Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Amnesia. It is not like in the movies. I know. I had it. Yes it is a condition and it is bizarre and can result from many causes. Mine was from both the drugs my date slipped me causing me to have Retrograde Amnesia, the other was Anterograde Amnesia, the result of my Traumatic Brain Injury, the result of the car accident the night my date drugged me, intoxicated me with more alcohol that I would ever consume and either raped me or was taking/following me home to finish the job in my home. I had a double dose you might say and like this Author it is a puzzle in which you want desperately to finish.
I have been called many many names. Mostly by those employed to help me. Doctors, Nurses, Lawyers and other professionals that I have encountered when this all began. You wonder why and you ask why repeatedly and no one will answer. This author's book is an attempt to answer the why and what that happened during the time your mind has switched gears. It is just that - a puzzle - that appears in flash pictures in your mind and you are not sure what is real or what isn'.
I wonder if I will be able to write the book he has written and if so will mine be respected and acknowledged as truth or will it be like I have been in the past, dismissed and disregarded. I would ask but those people won't be returning my calls soon.
Funny, when I came home I also received an email from the Attorney of the Defendant's, those of UW Medicine and Harborview Hospital, disclosing more names on the Witness list. The Attorney seems to ensure that there are no "experts" willing to testify on my behalf.
Why would I hire one when they are willing to pay for them. I cannot wait to hear them defend, justify or explain why and how my abuse is standard medical care. Perhaps in the Snake Pit but in an "acclaimed trauma hospital" how scary is that. One fell off the cuckoo's nest perhaps? But I am afraid that like the majority of malpractice cases this will never see trial and be "settled" via summary judgement where the Defendant's once again fuck me over only this time without all the drugs and in turn the truth gets further buried and the puzzle never solved.
Good to know on some level that I am not alone. This book from what I gather shares many parallels to my tale. There is comfort in knowing that but I am still very alone. I can say it is exhausting but there are only so many names a person can be called before it wears you down.
We all go alone at some point and sometimes you are better off.
A Writer Recalls His Amnesia
‘The Answer to the Riddle Is Me,’ a Debut, Takes On Memory Loss
FEB. 17, 2014
By GREGORY COWLES
David Stuart MacLean’s first book, “The Answer to the Riddle Is Me,” opens with a scene out of Robert Ludlum: The protagonist wakes from a blackout to find himself on a crowded train platform in India, with no idea who he is or what he’s doing in a foreign country.
The catch is that the protagonist is Mr. MacLean himself, and his book isn’t an international thriller but a “memoir of amnesia,” as his agreeably paradoxical subtitle puts it — the true story of how his memory was wiped clean and how that condition has subsequently affected his life. It is all the more thrilling for that.
In 2002, Mr. MacLean was a 28-year-old Fulbright scholar visiting India to research a novel. It wasn’t his first trip; he had gone a few years earlier and stayed for months. But this time around, his anti-malaria medication touched off a break with reality as sudden as it was severe.
He hallucinated angels and demons, and felt his thoughts “puddling in the carpet near the doorway and sloshing down the hall.” Delirious, he agreed with the police officer who surmised he must be a drug addict, and apologized profusely for misdeeds he had never committed. At the hospital, a nurse called him “the most entertaining psychotic that they’d ever had.”
As harrowing as this territory is, Mr. MacLean makes an affable, sure-footed guide. In his descriptions, you can recognize the good fiction writer he must have been even before amnesia forced him to view the world anew; if the writer’s task is to “make it new,” then losing your memory turns out to be an unexpected boon.
An avid drinker before his breakdown, he recoils the first time he tries Scotch again, thinking it smells “like Band-Aids.” He can’t remember his girlfriend of a year, but her voice is “faintly familiar, like the smell of the car heater the first time you turn it on in the fall.” He grasps at hope when his parents arrive to take him home: “I still didn’t have my memory, but I now had an outline of myself, like a tin form waiting for batter.”
Such flourishes can seem overly articulate — with unbalanced narrators as with child narrators, too much sophistication risks sounding inauthentic. But you give Mr. MacLean the benefit of the doubt, both because he is writing long after his faculties have returned and because that nurse was right: He is an exceedingly entertaining psychotic.
He proves to be a gifted science writer as well, although he dwells more on the brute mechanics of his amnesia than its implications. We get a lot of interesting, and scary, information about the anti-malaria drug Lariam, but not much about how memory works, or its role in self-identity.
Is personality innate or shaped by experience, or both? If by experience, whom do we become when our memories of that experience are stripped away? And how might amnesia itself alter one’s identity going forward? Mr. MacLean raises these questions mostly by inference, and then only as they relate to his specific case.
But the inference is enough. As he recovers at his childhood home in Ohio, then returns to India, he tries to fill in that outline of himself, and the effort becomes his central story. He pores through old photos, and reads the notes he jotted in books he doesn’t remember reading. “It appeared that I was always trying to decipher something,” he discovers, “even before I was insane.”
He rereads his emails leading up to the blackout, and like an Alzheimer’s patient or con man, he fakes familiarity with people on the street. “I still felt like I was chasing myself,” he says, “hoping that I could reconstruct enough of a working resemblance to that old self to slip back into. It was like building a plane while flying it.”
Some of what he learns is disconcerting. Old friends and professors assume he has staged his amnesia as a hoax; apparently, he was known for hiding his emotions behind elaborate pranks.
Meanwhile, he realizes he has no strong feelings for the girlfriend who shows up to dote on him. “It seemed like I was always pulling away from women who liked me,” he says, before vowing to change. But reinventing yourself turns out to be not so easy, even with a seemingly blank slate.
Gradually, he does regain his identity, although the amnesia haunts him like a hangover long afterward. He has suicidal thoughts and deals with his anxiety by smoking and drinking too much. “Continuing on in the world of the sane,” he writes, “is harder than you thought.”
Near the end of the book, Mr. MacLean acknowledges with amused resignation that his story “was most real to others when I talked about pop culture.” His experience was not like that of Geena Davis in “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” discovering a secret talent for cooking, or Guy Pearce in “Memento,” deciphering tattoos to solve the riddle of himself, he says, adding, “It’s not like Matt Damon in ‘The Bourne Identity’ waking up in an ocean, either.”
The riff is funny, but this late in the narrative it’s also unnecessary: Thanks to his raw, honest and beautiful memoir, readers will already have a clear idea what his experience was like. We can be grateful Mr. MacLean has remembered so much, and so well.