My last meeting with the Memory Clinic’s psychologist was in December 2015. She asked how I was coping with the pronouncement that I'm actually losing my marbles, though she was far too professional to phrase it quite like that. I didn’t know what I was expected to say.
I now have an idiot board the size of a door, that’s because a) it is a door and b) if it isn’t written down where I'll see it on a frequent basis I simply won’t remember when the rent is due, credit card payments have to be made, appointments that need to be kept.
Even then I get it wrong. Somewhere between making the appointment and writing it on the board the ‘I’m in charge of dates and times’ bit of my brain gets sabotaged and I arrive at the vet, for the dog’s jabs, at the correct time but a day late.
Now I wake up in the morning and more often than not I’ve no idea what
day of the week it is. I lie there trying to make my brain recall yesterday’s events to give me some clue where I am in the stream of time but the ‘I know what you did’ segment of my brain is not a morning segment. I have to cheat and look at the clock which shows me the day I’ve woken up in. Once I have that information I know what’s on the agenda for that day, in a general sense. The specifics will be on the idiot board.
I’m still permitted to drive and I don’t perceive myself as any more of a risk as a driver than I was eighteen months ago. I’m aware however that I don’t remember how to get to places if it’s been a while since I last drove there – and I’m not talking about a year or a few month's gap, I’m talking weeks or days.
Weekly shopping is fine – same day, same shop, same route. An impromptu visit to Dunelm however, proved problematic. I made it as far as the roundabout that has B &Q to the right of it and Pets at Home to the left and realised that I had no idea where to go. There was only straight ahead open to me and I didn’t think that looked right. That’s because it wasn’t, as I found out, stuck on a road that wasn’t going to Dunelm. Back in the car park of B&Q I berated myself for not having my sat nav with me but I did have a map. Yep, you guessed it, though I required some persuasion, I was on the wrong road altogether.
This had happened before but with a considerably larger gap between one visit and the next to a particular destination. This route had disappeared after a couple of weeks.
The other potentially big problem is remembering the pin number to my credit and debit cards. I use my credit card A LOT. Like the Queen, I rarely carry cash. Shopping at Sainsbury’s is a weekly chore, as is buying petrol. I never fill the tank, my car is old and I’m in continual expectation that it will die on me at any moment. We have discussed this – Shrek and me – he knows he’s on borrowed time. If the repair bill is beyond my meagre means, that’ll be it. Breaker’s yard for Shrek and public transport and lifts for me from thereon in.
Now, I long ago mastered the registration plate. I remember ‘Vomit Exorcist Style Is On My Rhubarb’ unnervingly well – relating it to the number plate makes perfect sense to me. My credit card pin, however, keeps eluding me.
I called in for petrol on the way home from Sainsbury’s having just used my card less than thirty minutes before. The garage was empty, a rarity on the A20. There isn’t a pay at the pump option, not that I’d be likely to use it. I go into the shop, give the lady my pump number and key in the pin. Declined. I repeat the action. Declined. The lady warns me that if I get the pin wrong a third time, my card will be locked. Had I got another card I could use? I stand frozen in panic. Any chance of recalling the correct pin for either card has gone.
“Can I step back a minute, I've got the pin hidden in my phone?”
“Course you can my lovely,” the cashier says with a palpable tone of relief.
As I turn around to walk out of the queue I see why. From empty, the garage is now full of lorries and the queue of lorry drivers waiting to pay extends right back to the door. None of them had uttered a word. I apologise and lowered my crimson face to my phone.
Attached to the names of two dear but departed friends I've hidden my pin numbers, but under stress I can’t for the life of me recall their names, though their faces dance before me accusingly. The second string to my memory aid for pin numbers is the little story I've concocted around the numerals, which works well once the panic has subsided. So though I couldn't remember the numbers, or names of deceased friends, the story connected to my debit card slowly revealed itself.
So that’s it so far. In my mind I'm convinced that this will develop into Alzheimer’s, given my family history. The strange thing is that whereas I've coped with depression for the last twenty five years on and off and would reasonably assume that I’d succumb to depression now, given the somewhat bleak prognosis, that doesn't seem to be happening.
There have been other subtle changes to my personality that baffle me. I am, or was, a natural introvert but lately I've become much more outspoken for good and for bad but I'm waiting to see if that’s a blip or the course that MCI will take.
I spoke to my Aunt on the phone last night and I was trying to explain the ways in which MCI was having an impact on my life.
“I worry about my memory too,” she replied. “I have real problems remembering people’s names now.”
My Aunt is 92 years old.