“The first sign something was wrong was during lunch with friends in my senior year of high school. I was eating French fries one moment, and the next I heard my friend Mindi saying, “Liz! Liz! Why did you say that?” She looked befuddled and concerned. I had no clue what she was talking about.
I was told I had suddenly looked at Mindi oddly and asked, “How tall is your mom’s coat?”
I was as perplexed as they were. I had no memory of asking the nonsensical question.
I soon shoved that bizarre moment into the Whatever File in my memory, as I did many others to come. I’m not sure what fueled my denial. Maybe it was the lifetime weight of accumulated drama and instability at home that required me to ignore the symptoms that something was wrong so I could feel normal.
But like a car that sputters and fails when you ignore the check engine light for too long, the Whatever File eventually became too engorged with incidents I wanted to pretend weren’t happening.
The spells increased in frequency and severity over the next few months. They went from asking strange questions to episodes where I’d start humming and rocking.
Each spell had a few things in common. I was never aware of my actions. I can talk about them only because whoever I was with described them to me. Whatever was triggering the weird behavior was also shutting off my consciousness. Each spell lasted around 20-30 seconds, maybe a bit longer when they worsened.
I began to notice a pattern: an internal warning signaled that another spell was about to happen. I’d simultaneously feel déjà vu and the sensation of excitement or anxiety would rip through my chest, the same feeling you’d experience if you’d just been startled by a crazed man jumping out from the bushes. Eventually, my younger sister told me that when I stopped dead in my tracks and announced “I feel déjà vu” she knew to prepare herself for what was about to happen.”