Thursday, May 7, 2009

At the Intersection of Foggy and Forgetful

Am I losing my mind or what?!?!

Today I was in such a fog that I didn't remember about plans to meet friends for dinner at a restaurant this evening. I mean, I completely forgot even though my husband and I had discussed the details at breakfast! And what do you think I did right after breakfast? I went grocery shopping to buy food, to make for dinner, at home, tonight! Let me tell you, when I finished shopping and schlepping and putting food away and then getting food out to start cooking, I was exhausted.

About an hour after the spareribs had been slow cooking in the oven, my husband asked what I was doing? Actually, he looked at me like I had three heads and asked WTF???? As I stared back at him blankly, he knew it had happened again. And-- he knew to slowly back out of the kitchen, without saying another word, so no one would get hurt.

I'd forgotten about dinner out. I hate when I forget things-- and it happens all the time!

Several months ago my memory had really gotten out of hand. I was sure I was loosing my mind and well on my way to Alzheimer's, so I talked to my doc and she recommended a full battery of neuropsych tests to see if, in fact, at age 50, dementia was setting in. Holy crap! I was so stinking scared.

So off I went for 8 straight hours of testing at a major University hospital, with a psychiatrist, in a small office, asking millions of questions that made absolutely no sense to me. I mean, I knew what he was asking, I just didn't know WHY and what on earth they could possibly have to do with my memory loss.

He started by telling me to remember the numbers 29, 18, 62, 91 and 6. I knew this test was coming so I seriously tried to remember them. That was followed by lots of picture drawing, card playing, pattern making and simple math. I was feeling pretty good because it was all so elementary and simple, and my memory was great; plus I remembered 29,18,62, 91 and 6.

After lunch, Dr. Freud stepped things up big time. I realized, to my shock and horror, that I wasn't having memory problems-- Apparently, I just an idiot!

For example, he gave me a pretty high level math test-- that was timed. And I couldn't use a calculator! When was the last time you did three dozen calculus problems without a calculator-- in 5 minutes-- while you're trying to remember 29, 18, 62, 91 and 6? To be honest, I never even took calculus in school but I guarantee you, if I had, there would definitely have been a calculator in my hand!

Then, after freaking out over the math, Dr. Freud started asking me random questions like who's the Queen of England (duh), Marco Polo (I had to think about him for a minute.), where the Grand Canyon was located, stuff like "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?". I was holding my own, right up until he asked me to name the Continents-- You know, North America, South America, Antarctica, Australia, Africa, Asia and Europe.

Sadly, at that very moment, and for the next painful few hours, despite being asked at least 30 more times, all I could think when asked to name the Continents was-- Poughkeepsie, New York! What was that about!?!?! Oh, and I remembered 29, 18, 62, 91 and friggin 6!

This type of memory loss-- the kind where information just falls out of my brain never to be seen again-- was exactly the type of memory loss that brought me to the neuropsych test in the first place! I know the Continents; I've even been to four of them for crying out loud. But as upset, and frankly embarrassed, as I was about it, I found comfort in the knowledge that finally the doc would feel my pain and understand my memory loss dilemma.

Not exactly. Dr. Freud wasn't buying it. A mental block with Poughkeepsie, NY flashing in my head was not on his memory loss radar. He thought I was just plan stupid. I know because he kept flipping back to the page with my education information listed and asked where I went to school-- As if I'd lied and it was a trick question-- And then he'd ask me to name the Continents again. Damn! I must have had loser written all over my forehead.

The testing continued for two more difficult hours. It got tougher and the questions were way out of my league! I did not remember what year Lincoln was elected president, how far the Wright Brothers flew, or how to convert inches into centimeters; and I'm not sure I ever really did. It's not the kind of dinner conversation that would stay on the tip of my tongue for decades. Nor was I able to count cards for sequencing, or retell stories with extensive details. But I did know 29, 18, 62, 91 and 6.

I felt more and more defeated as we pressed on and frankly, pretty sure I was on my way to assisted living behind locked doors in the very near future. At the end of the day, Doc sent me home with instructions not to worry and that he'd be in touch.

Two weeks later, there I was again, across the desk from Dr. Freud. He gave me my test results and assured me that I was "just fine". Alzheimer's, dementia, memory loss, whatever was concerning me was NOT an issue. Phew!

But here's the kicker-- Doc explained in way to much detail, that I am an average middle-aged woman (I cringed at his words.) with an average middle-aged education, (See, I told you he thought I was stupid), living an average middle-aged life (I need to get out more!) with an average middle-aged memory.


And I was suppose to feel better about that! Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled I'm not on the fast-track to Alzheimer's but what's with all the AVERAGE, MIDDLE-AGED crap?

I pressed him for more details and he politely and a bit condescendingly pointed out that "at my age" I was just fine. But if I was say, 70 years old, well then I'd be below average. And if I was 30, I'd be above average. And that was supposed to make me feel better? It did not.

Doc went on to say that my "strengths" would make me a great quilter and I have good recall for faces (but not names). Eureka! My new middle- ged career chould be making face quilts! Who knew! He also said I'm an "alpha-dog" and a "bit of a rebel". Really? Dr. Freud lost me on that so I asked which tests I took proving my, um, "strong qualities". Apparently they had to do with the card games we played-- The card games we played where I always lost!


I hadn't talked to my gal pals about the testing in advance but now that I wasn't "losing it", I told them about my situation and the very expensive "I chould be an average middle aged quilter" tip from Dr. Freud. Apparently this type of thing is common with them too! Not the testing, the memory loss. They blamed it on menopause and had a good-hearted laugh at my expense. They called it "the fog" and "meno-brain" and I felt better. Sort of.

So now that my house smells of delicious spare ribs that we won't be eating until tomorrow night, and since I know I do not have Alzheimer's, the only thing I do know is 29, 18, 62, 91 and 6.

And you know what else? Dr. Freud never, ever, ask me to repeat those numbers back to him.

What are you forgeting?
Welcome to TheFiftyFactor - Joanna


  1. I don't know any of those answers either. I'm thinking the doctor was passed middle aged and was trying to make himself feel better at your expense.

    I have the same problem and now alot of the time, I can't form a complete sentence. The words get caught in the throat & nothing comes out.

  2. I'm 51 and forget so much its embarrassing - thankfully my head is attached or I'd leave it somewhere. I'll take being average though over having Alzheimer's !
    Glad that your normal - and these tests have vicariously relieved all of my worries :)
    Alpha Dog wanna-be quilter

  3. they say hormone levels have a lot to do with memory, Maybe you could get them checked.

  4. I hear ya, and I've done the same sort of thing. My husband and I totally forgot to show up at my in-laws for dinner (a couple of years ago) and my MIL never did forgive us. She rarely invites us back for dinner now, so there are some perks to this "fog" thing :-)

  5. Eight hours of testing? Oh dear. I would not be game for fear they may lock me up.

    I forget names, names of people. Unfortunately names of people I know and have known for years. It is extremely embarassing. Particularly when you are just about to introduce them to someone, you have known them for a long time and for some reason their name just dissipates into thin air - and you draw a blank. Mind you this has been happening for some time I have to say.

    What's this middleage business? I just choose to ignore it - and something tells me from reading your posts that there is nothing about you that is average!

    Cross words apparently are the way to go.

  6. Being 44 myself...I find myself getting forgetful here and there. Like I am on my way to do something and then bam...what was I doing? Insanity!

    This post was awesome! and funny.


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