Tuesday, November 18, 2008
This is what I read today in the newspaper about memory loss:
Episodes of high stress, intense happiness, love and sadness can preserve a sharp memory. But when stress is constant and the brain is bathed chronically in stress hormones such as cortisol, attention grows weak and events are stored fitfully in short-term memory and fitfully committed to long-term memory. Established memories are poorly retrieved. Cortisol overload will cause many of the brain cells with memory functions to power down. And over time, chronic stress will degrade communications between cells in brain regions important to learning and memory.
Now I'm trying to figure out what constitutes "constant stress" and "cortisol overload." What are the inner workings of my own brain? I consider myself to have a formidable memory, still, at the ripe middle age of 45. None of that forgetting what I meant to say or go and get or who is that? Maybe fourteen years of dealing with Sophie's seizures is just not enough stress to cause memory loss. At least not yet. And I know it's silly to quantify stress or is it qualify stress (I mean what does someone feel in, say, the Congo, who has a child that seizes all day?), but sometimes what gets me through it all is the thought wow, you've been dealing with this for almost fourteen years and you're doing pretty good. But when I read an article like the one above, I start thinking things like I guess it's really not all that stressful. You're over-reacting. You're still sharp, despite your brain being bathed in all that cortisol. Maybe you shouldn't complain.
Which leads me to that visual imagery of the brain bathed in anything at all. Those spongy gray folds, shrinking back from the acrid liquid of primitive response, of anger and despair and desperation. Shrinking so far back that they just fold in on themselves and start to forget.