There ARE Upsides to Having a Poor Memory

There ARE Upsides to Having a Poor Memory

One of my worst symptoms of multiple sclerosis is my cognitive issues or my difficulty thinking. I have a hard time with basic problem solving now; it takes me a long time to piece basic thoughts together. But more specifically is my memory; it’s horrible! And not just “long-term” memory, I will think “What time is it?” and I will pull my phone out of my pocket to check. I unlock my phone and then find myself standing there just staring at it thinking, “Ok, what was I doing? Why am I looking at my phone?” and about a minute minute later I remember “Oh yeah, the time, the thing I am staring at in big bold letters”.

I can go on and on about a million different things that my poor memory does to make life difficult but instead, I want to talk about some of the good things that have come of this (that feels weird to say). “Look at the bright side” right? And I am not talking about things I can now joke about like “I walked all the way upstairs and I have no idea what for… well… at least I worked my legs out a bit”. No, I am talking about things that are literally a genuine upside to me.

One of my favorites has to do with watching movies. The other day I came downstairs and my Dad was watching a movie on TV. I noticed the actor James McAvoy was in it, the guy who plays Charles Xavier in the newer X-men series. I like him so I sat down and began to watch. I was trying to figure out what was going on when he used some sort of mind power and I thought, “Wow, really? Another role where the same guy who plays Xavier also has mind powers?” But I kept watching trying to figure out what movie this was, it looked good! Then a bunch of metal barbed wire fencing started taking out the bad guys, Magneto??? This clearly was X-Men movie! But I have seen them all! Did I seriously miss one of the movies that was part of a series that I am a big fan of? So I kept watching thinking this was some new movie to me that I must have somehow missed; come to find out, this was a movie I had seen many times before but I had no recollections of many of the scenes, so for me? It was like seeing it for the first time! Watching this “old” movie was now like watching a “new” movie! Thanks MS memory!

Similarly is how I can now watch a documentary over and over again only it never gets old. Every time I watch it I pick up a new fact. I need noise to fall asleep so every night I put on Netflix with the TV screen off so it’s just sound. I prefer documentaries because I would prefer to listen to something educating as I fall asleep. For a few months now, I have been watching (or listening I should say) to the same two or three documentaries every night and I feel like I either learn something new while falling asleep each night or I reinforce previously obtained knowledge. I hated studying in school because reading the same thing over and over got really boring really fast, but now? Repetitive things don’t really get boring because each time I watch or read something I experience something I just do not remember having experienced before which is cool because I like learning new things. Thanks MS memory!

One last thing I find beneficial is when I am in “deep contemplation” on any given subject. The first time I will come to a certain conclusion but the next time? It’s like I didn’t save that same mindset so I might come to a completely different conclusion. I like this because it allows me to genuinely see the same situation from many different angles; like talking to someone else about something to get their opinion. “Oh, I never looked at it that way, good point!” Only I am not talking to another person, I am basically sharing new views and opinions with myself. So once again, I seriously thank you MS memory for helping me make the best of a crappy situation! I am not being sarcastic!

How do certain disabilities actually help you in a way (by which I mean have an upside)? Share below!

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

View Comments (26)
  • Brian
    2 years ago

    One time I was on a trans-Atlantic flight and heard the guy behind me tell the stewardess the he had Alzheimer’s but that meant he was cheap to entertain because he only needed one movie and one book. He didn’t know if he had ever read them before or watched that movie. He told the joke about 20 times but he was looking on the bright side.

  • Matt Allen G author
    2 years ago

    lol see, HE gets it!

  • Stacy
    3 years ago

    YES! I NEVER purposely would re-watch a movie; “been there, done that.”

    However – NOW I’ll watch a movie (or documentary) that I’m pretty sure I’ve seen before — and the more times I watch it, the MORE I either see or learn things I “missed” before!
    OH and books (non-fiction)! I’m a highlighting diva – and if I don’t recall what that book was about – all I have to do is look at my highlighting!
    2 enjoyable upsides for my MS: Seeing & learning what I missed before – which makes movies WAY better…
    And can’t remember what that book was about? I just have to look at my previous highlighting and Voila! – instant Cliff notes!

    In this life, MS or not – keep things in PERSPECTIVE…I often tell people that MS is merely a speed bump FOR ME in this adventure we call LIFE – when I know there is true SUFFERING all across this world with no hope in sight.
    I’ll take this MS – ANY DAY over having to watch my child dying from starvation…

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    Haha you get it, like you cracked a smile from me because you truely get it :p

  • Brian
    3 years ago

    I just use the poor memory as an excuse to get a girls name again or if it is a common name I will ask again and just play it off as poor memory. I can’t really put names and faces together of people I just met, so to be social I have to ask again to be nice.

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    Haha ok, I can’t lie, there are times where I use the “MS Card” to my advantage in life haha… but most the time it is an actual issue, I am sure WE ALL do it but not everyone will admit it 😀

  • Judy
    3 years ago

    I really have a hard time remembering things, places, and people’s names. My husband will be telling me a story and he’ll say do you remember that? And I say no. Then he will keep on talking about it and say you know you remember? and again I tell him No I don’t. And he keeps on and on about it, I finally just tell him yes I remember it, when I really don’t.

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    Yeah, my memory is terrible like that too and it is so frustrating, but here I am only talking about very specific situations where it is not frustrating :p

  • Lori
    3 years ago

    OK – don’t laugh…well, go ahead – make lemonade out of lemons 🙂 I had to actually leave my career as a consultant, author and corporate trainer because of cognitive issues and not being able to pull the “answer” out of my memory for my clients – but – I am now your BEST audience if you like to tell the same joke over and over – because I NEVER remember the punchline!!

  • Meagan Heidelberg moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Lori! So sorry to hear that you had to leave your career due to MS symptoms. You’ve got to love hearing the same joke over and over and being able to laugh like you’ve never heard it before! Although this is a very tough thing to cope with, it seems as though you’re doing well with your lists, taking notes, etc. We are here for you any time you need to vent or just chat about how things are going for you. We appreciate you being a part of our community!
    Meagan, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • Lori
    3 years ago

    BTW – sure there are major downsides – but I have learned new ways to cope. I take copious notes, make lots of lists, read books over and over (something I could never do before), and just always use written music and lyrics, recipes, and memory aids. No, I no longer have the same capabilities – and on bad days I mourn that a little – but mostly, I try to cope with the differences and use the aids that I need – just like my wheelchair or walker 😉

  • Diana M.
    3 years ago

    When I read a murder mystery, the ending is just as much of a revelation as the first time!

    Actually, I always had that problem/non-problem. I shouldn’t blame it on MS.

    I’m another ADHD medication user and it does help with my ability make a plan and sticking to it longer than five minutes, so I guess that involves memory.

    Matt, I always enjoy reading your commentary. You express your thoughts very well. I may come back tomorrow and read this recent posting again and enjoy it just as much. : )

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    Haha hmm… I probably could have worked that bit into this post; come back tomorrow and read this again! :p

  • itasara
    3 years ago

    I guess I don’t see a great upside to cognitive issues. I sing but I cannot memorize my music at all. My memorization skills have never been super, but now I can’t memorize anything much, or if I do I cannot retain the words and have no recall of what I tried to memorize. I don’t usually forget the music itself, but the lyrics are so difficult – worse in other languages but English isn’t much easier. I read a lot of articles on line, but cannot recall the details. And I too love TV and movie, but cannot recall names of actors I know by sight… I have to look them up and it really bother’s me. I lose track of time as well and have missed a few appointments because of that. I’m sure some of this is MS related, but then some of it is getting older too. I know others my age or older have recall difficulties as well. I just get very frustrated regardless of the cause.

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    Haha I was in NO WAY trying to say this doesn’t bother me, my cognitive issues are probably what drive me the most crazy! I was just saying that in the middle of all the negative feelings this causes me there is actually a tiny sliver of light :p

  • deadbrainwalking
    3 years ago

    I’m totally with you there. I’ve done many informal performances where I’ve had to bring lyrics and a music stand because I couldn’t remember them. Heh

  • Fishel
    3 years ago

    I really enjoyed this article. I keep reading about MS memory issues but none that put it so perfectly. Thanks, it’s nice to know I’m not going crazy.

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    We all feel like we are going crazy at some point, that is why I try to put things into words, so people can relate and NOT feel crazy!

  • deadbrainwalking
    3 years ago

    I understand how sometimes a faulty memory is a good thing. I definitely don’t get bored easily because I can always reread books or rewatch movies and they never get old. The problem with this though, take your example of the X Men movies. I don’t remember which I’ve seen, and the ones I have seen I really don’t remember at all. My husband wants to see the new one and so do I, but in order to not be totally lost I have to either watch all of them again (not necessarily feasible, they aren’t on Netflix and we can’t afford to buy them) or I have to read their synopses online somewhere. I run into serious problems when a new season of a show finally comes out on Netflix. I’ve watched all of Supernatural about 5 times because each new season I really don’t know what’s going on. Same with many other shows. I also have to reread book series when a new book comes out. Fortunately I have a lot of time on my hands so this isn’t necessarily a problem, but unfortunately reading is often difficult for me due to my inability to focus and concentrate. So even if I’m rereading a series I’ve already read, sometimes it takes sufficiently long that by the time I get to the end I no longer remember what happened at the beginning, and often I feel too defeated to go back and read it all a third or fourth or fifth time.
    Often someone tells me how good or bad a movie was, and I say I haven’t seen it or that I really want to see it, my husband sighs and says, “We did see that…in the theater.” Due to my illness and lack of funds, going out to the movies is a rarity nowadays, and it saddens me that what should be memorable events still aren’t obviously memorable enough to stick in my memory.
    I often ask the same question two or three times in a row and still don’t remember the answer. Sometimes as I’m speaking I lose track and forget what I was saying.
    What makes this all so sad and so frustrating is that I used to have an impeccable memory, and I used to be confident and well-spoken. Now, I still remember events of 10 years ago clear as a bell, but what happened yesterday is likely a very distant, very fuzzy, and maybe even a nonexistent, memory.
    Sure there is an upside to this. I never used to reread books no matter how much I loved them because I quickly became bored with them. So, it is nice to be able to reread books, but what’s so nice about it is also what’s not so nice. It’s not so much like a reread as it is like a first read. I realize that I’m not retaining any of the information. I’ve always loved learning new things, but my penchant for reading and studying is growing stagnant because I can’t retain any of the information, so it feels so pointless. I feel like Burgess Meredith in the Twilight Zone, he finally had time to himself and books to read, but he can no longer read them. I always fantasized about the day when I was no longer working such long hours and I could learn anything that I wanted. New instruments, new languages, all kinds of new information, and I could just read and read to my heart’s content. Now I definitely have the time, but I still can’t do it.
    I started a blog so that I could write my experiences, write research articles, have a place to document the arguments, conclusions and information that I chose to present. It turned out to be a far more difficult undertaking than I’d expected, because I basically have to research and write at the same time and all in a sitting or else I’ll lose my place and it all falls apart. I have articles I’ve read and wanted to write about all bookmarked, but can’t for the life of me remember what it was that I wanted to say about them. Sometimes, my greatest barrier, I can’t remember my WordPress login! Haha!
    So, that is my struggle, and my take on the loss of my memory. I actually wrote an article about memory loss in my blog, but if I remember correctly it was long and meandering. But, my WordPress name is same as this, deadbrainwalking, if anyone desires to read it.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that people can find and focus on the upside to all of this, and certainly I’m not so pessimistic that I can’t find some positives in all that’s happening to me. I definitely do find them, and they’re what keep me going when all seems lost. But, my inability to remember is one of my greatest losses. I feel as if my ability to grow and mature as a person has become stunted, that I’m not able to look back on my experiences with a discerning eye because I no longer have perspective. Each day is a new day, in so many good and so many bad ways. Yesterday becomes a distant memory if I have a memory in my head left at all, so how do I reflect on that and learn from my actions and experiences?
    Oh, and one more thing. I read the comment regarding the use of neurostimulants to increase focus and retention. I’ve definitely read up on that and it seems an interesting prospect, but every Neuro I’ve had has dismissed my memory and concentration issues. They’ve blamed my meds, lack of sleep, stress, and most often, they say it’s a product of depression, that essentially it’s all in my head. How do I counter their arguments when I can’t even formulate a cogent thought? If you knew how long it takes me to write comments or articles, how many words I need to check for spelling and to confirm definitions, how often I need to use a thesaurus to find the words, because I know what I mean to say I just don’t know how to say it anymore. I find myself sitting in the neuro’s office, internally boiling with rage but externally calm and nodding assent because I just don’t know how to explain why I disagree with them. I’ve tried writing my arguments ahead of time to reference while speaking to them and they have no patience and are immediately dismissive. In fact, one Neuro threw me and my husband out of his office and told us to never come back because I came prepared with facts, and when he tried to bully me I was no longer meek and pliable, I told him exactly why I believed his assessment to be wrong and cited actual research, and he certainly didn’t approve. How do I get proper care in the face of such stubborn resolve? I’m just crazy, I’m making it up, I’m not a doctor and I don’t know what I’m saying, right? Nevermind that I was a mental health counselor for 10 years and know depression when I see it, and memory loss and aphasia is not it. But, I’m not a doctor, and every doctor believes themselves capable of backseat therapy. :p So, my experience counts for little to nothing.
    It’s all extremely frustrating. I feel as if I’ve lost a very important part of myself, that I have no way to get it back and that I’ve become someone so unrecognizable that I can’t rightly say who I am anymore. I do not know how to reconcile this.

  • B2468
    3 years ago

    I have been dx since 4/94 with RRMS. I have rather significant cognitive fatigue issues from my MS…. 2+2 do not = 4. It took me 2 years to convince my neurologist to let me try cylert for this. 18.75 mg tablets used for ADHD for many many years. It was like night and day. The fog burned off and was real time again as opposed to 2-3 steps behind on everything. When it got pulled offer market in ’04, I shifted over to Ritalin. 20 mg 3x per day…6a, 1030a & 3p. The Ritalin lasts about 6-7 hours so by the time the first dose was wearing off, the next dose was working.

    About 1 1/2 years ago, I tried Adderall 2x per day on advice of my current neurologist. I take this at 630a & 11a. This lasts most of the day without issue. I do not know what I would do without this medication. I could not keep track of my life, take part in a 3 way conversation or put together a coherent argument on something.

    For more info so a Google search on Ritalin or Adderall and ms cognitive fatigue. You find some postings from different sources as well as many that I have put up asking why this has not been studied further.

    They are doing 2x studies, one with Vyvanse and another with a new med labeled c105 for ms cognitive fatigue. They are both being run out of the university of buffalo.

    If anyone is interested in more information on my experiences, please feel free to drop me a note. I’ve got ALOT more I can share. Please feel free to disseminate this information to anyone you think would have an interest in this. Thanks for reading!!! Feel good…

  • Nick
    3 years ago

    One benefit i see of my terrible memory is that i forget negative things easily as positive. I mean that my wife remembers things and then holds a grudge but i forget things and the little stuff is gone. Somethings are better forgotten

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    I wish I could say the same but anything that rubs me the wrong way is practically burned into my memory or at least I remember that someone made me mad; I won’t remember why but I remember I was mad and therefore should remain mad haha

  • mascha
    3 years ago

    Yeah I have somewhat the same.
    I often buy the same magazine I already have at home:( upside to that is I have 2.
    No the upside is probably the series “friends” which I watched thousand times but never fully remember.
    I have more of these issues if I am tired or too much information all at once 🙁
    Great article !

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    Haha I watch all of House and Dexter in cycles, never gets old :p

  • Adrian
    3 years ago

    What a great way to spin a negative into a positive. I also struggle with memory issues and I love your outlook on it, maybe it’s time to revisit some of my old DVD collection.

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    haha the thing is I am not TRYING to put a spin on it, most the time I lose my mind but when it comes to things like movies it doesn’t bother me :p

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