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, we lose the ability to find it in our brain but it is still there. Most often that is… What do I mean? Well imagine a computer; you may use a search bar/engine to find a file and if that file is there it will find it. If what ever 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. 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.
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! 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.
This does not apply to just trying to find the answer to a question but 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.
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.
So in order to attempt avoiding the stress of not being able to recall things I know I know 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. First, a calendar; I write down what days I have to do things (organized by colors representing different things such as bill due dates or medical appointments) and 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 notes; my desk, books, computer screen, everything! They are often covered in short notes that may not mean anything to anyone else but to me, it is just enough to remind me of what I don’t want to forget. Alarms; 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. Lists; I 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 what ever the case may be.
I 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?