Bipolar and Memory Loss

Being Bipolar, like any illness, produces a range of side effects apart from the obvious extremities in mood. Now I’m being treated for Bipolar Disorder, not only does my medication have side effects, but the way my disorder manifests itself also creates them too- in the form of memory loss.

It is worth noting, not all people who are Bipolar suffer with memory loss and not all medication causes this, it is just dependent on the person. Before my current medication of Lithium, I suffered with memory loss on a daily basis both short and long-term. Now, my memory loss is majorly long-term, something created out of my condition itself. I am known to have had two ‘manic’ episodes, however, when my psychiatrists try to work out what happened to me in my first manic episode, I honestly can’t remember what happened. It unsettles me to know that there are periods, totalling just over a year, that I just don’t remember what happened to me. You must be thinking that it’s okay though, because people can just tell me what happened, but you’d be wrong. Often, friends don’t want to talk to me anymore because I’ve said or done something that was awful, but I honestly can’t remember any of my Manic episodes. When I try to explain that I don’t remember, my past friends just couldn’t understand how someone can just not remember things. Well, it’s more than ‘not remembering my brain has created false memories and has eradicated what actually happened. When I’m manic, I don’t remember who I’ve spoken too, I hallucinate, and I can’t control who I am. It’s humiliating. Often, I can’t go out at home because I don’t know who I’ve offended or what I’ve done in different places as I’m scared of the mass rejection and feeling like a freak.

My memory loss devastates me. Not only do I not remember what I do when I’m manic, I’ve begun to forget memories of before I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Often when people see me at home in the street they talk about school with me, but it’s embarrassing to say ‘sorry I don’t remember that happening’. Sometimes, I feel like an idiot and its produced quite a lot of soul-searching over the last year to try to remember who I was before. I desperately want to remember who I was before so that I can go back to being that person, you know some kind of normality from this nightmare. People have told me that it’s quite cool that I don’t remember, as I can just build myself up in the image that I want to be but if people can’t let go of who I was, then how am I supposed too? The people who I trust enough to see at home tell me I’m completely different, but how am I supposed to know who I was before or if that person was any better? It’s weird when people are talking about you and you can’t associate anything of what they are saying to yourself you might as well be talking about quantum physics. In particular, when I explain I don’t remember people start to get defensive and throw all of the bad stuff I’ve done back in my face, like I’m supposed to feel guilty that I don’t remember. That doesn’t help. If someone is brave enough to tell you that they have a serious mental health condition and they just can’t remember something, don’t make them feel worse for not remembering- I’m sure they are already beating themself up for feeling like a freak of nature already.

The last thing that really annoys me about losing my memories is that I have to rely on what other people have told me.  This really frustrates me, as everyone remembers things differently, so how do I know this is the truth? In the past, I have used people to construct lost memories for me but often they have been wrong and I’ve been at the centre of verbal abuse for being a liar. Additionally, sometimes my brain creates ‘false’ memories from hallucinations with my medication altering some previous experiences. This frigging scares me sometimes, as it has led me to question if what I even struggle to remember is true, or if my brain has created it. To be honest, I don’t know whether what I remember is true, so does that make me a liar? Should I not try to remember what has happened to me? Some things I remember clear as day, but with everything that has happened how do I know that I can trust my brain? Do I even deserve the friends I have right now if I don’t know I can trust myself?

All of these questions taunt me on a daily basis. I try my best to be a good person, but maybe I just need to get away from Devon for good and leave my previous self behind- whoever that was.

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