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The Price of Sanity


Think about your week. What did you do in the past 7 days? Did you go to the gym? Have lunch with a friend? Take one of those days and erase it. Just erase it. That’s what has happened to me. Days have disappeared. I belong to a bible study. It was listed on the calendar on my phone. I didn’t remember it. I messaged my pastor who confirmed yes, I was a member of the Thursday afternoon bible study. I called the leader. Yes, I was a regular attender. Talking to her the memories returned – at least some did.

I looked at my calendar again and found the entry “Linda Counselor”. I had no memory of a counselor but, fortunately, she was listed as a contact in my phone under “Linda Counselor”. I called her and confirmed yes, she was my counselor. Tuesdays at 10:00 popped into my head. I see her weekly.

It is unnerving. It is annoying. I should know if I’m in a bible study. I should know if I have a counselor. I remembered those two things because of entries in my calendar but I wonder what I’ve forgotten that is simply lost. This is the price I’ve paid.

All I wanted was to be sane. To live my life without delusions. To be happy. When did that become such an exorbitant request? It’s hard not to be cynical. It’s hard to not give up hope. With promptings the memories return but I don’t know where the holes are. I find myself thinking of events in my life: my children’s birthdays, recitals, holidays, checking to see if I remember them.

I chose to do this to myself. I chose bilateral ECT. I knew the risks but I wanted the benefits – and there have been benefits. I used to believe I was literally in Hell being punished by God. I didn’t know what I had done but I thought it must have been horrible to send me to Hell. Now, I don’t. The insane world I lived in has been replaced with a kinder, gentler, albeit erratic world. It’s times like this I ponder the fairness of life.

Mental illness is not fair. Having to take medications with nightmarish side effects is not fair. Choosing between memories and sanity is not fair. Living with the stigma of being “less than” is not fair but when life is not fair, we are given the opportunity to learn.

I’m learning to appreciate the good days -- not the perfect days -- but the good days. I’m learning to embrace those in my life who love me. I’m learning to enjoy working towards a dream not just achieving the dream. I’m learning that it’s enough to learn, just learn.

I had a choice. I could have stayed insane. I could have had memories distorted by delusions but that was my choice to make. I gambled. I risked my past to save my future. I’m told the memories will return. Either way, I’m at peace. Not perfect. Not “cured” but I’m happy. I’m building new memories based on the truth instead of distorted memories based on a delusion.

I have more treatments ahead of me. I’m sure I will face more memory loss. I worry about that but the doctor is concerned if we stop too soon I’ll lose the benefits. I’ve risked so much so far. I’m not willing to give up now. So, I will continue with these debilitating treatments. And in between I will enjoy my days and practice my memories and pray for relief because I can now. I don’t think I’m in Hell, separated from God. Yes, the price is high but it’s worth it. For me, it’s worth it.

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