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Dealing With Poor Memory

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, 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?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • itasara
    3 years ago

    All your suggestions I do, but not so much the sticky notes. My husband does not have ms but he is 3 yrs older than me and he has some aging issues of forgetting names or where he puts his keys. I have memorization issues which could very well be an MS issue but the rest of my issues could be a mixture of MS and aging and maybe some ADD issues. I cannot blame all my issues on MS. I have most of my life had problems with names but it is worse now, but I know others in there 60s or later who also have those problems. It is true I forget things more often I too have to write down instructions or I forget the details. I don’t remember plots of movies without a reminder. I forget the names of stores. I forgot to pay an electric bill. Got a 2nd notice today!! I had to act quickly. I was sure I had paid it but I didn’t. I lose track of time b/c I get distracted. Last night I forgot I had a rehearsal. I got busy and it suddenly occurred to me out of the blue so I went in a hurry and was 45 minutes late. A couple times I didn’t get to my mediation until late afternoon especially when I sleep late and don’t leave my bedroom til late. I do have a reminder show upon my phone but often I dismiss it. My house if disorganized. Anyway I could go on and on. I try to write down what I need to do or call but I have to remember to check my notes if I don’t lose them. lol.

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    Yup, sounds like me, I remember having somewhat of an issue with memorization and names in high school (like introducing my friends to someone and blanking out on one of their names) but nothing like now. Maybe it was the start? But yeah, hard to distinguish MS from age or other factors.

  • itasara
    3 years ago

    Medication not mediation.

  • Leann Henshaw
    4 years ago

    The agony that my flitting memory causes can be very, VERY embarrassing. I have recently volunteered with our local food bank, where I use the computer to link files, like donations to expenditures. The process uses Microsoft Excel, and is called “hyperlinking”.

    Unfortunately, most of my computer expertise is in using the Apple computer, but this organization uses PC’s. I clearly understand the process, and theory, of this task, but where I stumble is in its application to this particular computer system. Several different people have demonstrated the process to me, but it has slipped into the morass known as my memory. I literally see a grey haze while I’m trying to sort through my thoughts.

    Finally, after asking for instructions for the umpteenth time, I got my boss to show me the process step by step, and S L O W L Y, so I could take notes.
    I now bring those notes with me, every time I have a shift there. They save my life, as I simply can’t recall this basic steps, even after having done them dozens of times!

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    Lol well, that is not really your fault, MicroSUCK is just difficult when you’re used to Mac haha JK, I know what you mean though, I can’t remember how to do the most basic things on a PC anymore because using my Mac has become “routine” and any time I step out of my routine I feel lost….

  • KRheanna.
    4 years ago

    I have to say that this post hit home for me. I have been dealing with the challenge of experiencing memory loss on a larger scale than I am used to. The other day I was in the middle of reciting my phone number to my specialist’s voicemail, and my phone number vanished from my brain. Or at least, it had gone into hibernation for the remainder of the day. These minor details thoroughly aggravated me when I am not accustomed to a new symptom.

    On a silver lining type note, SOLIDARITY between us, fellow MSers.

  • Theater Geek
    4 years ago

    The worst for me is peoples names!! I see someone I know from school but don’t talk to a lot and I know the face but the name just isn’t there so it’s like “Heeeey….you! *thinking please don’t make me say your name because I have nothing!*”

    My husband and I were at a friends baby shower and ran into someone from school for me. I told my husband that I had to go to the bathroom (though I really didn’t) and to introduce himself. He thought it was rude but I told him which was worse you introducing yourself or my doing it and being like “This is my husband Justin and dear this is…yeah..I don’t even remember what your name is! Sorry.” lol.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    I am the same with names/and faces. “Hey Yoooouuuu…..” and then at like 3am I wake up “John!” lol….. lol even family members sometimes….

  • 16ninju
    4 years ago

    I have a question. I have been experiencing tingling and numbness and itching. Are these signs of early MS?

  • Leann Henshaw
    4 years ago

    Tingling, numbness and itching are called “disesthesia”, a fancy name for altered, or weird, sensations. You should check with your doctor, as these do not necessarily indicate MS.

  • Tracey
    4 years ago

    Aaahhh…that is what I’ve been trying to explain to my doctor…love your analogy. And totally relate to knowing an answer or word for something, and becoming obsessive over retrieving it. It usually gets stuck somewhere in my data bank right in the middle of a conversation with someone…making me feel a bit “simple”, and “how do I cover this up without them thinking I don’t know what I’m talking about”…I’m a list and calendar girl…write things down on everything. I wonder if this will make my brain lazy…

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    I wonder the same thing about making my brain lazy but I HATE cross word puzzles haha…..

  • Susan Teuton
    4 years ago

    Great article Matt! I forgot my password to comment, so it took awhile & was a bit frustrating, but that’s life. Thanks again for taking the time to write about what helps you with memory loss, I’m always looking for new tips! (Like password manager for my iPad)

  • Theater Geek
    4 years ago

    I had to simplify, for me at least lol, my passwords because of forgetting them. I usually like 20 character passwords…had to cut that in half if not a little more with all of my passwords if I didn’t want to reset them constantly.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    Yeah, see, that is why I have all my passwords on an encrypted flash drive, I just hope I never forget the password to my flash drive haha…

  • Mark Selbert
    4 years ago

    I use a daily calendar book from At A glance. It is big due to the fact is a page per day so there are 365 pages in this daily reminder book.So really cannot take it with you but as soon as I have an apt or something to get done it goes in this daily reminder and when I go out I actually write down on a separate piece of paper my things to do list for that specific day. Then I cross off each thing that got done. If I do not get something done it goes into the next day’s date on my daily calendar. I like the idea of a white board hanging up maybe in the kitchen or bedroom?-do not have one but might get one. When I was working at my job-no longer now- in my cubical- man did I have a ton of sticky notes. It worked but it did look awful. This was before I found out that I had cognitive issues due to the MS.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    White board, yes, I am contemplating going to Home depot and getting a huge wall panel to make an 8×4 foot white board WALL for this exact reason. I also like to create a “to-do list” like you mentioned because 1) if I dont finish something I can carry it over to the next day but more importantly, once I cross something off I can look back at it an remember how much I got done that day and it makes me FEEL better. I have not been doing that lately, perhaps it is time to start back up.

  • Living
    4 years ago

    Describing the missing memory the way you did was perfect.

    I am ordering this talking calendar today. I can’t depend on me remembering to write things down, or my typing fingers, or my eyesight, which pretty much does away with online calendars, my cell phone, day planner, or sticky notes. I’m desperate, so am hoping this talking calendar will work.

    http://www.amazon.com/Lifetime-Voice-Calendar-Talking-Organizer/dp/B003E6OHT2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1429305185&sr=8-2&keywords=talking+calendar

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    Wow, yeah, we all have different levels of memory issues so we all have to find what works for US, there is no one size fits all solution. I hope it helps!

  • Christie Germans
    4 years ago

    Hey Matt. My home can get very colorful with sticky notes at times but it’s a great way to remember the stuff I’ve got to do! Also, I always try to keep my stuff in the same place, no matter what, so I don’t spend a lot of time searching for my keys, lightbulbs, etc. And, I carry around my sacred moleskin notebook for jotting things down on the go. Great post!

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    Lol hey, yes, I have lots of different colored botes and I try to keep everything in the same exact spot so even if I woke up totally blind I could find what I need. Although, I just rearranged my room today, just a few things, nothing crazy, and I keep walking into my room thinking I walked into someone ELSE’S room! Then I walk in circles wondering “where did that go”…. so… time to relearn my space haha.

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