A ready example of this is that I may refer to cardboard when I am thinking of tinfoil and I won’t be aware that I’ve said it. More frighteningly, I will hear the opposite of what is said and this still occurs if I’m tired. My daughter called me the other night and said (I thought): “That’s another reason why I don’t like this neighborhood.” Then she went on to tell me of the wonderful thing her neighbor had done for her and I said, “Oh, I thought you said you did not like the neighborhood,” and she just said, “Huh?”
I will also read the opposite of what is written, too, or I suppose the correct way to put this is that I will comprehend the opposite—a negative instead of a positive, or vice versa. It’s tricky. It was especially tricky after the accident when I was working at a law firm, greeting clients, answering four phone lines, and taking dictation. Back then people just thought I was a bit dense, I think, even my children. My husband was the only person who knew the extent of my mental injury and I can never thank him enough for his support.
Strangely in the twenty-plus years since the concussion, I have not regained the automatic recognition of the value of numbers that I used to have. I was never all that great at math, but I certainly knew that three hundred dollars is less than three hundred thousand dollars, yet after my brain was injured I might easily say that a house sold for three hundred dollars and not realize my error until it was pointed out to me. I still have that problem though I have learned to compensate and to be very careful about what I write and say, and I am also older and less threatened by appearances (appearing to be stupid). I’m not fond of numbers, either, though I have an annoying habit of counting out loud when I’m performing mundane tasks and can often be heard (except there is seldom anyone around) saying to myself, “Stop counting!” I am sure there is an exercise I could have done to replenish my hold on numbers and values, but apparently numbers have never been as important to me as words. I could never express myself with numbers.
Recently I read a study that suggested women who were neurotic in their 40's (check) and had a head injury (double-check) may be prone to Alzheimer's when they reach their (gulp) 70s; this gives me nine years to get ready. The study also concluded that mental exercises could help dispel this tendency and since I do not do crossword puzzles, or Sudoku (as my husband does) I have returned to piano playing with a new devotion; not just playing, either, for I have also been unable to memorize piano music since my head injury, but am sight-reading my way through new works. It's intense, invigorating and highly satisfying. Interestingly, since I still have my natural-born good ear for music, I know immediately when I've made a mistake because, if it doesn't sound right I know I'm playing it wrong. Still, my sight-reading is rather weak and I can stumble my way through a passage over and over before I realize I'm playing in the wrong clef because it changed mid-measure. (I would like to ask Mozart especially why he moves the left and right hands so freely between bass and treble).