The life of an amnesiac


Memory is fucked up and fun stuff. I have an extreme version of prosopagnosia and may have always had, but the way memory works I didn’t precisely know it for most of my life and considered people who could connect such information as particularly gifted, on a good day. On bad days I simply considered myself particularly stupid and self-centred.

Eventually I figured it out, stopped trying and thanks to that got marginally better at it, not much but some. Mostly now I accept it and have tools to help and people who know/know to help me with that sort of thing.

People in my family (the worse ones) would have fun at my expense. If they encountered me in public they would do things like walk up and ask me for directions or something as a stranger would, then go about their business, grinning at their knowledge that I had no idea who they were. This was before I knew but could still occur today.

That was deliberate cruel stuff, but minor. It was far more problematic in that if someone I knew encountered me, but didn’t know me well enough to know I couldn’t easily recognize people, they’d think I was snubbing/a jerk/self-centred/all of the above. It cost me much over the years.


It’s not the same phenomenon, but that reminds me very much of the movie Memento and the way everyone was exploiting Guy Pearce’s disability.

This is striking me frightfully close to home.

When I was a teenager (a couple of decades ago), I had a malignant tumour in my left temporal lobe. After two surgeries, chemo and radiation, I came out of it cured and seemingly unscathed. My memory and cognitive functions were intact, the seizures that had been happening prior to the last surgery came to a full stop, and other than a badass physical scar and some inconspicuous bald spots, I came out pretty much unharmed.

Now fast forward a couple of decades. One day in 2013, I suddenly couldn’t form new memories. My long term memory was fully intact, but my brain was not recording any new information. I of course have no direct recollection of this. My first distinct memory was about an hour after it started, sitting in the back of a taxi on the way to the hospital. I was asking my wife what was happening and I remember her saying that she could answer, but I’d just forget it again in a minute anyway. Slowly over the next hour or two, my memory started to function again properly. After a few hours I was back to my normal self.

The first diagnosis was that there was another growth happening, and that had us freaked out for a few weeks. Thankfully the MRI came up negative there. The next one was Transient Global Amnesia, the symptoms of which were identical. That diagnosis was dropped a couple of months later when the event repeated a couple of times on a lesser scale. Finally we settled on them being seizures, although quite unlike the ones I had as a teenager.

So now I’m dealing with those seizures (more frequently, but on a lesser scale), and trying to find the correct medication/dosage to stop them. In the mean time though, even the slightest mental difficulties (name or word recall mainly), are starting to freak me out. Reading this article brings to mind horrible futures that may be mine.

Now… what was I writing about?..


My mom had Transient Global Amnesia for about 7 hours. We were very relieved when it slowly went away. She could retain about 10 minutes worth of conversation and then all (short-term) memory was blank again…

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