Here are practical tips for easing the mental load that parents — and especially mothers — carry. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Here are practical tips for easing the mental load that parents — and especially mothers — carry. (Jennifer Bardsley)

How to call your mind back home after it has wandered away

Here are some tips for easing the mental load that parents — and especially mothers — carry.

It has been one month since I was diagnosed with transient global amnesia, and I am happy to report that my neurologist has given me a clean bill of health.

Transient global amnesia is when a person temporarily forgets their short-term memories but recovers almost all of them within 24 hours. In my case, my TGA happened while I was exercising on April 2 and I was diagnosed after I was rushed to the hospital. I have lost my memories of April 1 and 2, but recovered everything else. It is unclear what caused my amnesia to happen.

At my follow up appointment with my neurologist, he showed me my MRI and CT scan results and said they looked great. “You had a software crash, not a hardware failure,” he told me. That seemed like an apt metaphor because my brain felt like a computer that had glitched. It also explained the brain fog I was experiencing.

As a mother, that was crushing. I’m always thinking about my kids’ schedules, what to make for dinner three days from now, a teacher email I have to answer and when my dog needs his next dose of flea prevention medicine. My mental load is huge.

Physically, I was fine. I could hop on the Peloton and bike 60 minutes without any physical issue. My challenge was following the instructor’s directions. I had to concentrate in a way that I had never had to concentrate before. My mind-body connection was weak.

From what I’ve learned from chatting with other TGA patients, brain fog is common after an episode and usually clears up on its own. I wanted it to clear up as fast as possible, so I searched for ways to make that happen.

I decided to use the computer example to help me. When a software program makes your computer crash, you boot it up again. Then you run diagnostics to figure out which apps are using up too much energy in the background. You delete old files and clean up your desktop so it’s easier to navigate.

For me that meant a lot of things. I became vigilant about writing down my to-do list in my planner. That way I could transfer the mental load of things I needed to remember to paper. When someone spoke to me, I stopped what I was doing so I could really listen. While driving, I turned off the radio so I could focus on the road. I bought a fancy smartwatch with a GPS locator on it and fall-detection alert. I gave myself a strict bedtime schedule so I would wake up adequately rested in the morning. I also limited my use of screens — including the television — at night so that my mind could rest.

The most important thing I’ve done is recommit to focusing on the present moment, which can be hard for parents to do.

I never understood how important the present was until my mind wandered away from it. People tell me that during my amnesia I kept asking: “Where am I?” “What am I doing?” “Why am I here?” Those are questions I now use to keep myself grounded. Anytime I catch myself worrying or daydreaming, I ask myself those questions to refocus.

The future is full of things I can’t predict, the past has things I can’t change, but right now is what I have the capacity to enjoy. This present moment is worthy of my attention, and I won’t take it for granted again.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

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