Don't you remember?

My brain is very tired. It's fed up of being told time and time again that it's not like the others; that it's lagging behind, it's lacking, it's misbehaving, it's sick and there's an impostor inside it... 

(Photo: Erin Veness)

I'm used to hearing that my brain is in trouble. I'm totally OK with knowing it's not to be trusted. I'm working on its health, in more ways than one; regular scans and check ups for the physical sh*t, counselling for the invisible injuries. 

But still, when I'm told just how ill it is, or will be, it hurts. 

(Photo: Erin Veness)

I always had a fantastic memory, as a child and a teenager. My family and friends would cry out in shock when I quoted a whole passage in a book, reminded them what they were wearing last week or called someone out unintentionally by remembering word for word what they'd said at that party 2 years ago...

But now? My memory is bruised; it's failing, flawed and not far off f*cked. The little things get lost. I remember conversations, but not whom they were with – I remember talking to someone, but not what was said. You'll ask me what I've been up to this week, and I'll have to sit for a moment and scrape through my mind, or pull my diary out of my bag and re-read the gel pen scribbles. 

(Photo: Erin Veness)

The other day I saw my oncologist and support nurse in Sutton; they basically told me that all the bad choices one can make (eating badly, smoking, drinking) will affect me more than the regular person. My body is annoyingly sensitive, and my brain is intolerant of the bad stuff. That was hard to hear, because in all honesty nothing makes me happier than drinking several double gins in the local, pinching a cig or two off a friend and getting takeaway chips for the walk home. But I can adapt, if need be. Self-care etc., etc. 

Then they told me my memory was damaged. They showed me the scan; I saw the milky blurs trapped within my barriers, peered at the memory section of my left temporal lobe and sighed. My eyes filled up. I couldn't help it. Everyone around me saw, they registered my sadness but waited for me to speak about it. When I didn't, when I blinked and asked about something else, they went along with me. 

It's going to be bad for the foreseeable – and will get worse as I get older, as most memories in other, healthier brains do. I'll forever struggle to identify who I spoke to about this or that, I'll have to check multiple times per day if my keys/lipsticks/mints are in the pocket of my bag they're always kept in, and I'll have to check in the diary daily to be sure what I'm doing next Tuesday or what I got up to last Friday night...

(Photo: Erin Veness)

I am proud of who I am, and what I've been through. But hearing just how bad it is, every now and again, is still upsetting. I sometimes have to fight the voices in my brain (that no doubt crept in some time ago, when I was low, and filled up the space my stellar memory used to occupy) that tell me someday people will get sick of reminding me where I've been, who I've spoken to, what I said and how I said it. Sometimes I really, truly fear that I'll forget who I am and who I've been; the many journeys I've been forced to go on in my life, and the curious strolls I've gone on most willingly. I worry I'll forget what brand of nut milk I like best. I freak out thinking I might not recognise a friend one day. I panic when it becomes apparent over and over again that nothing is permanent, and my mind is not always going to be my safe space. 

I'll deal with it, though. I have to. And I always do. 


  1. I just want to wrap you up in a huge hug ❤

  2. The thing is, I love your brain and the beautiful way it sees the world - at least, to the extent you share it here - very much. But to know, or suspect, that there are parts of that missing? I can't imagine how upsetting that must be.

    Privileged, as ever, for what you choose to share with us.

    Lis / last year's girl x

  3. Geez, I have a lot of respect for you after reading that. Even just managing not to burst out crying at the doctor's office is a lot more than I've ever managed to do when told big medical news like that. I loved the photos, too! Good luck with what the future and your brain brings you.


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