Sense Memory and Houlihan’s Baked-Potato Soup

A June of 2013, I decided to halt ECT treatments. I had at least 19 treatments in about 10 weeks and it seemed it wasn’t really working. I would go back to being suicidal after a few days. It also seemed like it was negatively affecting my memory. I wasn’t really sure how bad it was, but my husband seemed to be concerned. After a month or so, it became clear my memory was decimated. I had huge gaps going back to high-school and college. I couldn’t remember much of my younger daughter’s life. She was two and a half at the time it ended. I couldn’t remember places I had been, people I had known, and a very awful truth – I could not remember if certain people were still alive or had passed during my fog. I also forgot how to do my very complicated, technically precise job. I was left feeling very hollow, a shadow who walks, talks, and takes care of kids.

The doctors said it should come back within 2 months. It didn’t. I was even more depressed and 13 months later, I’m still putting my life back together. Things do come back now and then and when it happens, it hits like lightning and then sort of a short movie reel on each particular topic follows. Maybe I’m watching Orange is The New Black and I’m reminded of my college girlfriend. Or I see a Facebook memorial post and I remember someone died, the funeral, the sadness. It’s really hard walking around not knowing what you know. I’ll say, “I’ve never done that before” and the room goes quiet, awkward glances all around. Then I realize, I have done that and everyone knows it but me. It’s pretty embarrassing and very disheartening. I feel good these days but am still constantly reminded that there is a loss lingering there. Our past experience is an enormous aspect of our identities.

The other day we went to Houlihans for the first time in…. a while. (I physically can’t remember when I was there last and I refuse to constantly view my life through my husbands eyes. I am ME. His memories are not me so I’m not going to ask.) I recognized the sign and the inner decor looked familiar. I didn’t know if it was family friendly and we had the kids with us so I was a bit nervous. I looked at the menu and nothing really triggered. Then the waitress mentioned the soup of the day. And it hit me: the movie real of going to Houlihans with my husband and, more often, with my best friend flashed through my mind’s eye. I got so excited. I could smell the deliciousness and taste it in my mouth. I ordered it and waited for it to arrive, all the while remembering more clearly. A fuzzy picture in my mind of life in our last town and how that was my favorite restaurant began to come into focus. I used to go there because it was close to my house and my driving anxiety was very bad back then. I started to feel the connections blending in my brain, remembering a bit of who I was before, how it felt, fundamentally to be inside myself back then.

The kids were misbehaving and we were talking about something shallow. But inside, I was getting a piece of my mind back. The soup came and it was all that I remembered… and so much more.