Posts Tagged ‘memories’

Slow Road to Dementia?

April 3, 2017


Cognitive Impairment in Middle Age

Slow Road to Dementia?

There is only one thing scarier than dementia and that is early onset dementia. But both of these disorders have a neglected second cousin: a neurological condition known as mild cognitive impairment. It has been established that cognitive decline can begin in your forties. The condition consists of ‘subtle deficits in cognitive function that nonetheless allow most people to live independently and participate in normal activities.’ It can be, in rare cases, a precursor to full on dementia.

I am on a variety of psychotropic medications. so I am susceptible to this condition.  I am taking more than the British National Formulary permits. At the moment I am experiencing memory loss, inability to think logically, inability to read fiction. Non fiction is okay. Strangely enough this is not listed as a side effect. Ironically, among the books I can read are those of my old nemesis Theodore Dalrymple. My brain empties of thought. I am forgetting words and names. I run out of material in the middle of a conversation. The conversations and concerns of others are perplexing. I am feeling  increasingly detached from the world around me. It feels as though the world was designed for the young. Then people started pulling away, which leads, in turn to a fear of intimacy. Suddenly I am middle aged and increasingly useless. I feel helpless in the face of this. All I can do is write about it.

Plagued by insecurities and doubts I did the worst thing imaginable.: I googled my symptoms. I can feel my brain slowly atrophying. Am I facing premature dementia? I am in my early forties. I am terrified. I see class action law suits against the company that manufactures my medicine. I read about weight gain and feel my flesh expanding. I read about pancreatitis and feel a sharp pain in my left side. How much is real? How much is psychosomatic? I have been perusing articles on the web dealing with cognitive decline. Just because you are paranoid, they say, it doesn’t mean that nobody is out to get you. I feel as though I have lost myself.

I have been researching solutions. Can this be overcome/ameliorated? What can medicine offer? I often panic when I am confronted with brain fog. This exacerbates the situation so calming tactics such as meditation and mindfulness are useful techniques. I also considered vitamin B12 deficiency. I am in the risk category for this condition. I am vegetarian and often neglectful of my diet. Blueberries are apparently a miracle fruit that may even be able to reverse cognitive decline. Physical exercise, even walking, can alleviate the condition.

Other problems that mimic cognitive decline are depression, medication side effects, or an underactive thyroid. I am praying it is the meds. I am also praying that it is reversible.

edit: in case anyone is interested the illustration accompanying this piece is entitled ‘Iceberg’.

Two Cats In The Yard

March 29, 2017



September 6, 2014

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Old Watercolours

December 17, 2013

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July 4, 2013


Child Abuse is Not Confined to the Untermenschen

May 29, 2011

It is said that child abuse occurs mainly among the lower socioeconomic groups in society. This makes me think of Sue B. a 23 year old university student. She was charismatic and admired by everyone. She sparkled. She was an outstanding conversationalist. I think of her soft pink features and blond hair. She resembled a porcelain doll. We were both on the same ward and we were both bulimic. We bonded over a binge. She confided in one of the groups that she had been sexually abused by her grandfather. She came from a well-to-do family of academics. She had been diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder but, as far as I am aware, her abuse was never addressed.

After six months in hospital I returned home for the rest of the academic year. Sue B. and I exchanged addressed (this was the mid ‘90s when people wrote these paper things called ’letters.’ but we never wrote to one another and I never saw her again. I found out after I had graduated that she had hanged herself in the bathroom of the local psychiatric hospital (my alma mater too) when she was supposed to be on ‘five minute obs’ . So I know that abuse can occur in middle class families. And that when they confide in the authorities they may be the people who are least likely to be believed.

Having said that there are those who cast their net too wide and increase the definition of the word ‘abuse’ to such an extent that it becomes invalid. It is possible to ‘over identify’ abuse. But I shall deal with that on another occasion.


October 26, 2010

A multitude of articles have been written about bullying.  Countless studies have been conducted.  Less explored and rarely acknowledged are the long term effects school bullying can have on adults.  The repercussions can last a life time.  They are helping people who are currently being bullied but little thought is given to those who have suffered in the past and are forced to live with the consequences.

We tend to be wary of labelling people ‘victims’ because it could affect the way in which they see themselves.  It is said that people can be incapacitated by that label.  Indeed the very word ‘victim’ can be used as an insult and frequently is.  Acknowledging one’s pain is necessary to enable people to move on but many people get stuck in that stage and never progress beyond it.

I am in that stage and I wish I knew how to move on.  I have built walls around myself.  I can’t get out and no one else can get in.  And I’m sure there are many others like me.

What consequences does bullying (particularly school bullying) have for society as a whole? How much potential has been lost?  How much talent wasted?  How many people fail to fulfil their academic potential?  How many people wind up on psychiatric wards or resort to self harm?  How many people are unable to hold down a job?  All because of bullying.

Unacknowledged pain is the worst kind of pain and many people are reluctant to admit they were bullied.  They are ashamed.  ‘There must be something wrong with me,’ they tell themselves.  ‘or they wouldn’t have done it.’  The ‘bullies’ must have had their reasons is the rationale.

I told people what was happening to me at school but they either wouldn’t believe me or seemed to think it was my fault.  I was chastised for having the audacity to complain. They told me it was all a part of growing up.  They made me doubt myself and my own perception of the world.   And decades on I am still paying the price.


October 2, 2010

Catholic nuns take a vow of poverty.  The nuns who taught me in primary school were no exception.  It is a semblance of poverty if we are honest; they did not face starvation and there was always plenty for them to eat.  However, it gave them an air of detachment from the material world.  They were located firmly in the realm of the spiritual.  You could present them with the most precious diamond in the world and they would remain unmoved.  Money was not their driving force and I envy them that.  They are as close to God as one can get.  They are replete, complete, self-sufficient.  The slender threads that pass through the eye of the needle.

No Asylum

May 21, 2010

He believed in multiverses, in parallel dimensions.  He followed me around the ward chattering incessantly.  He showed me his arms.  Brown skin disfigured by raised pink welts.  Scars that would never heal.  He permitted me a glimpse into his traumatic history.  The scorn and the mockery and the humiliation and the racial abuse he had endured at the expensive, prestigious public school to which his parents had insisted upon sending him.  ‘I told them what they were doing to me,’ he said.  ‘They didn’t care. As long as I got good a-levels and made it to university it was all worth it.  They wanted me to be like them – nothing more than a colonial subject.’  He went to university.  He read engineering.  He emerged with a 2.1.  He had fulfilled his parents’ expectations.  And then he fell apart.  The racist insults he had been subjected to wormed their way into his head, took up residence there and refused to leave.  He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and spent the next decade as a revolving door patient in the local psychiatric hospital.  He tried to cut his skin away.  Bit by bit.

Later I found out that he had committed suicide in the worst, most painful way of committing suicide.

He called me once.  I was in the middle of one of my many frivolous pursuits.  I said I was busy and promised to call him back.

I never did call him back.

Part Third Person

April 8, 2010


They exacerbated her situation, she claimed.  They locked her up, forcibly medicated her and failed to control oversexed male patients.  When she complained the staff suggested that she should dress more modestly.  ‘He thinks the sexual abuse of a few women is a price worth paying for gender integration.’He sections them and then leaves them to their fate.  He refuses to admit there is a problem.  She was being punished for having the audacity to challenge an oppressive and all-powerful system.  ‘It’s like a steamroller.  Or a tank.  It cannot be stopped.  Perhaps I should be all innocent and unquestioning.  Perhaps I should stop being so bloody minded but then I would have to stop being me and I’m not prepared to do that.


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