The fear of losing your mind has to be one of the scariest things you could ever endure—and the worry that a loved one will forget who you are, or start acting in a way that is totally opposite to how they have all their lives, is too much for most to imagine. This week’s brilliant guest, Jules Montague, is a Consultant Neurologist here in London. Her clinical specialty is “young onset dementia” with patients who develop memory and behavior changes as early as their twenties—and some of her most challenging work is in the intensive care setting, where she sees patients who have suffered catastrophic brain injuries.
Jules’ most recent and bestselling book “Lost and Found: Why Losing Our Memory Doesn’t Mean Losing Ourselves” is profound and deeply touching, drawing on many real life personal experiences of patients whose minds misbehave. I was fortunate enough to meet with Jules in person, the first since lock-down, at one of my favorite places in London: Kenwood House Hampstead.
You or someone you know will at some point in your life suffer from memory loss, and Jules’ approach to this may well be your life saver. This is Your London Legacy.
“Telling our own story, our one autobiography is crucial to who we are.”
Jules has always been interested in medical science and grew up watching Grey’s Anatomy and E.R. along with other popular shows, and she was even told that she would ask for a second vaccine after getting her first shot because she was so interested in the process. This fascination led her to studying at Trinity College in Dublin for 6 years, where she went on to practice in Ireland and get her PHD before coming to London in 2009 as a neurologist.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder—I think personality traits are as well, and their consequences.”
Jules has firsthand experience in medical environments where diagnoses need to be made off of communication rather than MRI scans and modern medical equipment. Her pull to stories not only helped her disperse medical knowledge to these communities, but properly treat those in an area where the average life span was only 38 years. This focus on stories led her to writing her book and exploring who we are when we are not ourselves and the stories behind these scenarios.
For instance, when we think back on our first kiss—whether it was good or bad—we reconstruct the memory both physically through proteins and psychologically through ideas. This layers on meaning overtime, much like pulling an old book from a library and adding pages to it—which of course means that our current memory differs from the original. In this way we constantly reshape ourselves and who we are, changing and evolving, a process most drastically altered by Neuro- degenerative and other psychological disorders. Through this lens Jules hopes to broaden the idea that we should judge and treat people based on them people and not their illness.
It was a true treat to talk to Jules out in the real world after such an extensive period of lock-down, and I very much look forward to her next book: ‘Diagnosis Cure’ which explores the flaws in current medical and psychological diagnoses and how they are viewed and abused in the world.