This Bipolar Life: Meds, Memories and Me

I recently watched ‘Inside Out’ and it triggered a strong response for me around memories, how they are made and how, sadly, they can be lost. I am lucky enough to have been born in a time with loads of ways to take photos and save them. Why?

See, I spent 10 years taking lithium. One of its well known side effects is memory loss, as documented in a detailed NY Times article. I’ve taken several other meds along the way, far too many to list here, but many of them share this symptom and the combined effect has been devastating. There are countless moments, days, weeks, even months that have been lost in my mind over the years. There are whole vacations or road trips I don’t remember doing. It really is that bad.

Lately, it’s been interesting starting a new job with these issues. I’m lucky enough to have a job I love with an organization I adore. But I have to admit that I’ve written more sticky notes in the last three weeks than I could have imagined. I use them for everything. In fact I use enough of them that I felt guilty using so many (I work at a nonprofit) that I started buying my own just so I know I’ll have them on hand.

Not to mention the whole “remembering names” bit! Now that is really a struggle for me. I keep trying to retain names and faces in a way that makes me not look like a blubbering fool. Trust me, it’s not as easy as it seems. Recalling names is my nemesis. Thankfully in my new job there is a photo album so I’m able to practice memorizing everyone. Placing names with faces will likely always will be a challenge. I have come to accept this, although I don’t like it one bit. Fortunately I’m now 40 so I just write some of it off as age.

In fact this is one of the reasons I am so dependent on Facebook. I know not everyone is a fan but it allows me to instantly capture my life and recall it at a whim. It’s a tool for me as much as it is an entertainment option. It helps me place names to faces and create memories out of moments. For that alone I am grateful.

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