distilled cognitive impairment Monday, May 27 2013
On the walk this morning, I took Ramona and Eleanor down the lowest of our common trails, the one I call "Gulleys." At one of the places where the escarpment below the trail is at its steepest, Ramona suddenly pursued some sort of animal. That's not an unusual circumstance and is actually to be encouraged; the more running up and down that impossible slope she does, the less energy she has to expend being yarfy in the house. But then I heard her down there at the next terrace on the escarpment barking at something. That wasn't what I wanted to hear; what if she'd found another porcupine and hadn't learned from her experience with the last one? So there I was, charging down the mountain trying to find her. It took awhile to track her down, and it turned out that the critter she was pursuing was something in a small hollow tree. She was doing her best to dig through the wood one bite at a time, but at the rate she was going it would have taken several days and most of her teeth. But I let her do her thing; such lessons have to be learned on one's own.
The easiest way back up the escarpment was to via the Chamomile River, and soon after arriving at it, I happened to look down and see a tiny deer fawn curled up on the ground near a log (and not especially hidden by the undergrowth). The dogs were right behind me and I didn't want them to see it, but they kept going right by me, passing only a couple feet from the fawn without noticing. They must really be completely odor-free. They're also hard to see; I'd only noticed it because I've been on the lookout for oddities in the forest (indeed, yesterday I'd found a stray archery arrow with a vicious multi-bladed hunter's point). But when I tried to take a picture of the fawn with my digital video recorder, it was invisible in the unsaturated colors of the viewfinder, and I ended up pointing it in the wrong place.
The fawn in the trail.
Ramona trying to chew her way into a tree to get a varmint.
Given how few dead fawns one sees, this hiding strategy must be highly effective.
It was a nice sunny afternoon when Gretchen returned home from her five days at Blue Mountain Center. She'd had a good time and met some interesting people. There had even been a dance party at which Gretchen had danced for hours. Only two things had sucked: the weather (which had been even colder and drearier than here) and the cook (who had a passively-aggressive compulsion to make foods non-vegan even when it was easy not to do so). And then, and this might be related, there was the issue of food poisoning. It seems a large fraction of the participants during the five day mini-retreat found themselves suffering from debilitating stomach pains, but not Gretchen.
Not having awaken with a hangover this morning for the first time in days, I was feeling pretty good about things. But then something odd happened. Beginning at around 6:00pm, I felt as though I'd developed a cognitive handicap. When talking to Gretchen, I found it unusually difficult to call up the correct words. When telling her something, I'd forget what the dependent clauses had been at the beginning of a sentence by the time I'd reached its end. The difference between the way my brain normally functions and the way it was functioning tonight was so starkly different as to be frightening. I've had failings in my brain before, but it's always associated with some other feeling in my body, usually a hangover or the various other effects of a drug. The experience I was having tonight was of pure distilled cognitive impairment. In all other respects I felt perfectly normal. I was in no pain, my appetite was good, and my ability to move about and respond to stimuli was unaffected.
Naturally, I had to come up with some explanation other than "brain damage" or "sudden-onset Alzheimer's Disease." The best theory that my limited cognition could come up with was that this was the sole symptom of the semi-mythological "two day hangover." I've gotten drunk a lot in my life, but I can't remember any hangovers lasting more than a single day. For whatever reason, my hangovers are usually not anywhere near as bad in the morning as they become in the evening, and so it makes a certain amount of sense that if I had a hangover that somehow made it to the second day, it would have a second peak on the second evening. That the peak would manifest only as a cognitive defect is peculiar, but there are strong cognitive and emotional components to my hangovers. Physical discomfort is usually the least of it. Of course, it's hard to say definitively what was going on given that superimposed on all of this is the fact that I am also still adjusting to the absence of caffeine in my diet. Nevertheless, alcohol is almost certainly the culprit in this case.
Though I've had a lot of hangovers in my life, it's not normal for me to drink enough on the day of a hangover to postpone that hangover and lead to a second (and then perhaps even a third) hangover. My feeling is that drinking this way creates something of a snowball effect of trouble that the drinker is going to have to experience at some point. Last night's anxiety attack could have been one of those chickens coming home to roost.
It was interesting (and somewhat terrifying) to have a one-evening experience of cognitive difficulties. I could be wrong about this feeling, but it gave me a sense of what it's like to be a typical dopey American going through life one cheeseburger at a time. My posts on Facebook were less witty and their sentence structures were simpler. I couldn't come up with anywhere near the normal number of answers when Gretchen and I watched Jeopardy together. And then when we watched Sunday night's episode of Mad Men, the elaborate loomwork of its various threads mostly lay beyond my meta-comprehension, and I was left to enjoy scenes for their simpler pleasures, particularly the cleverness of the dialog. (I found that scene where Megan's boss' wife Arlene tried to make out with Megan particularly entertaining.) But if I should ever find myself mentally impaired like I was tonight, it might be best to stick with episodes of Revolution (which, in the absence of mental challenges, is unwatchable).