Bipolar Blackout

There’s a chance I cured cancer and I don’t know it.  On a darker note, I also could have robbed a bank and I don’t know it.  The chance of either is extreeeeeeemely small, but we’ll never know because I have complete memory loss about what happened from early September to the middle of October last fall.

I knew last fall was fuzzy in my memory, but who doesn’t have a hard time remembering things from a year ago?  I told my husband I am excited for this fall, because I was so mentally jacked last fall that I feel like I skipped it.  It’s the best season in Michigan.  I didn’t realize until this week, though, how complete my blackout of that month is.  Now I’m a little freaked out.

This week is professional development week at school.  Professional development week is when teachers sit around in mostly pointless meetings and discuss things about the upcoming school year.  This conversation happened yesterday:

Mr. T:  Should we do the raking leaves field trip again this year?  The one where we take the students to rake leaves for elderly people?

Me: That sounds like fun…but we didn’t do that last year.  You must be remembering a different year.

Mr. T: Ummm…we definitely did that last year.

Me: No, I would remember that.

Mrs. S: Hazel, you were a driver for the field trip.

Me: No I wasn’t!  *laughs nervously* No way.  You’re messing with me.  We didn’t do that field trip.

*everyone on staff looks at me like I’m crazy (which, you know, I am…BUT THEY DON’T KNOW THAT)*

Me: No way. *stops laughing, looks around nervously* Wait, really?  Are you serious?

All staff: YES.

Me: Huh.  I don’t remember that.

*everyone looks at me like I’m crazy again*

I cannot believe I forgot a field trip.  I tried really hard to remember, but I have literally no recollection of this.  Ask any teacher about the work that goes into a field trip, and they’ll tell you that there’s no way they could forget one, especially not one from last year.

That was a little creepy, so I decided to consult my lesson plan book and see if I at least have note of this field trip somewhere.  I keep very detailed lesson plans, so if we had a field trip, it would have been in my book.  I grabbed my lesson plan book from last year, turned to last fall, and guess what I found?

BLANK. PAGES.

I could hardly believe my eyes.  I had weeks between mid September and mid October where the entire week was blank.  I teach six classes five days a week.  That’s thirty little white squares staring at me with invisible question marks.  What did I do?  What did I teach?  Why aren’t there any plans?  Why can’t I remember anything from last fall?

The couple weeks in that period that did have things written had haphazard, half-baked lesson plan ideas written in only a few of the squares.  I have no clue what I taught.  It was so eerie…I never leave lesson plans blank.  I didn’t know I did that.  I don’t remember.

I know that last September was the deepest depression of my life, ending with a suicide attempt at the end of the month and a subsequent emergency psychiatric evaluation that resulted in a bipolar diagnosis.  I guess it’s logical that I wasn’t on my A-game at school, but I didn’t know I had done nothing.  I didn’t know I would forget field trips that I apparently chaperoned.  I tried to remember other things from this period: what was my first day of school like?  Can I remember the leaves changing?  Did I go to any football games?

I can’t remember any of it.

Isn’t that super creepy?  What if I did something awesome or awful?  I have no idea.  Has this ever happened to any of you, readers?  Do you have an explanation?  It’s like people who get drunk and can’t remember the night before, but I got crazy and can’t remember an entire month.  I suppose, in the grand scheme of life, losing a month isn’t that bad.  It’s not like a remember anything about my first thirty-six months.  I haven’t lost any sleep over that.  I hear it was a lot of bottles and diapers.

This one’s weird.  I haven’t had anything like this happen before.  I told Andy I was planning to blog about this, and he said, “Are you sure you want to write about that?”  I asked why I shouldn’t.  He said, “People who read that might think you’re…you know…a bit insane.”  They say that if the shoe fits, wear it.  Call me Cinderella to the glass slipper of madness.

If you’ve been reading this blog at all, you already know I’m a total nutter.  This one post isn’t going to make things better or worse.  Like Andy, you have the choice to stay or to leave.  He chose to stay.  I hope you do too.  Then again, if you choose to desert me…no big deal.  I might not even remember it.

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37 thoughts on “Bipolar Blackout

  1. That is a bit scary! I know that sometimes the mind will block memories, in a kind of self preservation, if it was a truly horrible time for you (and it sounds like it was….), and you just don’t want to go back to that state. Too, my husband and I joke about his “Swiss-cheese” memory. I don’t know if it is part of the chemical imbalance or just him, but the more I learn about the disease, the more I hear of memory loss/blank spaces being part of the diagnosis. On the flip side, when you win the Nobel prize, we won’t be surprised!!!!! Sending good thoughts for a great school year this year!

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    • “Swiss Cheese Memory” – I love that! It makes my idiotic brain sound kind of fun rather than scary…who doesn’t love swiss cheese? Sure, it’s different than other cheeses, but it’s still awesome!

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  2. FREAK OUT! Le Freak, C’est Chic! <—- Remember that 70's song? Not your era? Oh well. That song was playing in my head as I read your post. Because I would FREAK OUT if I lost a chunk of time. Only I realize all the time that I've lost chunks of time, and guess what? I DO freak out. I chalk it up to ECT, only I haven't had any ECT for like nine months, and I'm still losing memories. So, maybe it's just this damn Bipolar. I don't know. I guess I'm stuck with the freakouts, just like you. I'm sorry you had this scary thing happen, and you had to realize it in front of your colleagues, that must have been a little panicking. One thing I learned from DBT that has actually stuck: Radical Acceptance. This is just how it is. This helps me. Anyhoo, love your writing. Have I said that before? I can't remember 😛

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  3. I have long periods of memory loss that sound like what you’re going through. I have arguments with my husband over things he says we’ve done and I’m always certain we did not. He always wins. Some of them eventually come back, others are likely gone forever. I know it’s scary, but I learned to adapt…for the most part, I guess.

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  4. This is super interesting. Now that I am coming out of my own deep depression (suicide attempt in Feb. 2015), I am retroactively noticing side effects, and one of them is a fuzzy memory. I didn’t realize a) that was a thing, and b) that other people had it. I swear to God, I just was like, “Oh, well, I did turn 30 not that long ago, so this must just be aging.”
    And you are not a nutter. You are the best. Duh. Get it right.

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    • I refuse to call 30 “aging.” Please never say that ever again to me or anyone, lol. That number’s coming up soon for me, and I keep trying to be all, “Thirty is fine! It’s great! This is where it ALL BEGINS!” So I can’t be getting old yet. Neither are you. Apparently our brains just hate us. Grrrrrr…. But our bodies will stay hot for at LEAST another decade. Right?!? 😉

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      • Hell, my body was barely hot in my 20s. I’m hoping my 40s are when I cougar out like a mo-fo 😉
        And, agreed, 30 isn’t old. I just had zero idea why things were happening, so I just attributed it to the first thing that came to mind: getting “old.” That could be in part because I had recently been to the infertility doc to discuss pregnancy options, and they were LEGIT like, “Well, in geriatric pregnancies…” because, um, WTF? I’m 32! Not 92! How is a pregnancy at 32 GERI-FUCKING-ATRIC????
        This is why women have issues with birthdays and age. Because we turn 30, and people literally drop the “g” word on us.

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  5. Either you’re not crazy, or we both are. I have had this happen to me too. There are long periods of my life I have completely lost from my memory. Occasionally my wife and I will be reminiscing about 1) the kids, or 2) the crazy shit I have done while in a bipolar mood swing, and I have to admit to her I just don’t remember any of it. I might remember days or highlights during those times, but I can’t fit them into a timeline. It is frustrating that I was not mentally present for so much of the kids’ early years. I was there physically, but I was busy with bipolar and not really functioning at all. I don’t think we know a reason or a cause, I just think it is an effect of having bipolar, and it worries me going into the future.

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    • I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through this. I’m terrified to have kids for some of those exact reasons. I’m glad that you’ve made it through and that I can see that it’s possible to parent with bipolar disorder. It just sounds awfully difficult and complicated. :-/

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      • It is possible to have bipolar and be a parent – I don’t want to sound hopeless – but you have to have a strong spouse to be the parent when you aren’t fully in the moment. The other thing to worry about is the possibility for passing mental illness to your kids. I didn’t know about that, and unfortunately it happened with my daughter.

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  6. I’ve had this happen to. There’s parts of family vacations I don’t remember, conversations I don’t remember…you get the picture. I would always get into arguments with my family over something that I insisted didn’t happen. In the midst of my crazyness, I was convinced that they were making things up just to mess with me. There is just so much I wasn’t mentally present for.

    Thanks for writing this post…reminds me I’m not on my own.

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    • Hey, no prob. Thanks for the comment. That’s my favorite type of comment – the type that offers a “me too.” If I can make anyone feel like their experience is a little more normal, then this blog is totally worth the work. It helps me feel more normal too. 🙂

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    • Oh, totally. I listen to that song every September. I don’t know why radio DJs don’t play it EVERY SINGLE DAY in September. It’s like how you can only listen to Christmas music at Christmas. You can only listen to that song in September. So I would play it every day (and probably get fired…so I am not a DJ). But yes – love it. Maybe I’ll steal that title and use it to write a separate post this month. We’ll see if I can think of anything good enough to merit such an iconic title. 🙂

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  7. My boyfriend said something the other day and I was like “I didn’t do that”, and he said, “I remember it perfectly”. Um… either his traumatic brain injury was flaring up again and he was scrambling details, or my brain deleted my memory.

    You’re not alone.

    You’re not insane. Insanity means doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. You’re not doing that. And you’re right – if the shoe fits, wear it. I know Andy can’t understand what’s happening in your head, but he doesn’t have to. My guy doesn’t understand either… but it’s worth being talked about and it never has to be something you’re ashamed of. It isn’t your fault.

    Love you.

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  8. I have found my people!!! praise the higher power i often curse for putting this mess in my head to begin with—
    These ‘BPblackouts’ are the only time my usual happy go lucky golden retriever-like self is an anxious, self absorbed mess. because, who knows what the HECK i did? not me. It used to happen a lot. A day here, a week there, the last 2 months of junior year of college. The first 2 months of junior year of college (junior year was rough, and that’d be discounting the 2 hospital visits and 1 arrest). The point- it happens. I cannot say why for sure- maybe our minds have better things to do than store memories (like be swallowed into blackness, or preform their own concert that mashes Woodstock, burning man, and Disney’s dapper dans into one). Whatever the reason- thank you, from the bottom of my twisted and often missing heart, for this post. For some sick reason, it feels better when you know others suffer the same. Don’t get me wrong, I’d give whatever is left of my sanity for you guys not to, but since you are- keep sharing. danke schön

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  9. I forget things, days, weeks sometimes. People will remind me of things and I play along but I have no memory of it. It’s as If I was operating on autopilot. I agree with you it’s scary and makes you feel insane, but I don’t think it’s uncommon among bipolar people.

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  10. I feel for you. I find I forget a lot of things but do not know if it is due to my bipolar 1 Disorder symptoms or side effects of the prescriptions. What I do hate is when I do remember something and everyone else looks at me with blank faces and says it is not true. I decide to focus on the here and now when my brain gets that foggy. Your writing style really pulls me in. Thanks for sharing.

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  11. Super creepy indeed! I ‘ve blacked out a many o’ times over my life and I can only pin point it to the comes and goings of the disorder..

    Oh well, *shrugs*

    At least having one bit problem like this presents with the opportunity to not remember a whole lot of other problems!

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  12. You are not a nutter. You are a Bipolar survivor and so am I. I used to be a teacher but my symptoms became too severe for a few years and I couldn’t teach anymore. I have so many memory blanks and memory recall of names and remembering people I have met before. I blame my memory problems from all of the ECTs I have had over the years. I am guessing it could be from my medication… I take high doses of benzos that might effect memory, maybe my brain is going so fast nothing can go in. When I am depressed I (we) can disassociate which is a survival mechanism to protect us from all the pain we are in….. there are so many possibilities… I am actually thinking about the possibilities as I type actually…. not positive of real answer. May be all of the above. Thank you for the post. I enjoyed reading it and you are not alone and don’t cut yourself down…. you are ok…. and you are a great person and you are strong…. you are a Bipolar survivor… celebrate that!!!!

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  13. Travails of Bipolar Disorder
    Travails of Bipolar DisorderBipolar life
    I am suffering from Bipolar Disorder type 1 from my birth. The mood swings from a high to bottomless low has taken my life into topsyturvy and merry go round.
    I have pulled on my job and proffessional life for 28+ years which i finally gave up in Sept 2016 as i can no longer work. The mood swimgs from one extreme to another kill me to say the least. During the high manic phase I am Super hero types with boundless energy, hyper active, irrational, will be on shopping spree, hypersexual and will enter into all kinds of inappropriate relationships with all and sundry.
    The low phase I am depressed and will be like zombie. always sad , not able to face anybody even my own family and friends. I am out of touch with whatever is going on around me oblivious of hustle and bustle. Lost in my own world cut off from everything. Cant comprehend anything. Lose track of everything and constant feeling of seclusion.
    Now I am 54 years old and given up the job and spending my time shuttling between my mood swings. I visit the pdoc and take medications but no avail.

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  14. I have gaps; blank spaces where my memories should be. I can’t fill them in no matter how hard I try. I think that there were times in my life that were so overwhelming/traumatic that my brain could only focus on survival. I suppose that making and keeping memories was a task that was sacrificed along the way. It’s not weird or crazy. It just is what it is.

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