Losing The Narrative

Patrick Ryan recalls the harrowing experience of having a "grand mal" seizure, which erased almost all of his memories from the month surrounding the incident:

I knew I was a person who had legs and arms and a heart and a throbbing head, I knew my own name and the name of the President and what year it was, but I couldn’t remember my personality or anything about the recent past. And this is what very few novels or movies have ever gotten right about amnesia: it’s not exotic; it’s horrific and sad-making. I was sad because I had no story.

Elizabeth McCracken, in her novel The Giant’s House, wrote, ‘Babies have no plot.’ Post-seizure, I was a plot-less baby. I ached to remember what my job was. I ached to remember if I had any preferences, any passions, any tragic flaws. I ached to remember if I was a nice person or a mean person, a criminal or a hero. There was nothing exotic about it; I was profoundly depressed because I had no sense of myself, other than as someone glued to a hospital bed.