I’ve been asked how it is that I was able to get through high school/college and maintain a 4.0 GPA as long as I did with a memory as spotty as mine as well as the dissociative episodes I’ve had since childhood. It was not easy, that’s what I’m supposed to say. But, well, actually, it was at first… I believe I’ve already blogged about how I was such a perfectionist and so I had to be a straight-A student. I had to win all the awards, get my picture in the paper, have a closet full of trophies and plaques. Everything I did had to be PERFECT. Well, believe it or not, from 1st through 12th grade, my memory was extraordinary-photographic even. (But it was only when pertaining to books and school work; I’ve never remembered much about my earlier years or ballet classes or soccer practice, etc) I never studied for a test, I simply read the material in the morning, before that class, and I was able to recall all the information later when taking the test. I think I became Smart K on the way to school and she stayed in control of my body and mind for the school day. I’m not kidding. Some part of me was always whispering answers in my ear and plus I could remember things in a way that suggests a camera taking a snapshot.
I could literally see the pages of my textbook in my mind and read what was written on them. It was simultaneously bizarre and cool. Sometimes, it even seemed I knew the answers before the questions were asked, as though I were psychic or something; I always explained this as my spirit leaving my body and peeking at the answers, then willing me the knowledge. Weird, yes, but I know now that I was dissociating at those moments. But I took advantage of this special ability, up until the day came when I simply could no longer do it. Perhaps due to my taking psych meds ages 16-19, I’m not sure. I lost my photographic memory shortly after I’d transferred from business school back to art school. I don’t remember when or how or even why it happened. (You can’t blame it on smoking pot-I never tried that until my mid-20’s) I just remember being unable to recall phone numbers and apartment numbers, little things at first, hardly noticeable. Then my grades began to slip-I remember my first “imperfect” grade; I physically wanted to die. I was studying like a maniac, at all hours of the day and night. At some point in time, my memory began to seriously slip, and it rapidly got worse, until I had/have the memory of a senile old lady. As my memory worsened, my dissociation seemed to increase in severity and duration. But remember- at that time, not only was I living “all natural” (meaning without psych meds) but I didn’t realize that anything was really wrong with me when it came to these “out of body experiences”. Yes, I’d been to see countless therapists and doctors and taken all sorts of medications for different mental illnesses, so I knew something was wrong, but I had no idea that my losing time and memories and talking to the voices in my head was abnormal. I just thought I was different. People always talk about that “little voice inside your head”. I thought I was special and had more than one.
Go back to my first year of college, when the pressure was first building….I had always been a good student and now suddenly I was having to work hard to maintain my grade point average. I couldn’t concentrate anymore, I was unable to focus my attention on my studies. I became so stressed out that I overdosed on sleeping pills and my friend had to take me to the hospital to get my stomach pumped. I don’t remember that; I think it happened to “someone else” and I just heard about it from my friends. Another time, that same year (Freshman year) I overdosed on No-Doze. I told myself I had to stay awake to study, so I swallowed the whole box. At the ER, the doctor told me I had enough caffeine in me to kill an elephant; I told him he just didn’t understand-I had a very important philosophy paper to write. I never realized until then that you could OD and/or die on caffeine. After that I was careful about what kinds and how many pills we kept in the house. It was pretty obvious that someone inside me was a threat to my own self.
As my memory continued to slip away, so did my social life. I was no longer eager to attend all the parties and social functions that we once had enjoyed so much (Note only some of the K’s are very sociable). Memory problems lead to embarrassment (like when you forget your teacher’s name in class) and humiliation (like when a guy asked for my phone number and I couldn’t remember it). Classes got harder and harder as the years passed. I went from being on the President’s Honors List and taking extra-load classes in order to graduate early, to dropping courses and taking only a few art classes which I could barely concentrate on. I was getting further and further behind in my school work. I was an artist but found it harder and harder to pick up my paintbrush. Somewhere during this time period, about age 23, I went back on psych meds, and that did wonders for my mood but squelched my creativity. I could no longer think. After 6 years, I had changed my major 4 times, switched schools 3 times, and finally just had to give up and drop out. (I was also having some health problems) It was supposed to be a temporary break-a vacation of sorts, to help me get my life back together and relax for awhile and become more stable. But months turned into years and instead of going back to school, I went back to the psych hospital. Sigh.
So much potential, wasted. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the guilt I feel for not finishing school. My parents were so proud of me at one point-I was the first in the immediate family to go to college. Then I became a subject “we just don’t talk about”. My sister, who is 20 years my senior, was never told of my mental illness back then, and so she hated me for squandering my education and opportunities. She thought I was a selfish, lazy bitch who just wanted to have fun and not take life seriously. How ironic it is that now, I take life TOO seriously. Oh yes, and my sister knows now about my mental illness, but she doesn’t understand at all. At least she doesn’t hate me anymore, but it’d be nice to be able to talk to her about my problems. Oh well, I guess that’s what my psychiatrist is for. And who knows? Maybe one day I WILL go back to school. I’ll have to win the lottery first, since from what I understand, my being deemed mentally disabled means I’m unable to attend school without losing my benefits i.e. my health insurance. So until the day comes when I can afford insurance (or can move to some country with free healthcare) I’ll have to remain a college drop-out. I should’ve had a master’s degree by now. Damn. Still, I can dream…Stranger things have happened to me/us!