When the Old Computer Slows Down

John McManamy Health Guide
  • My head’s gone missing! I woke up from an afternoon nap yesterday and my brain wasn’t there.

    Let me explain. Often, in the afternoon, my brain will slow down like an old computer with a shot registry. A short nap is my way of rebooting the system. I wake up with the operating system back in order, and happily resume work.

    Yesterday, though, the reboot didn’t take. I had an evening meeting to attend and my head wasn’t there — only this empty space. Sometimes this happens when I wake up in the morning and I know it’s going to be one of those days.

    Now here’s the paradox: Try to explain your head not being there to someone when you have no brain to help you explain. Fortunately, my wife understands.
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    Cognitive dysfunction has been a long overlooked aspect of our illness, but it is beginning to receive a lot more scientific scrutiny. This year’s Sixth International Conference on Bipolar Disorder hosted by the Western Psychiatric Institute in Pittsburgh, Pa., devoted a whole seminar to the topic. The sad state of our frontal lobes is now fodder for numerous articles in psychiatric journals.

    Even in so-called well states, the lingering effects of our illness can greatly affect our ability to think and function. Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, Ph.D., of Harvard estimates that one-third of our population is affected by these impairments.

    But having a shot registry is not the same as having Alzheimer’s disease. In my case, working from home allows me great flexibility to work around my down times. Yesterday was a rare exception. The positive way of looking at it is I usually think way too much for my own good. No one who saw me last evening could accuse me of that.

    Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. This morning, when I woke up, I was once again as smart as Jessica Simpson. My head was there. I could think. I could function. Things the rest of the world takes for granted. To me, clarity of mind is a gift that I can’t afford to squander. Every minute counts.
Published On: December 05, 2005