Memory

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:

It really is better than bouillon. Great replacement for fresh soup broth.

It really is better than boullion. Great replacement for fresh soup broth.

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:

Bucatini with Paul Newman's Olive Oil and Vinegar salad dressing and brussel sprouts.

Bucatini with Paul Newman’s Olive Oil and Vinegar salad dressing and brussel sprouts.

Sure enough, the date stamp on the image was during the time I was in Brooklyn.

Damn memory issues.

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