I am epileptic. Or I have epilepsy, I should say.
No really; to describe someone as ‘epileptic’ is politically incorrect. It apparently suggests a hierarchy, with epilepsy above and the sufferer below. Conversely, to say one ‘has epilepsy’ demotes the condition to being but an insignificant part of the person (note the removal of the term ‘sufferer’ also), one which we pretend to no longer notice. Another term now killed by PC culture is office favourite, ‘brainstorm’. I’ll just leave that there.
I should mention that I’m not even slightly offended by this nonsense. I digress.
I have a truly awful memory, and this is both directly and indirectly due to my epilepsy. The condition itself affects memory but also, one of my medications, lamotrigine, has amnesia as a side effect. Today I’m going to talk about epilepsy, but also about its weird cousin, Asperger’s.
Now, I have have never been professionally diagnosed with an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) but should you ask anyone who knows me on any reasonably close terms, they will inform you that yes, they wouldn’t be at all surprised if I were. I’m more than a little aspie — I’ve heard that’s a new term of endearment. I’ll take it.
It is well known that people with autism have a very bad working short-term memory. I can empathise greatly with this, I struggle every day. Dozens of times daily I find myself stopped in my tracks, utterly perplexed as to why I began that journey. Or perhaps a friend is sharing a happy memory with me from a few weeks, days, hours or even minutes ago and it’s easier to pretend to remember than to circumvent the side-eyes with an explanation involving seizures and medications. It’s a bit of a buzzkill. And then of course there are the more impactful consequences involving work, or another responsibility I may have.
I have reached my third decade, and for a lot of people it is now that Asperger’s really starts to present itself, especially in men. I feel like this could be because in general, we’re over the brutal onslaught of adolescence and its hangover. I don’t know, but I have certainly broken through to a happier and more genuine me. A more fearless me. My abilities in maths and spacial awareness have always been especially astute, but in the last 4–5 years, my mind hasn’t had a moment’s peace. I obsessively count everything — finding patterns, performing arbitrary arithmetic — and it consumes me. If I’m unable to finish a particular calculation, I panic. I recently compared the feeling to the uncomfortable compulsion to keep a constant eye on a frying meal, for fear of it burning.
Perhaps my amnesia and my compulsions are linked? My brain a computer, and my memory the RAM. These engrossing calculations and my memory are engaged in a battle for a monopoly of mind, and as one memory is formed, another is deleted. Maybe this battle causes a seizure?