Amnesiac II: Life in the Third Person
Cut by: Davita Cuttita
It seems as though labels and identity are arguably things that many people take very seriously—things that consciously and unconsciously may shape who a person is, was or will become.
Arguably, it’s important for us as human beings to be able to openly state (whenever we wish) and follow-through with our systems of beliefs, ideas, sexual preferences, the types of movies or music we listen to, our style, the people we hang around with, and so on.
As an amnesiac, it’s difficult for me to sympathize but I can see where this is coming from.
My illness exists within the small percentile of people who do not get any worse but at the same time, they do not get any better. I’ve come to terms with my permanant circumstances and honestly, I try not let it bother me. Much like any other life-long illness, one tries to find a means by which to cope and live something resembling a normal life.
Can I ask a question?
How did you learn to be a person?
Or actually…should I say how did you learn to act like what we may commonly define to be a “person”? Better yet, how did you learn to acceptably act?
After my accident, I had no recollection of anything except for my name and birthday.
I had no idea where I lived, what country I was in, what year it was, who my family or friends were, where I went to school, what religion or sexuality I was, what my interests were, what I wanted out of the future.
If you can, imagine what it would be like to wake up in the emergency room, strapped down to a stretcher with restraints, with no identity and no memories—all you know is your name and your birthday.
I could hardly read or write and could barely manage to put coherent sentences together as my brain reeled from the shock of the impact.
Essentially, I was a blank slate in a then 19 year old, Black female body and had to be rehabilitated; reconditioned to fit into a world I did not understand nor care about.
You see, after my release from the hospital I had only one friend who would come visit me on a regular basis and take me outside. I was terrified of the outdoors; there was way too much unpredictability. My friend was very understanding though, she and I both suffer from mental illnesses so it was good to have someone to eat sushi and listen to digital hardcore with. Despite the fact that I had virtually no recollection of her, the good ambience was always there whenever she stopped by and she was always encouraging, fun and supportive. She’s probably one of the few people who truly understands me and although these days we don’t see eachother or speak very often, we still remain best friends.
After my accident, I basically did whatever the hell I felt like—the first thought that came to mind was the first thing I did, no questions asked and no regrets.
If I felt like sleeping on the floor, I’d do it. If I felt like smashing plates and putting holes into walls, I’d do it. If I felt like doing harm, I’d do it and I honestly did not care if anyone or anything lived to tell the tale or not.
Or, if I felt like watching the Cosby show and over-eating (my medication at the time put me in a constant state of starvation, so bad that I would cry and wish for death without food for a certain period of time)…well, I’d do that too. I was completely ruled by impulses.
I had no culture, no faith, no sexual drive, no ideas, no opinions, no memories, no loyalties, no goals and above all; no remorse. I did what the voices in my head/my impulses told me to do and that was that.
That’s another problem with head trauma: sometimes you hallucinate which makes the world look like Halloween every fuckin’ day and sometimes you hear/see things that really don’t exist and would probably be pretty damn evil if they did.
Naturally, it was only a matter of time before I was accepted to the psyche ward.
I’ll never forget being in what I describe as the “haze state,” the state where I wasn’t actually “around” but “somewhere else”. My eyes would gloss over and the impulses would make my hands busy and my mouth silent.
“…And you will be kept here until such a time you do not pose a threat to others or a threat to yourself” said the man in the white coat and that was that.
For the first 24 hours, I was placed under heavy guard with the “critically unstable” patients and for my brief stay totalling approximately 7 or 8 days in the ward (which felt more like 9 months) I was the youngest person. Of course, when my mom came crying and pleading into the hospital the next day, they moved me to where the people were a little more stable and even had freedoms such as sitting outside in the garden (surrounded by a 11ft tall metal fence) or buying a Tim Horton’s coffee upstairs at the hospital café. If you were really good, your family could come sign you out but like a library book, they had to return you by 9PM. Why? Well, if they didn’t the hospital would call the police.
I can’t speak for other people but my psyche ward experience was fairly mundane. I spent most of it heavily sedated doing word searches.
Yeah, you had people flip out at breakfast sometimes, since we were all running on the half-life of our meds by then. Two people were particularly keen on causing a scene regularly: tossing furniture, attacking nurses and screaming about how’d they’d decapitate you with a flaming sword or call a lawyer on the wardens citing attempted murder but…I was too busy eating cornflakes and talking to my schizophrenic friend (and his other personalities) to care. I had only one outburst during one of these tirades, albeit a quiet one. Something to break the silence I usually guarded throughout the day.
“Shut up motherfucker, I’m eating cereal.”
This was supposed to be the more “normal” area. At least the “dangerous” people had the common courtesy to make pleasant meal time conversations.
I was so glad to be out of that place with its small, bland meals and shitty decorating. Plus my roommate snored.
When I learned how to act appropriately, everything was so objective and text book. I loved it. It made sense. For the first time in a long while, I could finally make sense of myself and how to live by simply doing it objectively and thinking about issues in the 3rd person before I did anything.
I went to therapy for almost a year. After I re-learned to read and write coherently I read books on social interactions that explained things like handshakes, smiling, personal space, hugs, romance, friendship and different kinds of gestures and what they meant. If I forgot, I could just pick up the book again. It was a nice little people manual.
“You can’t attack people in public, Davita,” said the Kind Anger Management Lady.
“Think about it objectively for a moment. What would be the consequences?”
“That person would get hurt…”
“And if you hurt them, then what?”
“Uh…maybe I might go to jail,”
“Do you want to go to jail?”
And so forth.
Oh! Objectivity divine, let me count the ways!
I still perceive most of my life in an *almost*—but not quite—detached manner by continuing to map out my thoughts and behaviour in the third person. I remember a common complaint to my neuropsychologist:
“I’m on autopilot,” I’d say.
“Your tests have indicated you have a dare-devil, sky-diver type personality. You’re a rule breaker!” he told me once.
My mode of perception is not necessarily something I WANT to do, but it is something I HAVE to do because I’m really trying not to go back to the hospital or to more therapy or anything else. I’m kinda wondering how effective it is if I can sit outside it and examine it this way…huh.
I still have little to no recollection of most people in my past life and events. Many people in my life nowadays tend to be very understanding of this fact, and I’m thankful for their patience, honesty and forwardness with me.
Your feelings are hurt. Argument understood, please show your work. It is due tomorrow or even at best now, not next month or next week. I don’t like letting things fester, bad for objectivity. If something festers, it gets thrown in the garbage, that is logic. That’s how I roll.
Generalization. Non-factual, illogical. Please cite sources and de-generalize.
I have witnessed quite a few Profs in the University setting striving to beat them out of students all the time. I cannot claim to not be able to generalize; however, because I don’t have a set of experiences to fall back onto to generalize from, it is almost impossible for me to generalize in the first place—it’s a challenge. Everything is taken on a case by case basis for me because it’s the only way I can sensibly understand the world without any memories.
And let’s not forget that generalizations and theories are two different things. I actually kinda like some theories.
I am a fact worshipper, I admit. I love the word and I love objectivity.
It’s not that there isn’t room for fun and spontaneity and it’s not that I don’t have feelings but I only know these things because I read it somewhere and there was a nice little psychological explanation on the need for fun and recreation followed by an explanation of the chemical processes and hormonal/glandular secretions that take place during fun or other emotions and their positivenegative impact on the body. Quite logical, easy to follow and easy to remember if read enough.
Opinion: People who don’t know right from wrong and refuse to argue for a difference between the two are people who’ve never been to Hell.
So what saved my life? One word: perfectionism. *cue angel chorus*
My adamant belief that I could be better and do better and recover if I kept pushing myself against all odds.
And sometimes, I may tremble on my knees because of it…but at least I’m still alive, at least I can say I tremble…
As I, Object remain “standing in the shadows at the end of my bed”…