Things that get lost along the way

Here’s your image-drawing memory test for the day. This is going to be a challenging one, because there are other “competing” images in the post below. Study this image very carefully for a few minutes, then read the post, then get a pencil and piece of scrap paper and try to draw it from memory. Good luck! I’m throwing you (and myself) a curve balloon this one.

Memory training test - day 3
This is a little more challenging than the others.

What is it with my memory? Seriously, it’s just weird how things get lost…

This post is about how being tired and overwhelmed just screws with my memory — cutting into my self-control and also confusing ideas in my head. I find it fascinating how, even 10 years after my last TBI I still have these issues. It doesn’t worry me – I know what to do about it.

So, yesterday as an experiment, I re-drew the picture that I showed a couple of days back. Here it is:

3-circle-2-plank-double-slash-l-r-boxes

Later in the day, I drew the following:

wpid-wp-1436569763807.jpegEach one got a little bit better, and by the end of the day, I had it down. I could draw that sucker from memory.

Then, yesterday, I had a very busy morning — and I wasn’t feeling well, to begin with. I had been having migraine-y symptoms for the past couple of days, with Friday being particularly tough with my left side feeling like it was carved from block of wood or hardened lava… feeling like it was made of brick. My balance was really off, and I felt like I was being pulled to the left. But then when I closed my eyes, I leaned to the right, so that was even more confusing.

Saturday morning, everything was very trippy – it was like I was seeing through a filter that makes the colors more garish and all the lines separating objects were more pronounced.

trippy-sky
Like this – but not nearly as much fun

I had to work extra hard to keep my mind on what was happening, and I found myself skipping ahead in a number of tasks, and I needed to force myself to stop and back up and think things through in the order they were to happen in.

For example, I needed to get my haircut, and I needed to get there early before the rush. On Saturdays, the place is usually packed with men, women, and children, all needing to neaten up for the week to come. The thing was, when I thought about it, my thoughts immediately went to the convenience store across the street. And then I thought about paying for my haircut at the cash register.

It’s weird, when this happens, because my thoughts are not in sequence, and I have to deliberately put things in order. I have to work backwards, step by step.

  • Last thing: Pay for my haircut
  • Next-to-last-thing: Get up out of the chair
  • Before that: Get my hair cut and interact with the barber (depending on the person, it can be very intensive)
  • Before that: Sit down in the chair
  • Before that: Find a seat at the back of the store and wait my turn to be called.
  • Before that: Buy a snack at the convenience store across the street to get change (because the barber only takes cash)
  • Before that: Stop at the ATM to get cash
  • Before that: Drive to the town where my barber is located
  • Before that: Go out and get in my car
  • Before that: Gather everything I might need for the trip, remembering to take the stamped letters out to the mailbox

The thing is, it didn’t got that smoothly. My brain was jumping around from “node” to “node”, piecing together the day in slow motion, and it was a real challenge to A) put the big ideas in order, and B) make sure I was doing everything in between in sequence, so I wouldn’t have to backtrack and re-do things.

The whole morning was wild — surreal colors and weird visuals, with everything seeming to move in slow motion. But no terrible headache. That would come later, after my afternoon nap.

Anyway, bottom line is, by the time I got back from my errands, I was bushed. I figured it would be a good time to try out my image drawing exercises, so I drew the image I’d practiced in the morning:

First memory image test of the day
First memory image test of the day
Second practice of the day's memory training image
Second practice of the day’s memory training image

All good, right?

Then (at 1:55 p.m.) I decided to redraw the image I’d done the day before and had “down pat” by the end of the day. Here’s what I drew:

Image memory test - 2nd day, and very tired
Image memory test – 2nd day, and very tired

This is close, but I don’t get a cigar. That bar across the top has “snuck” the whole way across again, and for some reason, I immediately drew a vertical line in the middle. I realized after I’d drawn it, that it was wrong, but I couldn’t back up, because I was writing in pen. Also, I drew the diagonal line on the left pointing in the wrong direction, but it didn’t occur to me till after I was starting to draw the other line that something was amiss. And my squares are “off”. I can’t blame the scrap paper. I had plenty of room to write.

What screwed me up was heavy-duty fatigue, being impulsive, disorientation, and not using strategies to do the construction. I worked too fast and didn’t stop to think it through before I did the job.

The really, really interesting thing about this, for me, is that it illustrates in very plain ways, how my brain can get confused about details and come up with other ideas that are based on partial information. My brain “inferred” that there was a vertical line in the top bar, because I was using the gap between the squares at the bottom to orient the top circle. And I didn’t stop to question myself. Also, I drew the line wrong on the left side, mirroring the one on the right, partly, and not realizing till later, that they should be going away from each other, not towards each other.

As for that bar “sneaking” across the full width of the top again. I don’t know what’s up with that. It’s like my brain demands consistency and symmetry, and it doesn’t want to “allow” differences. If I get too rigid in my thinking, it’s a problem by all accounts. So, I have to remember that happens with me.

And here we have an illustration of how — even after all these years — my brain can get things turned around.

Like the other day, when I solved two problems, when I was only supposed to solve one.

On the surface, it’s a good thing, and people are deeply thankful to me for taking both those problems off their plate. But what if one of the problems — the first one I thought I had to solve — was not a problem at all, and I spent all that energy (which was a lot) working on fixing something that wasn’t broken. Then I’d have less energy for fixing the problem that did need taking care of.

I’m starting a new job in a few weeks, and I need to be strong and capable, which I am. I also need to catch up on my sleep and not let the situation in the job I’m leaving get to me. Four weeks is probably too much lead time between jobs, but there it is. It’s taking that long for them to get their act together to replace me. Of course, that falls into the category of “their problem – not mine”, but still…

Main lesson: Don’t let others’ drama get to me. Stay the course. Stay strong. Keep focused. It’s not worth the price I pay, if I don’t.

I’m not getting down on myself — this is just something I need to think about. And I suspect that these image redrawing exercises can help me improve.

Now… it’s time to draw the image you first looked at above. If you can do it, then bravo. I’ve showed you a lot of different images in the past paragraphs, which have similarities to the study image. Let’s see how you do… I’m going to draw it, too.

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Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

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