Confessions of a Broken Brain

I don’t often talk about my concussion here, because I don’t want to weigh you all down, but since Saturday marks the third anniversary of my injury, I thought I’d give you all a little update on how I’m doing.

I still can’t drive. And doing anything that raises my heartrate (running, exercising, dancing, etc) results in an instant migraine.

But, for the most part, it doesn’t affect my writing too much. Yes, there are days my migraines keep me off the computer, and maybe I take a few more breaks than I used to, but otherwise I’m able to keep a decent writing pace.

I say “for the most” because, while the concussion itself hasn’t hampered me too badly, some of the medications I’ve taken to control the headaches have. My first one made me so sleepy and sluggish, it was like moving underwater, and even three cups of coffee a day didn’t help.

The one I was on for all of last year really affected my anxiety and depression, slowly, sneakily building up over months until by the end of the year I was barely functioning, spending most of days curled up on the couch in tears instead of, you know, living.

So now I’m on new meds. With new side effects.

These ones affect my memory. My doctor warned me I may have trouble recalling words – not a great side effect for a writer. But so far it hasn’t been much worse than my recall post-concussion. If you talk to me in person, you’ll probably hear me refer to a “what-you-call-it” at least once. Strangely, it doesn’t seem as pronounced in writing, perhaps because I can take the time to sit and think of the word I need, or else just throw in a capslock placeholder. (Lys looked at her father. He wouldn’t really WORD FOR KILLING ANIMALS FOR FOOD Aroo, would he?)

But two weeks ago I discovered a sneaky side side effect. Apparently while my recall for words is still pretty good, my recall for names is gone.

Completely gone.

I went to a friend’s book signing, and ran into a bunch of other authors from town, authors I’ve now known for the past few years, meet every few months (although not in the last six months – see the above paragraph about the last medication’s side effects), and I couldn’t name a single one.

That space in my mind was empty. The information, just not there.

I wanted to crawl in a hole. In fact, I tried to get out as quickly as I could, but I just kept running into more people and being drawn into more small talk, where they called me by name and asked about my book and I stumbled through answers desperately trying to come up with their names the whole time and failing.

I left mortified, and left in tears.

I used to have a photographic memory. Not only could I remember all the answers for a test at school, I could tell you their position in the textbook (lefthand page, second paragraph in the right column).

Not anymore.

My doctor has confirmed my failure with names is most likely the medication’s fault. However, we’re running out of things to try, and it *does* seem to helping with the headaches, so she’s not ready to give up on it yet (although she’s not increasing my dosage, either, which is good).

In a way it’s probably good I didn’t go to the SCBWI conference last week, as I think I’d have been a nervous wreck when it came to networking, afraid of offending people who I *really* should remember.

But I also can’t hide forever. So, as scary as it is, I’m going to a SCBWI get-together next week. I’m just going to be honest with people about my meds (they all know about the concussion already, thanks to having to explain away my dark glasses and hat) and hope they don’t judge my memory lapses too harshly.

Wish me luck.

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4 comments

  1. I’m sorry you are having such a hard time with name recall. I know how frustrating that can be. I’ve always been bad at this, but it seems to get worse with age (and I have never had a brain injury). Did you doctor say it would get better over time?

    • Unfortunately, no, not unless I come off these meds. Some of the other side effects lessen over time (tingly fingers, sleepiness, etc), but apparently not the recall. 😦 Had to look up my SIN# yesterday, too, and I’ve had that memorized since I was 12. So looks like it’s not just names…

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