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Memory Journal
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N. is worried about ECT interfering with his memory. He lives in his head, not his heart, and for him to lose any of his memories, he said, would be like losing the things he owns: his car, his waterbed, his crystal collection, his books. They are more important to him than people. (e.g., he hasn't spoken to his closest friend in two years.)

Doctor suggested, and I agreed, to set up a memory journal with him, against which he could cross-check himself after each ECT session. ("cross-check" is one of his favorite expressions)

Yesterday he and I sat down, I with pen in hand and yellow pad, ready to record. What was his #1 memory he wanted to keep? The first thing on his mind was the current grievances against the VA and what he wants to do about them (he lives for this kind of fight).

I reminded him that these are ephemeral, short-term memory items, which would probably be lost in the near future anyway, as life moves on. What he should record is deep memories--life events and people who have touched him and changed him (as if that would ever happen) and which constitute his life history.

So he started with a list of names and dates--many of the dates he could not remember exactly, even now before the ECT. I pointed that out and said not to freak out if after the ECT he can't remember the exact dates, because he can't remember them now.

Once again, I prompted him. What major events in your life have made you the person you are, would constitute a history of your life? He really didn't know what I was talking about and kept giving me names and dates, pretty disconnected, as far as I could tell. I had to remind him to include his first two wives. He never mentioned mother or father or brother.

Certainly is a different memory journal from the one I would write if I were in his position (see AUTOBIOGRAPY to the left for a sample). And, believe me, a list of current grievances would not even occur to me to record as important memories.

How different we are!

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