Saturday, December 12, 2015

Losing My Mind

This has been a long and stressful year. Past readers of the old blog may remember me referencing another year filled with stress, shortly after we’d moved into our current home. This year makes that one look like a cakewalk.

There were so many unexpected changes this year in our lives that it was overwhelming. There were demands on our time, our energy, our resources, and our dignity that stretched us to the limit. There were too many sleepless nights where mind, body, and soul did not get a chance to recharge before facing another day of stress.

Chronic stress is bad for you. We are all aware of that. We know we should eat better, exercise more, “manage our stress,” and get enough sleep. Knowing and doing are not the same thing; they are not even in the same ballpark. Hell, sometimes they are not in the same city! Life frequently gets in the way of doing what one needs to do to take care of oneself.

As I read about the effect of chronic stress on people, I came across some articles* that discussed how it can impact cognitive ability - that is, being able to think, process information, and make decisions. Chronic stress can cause what is called “Mild Cognitive Impairment.”

MCI is also a precursor to Alzheimer’s or dementia; it’s that stage where a person starts to get more forgetful. They may lose their keys more often, forget why they walked into a room, forget what they meant to buy at the store, not be able to find the word they are looking for in a conversation, or even miss paying a bill. When faced with what is a relatively minor problem, it may take them longer to sort through the information and options to resolve it, even if that was a simple task in the past.

At first, these seem like little annoyances but over time, it builds into an alarming situation. A person can really begin to wonder if they are losing their mind. This has been my experience this past year and, let me tell you, it’s no fun. I have made more errors in my checkbook this year than I have probably made in the rest of my life combined. In fact, I still don’t know what happened to Check #191. It is simply gone. Did I tear off two checks and include a blank one with one of my payments for utilities? Seems impossible but the previous month I accidentally switched checks between the phone and gas companies’ envelopes. That was a mess to clear up and a mistake I have NEVER made before.

Every now and then, in a conversation, I find myself struggling to find the word I want. I suspect there are times we all can’t remember exactly what word we’re looking for but it started happening to me more this year. Hell, yesterday I couldn’t remember my own address! I was texting my address to someone for a craigslist pick-up today and could not for the life of me remember if my address ended in “Drive,” “Street,” or “Lane.” This morning, I realized that the two texts I sent out yesterday both had the direction wrong. Wouldn’t you think after living here for 5+ years that I would remember whether my street address was North or East?! Apparently not. I sent new texts out to both people this morning and can only hope they don’t blow off the pick-ups because they don’t want to deal with an airhead.

What has caused all my stress this year? Well, that’s the subject of another blog post. I know how to keep readers coming back. Bwuahahaaaaa!

Second question: Is there anything I can do to reverse this downward mental spiral? Possibly. The bigger question is whether I will take the steps necessary to try to put the brakes on. Writing this blog is actually something I hope will help my brain. If not, then it may at least be a way to drag others down with me. It’s more fun to lose your mind with others than all by yourself.

*Footnote. There will be a change from my previous blog: I will no longer provide as many links as I used to include. In the past, if I discussed a topic, I often spent considerable time researching it and posting links to clarify, support, and/or expand on my comments. I won’t be doing that nearly as much now.

Why not? There are several reasons. The most important one is that I simply don’t have the time to chase down information I came across at some point in the past. The other is that you, the reader, are more than capable of chasing down this information if it interests you. It is good for our brains to study those things that stimulate our interest; learning builds more synaptic connections and might even help stave off problems like I am having with forgetfulness.

Now, where was I? Oh, I remember…. Ha ha.

So, you have a choice when you read what I’ve referenced without providing a supporting link.

  1. You can choose to believe me and enjoy reading what I’ve written.
  2. You can choose not to believe me. After all, you don’t know me and I could just be making things up. Goodness knows that happens all over the Internet!
  3. You can follow-up with your own research to find out more.

I hope if you choose the third option that you will do so in order to expand your own knowledge and understanding, not because you hope to prove me wrong. I don’t claim to be right all the time so spending your time trying to prove me wrong is, in my opinion, a waste of your time. And if that is how you get your jollies, you are probably reading the wrong blog in the first place.


  1. Hi Chili,
    I completely agree with you about the effects of chronic stress. No need for links, I've researched this myself over the past few years and it's not pretty.
    I couldn't offer any suggestions that you haven't heard/found on your own. But hey, if you hear of some great new technique please pass it on!
    For myself, I'm looking forward to spring and getting my hands back in the therapeutic garden soil :)
    Best wishes over the miles.

    1. I wish there was a magic wand we could wave to "make it all better," but there isn't. Some people are more resilient when it comes to stress and others, like me, seem to be less so.

      Finding those things that are therapeutic, like gardening if that is your passion, does help. Still looking here for what might work!

  2. Dear, that's accurate enough to go on, I'm sure! In 2012, I went to Florida for half a year under very stressful conditions, and I'm sure I developed MCI there and it is still with me.

    What happens, happens, and then we do what we do. Everyone's mileage will vary. I've taken up meditation and am still gardening.

    You be good to you. Thank you for posting.

    1. Hi Risa!

      In the midst of the caregiving nightmare, I was reading about how caregivers respond to stress. One study measured cognitive ability and found it was reduced in stressed caregivers. What was scary was that they checked up on these same subjects months after the person they were taking care of had passed away and in a significant percentage of them, the cognitive abilities had either only partially recovered or had not recovered at all. Ack!

      I keep planning to take up meditation again (and exercising), but am constantly side-tracked with the latest time-suck projects. Some day...

      I think meditating in your beautiful garden beds would be very healing! Maybe not while it's raining but during the brief sunny times. :)



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