On Forgetting To Remember

How do you know if you’ve forgotten something?

This is a great question posed by the wonderful podcaster Jamoalki over on the Depressed Not Dead blog  click here to read his post!

My memory is generally pretty awful, it can be handy as I am one of those people that can watch the same movie three times and still not remember that I have watched it and frustrating because I have a habit of forgetting appointments or double booking dates. “Thursday the 6th? That sounds great” No, it doesn’t sound great, it sounds familiar because I have already got three things lined up for that date but I won’t remember until the morning of when I will inevitably end up disappointing somebody!

I think I have blogged about memory issues before but I can’t remember if it was here or not (and also can’t be bothered checking right now!) In my non-professional medical opinion, depression itself is DEFINITELY a huge factor. Every single person I have ever met with depression has some sort of memory deficit as a bonus prize. Perhaps it’s to do with our pre occupation with the existing thoughts endlessly circling our brains that there is no room left for us to make any new memories  – I am certain there has been much research in this area and I think my psychiatrist explained it to me once but I don’t recall what she said and if I try and research it now I will just get distracted by the internet and forget what I was doing here in the first place, so please feel free to google it!

Medications can also cause memory problems, I find Lithium completely kills any ability I have to retain new information, even reading a fiction novel is useless because I can read through three chapters and suddenly realise I haven’t retained a single thing. I stopped using Lithium for this reason, I couldn’t do my job anymore as it involved continuous learning and I just felt completely stupid all the time.

Hypomania seems to improve all aspects of my brain function, memory included – it’s like somebody has cleaned a window and everything suddenly makes perfect sense, I will even remember things long forgotten from childhood but as soon as it escalates to mania I don’t retain a thing and once back to my baseline or a depressive phase my memory becomes very fuzzy again.

I somehow managed to write a memoir despite all this, but I think it was purely because I wrote it over a 6 week period while hypomanic and as I have kept journals and various blogs for so long I could refer to things I’d written long ago and the events and the emotions that went along with them came flooding back to me. I don’t remember half of them off the top of my head right now, however  when I read back over my words its like “Oh that’s right, that did happen!”

What saddens me most is how much of my children’s lives I have forgotten, first words, birth weights, milestones in general. I came across some old video footage of when my youngest was about 1 & ½ she hadn’t been walking long, my three boys seemed so young, they were all singing and jumping around the living room like nutters having an absolute blast. It was beautiful to watch but sad at the same time because although I could hear my voice talking to them as I was recording the video, I have absolutely no recollection of that time in their lives and the footage didn’t jog my memory, it’s like it had all happened to someone else.

I know that I disassociate sometimes- all be it mildly, usually it’s as though I am watching myself from a distance but I will lose time occasionally, people tell me about phone conversations that I don’t recall. I wonder if this patchiness in my memory is also related to that feeling of being distanced from everything, time spent in mood episodes seems to be lost to the wind with just the writings from those events reminders that they ever happened at all.

Watching my Dad being very much aware that his once infallible memory is slowly but unstoppably deteriorating saddens me deeply. I can relate to the pain of not remembering things that you know were once so important to you, words or names on the tip of your tongue but not quite within reach. The main reason I am so terrified at the thought of ever having ECT treatments that have been recommended to me in the past is the fear of losing even more of my memories, I would rather die knowing who I was than live a life I don’t remember.

So Jamoalki asked, how do you know if you’ve forgotten something?

Well I guess the answer is you don’t know, ignorance can be bliss sometimes or if its super important then someone will eventually let you know, the mechanic will call asking why you haven’t brought the car in yet (yesterday) or the school will ring you to come and pick up your children (ok, that’s only happened once…)

Routine is essential for me, if my morning routine is thrown out my memory goes along with it, school notes don’t get signed, chickens don’t get fed, dishwashers don’t get turned on and my whole day is turned upside down! Post it notes on the steering wheel can be handy too – just watch the Aussie summer sun with those as the glue from the back will leave sticky residue all over it!

I find writing to do lists helpful, I put them on my phone so that I have them with me at all times great for stuff like ‘remember to bring in the washing before it freezes to the washing line’, ‘clean the guinea pig’ or ‘pay the electricity bill’. When I have a blog post idea I have to write it down (again on my phone) or it’s gone forever, then I can go back to them when I have time later. Sometimes I will find 4 or 5 long forgotten half started posts in my “notes”!

Do you have memory issues? If so, how do they affect you and what do you do to combat them?

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