Lost But Not Lost

2I’ve been asked what it feels like to have partial amnesia, and my answer is always the same—it’s VERY FRUSTRATING!! There’s something really hideous about having your memories stolen from you. As awful as my amnesia was, when I became ill, it wasn’t the only mental battle I faced. The carbon monoxide poisoning and multiple chemical sensitivity really did a number on my brain. I had trouble concentrating, and my mind suddenly seemed wired incorrectly. When I would empty the dishwasher, I would be convinced that I was doing everything right, but later, I would find dishes in the oven and in the trashcan. It was like my mind was playing tricks on me. It was scary and very upsetting.

I was also having hallucinations. Light switches would creep up the walls and the waves in the ocean painting above my couch would move. I even saw a feathered frog jumping across my dresser and flying under my bed. I “knew” the hallucinations weren’t real, but they LOOKED real. I had to get on my hands and knees and peek under the bed to make sure it wasn’t infested with frogs.

3I think the scariest thing was the confusion. One winter day, I realized I was standing out in the middle of my front yard without a coat. I had no idea how I’d gotten there, and I had no idea how long I’d been standing there. It was the strangest feeling in the world. That feeling grew even worse when I was driving home one day and I became lost just a few miles from my house. Even though I knew that road like the back of my hand, suddenly nothing was familiar. Getting lost was more than scary—it was terrifying. When I finally found my way home, I faced the awful truth. I had to quit my job.

4There’s something soul-sucking about losing your independence. Turning over your car keys and giving up your paycheck. It hurts. It hurts really badly. It makes you feel very, very small and very, very insignificant. Each day, I felt like more bits of myself were being stolen. When I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I began to lose even more things. I couldn’t go to church. I couldn’t coach. I couldn’t go to the store. I couldn’t even write. Whenever I tried to pen a story, my words felt clunky. My sentences sat on the page like squatty lumps of clay. They didn’t flow—they didn’t make music. In a fit of rage, I yelled up at the ceiling, “You’ve taken everything, God! The only thing I have left is my cat!” That week, my cat was hit by a car. I felt striped down to nothing. Then the final blow fell. I couldn’t remember my past.

It was my brother who made me realize I had partial amnesia. One day he was talking about a trip I had taken. I couldn’t remember the trip at all. John has always been a bit of a practical joker, so I thought he was teasing. When he wouldn’t admit to the joke, I became angry. I would like to say that I handled the situation well, but I didn’t. I yelled at him. John didn’t say much, he simply showed me a picture, and the picture said it all. I had been on that trip—I just couldn’t remember it.

5Once Pandora’s Box was opened, there was no closing it. I began searching my memory and finding more and more black holes. There were whole years that had simply vanished. Questions began rolling around in my brain and haunting my dreams. Who was I??? If I couldn’t remember “Danele’s life” was I even Danele??? And If I wasn’t Danele, did I even matter? I had survived the carbon monoxide poisoning, but in many ways, I felt like “Danele” had died. And the person I had become wasn’t someone I liked very much. I wanted to “imitate” the person I had been before, but how could I? I couldn’t remember much about her. I felt so insignificant. I felt so lost. Somewhere around this time, I entered into quarantine and that didn’t help matters much.

14My amnesia sent me spiraling down into a gray funk, and when I hit the bottom, I was afraid I would shatter. But rather than breaking into a million pieces, I discovered I was stronger than I thought. Rather than buckling, I became very, very mad. I have a temper I try to keep under control, but in this case, my rotten temper came in handy. I figured that if I couldn’t remember who I was, I WAS JOLLY WELL GONNA FIND OUT!!!

17I marched into the garage and pulled all of my keepsake boxes from the rafters. I’ve always been a packrat, and I believe that my packrat tendencies were a blessing straight from God’s hand. He knew what was going to happen in my life, and He was preparing me for it. Since kindergarten, I’ve kept all my birthday cards, letters, report cards, photographs, school reports, and movie tickets. In a fit of black rage tinged with despair, I began sorting the snowdrift into chronological order and putting the papers into scrapbooks. By the time I was done, I had over 40 scrapbooks sitting in a prim row on a bookshelf. By the time I was done, I “knew” who I was even if I couldn’t “remember” who I was.

19I’ve been told that I’m pigheaded and stubborn as a mule. I think God made me that way on purpose. If I hadn’t been stubborn, I would have turned up my toes and given up. Instead, I began combatting my memory problems with every bit of gumption I possessed. I’m a former Bible Quizzer, and I used to memorize Scripture easily. But my illness had turned my brain into a spongey sort of sieve. Determined to get my mind back in shape, I spent a whole summer struggling to learn two verses of Proverbs. Since I couldn’t remember my college education, I began reviewing my old class notes and reading encyclopedias. And then I began studying college-level algebra. Math has always been difficult for me, and studying it again was like facing a giant. But I was determined to get my mind back. Each day I would struggle to learn pages of formulas. I would work until I had them down cold, but when I woke up in the morning, I couldn’t remember a single one. BUT I DIDN’T GIVE UP. Day after day, I keep memorizing those BLASTED formulas. Day after day, I kept struggling to learn those two verses. I was STUBBORN in my resolve. And eventually—slowly—it started to work.

18After years of struggle, I felt my brain beginning to unlock. Then, suddenly, I was able to memorize massive amounts of scripture. I began committing whole books of the Bible to memory. And as I focused on learning God’s Word, I began noticing other changes. I was starting to dream in color again, and I could see “shapes” in the clouds floating past my window.  Suddenly, I knew that my ability to write had been restored. Feeling almost breathless, I looked through my old short stories. There was one about a time-traveling student that I particularly liked. I had written it for a college creative writing class, and in the margin was a note from my professor saying that he thought I had a “sellable” idea.

Time TsunamiI still remember the anxious anticipation I felt when I sat down at my computer and began crafting my short story into a novel. The words that had been stolen from me, and pent up for so long, began flowing in an uncontrollable stream. I began spending 8-18 hours in front of the computer writing Time Tsunami. And when I finished it, I wrote its sequel, Time Trap. The words continued to flow, and soon I had four more books in The Time Counselor Chronicles finished.

As I continued to write, bits of my life came back into focus. I remembered my old trips. I remembered the fun times I had shared with loved ones. Birthdays. Weddings. Anniversaries. I remembered glorious church services and fun Bible Quiz trips. Slowly, I began to remember who I was. Like a fog rolling back from the shore, the amnesia left.

12I still have a few black holes in my memory, but they don’t really bother me much. In a strange way, I feel like I’ve been given a unique gift. I completely lost who I was for a while, and I had learn all about this “Danele” person in order to rediscover myself. I also learned an incredible lesson–no matter how incredibly “lost” I felt, I wasn’t really lost at all. God KNEW me—even when I didn’t know myself. And He loved me.

I’m not who I was before my illness, and I’m not who I was immediately after it. I’ve morphed into someone new. Someone with quirky tendencies and lots of flaws—but someone I like. I don’t know much, and I’ve had to relearn lots of what I once knew, but I do know this—we can never be lost to God. And no matter how hard the battle—or how horrible the odds—God can restore anything—even lost memories.

 

7“This is too glorious, too wonderful to believe! I can never be lost to your Spirit! I can never get away from my God! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the place of the dead, you are there. If I ride the morning winds to the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, your strength will support me.” Psalm 139: 6-10

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22 thoughts on “Lost But Not Lost

  1. Cherrilynn Bisbano

    I cried reading your testimony. What a horrible experience, at first. I had hints of memory loss due to fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue but I cannot begin to understand what you went through. Deep dark despair to Gods light and love. Thank you for sharing. We do serve a mighty God. I am looking forward to reading your book series.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Cherrilynn, thank you so much for your kind words! Losing part of my memory was very scary, but just as you said–we serve a mighty God. I have to smile when I think of my 40+ scrapbooks. Most people would have thrown all those papers away, but God knew that I needed them. As I was growing up, I just kept putting all of my paper clutter into boxes. And oh, those papers sure came in handy. They helped me figure out who I was. They made me feel a little less lost. Thank you so much for commenting, Cherrilynn! I can’t wait for you to read my books. I hope you will really enjoy them! 🙂

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  2. Wow! You have such an amazing, one-of-a-kind story! Every time you post we learn more about your challenges and more about the goodness and grace of God. You don’t just entertain though, and testify, you inspire. I love the idea of using a stubborn nature to fight against the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ Many blessings to you, because you bless your readers!

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  3. Danele, oh sweet friend, you have indeed gone through the fire, but like those three young Hebrew men, God indeed walked amid the flames with you…and you have no odor of singe or smoke for the glory of the Lord shines all around you. In everything you say and who you are, all honor, glory and praise goes to our Lord Jesus!

    Thank you for sharing your stunning story. My prayer partner says, “God gave you to just the right parents and developed in you all the characteristics He knew you would need for what He knew you were going to go through.” And you are proof positive that what The Word says and what my prayer friend confirms is truth. God says, “He will never leave us or forsake us.” And you are doing exactly what He instructed…being the vibrant voice shining forth a true representation of who He is–you are His witness! And you bless and encourage each one of us.

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    1. Dear DiAne, you are such a sweetheart! Thank you for filling my day with joy! You are right–all honor, glory, and praise goes to Jesus. My illness stripped me down and showed me my true nature. Without God, I’m a BIG mess–and I know it. The fact that I got through this is due to God’s grace and my family’s love. God really is awesome. He lifts us up when we don’t have the strength to rise, and He steadies as we walk. I’m so glad that I know Jesus–I wouldn’t have made it without Him!

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    1. 🙂 Thank you so much, Mary!!! I’m awfully glad that there was I reason I was created so stubborn!!! Now if I can only figure out the reason behind my klutziness and my tendency to overindulge on chocolate chip cookies!!! LOL!!! 🙂 Have a wonderful day, my friend!!! Thanks for encouraging me and making me smile!!! 🙂

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  4. Ann Ellison

    Another wonderful testimony to what God has done in your life. As you were describing what you were going through, I couldn’t help but tear up because you put words to what I feel like my Mom must have been going through with her battle with dementia. The funny thing was with as much as she did forget, she always remembered the scriptures she had memorized and the words to the hymns she had always song.

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    1. Dear Ann, thank you so much for your beautiful comment. I’m so sorry about your mother. That had to be extremely hard. When my mind was having difficulty, I fluctuated between knowing what I wanted to say but being unable to express it, and feeling like I was trying to think through a thick fog. However, the love of those around me always managed to get through. I could feel the love in their touch and hear it in their words. There is something powerful about love, and I am sure that no matter how bad your mother’s dementia, she was able to feel the warmth of your love too. It’s beautiful that she never lost the scriptures she had learned or the hymns she used to sing. It’s so comforting to know that God helps us retain our knowledge of Him even when we are incapable of retaining anything else. Thank you so much for sharing, Ann. Your comment touched my heart.

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  5. Danele
    Your story is intriguing, painful and victorious. I I surely hope that your experiences become a book. There are many people out thre experiencing some of what you did, and it would be a great encouragement to them.

    I am just completing a story of great loss from a benign brain tumor (removed by surgery) It is Halo Found Hope – by Helo Matzelle
    Delores

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Delores! It means a lot that you think I should write my experiences down and put them into a book. I’m glad you feel my experiences would encourage people. The book you are finishing sounds really good! I will have to check it out! I hope you have a wonderful day, and thanks again for commenting!

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    1. Thank you so much, Gay! God is so incredible! He really saw me through!! If my experiences can encourage someone else, then the pain was worth it. I hope you have a wonderful evening! Thanks so much for commenting!

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  6. Janis Putland

    Wow! What an experience. Praise our wonderful Lord that you came back from the bottom of the pit. Your testimony gives a great insight into what it must be like for those suffering from dementia. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re so welcome, Janis! Thank you for commenting!! Losing my memories was very confusing and scary. It made me feel grumpy, angry, and cheated. I felt “left out” when people talked about the past, and that often made me short-tempered. But it always made me feel better when my family expressed their love. It also made me feel better when my family showed acceptance for who I had become after my illness. I spent a lot of my time mentally beating myself up because I wasn’t as good, and smart, and fun, and interesting as I had been before. Knowing that “post-accident” Danele was loved just as much as “pre-accident” Danele meant more than words could say. Thank you so much for commenting! I hope you have a great day!

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  7. My dear Danele. I’ve read several postings about your bout with this terrifying
    loss of memory. Do you ever remember being married? 🙂 I’m sure you wouldn’t
    have forgotten that! 🙂 God certainly uses a number of nudges to take us to a place
    we can’t imagine. It’s frustrating not remembering little things, and I’m used to that!
    But large spaces in one’s life and having to rework everything. What an incredible
    ability to use your memory and Bible verses, algebra, and those books in the garage,
    to once again have a timeline of your life. I’m sure your books will speak to hearts
    and God will see the right people get them. I’m eager to read more. God Bless and
    keep your spirits up! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Diane, 🙂
      Actually, the picture I posted was of my sister’s wedding. In the picture, I’m the girl with long blonde hair in the green dress. I’ve never been married, but if I had been, I sure hope I would have remembered my husband. Wouldn’t that have been awful if I hadn’t??? In one way, it’s a blessing that I’m single–it would have been very difficult to maintain a healthy marriage during quarantine. What I encountered was a partial loss of memory. I knew who I was and who the people around me were, but many of my memories of events had faded or disappeared. For instance, I knew my brother had been married, but I didn’t have a clear memory of being a bridesmaid in the wedding. I’m so glad that as I have recovered, most of my memories have been restored. Sometimes I encounter black holes or gray areas where my memories are gone or fuzzy, but that is rare these days. And I have 40+ scrapbooks sitting on my shelf if I ever get confused. LOL!! The other thing I had trouble with was concentrating. My short term memory was shot. It took a lot of stubbornness to get my brain back in shape. Part of me wanted to curl up and forget trying, but the bigger part wanted to fight what was happening. I’m so glad that the “fight” part of me won!! 🙂 For the most part, I think I’m “normal” now. I forget some things, but not enough to worry me. 🙂 Thank you so much for all of your kind words. I’m glad that you are enjoying my writing and that you think my books will speak to people. I sure hope so. I want to be a blessing. Thank you again for your wonderful comment! It made me smile! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

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  8. Janice sisemore

    Wow, amazing story. So glad you survived and cannot wait to read your books. Also plan to read the blogs you have written in prior months. What a wonderful testimony

    Liked by 1 person

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