Remembering in Dark Water

One thing I’ve learned about my particular flavor of bipolar disorder is to never take myself seriously—especially during an episode.  The musings, scrambling for Meaning, revelations, decisions and planning that go on while I’m the throes of my illness are, at best, untrustworthy, and, at worst, dangerous.  Like the other, darker thoughts that crowd in, these milder delusions are just flotsam—the foam churned up by my brain’s tidal changes.

So, I’m a little reluctant to pose anything my brain has spit out over the past few days.  These ideas always seem rational.  They feel reasonable, even helpful, but I know my judgment is faulty.  I won’t be able to see how much until the episode passes.

With that very large caveat, here’s the thought taking up space in my head.

I need to keep journaling.

During this episode, I’ve tried to do a little research for my next writing project.  Mostly, I’ve been reading my journals to get a sense of my illness before it was diagnosed.  Aside from the shock of seeing how ill I was, I was struck by my retroactive memory loss.  The months or years when I didn’t journal are gaps in my memory.  Sometimes I can conjure a vague image or touch a ghost of an emotion, but mostly the gaps are flat blanks.  That, I’m used to.  I’ve requested my medical and therapy records to try to piece together those times.  I’ll dig out photo albums and talk to people who knew me then.  I’ll be able to place something in those white spaces.

But even more disturbing to me is that I can’t remember the things I did journal about as recently as two years ago.  Some of the images are a little clearer, some of the emotion easier to touch, but the details of my life continue to slide into oblivion.  Once my days and nights leave the Now, they march like little lemmings off the cliff of Recall.

It’s hard for me right now to keep from making up stories about that, to refrain from following my Dark Brain’s search for the reason why, to not obsess about the possibilities thrown into depression’s sea-foam—electroconvulsive therapy, drugs, genetics . . .  

In truth, it doesn’t matter why my memory is so damaged.  What matters is how I deal with it now.  And aside from keeping my brain as healthy as possible, it seems keeping a record might be helpful.  If I ever thought journaling was self-indulgent, I don’t anymore.  It may be the only way to hang onto my days once they’ve passed.

While this current episode washes through, I’ll try to hold this idea lightly, try not to be frightened by what I’ve found, try to just breathe and wait.  If it still seems important on the other side, then. . . well . . . we’ll see.

17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. minlit
    May 05, 2012 @ 06:30:00

    You know when I read your posts, I can totally associate with your descriptions of how the mind works. In many instances, you could be describing me. But without the depression, thank goodness. Strange.


  2. carlarenee45
    May 05, 2012 @ 07:00:21

    writing the journal of my life helped me. I thought I had forgotten everything, but I started writing and the memories came faster than I could type during many points. Of course there were the points that were confusing and distorted where I tried to do my best. They were hard to reach and I realized it was because those were the times I couldn’t cope. I remember my childhood and teen years remarkably well but when I got to when I couldn’t handle life and the point up to my breakdown and after, the memories were forced and unclear. I have the problem of not remembering what I said or did two hours ago. That is what frustrates me. Keeping that journal and writting as much as I could felt good because now it is written down in case my memory gets worse somewhere down the line. So keep up the journals, and never disguard the old ones, just in case.


  3. Kathryn McCullough
    May 05, 2012 @ 08:11:42

    God, can I relate to this, dear Sandy. My gaps are, perhaps, older than yours, but unsettling, nonetheless. This is particularly hard to write about for whatever reason–as in those gaps you yourself feel like a fiction, perhaps. Hang in there, my friend. My heart is with you in this.


    • Sandy Sue
      May 05, 2012 @ 09:17:20

      I knew you would understand this. Any maybe I can pick your brain about how to find other sources of information to fill in the holes. I know you’ve pulled your records, too. I’ll email.


  4. ManicMuses
    May 05, 2012 @ 09:16:49

    First – I think this is one of your best pieces of art.

    Thank you for bringing to light the trouble with recalling memories. Sometimes I feel as if I am truly insane because I cannot recall simple things my husband describes to me, things that supposedly happened only a few years ago (before the heavy medications began). I’m so sorry this is happeneing to you too, but it’s comforting to know I am not alone.


  5. pegoleg
    May 05, 2012 @ 12:40:06

    I so agree with Manic- this art is very moving.


  6. docrob50
    May 05, 2012 @ 15:13:04

    Wow. As I was reading this I started seeing myself and my own gaps and white spaces between years – between events. I’ve particularly noticed gaps in the sense of continuity since undertaking a committed meditation practice and have come across writings/research suggesting that one’s sense of time and of “self” become more fluid at some point as a naturally occurring part of the practice. Aging also contributes to this – so am wondering – am curious of the relationships (if any) between your mind on “depression sea foam” and being tossed about by the mood shifting – and Mind.

    Just ideas – flotsam rising up as I read the story of your life.



    • Sandy Sue
      May 05, 2012 @ 19:45:43

      Rob, you always give me such great sh*t to consider. How important is the past, really? Aren’t we to live in the moment and let go of our attachment to time and ego? As we drop its importance, does the event itself disappear? At this point in my process, the ability to detach feels different than losing the ability to recall at all. The first seems like a product of the Work, the second a loss of brain function.


  7. The Mental Chronicles
    May 05, 2012 @ 15:40:47

    It’s a scary thing, to have your memories fall away into oblivion. I mean, if you can’t remember something, it may as well have never happened to you, for all the meaning it leaves behind, right? I only have problems with short-term memory, seems like (where’d I put my keys, what is the answer to this test question, etc). At least, if it makes you feel any better, I don’t think this is faulty/delusional thinking at all. I can understand why it’s taking up space in your head.


    • Sandy Sue
      May 05, 2012 @ 19:38:16

      You’re absolutely right about the import of history if one can’t remember it. Maybe this is just another nudge for me to live in the Now and let the past go.


  8. littlesundog
    May 12, 2012 @ 09:25:07

    It’s often difficult to let the past go. As much as I try to bring myself to the present and living in the moment, my ego tends to conjure up memories of the past, and sometimes I wonder about the validity of what I think I remember of it. Most days I am tired from so much noise in my brain. I find it soothing to turn to nature and focus on “just being”.


    • Sandy Sue
      May 12, 2012 @ 18:50:18

      Unhooking from past and future is one of the aims of most spiritual paths, and any way that helps us do that is a gift. For me, it’s brain damage! For you it’s that special connection to nature. Keep working’ it, sister.


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