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June 19, 2011

Memory Loss for a Day – Associative Amnesia

by Val Reynolds
Nothing is what it seems

Nothing is what it seems

Memory Loss is disconcerting. Unbelievable really, and I was unwilling to accept it. I kept on trying to remember, thinking about where I had been, visualising, but getting nothing in my mind’s eye.

What I can remember is sitting comfortably by the fire, sipping a welcome early morning cup of coffee and suddenly realising I should be at a press event in London for gardening journalists. An event I had been looking forward to for months.

I quickly got my stuff together and left for the station. After a few yards I ran back to the house to get my Nordic walking stick because my back has been playing up recently and the stick helps.

The next thing I can remember is walking back up the same street returning home. The period in between was blank and no matter how hard I tried I could not remember what I had been doing nor where I had been.

When I got indoors I looked through my handbag and found a train ticket and a taxi receipt.

Looking through my rollerbag I found a pile of paperwork, a pair of secateurs, gardening gloves, packets of seeds and the gardening event programme.

So it would seem I had visited the show, in Victoria, which meant I had taken the train, got off at Finsbury Park, taken the Victoria line to Victoria station and taken a taxi to the Royal Horticultural Halls.

The train ticket receipt showed it was bought at 10.42 and a taxi receipt (which is not something I usually take) showed 11.34 with a journey of 6 minutes, which seems to imply I took a taxi from Victoria to the RHS Horticultural Halls. In my notebook I found a short note about stevia, a natural sweetener and on a couple of business cards I had made other notes, so I must have spoken to at least a couple of people on stands.

I have no memory of signing into the event, meeting colleagues, visiting stands – all the kinds of things I would expect to happen. I have no memory of lunch, coffee, tea, water, visiting the loo, or leaving my jacket at, or even collecting it from, the cloakroom. I had taken no photographs, which is unusual for me.

Frankly the whole thing is a puzzle. Almost like the beginning of a mystery story, at least I didn’t find something sinister in my bag!

All night I tried in vain to remember something, anything, to convince myself I wasn’t going mad, or worse.

I went to the doctor the following morning who had no idea what had happened to me. He checked my reflexes and for signs pressure behind my eyes. Everything looked normal. The doctor said he had never experienced anything like this before and would get back to me after investigating it from a neurological perspective.

My symptoms were that I felt very tired and had occasional head pains, not a headache as such.

So it feels as if I have lost a day of my life and the feeling of bewilderment is strong. I’m also concerned that it may happen again and wonder whether I will be able to get back home. The doctor suggested I take my mobile with me at all times and put in an ICE – in case of emergency – number.

Do I go to a training course next week, or to Regent Street for a meeting?

The doctor did get back to me and confirmed it was a case of Associative Amnesia, sometimes referred to as fugue state. I have been assured it is unlikely to happen again. It affects about 2% of the population with a 5% chance of it happening again.

So what made it happen? No idea, except I have experienced a lot of anxiety and uncertainty for many months, mostly related to lost websites, lost email addresses with little understanding of how they happened.

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor

PS Four months later: I have experienced no further episodes. So, onward and upward!

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