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Posts Tagged ‘Viktor Frankl’

Yesterday, my memory crashed on the word mylar. The word popped into my head and I had no idea what it was or why I was thinking about it.  Last week I couldn’t remember Victor Frankl.  I had to look both of them up on the internet.  Mylar, it turns out, is a sort of polyester film.  I still don’t have a clue as to why it popped into my head.   Victor Frankl is a different story.  I was mapping out a lecture on philosophy* at the gym and was trying to explain Existentialism in a way that would grab my students’ attention.  With so much focus on death and meaning, Existentialism isn’t the most cheerful philosophical position, but Victor Frankl’s psychological theory brings Existentialism into perspective, especially when explained through his experience in the Nazi death camp.  I could lay out the basic elements of his psychological theory, but his name eluded me.  I finally had to look up the title of his book, Man’s Search for Meaning on the internet to retrieve his name.

A few years ago, memory gaps like this seemed insignificant.  They were frustrating but short lived.  I would think about Joseph Gusfield’s work on the temperance movement (he wrote Symbolic Crusade:  Status Politics and the American Temperance Movement) but couldn’t retrieve his name from my memory bank on the spot.  A few moments or hours later, I’d remember Joseph Gusfield and life would go on.

That was before it really sunk in that my mother had Alzheimer’s.  Now, I freak out when I forget things like mylar, Victor Frankl and Joseph Gusfield because I think it might be a sign that I am developing Alzheimer’s like my mother did.  I know that adult children whose mothers have Alzheimer’s have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s themselves.  And there doesn’t seem to be any conclusive research on how to avoid or prevent getting Alzheimer’s (other than dying young – before the plaques and tangles form in the brain – not a desirable “cure” in my book).  I know that it’s silly, but I try to keep the memory loss at bay by looking up the words and names that I can’t remember and repeat them over and over.  Sometimes it feels like my life depends on being able to remember Victor Frankl and the other things that slip my mind.

I remember how depressed Mom became when she got the results of her psychological evaluation.  Her father had had dementia and she had seen how it affected him.  By the end, he was sort of like the living dead.  She saw the future she was headed for and there was no comfort to be found.  My memory lapses give me a similar glimpse into my future and I am terrified.  I am afraid that someday, like her, I won’t be able to remember things and will be frightened because I don’t know where I am, frustrated because none of my clothes fit anymore and depressed because I have no motivation to do anything but sit around and nap.

*By day, I’m a college professor.

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