Hello all. I’m a college student currently on medical leave. I am suffering from a perplexing assortment of neurological/cognitive symptoms that are completely demolishing every aspect of my life, not the least of which are my academic pursuits. I am having increasing difficulty quantifying my cognitive impairments in any practical or clinical terms. I have been diagnosed with and extensively treated for both ADD and Severe Depression for approximately five years: neither of which produced any positive results. I have also attempted alternative treatments for over a year with a similar lack of results. The simplest and most concise description that I can provide is that 90% of my waking life my mind is blank: completely devoid of mental activity. It is a constant struggle of mine to maintain any form of awareness. Additionally, my short term and long-term memory function at nearly amnesiac levels and my ability to focus and (simply put) think are at an atrociously low level. Due to my cognitive impairments the best way I can describe my subjective experience is through exposition. So here goes. I apologize beforehand for its lack of brevity.
The ADD mind, to the best of my understanding, is racing with thought. The struggle with the ADD mind is finding a way to focus all that random mental activity into a more productive stream of consciousness. My brain on the other hand is not racing with thought, as matter of fact it’s quite the opposite; my brain has a complete absence of mental activity. This subjective experience is hard for me to quantify or explain; but almost all the time my mind is completely blank, like a zombie. In a sense, I’m mentally catatonic, like someone gave a computer the wattage of a light bulb: just enough energy to give the appearance of awareness. Every moment I’m awake is a struggle to maintain some form of consciousness. Sometimes, I have to talk out loud to myself to even maintain any level of cognitive activity because my mind is so dead. When not stimulated by copious amounts of caffeine, loud music or the constant novelty of the Internet (not articles or anything intellectual, mostly videos or image boards) I “zone out.” My mind is completely empty; there is no thought whatsoever.
The thing is, I encounter brain fog when I TRY to think (to rise from my constant state of no-thought). When I attempt to stimulate thought, I experience a pressure (almost a headache) on my head like a parasite is squeezing my brain, and my thoughts are cloudy and distant. It almost feels like my head is swimming. So I literally struggle with anything that requires cognitive effort. I can barely function or take care of myself. From basic tasks: washing clothes or dishes, cooking, and sometimes even focusing on brushing my teeth offer a pretty steep mental challenge for me. Video games, and reading are far too hard for me and socializing is a nightmare. Even watching a film, listening to a song, or watching an episode of a TV show all the way through is challenging. Shopping is a nightmare as well; I get lost in the store and I can never find what I’m looking for. In conclusion, my mind is always blank, I always feel cognitively exhausted, and I never ever feel lucid, awake, or even alive. I’m lucky my parents still let me live at home. There is no way I could survive on my own.
Just sitting and doing nothing is agonizing and the days stretch on into eternity. I’m always tired, but that being said I have trouble falling asleep every night. I feel like a stranger with no access to my own mind, all cognitive usage is locked from me. I feel much more mentally retarded than I do ADD, and each day is a struggle because the inside of my head is an empty void, like a dark cave with no light. The aforementioned zombie metaphor is quite apt, as I’ve had Co-workers and Managers (in my short lived attempt to make money in the fast food business) assume that I partake of narcotics due to my vacant countenance and struggle with cognitive tasks and learning simple skills, though I haven’t touched any illegal drugs (even pot) with a ten-foot pole. I don’t even drink.
So the thing is, I’m always bored. Nothing really interests me because any thought is cognitively exhausting. When I lived in my dorm at college, I would just sit in my room all the time because I didn’t know what to do. There are times I feel that if I did not have general ever-present anxiety I’d just be a vegetable.
This brings me to my memory issues (both short and long term); which are devastating. I can’t remember anything: peoples’ names, street names, (I cope by habit of instinctively remembering where to turn) directions, sports teams or players, what I said or did the other day, how to spell words, or anything from my past as well such as vacations or past experiences. The few things I can, with great effort, remember are simple things. I can’t remember people’s faces, things that happened to me or that I have read, as a matter of fact I have no mind’s eye whatsoever. I can’t picture anything in my head.
I’ve had these symptoms to some degree my whole life. I’ve coped thus far through habit. I always knew there was some sort of cognitive gap between my (very few childhood) friends and I, but I coped by being a joker. I couldn’t think or remember things, and make by (and still do) with goofy parody of myself etc. I always thought I was just lazy; it never occurred to me that I avoided anything requiring cognitive effort because it was hard for me. Plus the fact that I was homeschooled until college allowed me to continue deluding myself due to a lack of social context, and the comforts of near complete isolation.
In conclusion, I get frustrated with almost anything I do. I can’t understand anything because I can’t think. I feel like I have no past, no connection to the present, and no future.
If any of you have heard of any disorders that even somewhat resemble my description it would be greatly appreciated. I’m not looking for diagnoses, or answers but leads. I want the right questions to ask. In my research thus far, the closest disorders I have found that match my symptoms (especially the suppressed awareness and constant cognitive confusion) are physical neurological defects such as Meningitis or Encephalitis, Neurological Seizures, or some form of Pre-frontal Cortex Decay.
Thanks for reading this :)
P.S. It has been suggested to me by some that I may be suffering from the ambiguous disorder known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, yet this as well does not seem to fit my experience. My struggle is less of staying awake, but more of a struggle against my severe cognitive lethargy that would pull me back into my natural state of no-thought.