Frozen in time / Tachypsychia

jny published on
5 min, 875 words

Categories: Mental Health

One of the more damning symptoms that have emerged since this whole chronic illness thing kicked off is how horribly my memory has been effected. For a while it was so bad that it felt like I could hardly function; you’d ask me a question and I’d just sit there in silence, not because of an “on the tip of my tongue” feeling but because I my brain wasn’t giving me the words for the thought I wanted to express. It feels like trying to use the web when the internet is down. The wheel just keeps spinning but the page never loads.

It always reminds me of the movie Memento where the lead character can no longer form long-term memories and thus has to “remember” things by taking polaroid photographs. I’m not quite that bad, but ever since the chronic illness really started getting serious, I’ve quite literally felt like I can’t remember past a certain point in the past. It felt like my brain suddenly gated them off and wouldn’t pull up anything; childhood memories, events, dates, and most importantly, myself.

Simultaneously, a stranger symptom also started to become prevalent at the same time as the impaired memory: time dilation. It’s literally like time moves more slowly than it used to. Everyone has been in school or the DMV or some such place where it feels that the minutes are passing very slowly, but I’m talking about something quite different. It feels as though each and every moment is stretched out, that looking back they feel as though they were much longer ago than they are. As I mentioned when comparing to Cannabis, it feels similar to the time dilation one experiences while smoking; my first time smoking felt like it lasted 2 weeks and was one of the most unpleasant nights of my life.


The third piece of the trifecta is the ever present hopelessness of depression, particularly for future change or improvement. It’s hard to envision a future where I’m any better. It’s been an uphill battle for years but then I suddenly lost the past too. So I started to think that I was always the way I am now, and I was stuck in the distorted present. Even as things began to improve, I couldn’t even remember the how much worse it felt the month before. Despite people telling me that I was getting better, I had trouble believing them because the only thing available to me was the present, and it was pretty shitty.


Things have gotten better. In addition to the symptoms lessening in frequency and magnitude, there have been moments like a while ago when I found a book on self esteem that I had read at the age of 12. The notes written inside shocked me; it felt like it was written by a different person and in a way, it was. It reminded me that even if I can’t remember how I was different, I can at least remember that I was different. It’s why this blog is important. I can look back and read in my own words what I was going through instead of brushing it all under the rug as “feeling sick”.

It’s fairly common knowledge that depression can effect memory, but before this post I really hadn’t payed much attention to the tile dilation symptom. I just haven’t viewed it as a big deal. To me it seems a symptom, alongside or a part of dissociation, impaired memory, and incoherent thinking. But while preparing for this post, I decided to do some research and found Tachypsychia which shows that a neurological condition can indeed alter the perception of time. Some of the other related symptoms are “short term memory loss” and “decreased communication skills” which are anecdotally interesting.

I also found a post about its relation to depression with results from a study on people assessing their control:

These findings pointed towards time effects as influencing how people process the environment. If the person has control, yet the environment is perceived to also have strong control, then people will think they have little control and are helpless.

However, when people’s actions prevent outcomes from occurring, this time perception bias will enhance the sense of prevention. This is particularly important because it tells us that it is not just internal psychological processes which are important here, it is also the opportunities which people have access to that will affect their experiences of control.

It makes sense to me when I think about it; some of the SE work I’ve done has been trying to “control” a situation by telling someone else what they can do but also what they cannot do. I think, whenever I experience those moments of time dilation, I’m going to start observing what kind of “control” there is in the situation. And I’ll also be meditating too because a further part of the study noted:

However, treatments, which seem to be very relevant to our findings, involve an aspect of mindfulness training.

So yay, mindfulness!