Bad Place, USA

The other day I paid a visit to Bad Place, USA.

Have you ever diagnosed yourself with a degenerative neurological disorder? What about an arteriovenous malformation?

Neither had I, until this fall.

I spend a lot of time everyday thinking about cognition. Thinking about thinking if you will. I test my patients’ cognition and train their cognition and discuss their present levels of cognition with them. I speak to their cognitive ability at team meetings. Sometimes I dream about cognition.

I basically do this to people all day long. Changing lives, fighting the good fight.

Cognition is really just a fancy term for thinking. It refers to your long-term memory and your short-term memory and all your different kinds of attention. Your problem-solving and deductive reasoning skills. Your mind, body, and soul ­- minus your body and soul.

You never really think about this stuff until you spend all day with people with impaired cognition. I spend most of my time giving my patients calendars so they’ll remember what day it is and trying to get them to maintain a topic of conversation for more than three seconds. It can be draining and hilarious, all at the same time.

All this to say, my awareness of cognition is heightened. I’ve never googled “impaired cognition,” but I pretty much have the hypothetical search results lodged in my memory.

A couple Friday’s ago, I developed a migraine at work. (This is not atypical for me. If we’re ever in the same room and you see me sort-of squinting at nothing, chances are the left side of my head hurts.)

It’s not usually a big deal. But that same afternoon, I was feeling kind of out of it. I looked down at some exercise sheet I’d printed off for a patient- a list of words to be unscrambled. For a good minute, I couldn’t turn the jumbled letters into a word.

Panic set in.

I’ve found that, when you’re an anxious person, sometimes the less you know, the better. I love reading about weird disorders and the crazy shit that our bodies do. But if I’m ever not feeling 100%, I never ever ever, google it. No matter how badly I want to. When Hannah texted about some stomach infection she might have, I immediately texted her back with a resounding “DON’T GOOGLE IT.”

(Then I googled it for her. Because that’s what friends are for.)

I’ve developed a formula based on this theory. (It’s super mathematical and theoretical, prepare to have your socks knocked off.)

Anxiety + Google = bad place

That week, three things happened.

  1. I missed my exit on the highway on the way home. By like, 10 miles.
  2. I looked at a puzzle for one of my patients and for a minute I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure it out.
  3. I developed an intense, focal migraine at work.

And just like that, I was sure I was going to die. This was a mini-stroke for an arteriovenous malformation that had laid dormant for years and my cognition would forever be impaired.

On the way home, I called Hannah and told her about my imminent doom. “I went straight to the bad place, Hann. I’m in Bad Place, USA. Population me.” She laughed at me real hard.

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