so much of my experience of mental illness is inner classificatory debate, interior taxonomic discussion: is this a perception or a construction? a reaction or a decision? a mood or an emotion? and so on; but this is universal, surely, to all who reflect.
one particular distinction that occupies me: is the inhibition of my memory, wrought to some additive extent by all three of the medications I take for bipolar disorder, a personal tragedy or a mere indignity?
memory is the basis of cognition, the substance of continuity; quite beyond the notion of impairment or any embarrassment that I cannot remember nearly so well as I’d like, there is a pervasive vagueness to my conscious life that is slightly horrifying. what I experience, see, think lacks the weight of what I used to experience, see, think; I stare —tonight, at the city through the fog, at the forms of trees in the darkness, street-lights warmly glowing behind them— and desperately hope to remember my life, but even in the moment there is a diminution of impact, of felt perception.
the quality is a bit like that of a dream in which one is partly lucid: one feels desperate to maintain a continuous awareness, but one can so easily wake that one is just as likely to “slip back into” or “fall back into” the dream, which one will forget. or: it is as when one wakes in the middle of the night and thinks one will remember the dream one’s just had, but then: one doesn’t.
I gather that it is a common experience of aging: that time accelerates, the impact of experiences lessens, and one feels death in the fading not only of old memories but of life as it happens now, in the decreasingly vivid impressions of memories as they form. if I am mature, it is only in this: that my medicines give me a preview of perceptual oblivion.
i strain to force some image into my memory, but it’s just not there in the way that images used to be; nothing is. i don’t have the privilege of gainsaying my medications or considering whether their “side”-effects are “worth it”; I’ll be medicated, I suspect, until I die. but among the features of having a bad mind, a disordered mind which requires the administration of chemicals, this is my least favorite, this attenuation of experience, this muting and loss.