity into fame. However, I believe we can make a much simpler jump. Anyone can find their way from rags to riches. It does not need to be such a drastic jump. It can be a simpler leap from a bad situation into a life of hope and renewed promise. Using that definition, I have certainly found my way from rags to riches time and time again.
Yes, I readily admit I am “that person”. I am the overly optimistic individual that can drive you crazy and leave you shaking your head wondering why and how someone can remain so hopeful and happy. I cannot give you the answer to either how or why. I can only tell you that my optimistic thoughts and goals are completely sincere. I have no doubt they have been my lifeline to help carry me through life’s challenges with a feeling of hope and peace. I can overcome my obstacles with optimism. It is this optimistic drive that raises me from the rags life delivers and provides my path to abundant riches.
Life has thrown me many challenges. I have experienced an array of stressors. Due to our military life, we move a lot and have had to start over again often. With each move, I am able to find great, new friends and explore amazing new cities. I have gone into status epilepticus causing my memories to be wiped away. Due to my encounter with amnesia, I have realized the importance of recording memories to never allow them to disappear again. I had a stroke while in my twenties and temporarily lost my ability to walk. I recall the challenges my toddlers faced learning this skill, and I had an increased patience and truly understood how to help them grow. I lost some of my eyesight resulting in homonymous hemianopia. This grew a new passion to help kids use their eyesight to read and experience adventures. Adventures only formed by what written words could deliver. From that passion, I was able to not only reopen a school library but also win a long overdue library makeover from Target and Heart of America. My seizures have now returned. I will not mourn the uninvited, unexpected chaos in my brain. I remain thankful for eight amazing years of being seizure free. I kept my memories and will someday discover the purpose of this trial. Until then, I will hold tight to my family. I thank my amazing neighbors that not only got me the medical attention I desperately needed, but also took in my children until my husband could return back to our home. The support, the love and the encouragement I received once again made me understand how rich I truly am.
No, you will not see me on the next list of Forbes billionaires. You will not find an enormous bank account with my name as the owner. You will though, I have no doubt, be intrigued by the riches I have found within the difficulties, or challenges, life has handed me. I do not want to continue to suffer physically or mentally; however, if that is what life hands me, I am prepared for it. I will face my obstacles with unending optimism, and I will say thank you for the chance to make something more special out of the inconveniences life has delivered. I have the opportunity to grow from rags to riches! When has your optimism helped your grow from rags to riches? I would enjoy reading your events. Please leave a comment and tell me about it.
April 20, 2011....From Rags
May 02,2011....To Riches