“Where is the cat? Did you let him out? You know I don’t like him going outside when it’s dark out.” That is me, one evening this summer. Night had fallen, I was doing dishes and Mary and I were talking in the kitchen… and suddenly I didn’t know where my cat, Otis, had gone.
I looked at Mary with semi-justified irritation, not understanding why she’d let him outside. Otis is a big fat cat without any teeth – he would definitely be a yummy morsel to any passing carnivore hunting that night.
Mary looks at me blankly for a moment, then says “You just let him out. I sat here and watched you open the door for him like two seconds ago. Don’t you remember?”
No, I didn’t remember. I truly don’t. To me, that small chunk of my life never existed, didn’t happen.
Before my injury, I did forget things on a daily basis. My mind was much more likely to remember facts and numbers than the details of a conversation with a friend. But there would have been at least a ghost of a memory… a feeling of “oh yah, I guess I did”.
Not so, post brain injury. I truly and completely believed that Mary was the one who let the cat out, that Mary must have done it because I certainly hadn’t. It felt eerie. It scared me, still scares me. That time, Mary caught me in the act of forgetting. How often was that happening in my daily life?
This is one of the effects of a mild TBI – losing moments or days of your life like they never happened. Yes, honey, I know you say we had a deep meaningful conversation yesterday, but I don’t remember. I don’t know what it was about. I can’t picture where we were. I don’t know what you said. I don’t know how I felt. If I agreed to do something, I don’t remember. No, I’m not trying to be an ass. I’m not playing games. It is simply not there.
The loss of memory reminds me a bit of playing roller derby. So much of roller derby is being completely in the moment, thinking in the moment. When I’m on the track, I focused on the moment and what needs to happen in the next 8 seconds. My whole mind focuses on providing as much information as possible about this moment, and then this moment, and then this one. I can go through a whole bout and remember nothing about what I did on the track, afterwards, or maybe a highlight or two when I was in the right place at the right time. The other 59 minutes of the game, I come up with a blank. Nothing.
Losing bits of my life to this brain injury sucks. It’s hard to keep telling my partner that I can’t remember, that I don’t know, that I am sorry.
The peace I find on the track is another matter. It is a blessing to be able to lose myself so completely in something I love and enjoy. I don’t mind the blurred or missing memories because I know I was doing something fun. I want to return to roller derby. I look forward to again losing time on the track.