Mnemosyne, Goddess of Memory
(Mnemosyne, Goddess of Memory)

Yesterday I got an email from my favorite professor.  Among other questions, I’d asked him if he could intercede with the dean to make sure I had appropriately dropped a course with him that I’d registered for.  Yes, I could have done this myself, back when I dropped the course.  I didn’t because, like much of what’s been going on right now, the whole thing was too depressing to look at straight-on.

The course was called “The Monastic Experience” and was basically the sort of thing I’d been hoping someone would teach for a while.  It also included a study trip to France, where we’d visit Cluny and the Taize community and generally soak up European monasticism.  I reiterate, not only is this basically at the center of everything I study, but the idea of a short trip to France was really appealing–I’m about to have this baby, and who knows when I’ll make such a trip on my own again.  Implicit in that reasoning is an aknowledgement of the extent to which my mobility has been limited already, and the impossibility of knowing how much worse things are going to get, and how soon.  Well, a nasty little fever hit about three weeks before the trip and I suddenly found myself unable to walk one evening.  I have no idea why I confess this to the world at large, considering that I’ve been unable to share the incident with my friends or family (if my husband hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have told him either), but suffice to say it was scary enough that I cancelled the trip to France and withdrew from the course on monasticism.  But not formally.  Couldn’t quite make that little walk over the the dean’s office, for reasons that had nothing to do with the heavy doors and shitty elevators in the faux-Gothic building where the offices are and everything to do with the fact that I’m not really ready to sit down and have that particular conversation right now.

So, my professor emailed me to let me know I’d been withdrawn from the class, but the the dean wanted to see me to talk about things…”he is very supportive of you, as I hope you know.”  I know this dean and like him.  He’s actually also my neighbor, more or less, and I know he’d be helpful.  And still.  I’m really just not ready to sit down with him and actually go through the MS issues and how they’re affecting me academically–because I don’t want to discuss it.  I haven’t done that with anyone, rather I’ve carefully kept things appearing as a series of isolated incidents, flakiness, pregnancy malaise, and general smoke and mirrors.  I Am. Not. Ready. to sit down and actually explain the past year to anyone.

But I don’t think I really have a choice anymore.

Last September, I sat in my neurologist’s office and basically begged him to treat my cognitive symptoms.  Adderal, I said.  Ritalin.  An Alzheimer’s drug.  Something?

But you’re trying to get pregnant, he said.  We’ll have to talk about it later.  In a year or so.  It’s a possibility, sure, but not now.

And so I pretty much tried to put things out of my mind, which should be lot easier for someone having memory issues than it’s proved to be.  I tried to smile my way through last semester and keep up with my reading.  I got pregnant just in time to be violently ill for both midterms and finals.  I visited professors in their office hours.  I tried to balance asking for special treatment with being sweetly brave and asserting that I could do things that, I was becoming fairly certain, I might not ever be able to do again.  And I told the dean, and my professors, a little bit about the fatigue and a little bit about the right-side weakness, and didn’t mention the rest of it.  Last semester may have been a wash.  It’s one of the things the dean wants to see me about.  But I don’t have the financial ability or the stamina to take an additional year to graduate, so I’m not ready to have that conversation yet.

I’m tremendously sorry for having turned into such a crap student, but I’m also a bit angry as well.  I’m angry with myself for making “looking well” such a priority that it’s gotten in the way of actually doing well.  An example:  75% of the time, my right hand isn’t working well enough to take notes.  I once mentioned to a professor that it would be very helpful to record the class, and would he mind?  He seemed put off by the idea, and sort of said something like “it isn’t necessary,” and well… I was embarrassed, and I haven’t brought it up again with anyone else.  In fact, what do I do?  A very sneaky little maneuver in which I use my left hand to curl the fingers of my right hand around the pencil, and then rest my pencil-holding right arm on a stack of last year’s notes.  So that it looks like I’m doing something, and am not a useless peice of firewood taking up space.

This Tuesday, we had our first Really Nice Warm Day.  And, as is common in big institutional buildings, the climate control hadn’t really caught up with the weather.  The classrooms were hot.  Very hot.  I wasn’t bundled up, but I wasn’t in shorts and a tank top with an ice pack either.  And so, by the middle of my third class, I was in the midst of a major flare-up that went into 24 hours of pain and then 48 more hours of sleeping and eating rice straight out of the rice cooker.  And I forgot everything that happened that Tuesday, including that I was supposed to bring in work on Friday.

So seriously, tell me disability-services office, or dean, or husband, or well-meaning friends, how the fuck I’m supposed the react when I’m being asked about these assignments and cannot, will not bring myself to say anything more than the most literal truth, that being simply “I forgot.”

I forgot.  Like I was late to your class twice last week because I forgot where it was.  Like I forgot your name, when I was trying to email you.  This was my first symptom, the very first thing that got me telling my husband something was really wrong.  It’s been easy to hide the forgetting behind the weakness and the pain, to dismiss it as “a pregnant thing,” or to pretend it wasn’t happening.

Somehow, I’m going to have to fix things at school.  I’m going to have to do this in spite of the fact that I can’t fit into desks very well, that I don’t know where to begin with resolving the issues from last semester, and that if one more person gives me grief about taking the elevator from the first to the second floor I’m going to punch them in the neck with my good arm.

But I do not know how to begin explaining the memory issues.  I’m just so afraid that that will be the moment that they look at me and begin to write me off.  That that will be the end.

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