Previous therapists at the World Trade Center health clinic didn’t explain much about PTSD. And I had resisted accepting the diagnosis for at least a year, which slowed me in understanding what the disorder is. Ironically, one therapist had written in my mental health notes at the time of diagnosis that I had “fully embraced the diagnosis of PTSD.” Well, I hadn’t fully embraced the diagnosis. Only the idea of the diagnosis. I didn’t even understand what living with PTSD meant.
Nobody tells you what to expect, except generally. I heard, “Life may get more difficult,” but that’s about it. Later while researching, I read that memory problems can be an issue. I read it in Conquering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: The Newest Techniques for Overcoming Symptoms, Regaining Hope, and Getting Your Life Back, by Victoria Lemle Beckner and John B. Arden. At least, I think I did. I don’t remember.
In my case, memory is certainly a function PTSD affects. I’ve never had very good short-term memory anyway, probably because of ADHD. But that was usually due to not being interested enough to remember. I’ve found that with PTSD even if I want to remember something, and it motivates me, I still forget.
It’s not working memory, which is what allows waiters to do their jobs. It could be something to do with short-term memory which retains information within a 24-hour period. Well, I wanted to know how short my memory was.
At the grocery store, I wanted some soup broth to help make easy meals. I didn’t want anything in a Tetrapak container, because San Francisco does not have a vendor to recycle it and it would go to a landfill instead. The cans at the store, even though they were on sale, had tabs to open them without needing a can opener. These kinds of cans are lined with plastic that contains BPA plasticizers. In spite of these environmentally unfriendly choices, I was happy to find a condensed broth base in a jar. Glass isn’t great in the recycling process either, but the container makes over 30 cups of broth. That’s many less containers than Tetrapaks or cans. It was a score. It also meant paying less per meal, carrying less, and needing fewer trips to the store for broth. I was so pleased with this find, I took a picture:
Five minutes after choosing a jar of broth base, I was outside the store wondering, “How many cans of broth did I buy?” I had an inkling that there was only one container in the bag and wondered if I should go back inside and get more. Before getting a full view of the inside of my shopping bag, I realized that I had not purchased any cans of broth. It took a few more seconds to remember the jar.
Memory Out of Order
I also heard that memories can be difficult to recall in order. One would think this isn’t a big deal unless a job or something, like journalism, depended on it. Well, it can also be the source of other life pains.
The other day was a hard day. My thinking was slow and I was confused. Maybe I was playing too much Sudoku. Food preparation was not high on my want-to-do list. I had a skirt steak already cooked in the fridge and some mesclun salad. All I needed was some salad dressing. I knew I had a bottle of Paul Newman’s Olive Oil and Vinegar dressing.
Looking through the cabinet, I couldn’t find it. “Where did I put it?” I thought. Then I thought maybe my friend, who stayed at my apartment a few weeks before while I was visiting New York, put it in the fridge. But it wasn’t there. I texted, “There was a bottle of Paul Newman’s dressing. I can’t find it.” Therein began a series of texts that resulted in a conflict.
This conflict over a missing bottle of salad dressing shook emotions and threatened our friendship, all because I was convinced this bottle was there and I couldn’t find it. I managed to eke out a dressing with what I had in the spice cabinet. It wasn’t very good.
Later on, while walking the dog, it finally occurred to me where this bottle of salad dressing was: in Brooklyn. To verify, I searched for an image of a pasta salad I had made with this dressing. Here it is:
Sure enough, the date stamp on the image was during the time I was in Brooklyn.
Damn memory issues.