How To Not Be Stupid

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

Eureka

Exactly 10 years ago, I self-diagnosed myself (as always) of carrying the active ingredients for early Alzheimer's disease. This name popped out of my memory bank as a possible diagnosis on a fateful day when I could not recognise an acquaintance. It was in 2012, on my way back from class, I met my (now ex) boyfriend’s roommate — someone who had been actively present in my life but went away for 6 months — and I had no frigging idea who he was, where we had met, or his name. It was highly embarrassing for both of us. In fact, I bet he thought I was being a stuck up b*tch because of the breakup with his friend. I wasn’t! I just didn’t know it was him. (I figured out much later when my ex-bf confronted me about the bad behaviour)

Memory loss is not uncommon

Everyone struggles with memory loss, especially over insignificant incidents or past events after a number of years. Mine was different. I would lose memories that were supposedly young and should be fresh. However, after that incident in 2012 — my fourth year at the university — I figured this was something to worry about. Not too much, but at least enough to give it a name — Alzheimer's. Despite naming it, I refused to dwell so much on it because it wasn't affecting my daily existence.

Although I began to notice that after each school semester ends, my brain would archive all the important school work I read for exams. At first, I classed it under selective amnesia because I had read how trauma victims teach their brains to tuck some memories away. So I reassured my brain that we didn't need the knowledge from school anyways, it was just taking up space in our head because I was studying a course that was a dead-end career choice — a road I was certain we would never take.

10 years later, I am f*cked and still in denial

I am 30 years old today and I believe I have the early signs of Alzheimer's disease according to this article. (Such a cruel joke on a professional writer and content manager right? Life is so unfair! Little wonder I’m a nihilist). This memory loss is not only affecting my self-esteem, it is beginning to affect my job too and my interaction with people. I am unwilling to share my memory loss issue with friends or sexual partner(s). It is too much of a vulnerability that could be used to discredit my feelings or accusation in situations where I am wronged. In fact, it is one of the many triggers of my anxiety. I don't like to be termed stupid. But recently, I am forgetting basic things and have to stylishly ask for help.

Memory loss is not stupidity; Gentility is not stupidity

I am considered averagely intelligent. I mean, I know I don't have the looks or the sensual appeal, but I have managed to get by with writing jobs and art sales. I think I consider myself highly opinionated, wanting to be right all the time, and more than averagely intelligent. Until recently, I am beginning to forget spellings, names of items, locations, and wait for it, “my yesterday”. I used to be a very loud critic of bad spelling and terrible grammar. This is chipping away from my confidence and self-identity. I am getting really awkward in spaces I should be highly opinionated. Yesterday, I wrote a poem and spelt Ruin as Rune, and posted it on my Whatsapp status. I only noticed the typo when I decided it should go on Twitter.

An unforgettable event I forgot

Last week Friday, I took a one-hour cab to the city police headquarters to request a certificate of good character (lol. That's not the exact name but that's what the certificate is meant to explain), and the police waiting room coincidentally shared a fence with the city’s most expensive cemetery. As a superstitious child, I used to be extremely scared of cemeteries.

But, on this day, I leaned out of the window on the third floor, took several pictures of the large cemetery, created funny posts about it on my Whatsapp status, and waited 2 hours for my certificate to be made ready. During my wait, I found a make-shift restaurant nearby and ate the most distasteful white rice meal of the year. Got my certificate and took another one-hour drive back home.

2 days later, a friend asked me about my trip out and I blanked. I could have sworn with my life that I never stepped out of the house on that said Friday. Knowing how my memory messes with me, I didn't deny it outrightly, and it took me checking my phone to figure out where I went only 2 days prior.

Again, memory loss, not stuck up or emotionally unavailable

I think the scariest thing about memory loss is having a whole folder of events wiped off. Like your whole yesterday. Or your fight with a nosy neighbour, or the tasks your boss asked you to complete. I cannot even successfully accuse anyone of hurting me without doubting myself a thousand times, because I am getting really scared it may be a false accusation. Also, I wouldn't want to agree to what everyone claimed they did or told me. The world doesn't work that way. So, I get labelled a liar a lot of times (when I mix things up) and other times I get labelled the bad friend/partner who doesn't remember birthdays or special occasions. Or the stuck up one, the nonchalant one who never takes initiative.

Yesterday doesn’t matter, focus on tomorrow

This is my rant journal that attempts to explain my feelings while it is fresh. I may begin with an attempt to teach a truth or explain a concept. Don't be disappointed if I veer off the point of discussion. I heard it's often a thing with ADHD people. Therefore, let's focus on tomorrow.

If we do not know what tomorrow will bring, is it too bad to forget what yesterday took?

Masking; the only way to survive a “panaromic”

My brain is in a pandemic and I try to mask it every time: with shyness, anger, mood change, and insert cliche phrases like: “I’m very awkward when I am in front of a hot dude ”, or whatever response could possibly explain my short ignorance of basic things. Most of the time, I feel a nudge from a far place in my brain that this information is stored somewhere in my brain archive folder. But there seems to be a disconnect with the prompt to retrieve the file.

Sorting through the archive can take hours or days

Ok, let me give a simple scenario: yesterday, I was at a friend’s and reached for the Ribena juice in the fridge. My friend said, “You’ll have to mix it”. I raced through my mind but couldn't understand what he meant. Was he suggesting I should add alcohol to my drink? He doesn't take alcohol, so why would he ask me to spike it up? After a whole minute, I couldn't understand what he meant. I asked again. He kept on saying mix it, mix it. Then he said, it’s too concentrated, mix it.

I finally understood what he meant but my memory of mixing Ribena juice was blank. I couldn’t remember if I knew prior to that moment that there was an option of diluting Ribena. Until this morning, when I suddenly began to remember vaguely that we used to buy Ribena concentrate in the university to mix Chapman drinks at small parties. In fact, I was in charge of creating a big bucket of Chapman with Ribena concentrate a long time ago.

Masking: Striking first

Now, this friend is very intolerant of silliness, stupidity, or lack of quick use of one’s brain. Literally, he would not hold back his tongue to let you know how un-smart you are. I didn't want him to think I was dumb so I caught him before he caught me. I told him the right word he should have used was “dilute” not “mix”. I told him, he needs a dictionary cause he is beginning to lose touch with his use of English. We laughed it off but it kept nagging at me all night.

What will tomorrow bring?

I really don't know what tomorrow will bring. I realise I am beginning to forget general knowledge of how things should work. Or the basic price of things in the market. I forget my items, or that I should make a call, or pick up my clothes from outside where I dried them. I forget food on fire all the time. I forget to lock my door. I am beginning to forget birthdays, and even confusing days and times. I am losing the touch with past reality.

My memory of friends and family is now classified under how they made me feel when I was with them and not what they have done to me. When I pick a random friend in my head, I really can't remember in detail how much help they have rendered. I just know, this person will always be there for me, or this one made me insecure, or this one is not my happy place, or this one made me feel safe.

I don't remember who borrowed what book from my library, or what I painted with the last guest that came to my house for a fun painting session. I don't remember the artworks I gave my sister when she came in April. I don't remember all the paintings I made last year unless I check my phone. I don't remember some of the poems I have written even in recent times. I don't remember much anymore.

This is scary. I should see a doctor. I will see a doctor. I am just waiting to get out of here. To a better place where my life can begin.

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