Thursday, November 15, 2018

A Strange Absence

This past Thursday was quite something else. It had rained heavily all night and was still raining when I went for my morning walk. It was also 36 degrees F and due to the extensive rain, there were puddles (ie, rushing streams of water) where there normally aren't. Which meant that I stepped in all the puddles. Every time I started to get sensation back in my feet, I stepped in another cold, deep puddle. (It doesn't help that it's dark; but I can see enough to see most of the puddles. It's just when they cross the entire street you don't have much choice.)

Then when I drove to work, still in the dark, (6:15-6:30 am), three fairly critical traffic lights had no power. The only way I got across the 7 lane road was because people stopped for me. And there weren't that many people on the road at that hour--I wasn't expecting such difficulty. But the third light was a three-way road. I was going straight in the right lane. Two lanes from the joining road turn left into that lane and the one next to me. I thought the people ahead of me had been going through the intersection so I followed, unable to see the gray giant pickup truck making a left turn, due to the angle he was at (I couldn't see headlights or taillights so he vanished into the rain). Although we didn't collide or even have to swerve (he just bent his turn sharper so as to turn into the left lane rather than the lane I was in) I was immensely surprised he didn't beep at me. 

Once I was at work I was informed that there was a critical sample we had to run dissolution and assay on. But it was not even being coated yet and they were having trouble finding the raw materials. But we'd have to stay no matter how long it took. This kind of uncertainty sets me into a near panic. But I was at work and had to remain calm, or at least not go into total meltdown.

Which led me to snap at a coworker who doesn't speak much English and has appeared to give up trying to learn any more of it. He consistently makes life difficult for himself, work-wise, and that has a ripple effect making life difficult for his coworkers. And he does this because he will NOT tell you if he doesn't understand your explanation. I think it's cultural but it's irritating and it's been going on for several years and I rather lost it. It wasn't the worst "lost it"--I wasn't screaming at him or anything, but I felt really bad about it.

We come to the reason for this post. My cousin C-- who is a brain trauma nurse said I should write it down while it was still fresh (it's Sunday as I write this; oops). 

I was in the write-up room, checking a notebook. Coworker A-- was beside me, searching through the stability sample box for her samples for the day. Coworker J-- came in and saw the room was full. This is a tiny room. There is only space for two people side by side in chairs to write up, and the width of the space between counters is the same width as the door. So J-- had to turn sideways to get past the back of my chair and reach past me, quite close, practically leaning over me to grab the one folder he needed to check. 

This is normal. I'm used to it. But I'm always hyper aware of everyone around me lest they accidentally come in contact with me. I hate human contact, physically. Even brushing against my shoulder clothing-to-clothing makes me shudder and have to physically wipe the feeling away with my hand (which I make myself wait until the offending other human is out of sight range so I'm not too awfully insulting). 

J-- takes the folder and leaves the room (he's mildly claustrophobic with a lot of people in a small space--I don't know if there's a term for it because it's not the small space; it's small spaces with people in them). Obviously he's planning not to have the folder for long. He's a considerate guy and has worked here long enough to know other people will need the folder.

In fact I did; the next folder I came to was supposed to be that one. So I skipped over it and checked the rest of the notebook. I was a little surprised that he hadn't brought the folder back yet. I went to look for him to ask if he was done with it yet, figuring maybe he'd gotten side-tracked by a supervisor (they do that sort of thing).

When I found him (and it took a few minutes), he said he'd put it back. I said, oh, I guess we must have crossed paths then--you put it back while I was out here looking for you.

He gave me a puzzled look and said, no, you were there. 

My world just kind of stuttered to a halt for a second. Huh? I was? 

I asked him if he was sure, which got me another puzzled look and a confirmation. He kind of joked about it, said he must have been being really sneaky. 

I was still stunned. I have no memory of that. He came in, that close to me, putting a folder back, his arm reaching past me, leaning over my shoulder practically, and I don't remember???? There's no vague memory triggered by his words. Nothing. It's a blank space. 

There is no way I was so absorbed in what I was doing that I would fail to notice. Checking just isn't that hard, or that engaging. 

The way I see it, there's three possibilities. One: J-- and I have worked together in the same lab as coworkers for over ten years. He's always been very respectful of my "no touching" rule and has even gone out of his way to make sure he doesn't accidentally come into contact with me. Perhaps I simply was unaware that I trusted him enough not to have his presence consciously register with me.  

Two: The sensory stress of the day had me so overwhelmed that I didn't have brain space left to process his return (which was, admittedly, something I expected to happen).

Three: I had an absence seizure.

I'm really hoping it's one of the first two possibilities. But I have a cousin's daughter and an aunt, both on the same side of my family, with absence seizures. So I'm trying to gather data but as it turns out, it's hard to determine if you're having absence seizures when you live alone with pesty cats. (Animals can sense oncoming seizures and interrupt them.) And likely I'm only having them under stress, which would be only at work. 

There are tests but the main one involves being in the hospital for three days with electrodes attached to your head while they try to provoke a seizure. They'd probably get a meltdown instead. There's no way I'm subjecting myself to that kind of test. I don't know for sure but I'm betting it would take at least a week of staying home alone to recover and I don't have that kind of vacation time available to me. 

I think I'm at an impasse but I'm planning to go to my doctor anyway. And frustrate her by refusing to take the test ...