Misty Water Colored Memories

Lately I’ve been fretting about my memory.

First I should explain my rather confused relationship with my own ability to remember things.  One of the first coherent memories I have is of my parents being very proud I remembered a trip we’d taken.  I know I took that trip at three, and I still remember that trip clearly.  We were visiting my aunt at a hot-baths-place (you know, medicinal, from the time of the Romans) and took a train up to the mountain.  It was the first MODERN train I’d seen (though I’d taken trains before, I think they were all coal.  I have a vague memory of people complaining about sitting the wrong way and getting a face full of ashes when you open the window) an electrical one, which had a heater running the length of it, on the floor.  Now, it was summer, so the heater wasn’t on.  However to my three year old mind this was self-obviously a child’s seat.  So try as they might, my family couldn’t convince me to sit on the normal seats, but I had to seat on the heater.  All the way up.

That is the beginning of a coherent chain of memory.  I have memories before that, one of being carried outside in my crib and set under the vineyard, which I don’t remember why any more, I thought had happened in March.  One of my aunt singing me a song in my crib, that had to be (because of other things) before I was one.  I have disconnected memories of grandma holding me, of feeling her face, as babies do.  I have a memory of grandma holding me and saying “It’s like she understands everything I say” and I did, but I couldn’t get my mouth to form words (one of the most frustrating things ever.)

But those aren’t coherent memories.  That trip was the beginning of my coherent memories, the ones that don’t float in a memory-soup, the ones that are daisy chained in some way to present-day Sarah.

My brother had an eidetic memory, or close to it.  In a country like Portugal, where most learning was memorizing, this meant he was considered a genius.  He remembered sports statistics, and music lists, and book lists, and… everything.

I wasn’t like that, or at least I thought I wasn’t.  I got acting parts in the school plays and star parts in school pageants because I never forgot my lines, but I certainly couldn’t remember sports or music or… any of that.  I was actually very bad at names and for a long time thought Bob Dylan and John Denver were the same person because the names seemed identical to me.  (I just couldn’t imagine why two such different musical styles.)  At the same time, even then, I think my memory must have been good, because while I don’t remember learning to read, I remember HOW it happened.  You see, my brother had a ton of Disney comics (every house with kids in Portugal does, unless your parents are snobs) and I was very sickly.  So I used to ask him to read them to me.  And I remembered the sounds.  I even remember when I put it together — it was the Seven Haunts story with Mickey Mouse.  Finding it when I was buying the books for my sons was like finding a lost friend.

By the time I was six I was also memorizing a ton of “irrelevant” stuff.  You see, I was — though I didn’t have a name for it yet — world building a parallel world for the stories I told myself at night.  When I was fourteen, that world became a science fiction/fantasy (I was shaky on the concept) world, which became the setting of the first eight books I wrote (unpublished, though I’d like to write the book, now in the context of my secondary universe, what I’m calling my “Human Universe.”  So far I have a short story out in it, but I’d like to start work on it in the next two or three years.)  Being a sci-fi/fan world it required tons of research.  I memorized vast swaths of my brother’s school books, and my cousin Natalia’s too.  (Most of that was wrong, of course, and had to be scrapped.  I was building a world with outdated highschool physics and biology and a 14 year old mind.)  Since they’re both engineers, this meant I was memorizing stuff that my colleagues didn’t dream about.  I was also keeping in mind a bizarrely complex genealogy, and about a thousand characters, give or take.

But I still thought I had a bad memory because I couldn’t memorize soccer players and musicians.

In high school I became known for being able to reel off entire pages of the book, then pull in other stuff I’d read years ago: mostly history.

BUT I had major trouble with French verbs (which weirdly still cling to me like barnacles) and with remembering the gender of German words.  (Be fair.  The Germans do that to annoy everyone else.)

It wasn’t until I was actually writing for a living that I realized I had an unusual memory, because I could remember details I hadn’t touched in ten or twenty years.  Planners happened to other people. And the number of times I remembered stories my friends didn’t remember telling me led me to have the rule of never telling them that.  That’s not what friendship is about, anyway.

(As an aside, someone did a study and I wish I could remember where I read  it, and the reason modern man has a generally worse memory is not “because we have more to distract us” but that we don’t require very young children to memorize stuff.  In retrospect, my once-amazing memory was the result of being required to memorize vast swathes of things like poems and the railway schedules for every line in Portugal — which was required in school when I was very little.  And a good thing, as published schedules were spotty — Apparently, we should be surprised, memory is like a muscle that needs to be trained up, and tedious as memorizing is, it prepares us to memorize things as an adult, things we REALLY need to memorize.  The elimination of rote learning has created generations with the memory of gnats.  If you have the raising of children, make them memorize things (I’d start with Kipling.) and praise them extravagantly when they do it.  You’ll be helping them in their future studies.)

And then 13 years ago I fell and hit my head.  This is in my medical records as “blanked out while blowing nose” btw, because they could never find out what caused it, and asked me questions until they thought the silly foreign woman was confusing momentary blankness with concussion.  The ground was swaying under my feet as if I were drunk, and words were coming out one every minute.  But hey, I have an accent, so that must be how I talked normally.

It wasn’t till six months later I went to my normal doctor and my reflexes were off, and I told him and he said “Um… I wish they’d done a CT scan then.”  He told me I could have a stroke at any time, pretty much, from that type of closed head injury (cheerful) and that the greatest risk was five years (thank heavens now past.)  Then I went to my eye doctor and he said the damage to my eyes (from falling and hitting my head on the sink, in a tiny bathroom) was that of someone who was in an head on 60 miles per hour crash.

That was the first time I experienced the annoying effect of sending my memory for something, and having it return a blank.  It had never happened before.  For one I lost five to ten minutes after the concussion.  Because the last things I remember are: blowing my nose and getting up to wash my hands.  Next thing I remember, I was on the floor, my head under the pedestal sink and my legs up the wall.  I remember staring at my legs wondering not WHO I was, but WHAT I was.  I eliminated cat, because those weren’t cat legs.  No, I have no clue how I even got in that position, short of a tractor ray lifting me, then dropping me straight down.  Also, breathing had become voluntary and too much effort, but I could hear a voice calling me names and saying I had too much to write to die there.  (We won’t go into what the voice sounded like or what it was all about.  In my mind the voice was “daddy” but dad doesn’t have that accent or speak English at all.)  This led us to the emergency room, and you know the rest from there.

The concussion did some permanent remodeling to the way I work, at least two god things.  Well, one good and one shake the magic eight ball again.  The good one is that I became far less emotional and far less prone to mood swings.  The “maybe good” is that I developed an interest in art, which I had abandoned at 14.  I very much doubt it will ever be a significant source of income, but it is, for now, a nice relaxing thing to do to focus my mind and to get out of the word-mode when stuck.  And it does help me do covers.

But the bad part of that was the “holes”.  I’d suddenly come up to something I’d known my entire life, and there was nothing there.  A hole.  Parts of my own universes started crumbling or dissolving or something.  There was a character I knew, had worked for years, and suddenly his name and description were gone from my mental file.

More alarming, I started forgetting books I’d read.  This had never happened before, but I now found myself re-reading a book I’d read and enjoying it — happened just the other week — before having a vague suspicion I’d read it before, and going to check my paper books (this was on kindle) and realizing, yep, read it 15 years ago.  While this is helpful in terms of saving money on new books, it is disquieting, like losing a piece of myself.

Same goes for languages, and suddenly finding myself unable to understand German, or Italian.  (French, for some reason shall always be with me.)

Now, when I started taking thyroid supplements, those episodes of “blank” became less frequent, and I’m just taking OTC thyroid supplements (I need to have those tests done, which means scheduling, which means… yeah) so it’s possible the problem lies there.  Maybe.

But lately — like the last month — the episodes are back and galloping.  I lose things I’ve known forever, and become upset with whomever is asking me to remember because I feel so utterly stupid.

But more than that, I feel scared.  There’s early onset Alzheimers in my family.  I’m hoping this is just what I went through once before, when the kids were little.  They gave a free screening for Alzheimers and I went in and was told to stop being silly and go home.  (I was around 37.)  They said that I had “mommy’s memory” which meant I was keeping track of so many lives that I couldn’t remember it all.

Now the kids are older and by and large “go by themselves” which means that shouldn’t be a problem, right?  So why am I getting holes?

I think it might be stress: the forced move, the house hunt.

But what if it isn’t?  The prospect of sliding back down into that soup of disconnected memories is terrifying.  And so many of my favorite writers: Enid Blyton, Terry Pratchett, went just that way.  Did they finally dissolve into a mix of potential universes?  I don’t know.  I don’t want to find out.

And I worry.

169 responses to “Misty Water Colored Memories

  1. It’s not like you don’t have a mess of other demands on your attention right now. By all means, get checked, but don’t borrow trouble.

  2. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Take Care.

    Oh, what’s your name? 😉

  3. Also have Alzheimer’s in my family, and also have a memory like Swiss cheese. It’s only been an irritation so far, but it’s there.
    Years ago, my mother asked if I would help her take her own life when she reached the point that she couldn’t take care of herself. She is long past that point now, but there’s no way any of her kids are on board with that.

    • No. I won’t judge anyone who wants it because I don’t know what that feels like, but I don’t believe in giving up. And I don’t believe in killing innocent humans.

  4. Since you’re asking, I’m saying go get your thyroid checked before you worry yourself to death. Control what you can control; get enough sleep. (I’m not a doctor; I have never played a doctor on TV. I’ve been on TV, but that was when the Challenger crashed.)

    • “I’m not a doctor; I have never played a doctor on TV.”

      But I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night!

      (Speaking of weird things we remember…I’m convinced that I’ll be in a nursing home, unable to remember my own name or my husband’s name, but still spouting off slogans from 90s commercials…)

    • It might also be beneficial to get your adrenals checked. You’ve been under a ton of stress, and adrenal fatigue can play havoc with all sorts of things, including your memory.

    • Also, they say that women who aren’t eating enough good fats can have bile deficiencies, which can lead to thyroid problems. I know you are doing low carb; but if you can eat oil in your diet and you aren’t getting much, maybe you are having an olive oil deficiency? I mean, that has to be some kind of symbiosis for Mediterranean folks…. (worried grin)

  5. I hope it’s just stress.

  6. I have an odd memory. It’s nigh-eidetic for anything in verse form (the moment I saw your post title the entire lyrics to “The Way We Were” flooded back to me) but very sketchy regarding the events of my own life. Most of what I know about my childhood is second hand. In my case it’s due to trauma and dissociation, but I am fascinated by people who can recall what it was like to be a child.

  7. Regrettably, the fact that you are open and honest about your faults and failings means that certain despicable individuals will try to offload their mistakes and intentional misdeeds onto your shoulders.
    Luckily there are a few of us who will do our best to make sure that does not happen.
    By all means do get checked out by a physician you trust, or one Robert trusts. But do also be prepared to find that it’s more a matter of an overfull plate than something systemic.
    How many simultaneous projects are we working on again? Just the ones I’m involved in or aware of would give anyone pause.

    • Five… just now. Plus looking for contractors for the house, and an apartment for Marshall.

      • Good grief. My brain locked up this spring with three major projects–I delayed two and I’m working on an overdue one right this very minute, sort of. I’m going back to work; it’s the only way to get *my* brain unlocked. (And I’m trying to get my insurance to pay for the good meds. That should help.)

      • Umm, delegate, ma’am?

  8. Martin L. Shoemaker

    This is why “Flowers for Algernon” is the most frightening story I have ever read.

    • A couple weeks ago I met someone who revealed to me that they had had a.. neural trauma?… and lost some abilities, and learned to compensate for many of them. But this person started out at legitimate super-genius (not Wile E. Coyote, either) level and dropped to “merely” genius. I was not the first to ask about Flowers for Algernon. They hadn’t read it – had read summaries. With a bit more explanation of the details of what was and what became, I found myself in agreement that read book would best go unread in this particular case. I am not doctor, etc. But I do try to be a friend.

  9. Stay strong and do what you need to do. Find out if anything’s wrong and what can be done. You’ve got plenty of family and friends.

  10. Blond_Engineer

    My short-term memory is deplorable. When I was young I figured out, though not consciously, that if I wanted to remember anything I had to memorize it. Poetry is the easiest for me, with the flow and rhythm of it. But movie dialogue, favorite books, anything is fair game and good practice.

  11. BobtheRegisterredFool

    I had a ‘mind coming on line’ moment in my very early childhood.

    I also have a trick memory. I went through school mostly unable to take notes, and relying on my memory. It still works well enough for some things, and I’m young enough, but I do worry that I’m losing capability.

  12. They say that with dementia, you survive by “enjoying the moment”. I have never lived in the moment, but always in my daydreams, thoughts, and art. The prospect of losing that is the worst thing that could happen, period. I wish I could be uplifting here, but…

    • I’m sort of hoping it’s all stress. I went through this 17? years ago, with stress. I’m hoping that’s all it is.

      • It likely is. You’ve got a lot going on. I mean A LOT.

      • Also, stressing about dementia may be giving your mind a break from stressing from everything else, while keeping your stress up. My mind does that.

        • Possible. In the middle of the cross moves, while going nuts, I stressed about my beta fish and keeping him PERFECTLY.

          • Sarah, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if you really did have the sort of subconscious that says, “Don’t worry about that crap. Here, worry about THIS!” Deborah is the same way.

          • You might also consider cutting back on salt, if you haven’t already.

          • We had a beta fish. Actually more then 1 it may have been 3 total but they were all blue and named Daniel so I’m not been absolutely sure.
            My first clear memory is of my 5th birthday, I’m bad at remembering when something happened but I can usually figure out the year by were I was living or what age I was.
            So your doing WAY better than me.

            • I guess that’s another way I’m weird. I don’t remember ANY of my birthdays. The only Christmas I remember is when I was 15 or 16, my parents giving me a bicycle (mostly I remember because I was upset that they spent too much money on my Christmas present).

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        From my POV, you have good reasons to be “stressed out”. 🙂

      • You certainly have enough stress. Sounds like the thyroid thing might also be worth a look. Checking the things that have accounted for it before.

        …And I don’t want to be dismissive of either your fears or the frustration of things not working the way they should for you, but there is a wide range of experience between the kind of memory you describe as normal for you and dementia, and I hope even if you can’t get back to the original condition you can stay somewhere else workable.

      • It does sound like you’ve been running your boiler at full pressure and the safety valve is tripping. And you’ve been tending to the firebox well, but please be sure the water doesn’t get low.

      • Given your life right now, Stress makes perfect sense as a reason for the fun.

  13. Human memory is a very, *very* weird business. I started writing my memoirs several years ago, not for publication but just to nail down what I could remember of my early life. (It was also a good way to open the gateway and get into flow.) I was a little appalled at certain things that I could not remember at all, even though they were supposedly “flashbulb” memories (like why I broke up with my first girlfriend) and, worse, things that I thought I remembered vividly but remembered dead *wrong.* I don’t have any head trauma to blame for this, and, given what I’ve read and heard from friends with the same issues, I think the human wetware is just prone to cross-linking and inexplicable gaps.

  14. If you went back, month by month over the past at least three years, and calculated the stress scale (it gives you points for a divorce, a move, the birth of a child…) and added your points for each month, my guess is that your plot would NEVER dip below the 300 mark on the scale. 100 is about the amount of stress you can handle unremittingly.

    Cut yourself a whole lot of slack and become more aware of how much each of these stressful events is costing you – and cut down where you can, and don’t add worry and guilt to the rest.

    You won’t be ‘fine,’ but you may worry less. I can’t believe what you’ve written since I started reading your blog.

    • This sounds like a very wise answer; you’re under a lot of stress.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      I’ve been impressed and appalled by everything she seems to have going on. I’ve thought for years that she is burning the candle at both ends.

      That said, what do I know?

    • A couple of decades ago I wrote some software to replace a stack of evaluation forms a local hospital used for assessing environmentally-induced stress for cardiac patients.

      On a scale of 1 to 10, Sarah runs about a 15…

    • Sounds like the test my partner and I took when we were both starting out dispatching. On a scale of 1-100, with anything above 70 being “you should consider seeking medical and/or psychological help” we both scored in the mid-80’s. The instructor had a talk with us, since no one else scored above 70.

  15. & prayers up.

  16. Stress could indeed be a lot if it. Also aging … I used to be like you in the inability to re-read books because I could remember them in such detail. Not any more! Hormone levels are something else you might consider getting checked out. Believe it or not, out of whack hormones can also cause mental fog. For me, an inability to recall specific words is part of that, as well as forgetting real life stuff.
    In any case, prayers.

  17. Stress and hypothyroidism are major causes of brain fog. You’ve definetly have the stress. Go get your thyroid checked.

    One of my early memories is of my mom. I walked into the kitchen as she was making coffee. Counting out the scoops. I asked her something and suddenly she was pouring the coffee back into the can and starting over. “Mom can I…” She had to start over again. After she got the coffee going and turned to me and said “Listen. This important! When you grow up and I can’t remember something or do something stupid, remember this coffee. Then tell yourself Mom’s not going senile. I’ve been like this your whole life.”

    It came in handy when friends or inlaws would tell me years latter “Your Mom is losing it. She must have Alzheimer’s or something.” “Naw. She’s been like this my whole life.”

    • Eh. The thyroid med lifted the brain fog. Now it’s just memory holes.

      • Memory is odd and individual. My wife remembers thing that I don’t yet she can’t remember things that are fresh and clear to me.

        I used to always lose my car keys. Then I read somewhere that things we do unconsciously are never recorded. So now I talk to myself. Sub-vocally or people would think I’m weirder than I am. “I am putting my keys here. I am setting this tool there” Otherwise tools just get up and walk away. Then again, perhaps it is a process of intimidating inanimate objects. Otherwise they’ll mess with your mind.

    • William O. B'Livion

      Also B-12 deficiency.

    • It came in handy when friends or inlaws would tell me years latter “Your Mom is losing it. She must have Alzheimer’s or something.” “Naw. She’s been like this my whole life.”

      Oh, hell yeah. My mother’s genes are almost certainly the reason my memory is so bad.

  18. Aaron Peterson

    C4C

  19. I also vote for stress and fatigue. Your body’s way of saying “Pfui, I’ve run out of electricity and RAM and I’m not going to try to find the ROM. I’m going to fixate on Derpfish for a week. Yeah, that’s pretty restful. Derp, derp, swimmy derp, derp, derp-a-derp . . . .”

  20. Lots of my memories seem to be stored on an external hard drive. Sometimes I remember books I’ve read better than things that happened in my own life.

    • That is a thing for me too except I try not to remember books overly much so I can go back and enjoy rereading them so I leave with not remembering anything very well.

  21. Reality Observer

    I liken my memory to a library (yes, very original there…). It is usually not so much that the books have been mis-shelved, or thrown into the library sale box – but that I have managed to thoroughly scramble the card index. So I frequently find a misplaced card while searching for something entirely unrelated, which then takes me exactly to the book just as it should.

    That happened in my younger years, it happens now. The only difference with age is that I manage to mostly not spout a total non-sequitur while in conversation with someone.

    I won’t be so stupid as to tell you to not worry, I’m just a bit older and I worry – but like everyone else here, get yourself checked out (don’t just focus on the thyroid, either), keep doing what you have been to get your life settled down again after more than a year of sheer chaos.

    • You know, I’m not as bad as I was five years ago, when I’d be in the middle of a panel and burst out with something and then go “What did I just say? AND WHY?”

      • I’ve also had the experience of listening to my mouth, with no volition of mine, say something not only wrong, but stupidly wrong. Enough that people who knew me would turn and say “Whaaaat?!”

        Stuff like that is why people used to believe in demonic posession.

      • I thought everybody did that at cons, given sleep deprivation, imagination stimulus, caffeine, and socializing. 😉

      • I typically do that when someone speaks to me when I’m barely conscious. Younger son still gives me crap about telling him to dress the dog before we could leave, one morning.

  22. Take good care of yourself…OK, take BETTER care of yourself.

  23. Sarah, I completely understand your issues with memory. Mine bothers me as well. The last few years, say last 5 or 6, my memory has been crap. I’ve always had an issue with receiving verbal information. If someone is giving me instructions, anything past the third step is pretty iffy, anything past five might as well have not been said. But I’ve always been able to remember what I’ve read, or seen. I might not always have remembered it verbatim, but I could always find exactly where it was (open book to random page, after this photo, flip a few pages forward, before this chart, flip back a page, left leaf, first column.etc.). But the last few years I’ve been rereading books and thinking ‘I’ve read this before, but I can’t tell you what it’s about or what comes next’. I’ll do something at work, and a few days later someone will ask me about it and I’ll be completely clueless what they are talking about.

    I’ve had a couple of concussions over the years, so that might be an issue. The first one was when I was about 6. I’d go to work with my Dad and Grandpa, who ran a roofing company, during the summer. Sometimes I’d be gopher, sometimes I’d just play or read down on the ground, later I’d help with the shingling or shoveling gravel. This day I was down on the ground playing with the dog as I couldn’t go up on the steep church roof. One of the guys came down and found me sitting in the truck with blood all over my face. I vaguely remember running and jumping over a little berm around the propane tanks and hitting my head. But I also vaguely remember sitting on the curb by the pickup in the shade and standing up and hitting my head on the open door. I had a big ol’ bump on my forehead until I was in my twenties (had one on the other side too where my aunt kicked me in the head while swimming in the lake, I called them my horns). I also got my bell rung good once on football in high school, and another time rose up and hit my head on a shelving unit at work.

    • I thought I was the only one who couldn’t retain verbal instructions past step 3 or so. (I did get my head hammered by a hit-and-run drunk driver when I was 5. Spent a month in hospital, and at the time there was nothing from the time of impact until a few days later when, as if a switch was thrown, I’m standing up in a hospital bed with the sides up, being dressed in jammies by a nurse. Met the doctor who was the anesthesiologist when they did the surgery years later. He remembered the event, as he’d been a classmate of my father’s in medical school, and the chief surgeon remarking as they began that “I don’t think he’s going to make it”. Glad he was wrong.)

      Spent the last 38 years as a technical writer/editor, and having a word being *almost* but not quite there is more than a little irritating. Or being introduced to someone, and not having any idea of that name a few seconds later. See it written, and I’ll remember it for decades, though. So far.

  24. (I am not a doctor.) First, get your thyroid and adrenals checked. Long term excessive stress (which you have been having) depletes “fight or flee” hormones. I have been told that when stress is too excessive, memories are simply not laid down; I see no reason why this would not also interfere with the ability to retrieve previous memories. Take those long walks. Can you try deep breathing (count to 18 or so on inhale, hold briefly then exhale to the same count) as we breathe shallowly unaware when under stress. If you do this for 20 minutes a day, you actually will change the PH of your body. I am not good at turning off my mind, i.e. meditating, but found that the breathing exercise was remarkably effective over time. I know it may be hard to find those 20 minutes with all that you have been and will be juggling (like everyone else I am totally impressed with all that you do; BTW when do you sleep?) but I think it might help. Take care of yourself. Selfishly, I want to continue reading your books until the end of my life (I am LOTS older so relax!!! (joke)) so want you to take care of yourself. You have brought and bring so much to me personally between books and blog.
    Lecture over…I am so good at telling other people how to run their lives, sigh. Hope you don’t mind. I do not want to rule the world (thought I’d better include that caveat) sometimes just want to try to help.

  25. DragonKnitter

    Here we have the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona, biaaz.org if you can check it out. You probably have something similar in Colorado. Concussion is nothing to mess with and can have effects that are lifelong, but your worrying only adds stress which you don’t need to be carrying around. There are things to look for and watch, to help you find out what is happening, and lessen the anxiety about what is happening to your memories. Right now with the moving maxing your reserves out, and being ill, isn’t a good time to layer on one more thing; you need rest, which I observe is not your strong suit….but do try.

  26. That teleport and gap around the blackout are an interesting thing. I believe have experienced that. Way back in my teens I blacked out once and never have figured out that there was a gap in there. But really between standing up to fast from the bed and collapsing in the door frame there had to be at least 30 – 60 seconds that passed. And yet my memory says I stood up and collapsed in the doorframe. It is the oddest thing to contemplate. On the plus side I wasn’t contemplating what species I was. Then again I probably would have gotten it wrong.

    • Birthday girl

      I used to have trouble with near-blackouts from standing quickly (or too long), especially in warm environments … and that gap is part of that experience. I know that doesn’t mean anything, except … your experience sounds normal to me. Normal for that experience, that is.

  27. Pain meds and insomnia produced all kinds of bad side effects, which resulted in having to leave my much-loved career as a school counselor at age 54. I was getting dangerous, though, and often not safe to drive.
    There is a joke about the advantages of memory loss that has an accurate kernel, but it’s not funny from this side. Years ago, I watched the entire series of ‘My Name Is Earl’ on Netflix, and really enjoyed it. Some time later, I went back to the series, and discovered I couldn’t remember most of the episodes. So, I got to enjoy them fresh all over again.
    I’m pretty functional in the moment. If I suffer a lapse, I just shut up, and hope nobody notices. But I hate looking at some of the things I’ve written, and not recognizing either the writing, nor the experience (or book) I’m writing about.

    • This only happened to me for about six months! I also had “blank” states, where I’d find myself driving somewhere, and no clue where I’d been or where I was going. Judging from available evidence, my concussed self was boring. Most of the time, I’d been out shopping for groceries or clothes for the boys.

  28. Don’t know if this is of any help – but I had years of memory recall problems due to multiple head injuries over many years. I have an excellent memory and have studied many high level subjects but there are times when I’m stressed or ill when it can take me days to recall specific data. Over the years I developed several methods of recalling things I’m having memory problems with – the most useful method is as follows: As soon as I realise I’m having difficulty remembering a specific item – the first thing I do is to stop trying to recall the item itself and instead think what is the next thing most closely associated with the item -and again then the next thing most closely associated etc etc and I work my way around the thing I’m trying to recall without thinking about it directly. I do this for a minute or two and then turn my mind to something completely different and not associated with the item I wish to recall. I let my subconscious work on it and it often brings the missing memory back within 10 – 15 minutes.

    Another big memory assist is not to get rid of the worrying – this can be done by imagining that the unrecall-able thing is playing a game of hide and seek and that it will show itself when it is ready. By making it a childlike thing with volition of its own it becomes a silly thing to play with rather than a thing of worry.

    Hope that is of use to you.

    • Thank you. It might. I don’t have issues with recalling what I did or where I was. It’s all stuff like “What year did this happen?” and “Who was xs best friend, again?”

      • Recall of specific data – like years and places and names is where that method works best. Definitely give it a go. For fun you can drag other people into it by tricking them into giving you the surrounding details that lead to the name/place/year you want to recall. (It helps save time thinking for it yourself! Not that I ever do this of course.)

      • A couple of strokes some years ago shotgunned some holes in my memory. There are some things I *remember* remembering, if you know what I mean, that simply aren’t there, no matter what angle I try to sneak up on them.

        I had read about people with that type of memory loss and how they took it with equaniminty. I couldn’t understand why it didn’t bother them. Now I have it, and I understand. It’s not that I can’t quite remember and it bothers me, it’s that there’s nothing there at all, and since nothing happened, no worries.

        [shrug]

        The other thing I’ve noticed is that some groups of memories are no longer firmly anchored in time. Too many days too much the same, I’ve lost sequentiality. I can usually reconstruct a temporal location if I have to, but it’s not part of the memory any more.

        Instead of things firmly located in time, “the other day” has simply gotten larger.

        Also, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I simply don’t *care* about a lot of things enough to bother to remember them. A lot of life is repetitious, and once you’ve remembered two or three or four iterations of something it gets lost in the noise. It’s like driving a manual transmission; you don’t notice or remember shifting gears unless something goes wrong to make it memorable.

        • The ‘the other day’ thing is one I often find myself in – where I’m talking about something that happened last week and the person I’m talking to says – “Hmm, that was nearly 2 years ago”.

          I reckon at that speed of living I’m really thousands of years older than everyone else thinks I am.

    • Slight error – The last paragraph should read: “Another big memory assist is not to try to get rid of the worrying- but to defang it. (If you try to get rid of the worrying its too easy to fall into a trap of worry about how much you should be worrying )

    • This would probably be good advice for me (and I MAY be able to put the “think about other associated things” part to good use), but when I get stuck, it’s so annoying that I have a really hard time letting it go.

      You’d think I’d be used to it after so many years, but it still always gets to me.

  29. In 6th grade, I read the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. In 7th grade I did again. I knew I had read the books the year before and enjoyed them, but had no memory of any part of the them. So I got to read them for the first time twice. Sadly, the first experience is lost.

    I always figured it was my hormones spiking. That weird blanking never happened before or since.

    I know stress affects memory. Also, just plain busy-ness. I firmly believe if you’re busy all the time, especially bouncing between different busies, your brain never gets a chance to rest or focus enough to fix things in memory.

    Finish what needs doing, and rest up. Check out those physical things that need checking. Reboot. We’ll still be here.

  30. I can usually tell my thyroid meds are off because I start feeling stupid. I’ve lost huge chunks of my life to a hormone deficiency and it almost makes me wish my family was the kind to take pictures.

    So, yes, get the thyroid checked. Sooner rather than later, though that time is rapidly slipping past.

  31. On a tangent – I mentioned here I had been laid off. Today, I get to mention that I started a new job this week.

  32. By all means get yourself checked out. While you wait for your doctor’s appointment, just know that stress and fatigue can play havoc with memory. That might be all it is, but better to play it safe.

  33. Sarah, have your doctor review your medications. I was on one medication for a problem, that was actually causing me to lose the ability to remember and choose words. That was flipping scary.

    The other thing is if you have a problem with sleep apnea. That can cause brain damage over time. I have it, and getting it treated was one of the best things in my life regarding my health.

  34. My memory is not what it never was, so I’m good so far as I can tell, though I do lie a bit. Or something. Where was I? Not being there now…

  35. I feel I must apologize. The concussion is clearly something that happened to add yet one more commonality between us. If I caused my own memory troubles, then it had to be when I whacked the back of my head on the footboard of my parents’ bed when I was two. I don’t remember this, as I have no memories before age four, but I am told that by the time my father had had enough and stopped a passing nun to explain what had happened and ask if someone could see me, I was running the halls, looking in on patients, so no one ever thought there was anything wrong.

    But my mother always had memory problems, too, so mine is likely genetic, despite the whack on the head (I have a HARD head).

  36. Suddenly I’m more concerned about banging my head into that wall in high school. (Oh, it was perfect. Just the right spring, just the right give, and the people around me were so frustrating.)
    Seriously, though, take as good care of yourself as you can. Prayers and good thoughts.

  37. Something that helped me recently, I saw a piece on Instapundit about iron overload. Looked up the symptoms and it sounded like how I felt, so I went and donated blood. Still can’t believe how much better I feel. YMMV