I just did something tonight that I’m absurdly proud of: I challenged my brain to a test of reading comprehension and retention by participating in a continuing medical education activity on Medscape.
For those of you who don’t know about CME credits, most healthcare professionals have to complete a certain number of hours every two years to maintain their licensure. As it happens, nurses in Oregon don’t have to do this, but I like to snag the occasional credit just for the knowledge and the fun of it.
I hadn’t done any in a couple of years, mostly out of frustration with my cognitive difficulties, but tonight, I was just feeling it…….the subject matter was fascinating, and though the reading was long and VERY hard, I was able to get through it with the occasional break. This particular activity was actually geared toward psychiatrists and psych nurse practitioners, so the language was really challenging (to say the least), but I was able to understand most of it.
And by gosh, do you know I took the exam at the end of the activity………and PASSED. With a score of 100%. Woo-HOO!!
It feels so good to know that my ‘upstairs’ still works, at least some of the time. For the past couple of years, my bipolar-disordered brain’s capabilities have slid downhill at what feels to me like a breakneck pace. My executive function basically doesn’t. My short-term memory is very short indeed; sometimes I can’t remember if I took my meds two minutes after downing them. I usually can’t focus on reading any longer than a bird can stay on one telephone pole. I have the attention span of a flashcube, and the distractibility of—oh look, a kitty!—a two-year-old.
Did I mention that I’m frustrated with my cognitive difficulties?
It wouldn’t be so bad if I’d ALWAYS been this much of a dingbat. You can’t miss what you never had, right? Well, I sorely miss my old intellect—especially the capacity to think and evaluate situations from every angle, and the enjoyment of root-cause analysis. (Well, I still love root-cause analysis, but I’m very limited now in my ability to perform the multilayered tasks required. Thanks a lot, BP. Shit.)
This brain-fade issue has unfortunately wrought much havoc upon my career in recent years, and the only good thing I have to say about it is that I finally recognized it before it was too late. I’m no longer in denial about what I can and cannot handle, and I know that the work I was doing before is no longer within the realm of possibility.
Of course, saying that is one thing; understanding that this is my new baseline is something else entirely. I’ve lost some of my marbles, and they’re NOT coming back. The best I can hope for is for the decline to slow down, and I think if I don’t over-tax my brain by feeding it too many variables or asking it to process too much information at once, I can tread water for a long time to come.
And tonight, I proved to myself that I’m not a total loss intellectually. Take THAT, BP!!