Mind Like a Steel Trap
Rusty. Unhinged. Not really good for trapping things.
That’s not quite true. I have that uncanny ability that all depressed people seem to have to remember every stupid, clumsy, embarrassing thing I’ve ever done, as well as every trauma. It’s like a mental DVD that stores them up, then plays them at random moments. Or maybe not so random. Maybe just when I think I’m doing okay.
The memories can be as traumatic as the time other children threw rocks at me or as trivial as the time one person asked for a glass of water and I gave it to someone else.
Unfortunately, the recording feature only works for bad memories. A lot of the good ones are MIA. I don’t remember huge chunks of my childhood, except as stories that family members have told me. I don’t really know if the memories are mine or theirs. And I’m scared to compare notes.
My theory about these childhood memory deficits – and to tell the truth, all the way through my teens and early twenties – is that when you are profoundly depressed, memories don’t imprint the way they’re supposed to. Whatever synapses and neurochemicals are involved in memory are out of whack. I’m also afraid to do the simple Googling required to find out whether this is even a plausible theory. If it’s not, I don’t think I want to know. I have an explanation that makes sense to me, and the memories won’t come back if I learn my theory is wrong.
Later in life, medication has helped controlled the depression and, after it was diagnosed, the other effects of bipolar 2. But if I thought my memory was going to function properly, I was wrong. Some of the drugs left me with a memory like Swiss cheese.
My memory lapses seem more random now. Good things, bad things, neutral things, all disappear into the Pit of Unavailability. Sometimes they are embarrassing – I forgot a friend’s father had died and asked how he was. Other times they are more distressing – mere scraps left of trips I’ve taken. Sometimes they’re heart-searing – total nonrecall of a never-to-be-repeated sexual encounter.
Good and bad, gone.
(“Oh, yes,” said the doctor. “That drug will do that. You can stop taking it now.”)
I guess I’m lucky. If I’d had the electroshock, my memory would probably be as raggedy as old underwear. And about as useful.