The Mad Cow - I Have It

Thursday, January 3, 2008
For those of you who don't watch Boston Legal, there's a character in the show named "Denny Crane," played by William Shatner. Denny is advancing in age, and as he does so, his mential acuity has begun to slip, leading to many opportunities to write funny and touching scenes surrounding what a mess he is.

One of Denny's bits is whenever he makes a mistake, he just points to his head and says, "Mad Cow." Evidently, the symptoms of Mad Cow Disease are very similar to those of Alzheimer's, and Denny would much prefer to have the Mad Cow than Alzheimer's.

Well, I appear to have the Mad Cow, too.

When I was in my twenties, I had a mind like a steel trap. I didn't keep a calendar - my calendar was my brain, and I rarely forgot anything. This lasted until my mid-thirties, when I evidently contracted the Mad Cow. It started out slowly - I would forget tiny things, like the details of a conversation, but would remember once other aspects of the conversation were repeated. As the years have progressed, my mind has come to more closely resemble a sieve than a steel trap, and damn, does it suck. I can't remember shit. I have to keep a calendar for both my personal and professional commitments. I chronically forget people's names. I can't remember the details of projects I work on. (To be fair to myself, that last one isn't entirely the Mad Cow - I work on hundreds of projects a month, so I keep design notes on each one to ensure I've documented my work.) I can't remember things my family members tell me.

That last one is the most frustrating. It's easy for them to interpret my forgetfulness as disregard, and so I try very hard to remember what they tell me. Unfortunately, I'm not always successful, and that makes them feel bad, which makes me feel bad.

Last year I finally went to see my doctor about it. She ran a battery of tests, and announced that my sieve-like memory was a result of "getting older." She made some recommendations surrounding "brain exercise," which I follow, but aside from that and cardiovascular exercise on a regular basis, there's really nothing to be done.

Swell. So now I need either Ponce de Leon or a BrainPal.

20 comments:

Nathan said...

I have never been able to remember names or dates, which sucks monkey-nuts in my business. I've scouted a Fortune 500 CEO's office and then run into the same guy later in the day and not recognized him. Talk about embarrassing.

On the plus side, I guess that will make the aging process go lighter on me, since you can't lose what you never had. Then again, since the Mad Cow has to go after something, maybe I'll forget how to count?

Janiece, Embrace your Mad Cow.

Janiece Murphy said...

Nathan, if it didn't negatively affect my personal relationships, I might Embrace my Mad Cow. But it does, and I hate that.

You may be right about the not missing what you never had, though. I clearly remember what it's like to have the steel trap mind, and now I get to experience the joy of the sieve. I'm sucking salt water over here, which is quite a trick in a land-locked state.

I need a BrainPal. I think I'll name her "Bug-Eating Bitch-Girl."

Cindi in CO said...

I swear to God, last year I actually forgot how old I am. I had to do the damn math. Ooookay.

Ain't middle age fun?

Janiece Murphy said...

Cindi, that's happened to me, too. I think I have it easier since I was born in a month divisible by "5," though.

And, no, middle age is not fun, thanks for asking.

Anne C. said...

I think part of the issue is also having to deal with increasingly complex issues. I don't know about you, but at work, when I was in my twenties, I was told what to do. Now, I manage a 32 story construction project.

But yeah, getting older sucks the big one. I can't even keep personal appointments straight. I've double booked twice in the past couple weeks.
My sister's memory has always been better than mine (good for a gal in HR), so my childhood memories have always been sub-par.
Thank goodness for PDAs.

Janiece Murphy said...

Anne, I don't have a PDA, and I don't want one. Mostly because I simply don't want to be that accessible.

Even if I did, though, I don't think I need one - I'm kind of a recluse, and I think PDA's are of more benefit to people "on the go." Since I only go from one floor of my house to another on most days, it's not really an issue.

Signonthedottedline said...

Uh... what did you say your name was?

Janiece Murphy said...

My name is Zelda Savage, proprietress of that fabulous website, Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men and master of the Hairy Eyeball™...

What?

Jim Wright said...

I have a slightly different aging problem - I can remember everything, and always have been able to. I can recall obscure facts, books I've read - some thirty years ago - nearly verbatim. I remember everything about conversations, smells, sounds, and the context. I rarely forgot anything. But as I get older - I find I have a harder time saying certain words. It's called vocal aphasia and it pisses me off. I can see the word in my mind, I can feel it in my mouth, and I can't say it. My dad is the same way. Nothing to be done about it - it's just a sign of middle age.

Up until recently I spent a great deal of time teaching and lecturing, sometimes in front of a 1000 people or more. Never had a problem. But in conversations afterward - arrgh. And it's especially bad in casual conversation. Drives me bats.

Janiece Murphy said...

Jim, there are certain words I've just had to strike from my lexicon because I simply can't pronounce them correctly, and I've found that using a substitute word is better than looking like a mook who can't say thing properly.

Is it like that? Or you just can't say the word at all?

Nathan said...

Mooooooo!

MWT said...

Heh, the inability to remember names and faces is a major problem at my fast-paced weekend takeout job. The busier it gets, the less I can remember who ordered what - and if the person leaves the store after talking to me, I'll sometimes completely forget I ever saw them when they come back. (It's even worse if they change clothes or somesuch in between.)

Then there are the times I do remember them, but misremember what they ordered. Oh the fun that ensues when I give them the wrong food and they drive off with it, only to have to bring it back and get theirs later, while meanwhile the kitchen has to cook things all over again.

Michelle K said...

I've always had a terrible memory for names, so I'm a star at holding conversations without using names.

My PDA (from work) is a life saver. Between my mental health appointments, my erratic teaching schedule, and my grandmother's medical appointments, I can't keep anything straight without my electronic calendar.

And if someone wants something, I pretty much do it immediately, otherwise I'll forget. The first couple times I did this my grandmother strenuously protested. Then when I didn't to (whatever) right away, I forgot. Then she stopped protesting when I did things immediately.

I think far more annoying than my memory slipping is bits and pieces of my hearing going.

Way too much way too loud punk rock in college.

Janiece Murphy said...

Michelle, that would be the joys of getting older. Or something. I'm losing my hearing, too, at least in certain registers - the legacy of Naval service.

Jeri said...

I have a Treo smartphone - combination phone and PDA. I don't find it too intrusive - and I leave it downstairs on the charger when I go to bed at night.

It's my not-very-stable Brain Pal. I've never named it, but I've called it many nasty things.

And yes, I often walk into the kitchen, wonder "Why am I here", shrug, and wander over and open the fridge. Bad, bad habit. Especially since the original errand was probably to go get the mailbox key.

But I can remember bizarre stuff, like most numbers I come into proximity with - like every SSN I've ever known, multiple previous drivers' license numbers, and the direct dial number for hundreds of folks at work. And books, obsolete news, geographical facts, science trivia, etc.

My hard drive is just fine - it's my RAM memory that is messed up. ;)

Jim Wright said...

Janiece, I can pronounce the word just fine - Aphasia is the inability to say the word. Sometimes I literally cannot get the word out. I don't forget it, I just can't say it, usually in the middle of a sentence. This only began happening as I got older, and like I said it happens to my Dad too. Fairly common in men, I'm told, and nothing to worry about. Just irritating as all hell.

Nathan said...

Janiece, Your life is charmed, indeed. Just when you were fretting over Jim stealing your subject for the next "Who Cares! Magazine", Britney goes off the rails again. Thank you world.

Janiece Murphy said...

Jeri, maybe I need to upgrade my RAM...

And Nathan, Britney who?

Anne C. said...

I don't have a PDA, and I don't want one. Mostly because I simply don't want to be that accessible.
It sounds like you're talking about the emailing feature that so many people use nowadays. I don't use that function 'cause I'm too cheap to pay for the internet connectibility.
Mine's just a jumped up calendar, address book, and notebook. It is, however, much smaller than the Daytimer organizer that I had previously, so my purse can be smaller. Yay!

Janiece Murphy said...

Anne, small purses are the bomb. I carried an enormous purse for years until my back started to curve. Now I limit myself to a very small bag in order to spare my back.