• Tony Muldoon

Learning the Limitations

I’m not exactly, or rather not at all the keeper of any knowledge on psychology. But Encephalitis and the impact it has (particularly in memory) does, whether you realise it or not, force you into the consideration of this topic.

Sitting alone, you know that there are things that you can’t remember. You can remember ‘bits of’ yesterday, conversations you had, who you had them with etc. It can take you a moment or two to recall where you watched ‘the game’ last week, what the score was etc.

It might come back to you quickly, you knew you were celebrating, you knew it was a big win but you still have to check the scores descretely on your phone before you can join in the conversation again. You remember knocking over someone’s drink when the first one went in, you remember that Dave was off for a piss when they got the equaliser. You get the picture....

So you have this ‘history’ in your vision now; some of it real-time, some of it recalled later, some of it recalled after being prompted, some of it being ‘cut and pasted’ from someone else’s memory. From here you can then take this ‘block’ of history forward with you. You can tell it all to someone else next week, bits of it to someone next month, you might even knowingly change some of these aspects when you're passing on the details to someone else (claiming you shagged a girl that you didn't or you didn't puke when you actually did!). Years from now someone might mention that game of football and there you go, an instant conversation, ready and waiting.

This all in turn provides a bond, a bond that is quite crucial to everyone. So you can see that the memory impairment presents much, much more than a problem with finding the keys!

I caught up with an old, pre-encephalitis work colleague a few weeks ago and quite happily went on five hour drinking session (ok, not the healthiest and doesn’t make me the most popular with my wife but does, for me anyway, seem to be periodically unavoidable), discussing who from our old project was now doing what now but when I was asked where i’d just been on holiday, I went into an almost panic mode and ultimately wound up lying about it. Completely absurd and you never thought that you'd end up in any such predicament. When do you every have to lie about where you went on holiday??

Sitting down now (ok, so i’m lying in my bed…), I know that I was in Gozo (which is a rather nice, quiet little island just off Malta) and there are snapshots of things that do come back to me about the holiday. But although i’ve got these elements, pieces of evidence etc. I don’t have enough to talk about “the night when we went to this restaurant….I had the….etc.” Conversly, this weekend it's highly likely that my mother-in-law will talk about an amazing meal that we all had in some restaurant on one of our holidays.

So, ultimately you haven’t been able to form these blocks that you’ll in turn ‘pull out’ when you bump into someone, or meet up with a group of the lads for a pint. These ‘blocks’, combined with current affairs that we collect such as political events, football scores and things like that, make up the elements that allow us to instigate conversations with others and join in conversations that other groups (even strangers!) may be having.

It’s at points like these that we can realise the full impact that the cerebral damage has made. It goes far beyond just epilepsy and forgetting that you'd told your mum that you'd meet her for lunch on Wednesday.

I think that after all these years, I have learned my limitations. As to whether i've accepted them or not? I can tell you right now, I haven't.

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