After A Stroke At 33, A Writer Relies On Journals To Piece Together Her Own Story

Article continues after sponsorship

Shots – Health News
Strokes On The Rise Among Younger Adults

On having an “invisible” disability It was frustrating. So people also didn’t treat me any differently. When I told people that I was sick and I needed them to slow down, along with that came this need to explain my position and I … So it’s literally living in the moment. felt a lot of resentment for having to do with that. On experiencing depression during her recovery When I was in the hospital recovering I got literature that said that depression is a part of recovery from stroke … It was not pleasant for the people around me. “My doctors instructed me to log happenings with timestamps in my Moleskine journal. No. She remembers looking at the phone and thinking to herself: What is the phone number for 911? Days later, she learned she’d had a stroke. So it was quite pleasant. I couldn’t think of the past. … Hey, I’m going through a crisis. I was experiencing something that people go to yoga and Zen retreats to achieve. So it was very isolating. She talks with NPR’s Scott Simon about the silver linings of memory loss and the unexpected grief that came with her recovery. On the other hand, I was also privileged to be disabled in a way that wasn’t visible. On the one hand, you want people to know: Hey, slow down for me. When people get sick there’s a lot of grieving involved. and I remember thinking: What? That, they said, would be my working short-term memory. “I had a 15-minute short-term memory, like Dory the fish in Finding Nemo,” Lee wrote in a Buzzfeed essay chronicling her experience. Even when we have the flu we get bummed out about things we’re missing out on — the fact that we can’t get up out of bed, and our lost capabilities at that time. She was a writer who now couldn’t recall words or craft sentences. Suddenly, she could hold things in her mind for only 15 minutes at a time. Interview Highlights On what it’s like to have a 15-minute memory You don’t even fathom the magnitude of your loss — or at least I didn’t. I couldn’t plan for the future. My memento to my mori.” Lee used those journals to reconstruct her experience in a new memoir called Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember. She was 33, and her world turned upside down — as in, she literally saw the world upside down. Kristyn Stroble/Harper Collins

On New Year’s Eve, 2006, Christine Hyung-Oak Lee developed a splitting headache. I’m going to be so happy when my brain is better. But in that period of my recovery, where I couldn’t remember everything, I think I was incredibly at peace and happy. Christine Hyung-Oak Lee’s short fiction and essays have appeared in Guernica, The Rumpus, The New York Times and BuzzFeed. I had no regrets.