Memory (or the lack of it…)

I’ve been talking to a few people lately who really worry about their memory or more appropriately worded; the lack of it. Memory lapses, confusion, embarrassment, worry and fear are all heavily packed in to this topic.

I remember being in my early 20’s and I went to my doctor almost convinced that I had early onset Alzheimer’s disease. What other young mothers could recall was astounding compared to my own abilities to recall much of anything. I hated to go to medical appointments with the kids because even the simplest of questions stumped me. “How many days has this been going on?” Ummm…. 3? Maybe 4 or 5? Maybe a bit longer? Birth dates, ages, grade in school or other basic questions could not be answered without me running through the kid list.
93, 94, 96. She was born in 96.
M is in Grade 1 so 1, 3, 4. He’s in grade 4 now.
When did she get her last immunizations? Ummm… what month is this? I think that the Christmas tree up so it must have been December.
I always felt like an idiot but I just couldn’t remember.
At the time no one knew about my trauma so that was never factored in to any diagnoses for my lack of memory. There just seemed to be no reason for it at all.

I think this issue affects everyone to a certain degree. Some far more than others. Age doesn’t help. Chronic pain, mental or physical health issues, a very busy life or having very high expectations of yourself all lead to even more memory lapses.
If you add in getting upset or frustrated with yourself every time you forget something? You are only lighting matches under gasoline. You will make it much worse on yourself.

I think some self compassion goes a long way regarding this issue.
~~~ I wrote that sentence, got sidetracked thinking about getting coffee, left the computer to get a coffee, I must have stopped in my bedroom for something because when I got to the kitchen I had no coffee cup. I go back to the office to get it and it wasn’t there either. A search of each room revealed it was in the bedroom. I can’t even recall why I was there at all. This is “normal” for me and many others I am sure.Timely eh? πŸ˜‰Β  ~~~

Back to compassion for yourself. I could berate myself for being so forgetful or flighty. I could start calling myself names like “stupid” or “idiot”. I could freak out because who the heck loses a coffee cup in a 15 step journey?
NONE of that will help me and none of it will improve my memory. I just laugh it off and shake my head. Getting all uptight about it or worrying about it makes it worse. FAR worse.

I think it is also very important to ask others to have compassion for you as well. If your memory is bad and someone else makes you feel like you are stupid or a scatterbrain, they are not helping you. They are causing you stress that you don’t need and making it worse. My husband and I make silly jokes about it or he will laugh at something I have forgotten but he knows I am likely going to forget at least half of everything so it is a kind laugh that just lightens the mood. He is not teasing me or making me feel badly.
Some people have made me feel badly about it and I have had to ask them to stop doing that. I try to gently explain that I deal with trauma and dissociation so my memory is really not good at all. I also tell them that if they become frustrated with me, it will make it worse, not better. I will also try to give them a way to help me deal with it such as giving me a note to take home with me so I remember what I said I would do for them or what date we are getting together again. They can send me an email the day before they need something and remind me about it. A little compassion goes a long way. Make them a part of the solution rather than shutting them out.

Then there are memory tricks that I use. Maybe you will find some helpful and maybe you can tell me any that you use that I do not have on my list. We can all use extra ideas right?

  1. I have a whiteboard on the fridge where things like what I am making for supper, what time I need to start it or what plans I have for that day can be written. My husband also uses it to jot notes of things he needs me to remember like “switch the laundry over” or “get the taxes done”. I also have a whiteboard right beside me in my office chair. A blog idea, the date today, what season I am in or any other sudden thought can be jotted down for my later use.
  2. I keep a day timer with spaces large enough to write EVERYTHING I need to do on it. Stuff to do this week is written right at the top and then each day has its notes. I put a check mark over what I have completed because this makes it easier for me to remember what day I am on now.
  3. Cell phones can be a great help too but I do not have cell service where I live (too rural) so I only use my cell for reminders like taking my night medication. I will also set the timer for things like the need to get ready because I have someone coming over. Today it is set for 12 because I have a friend coming at 1 and I need to get myself ready rather than sitting here blogging all day. πŸ™‚
  4. I keep a notepad on me to jot down notes when I am out. When I get home, those notes are written in to my day-timer. The date and time of my next appointment will be lost in the 2 hours it takes me to get home. To be honest, I don’t remember it long enough to leave the building let alone get home.

Those are my main ideas but I am sure I have other little tricks that I don’t even realize that I use. Do you have suggestions or ideas that you use?

My only advice that I want to give is to relax about it. You are not the only one out there with a REALLY CRAPPY memory. If you are worried about something really being wrong with you, get it checked out. Rule out tumours, Alzheimers, dementia, and whatever else you have come up with to worry about. I think we have all run through that worry list at one time or another.
If it really is just a bad memory? Be as calm as possible about it. If you get upset you will make it worse.Β  If you get frustrated with yourself? That makes it worse too. Berating yourself or having others who make mean comments is no help at all. They need to stop it but so do you. Be careful what you say to yourself. You are listening!
Find a bunch of tricks that you can use to help yourself. It really doesn’t matter what tricks you can come up with. Whatever works for you is what you should use. Try not to feel badly about the need for the extra help.

I would also like to suggest being open about it. It won’t take you long to find someone who says “Oh me too!!!”. This is a really common issue that people have. If you are dealing with mental health or physical health issues, it is even more common. You are not at all alone.

Have a great day and remember to… oh darn! What was I going to say there? πŸ˜‰


4 responses to “Memory (or the lack of it…)

  1. I was first diagnosed ADD which deals with poor memory due to distraction or daydreaming. Now I understand this daydreaming and distraction was really due to dissociation. However the adhd meds do help me keep track of things. Anyway, it seems like you use some tips that help with adhd as well.

    It is very frustrating and stressful to be a mom trying to answer all of the doctor’s questions and having to struggle with remembering the simple things like, “How much/often does the baby eat.” Or when family asks questions about the baby or your kids and I have nothing to say – yet my 90 year old grandmother can tell several funny stories about my own kids.

    I noticed some improvement when I am more in touch with my others.


    • I am sorry that you also struggle with this issue but I am pleased to know I am not alone in it. I hope you feel that way now as well. πŸ™‚ Thank you for your comment. Have a great day.


  2. It is great to know I am not the only one who forgets. And you are so right in saying You are listening when you berate yourself. I recently have been catching myself when I say… oh you are stupid for forgetting that. I immediately try to correct it by saying something like, but that’s ok, everyone forgets once in awhile. Love the tools to help remember things too… πŸ™‚


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