“We all get lost once in a while, sometimes by choice, sometimes by forces beyond our control.” quotes Cecelia Ahern in her novel, A Place Called Here.
What will it be like if one day you wake up to find that your best friend, spouse, or a family member has vanished from your life unexpectedly? You trace them in every nook and corner, looking for them everywhere you can, going places, asking people – all in vain.
However, one fine day, you happen to find them after 6 months (or more) living several thousand miles away, but not as the same person you once knew. They are there with a different identity, as a different human being altogether. Well o well, people can actually get lost, by choice or maybe by an uncontrollable force; not only in the fictional world of novels but the real too.
Sounds a bit strange and spine-chilling, doesn’t it?
Dissociative Fugue – Where memory is lost and found
Dissociative Fugue, where Fugue comes from the Latin word ‘flight’ and is one of the forms of dissociative amnesia (memory loss). Just as the name suggests, people affected with dissociative fugue happen to lose their personal identity and wander unexpectedly away from their usual surroundings for a period that may last from a few hours, months, to years.
They remain unaware, confused about their own biological identities and tend to assume a new identity. During this state, individuals don’t know or remember anything about their former lives and do not recognize anyone related from their past.
However, it could be confounding for you to know, as much as it was for me, that just like unsaved data on a computer, once the fugue ends, the old memory is retrieved and that of the fugue journey is lost forever. Dissociative Fugue is a rare mental illness, prevalent only in 0.2% of the general population and is said to be cured with the use of psychotherapy.
The studies from the past have observed that this illness is linked with post-traumatic stresses like a mental/physical abuse or accident that happens to erase all of a person’s memory – for an undefined period of time – due to its severity. The fugue has not been proved to have any physical or medical causes so far.
In a past recorded case of dissociative fugue, a 57-year-old was known to leave his workplace and disappear to not be found again for a good number of months. The man, when found, was living in a homeless shelter in Chicago, totally oblivious to who he was or how did he land there in the first place.
More surprising, however, is the capacity of the human brain, to influence and regulate something like memory, to lose it one day, only to retrieve it the other.