Dealing With Poor Memory

Notice that the title reads “Dealing With Poor Memory” and not “Dealing With Memory Loss.” I carefully chose these words because in my own experience and from what I hear from people, we don’t actually lose our memory. I think we lose the ability to find a memory in our brains, but they still there! What do I mean? Well, imagine a computer: you may use a search bar to find a file, and if that file is there, it will find it. If whatever you are looking for were actually gone, it would not find it; that, to me, is memory loss. The memory you are looking for is gone as if the file on a computer was deleted.

Trouble accessing our memory bank

Now, suppose the file is not deleted but simply buried among millions of other files. The search bar programming has become too weak to sort through it all and find your file. This is like a poor memory; the memory (file) is there, but you just can’t find it. Your brain’s ability to search for a memory has become too weak. So really, this represents your inability to recall a memory.

Our brains have trouble making connections

I don’t know the science behind it, but I am guessing it has to do with our brains not creating the right synapses (connections) to find the memory we are looking for. My favorite way to describe this goes like this: imagine being asked a question on a test. Fill in the blank. The answer is on the very tip of your tongue! You know you know it, but you just can’t think of the answer!

The memories are there but out of reach

Now imagine you are taking another test asking you the same exact question, only this time, it’s not fill in the blank but multiple choice. Now you can see the answer you know but can’t think of. As soon as you see it, you think “that one,” and you are right. It was not a lucky guess, but seeing the answer simply helped your brain by bypassing the many connections it was trying to make to go from the question to the answer. To me, if it were genuine memory loss, multiple-choice would not help. Seeing the answer would not click that little light in your brain on because you would genuinely not know the answer to the question anymore.

How memory problem impact daily life

This does not apply to just trying to find the answer to a question. Poor memory can affect many other areas of life. Have you ever found yourself walking into a room and suddenly realizing that you don’t know why you are there? What were you doing? Or maybe you can’t even remember how you got there? It happens to me all the time. I can’t imagine how much time I waste in life trying to remember what I was doing or what I was supposed to do today, like pay the bills. So, I get busted with late fees on my credit card payments, the food in the oven burns, or I leave the sprinklers running in the backyard for hours.

The emotional toll of dealing with poor memory

This not only can cost us money or cause huge “messes,” but it can cause us emotional distress. Just last night, I was lying in bed. I was so tired, but as I tried to drift off to sleep, a thought about my doctor’s office in Colorado crossed my mind. It was nothing, but I could not remember the city the office was in. Then my brain went into overdrive trying to remember; I drove there all the time, I could picture it, it had been on the news a while ago regarding a major tragedy! What was it??? I wanted to remember on my own (stubbornness), so I tried and tried to force some sort of connection into my brain. After a while of tormenting myself, I actually got up, turned on the light, and looked for a business card from that doctor’s office. Aurora. Of course! How could I not remember? Aurora! Now I could sleep, but I don’t always have a business card to grab with the answer on it so instead, it drives me mad until I convince myself to just let it go.

My tips for coping with memory problems

In order to try to avoid the stress of not being able to recall things like people’s names, what I have to do on a certain day, or what I already did on a previous day, I have developed a simple system of artificial memory.

CalendarI write down what days I have to do things (organized by colors representing different things, such as bill due dates or medical appointments). This becomes a great way to answer the question, “What did I do last week?” or, “When did I make that payment?” My calendar is on my computer and linked to my phone, so I get alerts to remind me of important events. Sticky notesMy desk, books, computer screen, and almost everything are often covered in short notes. The notes may not mean anything to anyone else, but to me, they are just enough to remind me of what I don’t want to forget. AlarmsAlarms, as in timers, are the only way I don’t forget to take food out of the oven, change my laundry, or turn off the sprinklers. ListsI hated lists before, but now I depend on them. I write everything down in list form so I won’t forget what I need to do, and then I can cross it out once it’s done. I do everything I can to help spark that one little synapse I need to remember what it is I need to do or whatever the case may be.How photography helps meI may scribble a note on a piece of paper, write a note on my phone, text a note to myself, write notes on my arm, or even take a picture! That is one of the main reasons I got into photography! Looking at a picture reminds me of so many little memories attached to it, memories I might otherwise forget about! A picture is worth a thousand words, right? I have lots of other tricks, but here is the kicker; I can’t remember them right now!How do you go about remembering things?

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