I Got Amnesia From a Brain Cyst and Lost a Full Year of Memories
A recent move in the midst of the pandemic brought on stress, which triggered the worst symptoms of my condition.
Many times I wished for a do-over, to be able to change an action, a situation. To forget. I never thought it would happen, and now I feel stuck in a life I don’t know how to fix, and I can’t tell if it will survive, just like (some of us) have survived COVID.
I woke up to a life that didn’t feel like mine. A strange room filled with pictures of me next to a man I had just met—a different bed, a different house. I got up and walked through a hallway following the sound of cups and someone yawning—the man I had seen in the pictures. It all felt like an out-of-body experience, trying to connect the dots as if it was a virtual reality game and I had to find the answer without any clues.
My son. I have a six-year-old. Where was he? All I knew is I had driven back home from Houston from a wonderful getaway weekend with the man in those pictures, our second date. His eyes finally met mine when I noticed him sitting down at the table drinking coffee. Clearly, there was something going on and I didn’t know about it. I started feeling dizzy; my head was spinning. As I headed back to the bedroom, he followed. I sat down on the bed, and the words came out of my mouth: “Where am I?” My reality was different to what I was living. I woke up thinking it was February 23, 2020. Well, hello February 16, 2021.
My Vision Issues Were Due to a Brain Cyst
A full year of memories lost. I had fallen in love with this man, a pandemic that we still live through had started, and yet I had missed it all. Face mask mandates, the shortage of cleaning supplies, people losing their jobs, businesses closing left and right, curfews, virtual learning, people dying. I was considered an essential employee and was one of the lucky people that not only kept her job but got promoted. I resided in McAllen, Texas, then got a new position in Nashville. And COVID had shut down Music City.
My son was now seven years old, and he loved this man that shared his life with us now, who had jumped into a relationship a year ago and started a new journey in a new state. As I listened to and watched photos and videos of which I had no recollection, I noticed a ring on my finger. Did I get married? All this new information felt like I had been connected to a file on the matrix and was on the constant upload for knowledge. I needed answers.
Back in 2016, my cardiologist and neurologist both wanted me to get a new full checkup. I had been inexplicably losing my sight for a couple of minutes while I drove, while I was in the shower, while I watched TV. I thought it was related to my early diagnosis of neurocardiogenic syncope ten years before, when I was a 16-year-old, extremely stressed about going to a university in a different state while my parents were sharing the news that they were getting a divorce. Now both specialists felt my vision problems were not related to my heart at all, and they were right. This was related to my brain, something that was considered of no harm, no danger and had been growing for God knows how long.
I Couldn’t Remember I Was Engaged to Someone
When I learned my first MRI had unveiled an arachnoid cyst, I was confused.
Is it a tumor? Does it need to be removed? Does it hurt?
No. It’s actually the most common type of brain cyst. Some are congenital, and others develop through a head injury or trauma. They don’t need to be removed unless they keep growing or your doctor believes it safer to be removed. They can cause terrible migraines, and their location and conditions may press on optic nerves, causing temporary loss of sight. They can also make you dizzy and nauseous out of nowhere. Mine was feeding off my stress, and it was well fed.
Back then, knowing emotions controlled the speed and growth of my cyst, antidepressants and mood regulators were prescribed left and right to keep going to work on a daily basis. Nothing felt real. It was as if I was on auto-pilot and I couldn’t actually savor and cherish life. I decided it was better trying to go all natural: yoga, swimming, meditation, living the zen life.
It had all been working out; there was no more passing out, no more throwing up uncontrollably or losing my sight. Until now, when Tennessee was my new home and COVID had taken the world and the people we loved. I was engaged to a man I remembered going out on a second date with and now lived with. He was the most supportive person ever, taking care of me, calling my parents to follow a “protocol” to something he hadn’t been exposed to before, setting up appointments for me to get new MRIs and blood work, taking conference calls with my team of doctors that were a country away.
He drove us to Alabama, to a place where they could have the results by the end of that day and be shared for a new diagnosis. And there it was—the cyst had grown. Now “2 cm transverse x 2.2 cm AP x 3.0 cm cephalocaudal,” reported to be inflamed and associated with headaches, nausea, vomiting, tremors, seizures and wait for it: memory loss. What had happened? What changed my zen way of living to the point I had lost a full year? Stress.
My Amnesia Is Hard to Understand, but I’m Making the Best of It
Little did I know, life with this man had broken me apart, and I had been trying to stitch myself back together for a while. Work was a pain, my new boss had a problem working with women, and my brain was aching for a break. I had bottled it all inside of me, and now I was paying the price.
Amnesia. My partner had gone all Google on me trying to find answers. Are the memories ever coming back? Is this going to happen again? What is the best thing to do in these cases? My doctors said it was all possible. I tried looking at things to trigger memories of my life before February with no luck. I gave up.
It has been hard to understand everything around me in this new world. Wearing a face mask in public is definitely a new experience I’m still trying to get used to. For now, I am back on my medication, therapy and a healthy lifestyle, hoping things will slowly come back but convincing myself they will within time. I can’t cling to the loss. I've decided on making the best of my now—on what’s to come.