Yup, I get snippets of my childhood and all but there is a lot which I cannot pull back because there are holes in my autobiographical memory. And there are also times which I do not want to remember because the feelings I would have thinking about them would throw me into despair which I would not be able to bounce back from. There’s some stuff you’re just not gonna be able to retrieve, because this disease is (i think) a reorganization of the your thinking bits and your mind and who you are and the way you interact with the world, depending on how long you are frankly psychotic, as I was.
So the higher pre-fronto-cortical functions, which are like reasoning and personality and, just, being social and logical, that can be off, even if you remember stuff, you may not be able to hold on to it, so those are different types of long term memory issues…declarative and semantic, and I think the “working” bit will also mean you’ll have a hard time because there is no mental notepad, so you’re not able to hold on to things then and now to use them to do stuff.
So procedural things might be preserved of you’re lucky, but you might still be discouraged from “driving” “showering”, because in the process the things you see and hear and think frighten you away from doing normal behaviors, or, indeed, even wanting to think at times. So, I guess depending on your hand, you might feel more confident and comfortable reaching out and doing things, but honestly I don’t know, and other people most likely do to varying degrees, though most of them are well, and if they are unwell then they might not be able to articulate their ideas, maybe because they are buried, or inaccessible.
So when you say “thinking and using all your old skills stops them from atrophying” I would have to argue, yes, but that is assuming you have the leeway and freedom to be able to do such exercises…the problem is that you can be very scared at times, and even with bipolar affective states like mania and depression, you are still feeling very strong destabilizing emotions. For me, the disorder, I felt, stemmed from becoming unbelievably acutely hypersensitive compared to the gradual droning depression I had felt for the years and months before diagnosis, then within 15 minutes my brain was on fire, and the sensory overload I had could only have been described as being like falling…the tickling feeling of going down a near vertical drop on a rollercoaster, so I felt like I was taking things in, but at the same time, because I was thinking so quickly, the overwhelming outpouring of emotion, mostly fear, and horror, and confusion, and focus, and terror, and painful excitement, like lemon juice in a papercut or a nails on a chalkboard…that tickle, so I think my mind and personality was growing and expanding more or less regularly with emotions serving their natural purpose, but when converted over, then everything was just too loud and it was like that shitty superman movie, where he hears too much and sees too much so its like sensory overload.
Like on a small scale how you feel during an exam if someone was at your side shouting at you and clapping your hands and had flashbacks of your childhood playing on the tablet and soundbites from a revised made up version of your life on record, and images of the most horrifying and terrible things you or anyone could ever imagine thinking, and on top of that, the entire world at once simple and underwhelming and easy to deal with and not think too much about has become a confusing horroscape in which only your own understanding of what symbols and ideas means is true (though not comprehensible) to you.
So you get scared and sad and you are horrified and scared. Not having friends was also an issue, and lets be frank, not talking to people means, like in @Om_Sadasiva’s things, you’re gonna be thinking extra, or at least I would like to believe I had been doing so, and studying up, in order to even be slightly presentable in the presence of others.
If you are not presentable, then you can always be a cold-hearted barbaric ruffian, but that only works if you have that fearlessness, and simplicitude, and I reckon, that is ultimately a sort of humble submission. And everyone forges their way forward in their own unique way.