Random Reminders of Old Memories Can Trigger Powerful Emotions

Michelle Gonzaba avatar

by Michelle Gonzaba |

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Memory is a funny thing. From vivid recollections to those we barely remember, the most random memories can invoke the strongest emotions.

Sometimes a certain image or noise will prompt a memory from long ago.

I have plenty of memories of my myasthenia gravis (MG) journey, but one of the strongest is also one of the weirdest. Who knew that a romantic comedy from the early 2000s could prompt such strong emotions?

About 10 years ago, I suffered a myasthenic crisis that sent me to the intensive care unit. While lying in the ICU, I was frightened and anxious, along with nearly every other negative emotion you can imagine. I was also bored out of my mind. I don’t mean to trivialize the situation, but most of my time there was very dull.

For almost two weeks, I lay in bed and moved my eyes between the ceiling, the walls, and my feet. I understand why it was so monotonous: My lungs, supported by a ventilator, and the rest of my body needed time to rest after the crisis. When my family was around, time went by much faster, but they were only allowed short visits during the day. Without any distractions, my brain went into overdrive with stress and anxiety. 

Around my fourth day in the ICU, I finally saw a chance for distraction. Attached to some kind of metal arm, a small television hovered above my head. I weakly grabbed it and dragged it to eye level. In that moment, I realized that television would be my savior, as it always had been.

But my hopes were dashed when I hit the power button and discovered that the hospital had the world’s worst cable connection. I hit the side of the TV (Ok, I weakly slapped it), but nothing changed.

Before I gave up, I tried a few more channels and found one that was partially visible. Finally, my savior appeared. His name was Hitch, but you may know him better as Will Smith.

With a feeding tube up my nose and a breathing tube down my throat, I watched the famous actor and rapper teach fellow actor and comedian Kevin James how to dance. I could barely make them out through the black-and-white noise on the TV, but for a few moments, I was completely distracted from my situation. I didn’t notice I was in the ICU, and I wasn’t freaking out about my ability to breathe on my own. I was just a young college student watching “Hitch on a busted TV. It was a good feeling. 

I wish I could say I always associate favorable feelings with that movie, but I tend to change the channel when I see it now. It no longer makes me feel good. It actually does the opposite. The second I see anything associated with it, I’m instantly reminded of the ICU.

It’s weird that something as random as a 16-year-old movie could have such an emotional impact on me. But I’ve learned that anything I associate with MG will always stir up some emotions in me, positive or negative.

Memories can be strong and overwhelming, but they’re helpful reminders of what we’ve overcome. For now, I must carry the burden of being emotionally triggered by “Hitch” for the rest of my life. At least I can watch “I Am Legend in peace. 

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Myasthenia Gravis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Comments

Carol A Ravelli avatar

Carol A Ravelli

I am finding that I am also having events of anger and fears that bring on the tears for no apparent reason, because I have always been a very positive person. I't is very reassuring to know that these emotions of fear and anger is is part of MG and I am not going crazy.

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Michelle Gonzaba avatar

Michelle Gonzaba

It's totally normal to feel angry while going through MG. I used to bury my emotions but I found that it's better to let it all out. Thank you for reading and I'm sending you good vibes!

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Barbara Smith avatar

Barbara Smith

I have intense reactions to hearing either the Wayfair home furnishings store jingle that played on commercials seemingly every 5 minutes on the ICU tv, and an unfortunately bombastic commercial for a video game called "Splatoons". Both of these are indelibly etched into my mind as the soundtrack to the myasthenic crisis that nearly killed me in 2015. I too was intubated and on a feeding tube. I'm pretty sure I have suffered from post ICU/Intubation PTSD since then.

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Michelle Gonzaba avatar

Michelle Gonzaba

Hi Barbara, I completely relate to your reactions. I also think I have post ICU ptsd and plan to write a column about that in the future. I hope you are doing well and thank you for reading!

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Bob Beckman avatar

Bob Beckman

It was very nice and helpful what you wrote, now knowing I am not the only one that feels this way. My trouble is my memory is too good. I am 73 and feel very lucky that my mg came on late in life. Being a man who hunted, fished and worked with his hands it’s hard to just stop everything and even harder for the ones around me too accept it.

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Michelle Gonzaba avatar

Michelle Gonzaba

Hi Bob. I completely relate to your experiences; it's hard to live a life so different than the one you had before. I wish I had something more helpful to say but I still struggle with the same things. I am so glad my column helps you feel a little less alone in these feelings. Writing it definitely helps me process my experiences. Thank you for reading!

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Lou Venema avatar

Lou Venema

What you are experiencing is simply PTSD. It is something that can, and should be, treated. I had PTSD long before I was diagnosed with MG. Talk to your doctor and get a referral to someone who can help. Treatment is available that can help you deal with these memories and reduce the effect they have on you. Good Luck.

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Michelle Gonzaba avatar

Michelle Gonzaba

I totally agree Lou. I've spoken to a few people but am still searching for the right therapist. I've definitely had more than a few experiences with PTSD but it gets better with time. Thank you for your message; it not only helps me but other readers as well. Thanks for reading!

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