The Memory Clinic: Outcome

2010 September 8

My partner and I went to the memory clinic yesterday. (If you’re unfamiliar with why, you can read this here: https://porillion.wordpress.com/2010/09/02/i-am-going-to-a-memory-clinic-next-week/)

Unfortunately, the results were pretty much what I had expected. Readers about visualisation and episodic memory problems may not know about the experience of others like myself who also have visual snow. Essentially, many co-sufferers have reported ignorance from medical practitioners – even being told that they are “imagining it”. I was fortunate to have found medical evidence to back up my concerns when I saw my GP and my pain consultant. This is why I have a diagnosis of “persistent aura” with my “complicated migraine”. But I had no such evidence to back up my concerns when I visited the clinic yesterday regarding my visualisation deficit and episodic memory recall problems; and the learning problems I have that appear to relate.

Before attending the clinic, my partner and I had been asked to complete a questionnaire and hand it to reception when we arrived, which we did. I then had a ten minute structured question and answer session, asking for things like: As many animals beginning with “p” that I could think of (timed); to write a sentence, any sentence; to identify pictures of items by name and by association with ideas like “nautical” (e.g., for an anchor) or “royal” (e.g., for a crown). The only one I struggled with was a made up name and address. This I was read, and had to repeat back, three times at the beginning, and then recall specific pieces of information from at the end. None of these tests were for visual recall either short-term or long-term.

I was then seen by a registrar, whose bedside manner was similar to House. From the offset, he was dismissive and, it seemed to my partner and I, negative towards our being there. He took a general medical history (which I recall from factual narrative, and note is not a test of detail or of visual recall), and then a general chat which was obviously testing factual recall of everday things like: What do you like to do to relax, or what films do you like? My partner is a staff nurse of fourteen years’ experience, and she said that I make extensive use of a notebook and a computer-organized list to cope with daily living. She also told him that she regularly shows me how to do new things (such as various things to do with cooking), and that I later not only forget what she has shown me, but that she has shown me. I said that I used to support Microsoft Office (before becoming too ill to work with migraine), but that I have had to abandon trying to learn the new version, because its interface is so different. And I said that we recently passed a ruined tower that interersted me, but that I genuinely thought (and still believe) I have not passed before – even though my partner tells me that we had and that I commented on it enthusiastically previously. Despite all of this, his conclusion was that for the most part I was simply choosing to ignore things that didn’t interest me, because I was “eccentric”, and that at my age (just past 40) I wouldn’t change. We were so gobsmacked that we left without pressing him further.

My impression was that he thought I was computer- and filmed-obsessed, that I was uninterested in anything else (such as cooking), that because of this I would never focus on these tasks and never learn them; and most of all, that I was rigid in using my computer to guide my chores and so on because I liked it that way, and not because that was what I had to do to remember to do things (like bathe if I cannot do so on the day I’d normally wash; otherwise forgetting that I hadn’t done so).

This, to my mind, echoes the treatment, as I said, that sufferers of visual snow often get. So my suggestion to anyone thinking of trying this route themselves is the same as to those with visual snow: Go prepared. For this specific situation, expect there to be no communication that your problems are with visualisation, visual recall and detailed episodic memory. You’ll need to prepare well in advance if, like me, you are affected badly with thinking on your feet and projecting yourself into the future. Don’t expect to be tested for visual related items at all: I’m not sure how you can stress that you should be.

On the plus side, he did at least suggest some medical or medically-related factors that affect memory: Such as any former incidents of depression, and in my case my persistent aura and migraine attacks and even the Epilim that I take as a preventative. But I cannot confidently take his conclusion that there was no medical problem on faith, given our overall negative impression.

I have however, done a quick bit of online research from the usual reliable sources, and note that there have been some updates since I wrote in 2008. So I plan to update the FAQs and series on visualisation as soon as possible, and in light of the many comments you have made since then.

The whole episode makes the joke of the statement that my learning difficulties are an invisible problem.

Take care.

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