I was perusing the news headlines this evening and I noticed this article about Glenn Beck’s health troubles.
A few sentences early on in the article floored me, because it describes how I feel exactly:
“Doctors tell me that up until recently, I hadn’t had a real REM sleep in maybe as long as a decade,” Beck said. “I didn’t have a dream that I remember, except one in a decade. And quite honestly, this isn’t a symptom you look to fix if you have a ton to do. But the first sign of trouble I noticed was what I call a ‘time collapse.’ If we had met before, I couldn’t tell you if it was a month ago, a year ago or when we were in high school. I then began to lose names to faces and over time, entire conversations would go away.”
Beck said doctors told him it was normal for someone processing as much information as he was, and the phenomenon has been discussed by figures like Winston Churchill.
“While essential facts remained, life became fuzzy,” Beck continued.
I also had sleep issues and in 2010, six years into TechCrunch, I began having these vertigo attacks that would knock me out for up to 48 hours. I went to a sleep center and my sleep improved dramatically; the vertigo attacks stopped by mid 2012.
I also looked back at an article about my life in 2010 in Inc. Magazine tonight. By then I had had a big weight gain while overseeing TechCrunch, and I’m sure that it was all related – a cycle of stress/weight gain/sleeping disorders that fed on itself until I left TechCrunch. My body fell apart shortly after that interview for Inc.
None of that is particularly interesting, though. Stress and all the negative health issues that come with it are a common topic on Hacker News and other tech water coolers.
But I keep going back to that part about Beck where he talks about memory issues, possibly caused by or related to the amount of information he was processing.
After years running TechCrunch I began to notice significant short term memory loss.
I mentioned it in the Inc. article – “But then at some point in the past year, I suddenly lost my short-term memory,”
But over time it’s become much worse. I have significant trouble putting faces with names, and my memory loss is becoming so obvious to family and coworkers that it’s become sort of a joke.
I can remember conversations, or doing things, but I often can’t recall if they happened today, or last week, or even sometimes last year. It’s near universal, and unless I make a significant effort to really put an experience into “long term memory” as it happens, it just sort of fades away.
These things tend to creep up on you and it isn’t something I’ve thought about much until tonight when I read that Beck article, but it really does seem to be getting worse. Or perhaps just not getting better.
There are lots of ways I compensate. Like taking copious notes when I never used to write any. A lot of times I just accept it for what it is.
Beck calls it a “time collapse” and that really is a good way to describe what I feel. He links the issues to “processing as much information as he was” and that feels right, too.
“While essential facts remained, life became fuzzy,” he says. This, again, describes much of the last several years of my life perfectly.
While running TechCrunch I was processing a lot of information. Like nothing I’ve ever experienced before or after. I don’t think I could exaggerate this – “a lot” as in all-caps “A LOT.” Thousands of startups, many thousands of entrepreneurs and sources, and keeping all the details and interconnections straight. There’s a reason I started CrunchBase, to keep all that information organized.
Beck says that it took five years for his mind to recover. I’m about three years post-TechCrunch now. I hope that things will be getting better. Family and friends will certainly appreciate it.
PS – Beck says that Winston Churchill and others have discussed this, but a few minutes searching has turned up nothing. If anyone is familiar with “time collapse” or whatever it’s properly called, I’d love to read more.