Is your memory disintegrating? Don’t panic – it makes it worse!

When my memory first started to disintegrate  I panicked. Not because of what it might mean (dementia? alzheimers?) but because I had relied so much on it and didn’t know how to do without it. Since then, Ive been studying  the process in myself and in the people around me. I’ve arrived at some conclusions – some ridiculously obvious –  which I’m passing on to fellow sufferers.

  • stress makes you forgetful
  • getting older makes you forgetful
  • worrying about memory makes you forgetful
  • trying to remember makes you forget
  • remembering something similar makes you forget (example: I forgot Obama’s ‘Yes we can’ catchphrase because it was overlaid by Bob the Builder’s catchphrase – also ‘Yes we can’. )
  • evenings and a glass of wine makes you completely la-la
  • sometimes, being asked a question makes you forget the answer (which you knew beyond doubt before the question was asked)

There are (in my experience to date – I’ll update when I find more) four  stages. You get familiar with the first stage before the more alarming second stage kicks in, then a bit later, the third, transitory stage arrives, followed by the fourth stage which really rattles you – if you remember it:

  1. You just forget things – names, where you put your keys, etc
  2. You forget things even if you’re prompted
  3. You remember things but you’re not sure
  4. You remember things wrongly and swear black’s white that you’re right

So what’s the remedy?

There’s a paradox here – for facts/events memory, relax and don’t focus. For losing things and forgetting appointments, focus.    

Facts and events

Think of memory as a visitor – it comes and goes. Sometimes you can remember the Latin name for snow-in-summer* or who first recorded Mamma Told me not to Come* and sometimes you can’t. It will be back once you stop focusing on it. And, actually, nobody cares but you, so let it go if only in the interests of clear communication.

  • *Cerastium (aka Cerasticum)
  • *Three Dog Night

Losing things and forgetting appointments

Preoccupation is memory’s enemy and focus is it’s friend here. If there’s a lot going on in your head (stress) your memory is going to suffer. If you put your keys down or scribble  cryptic notes to yourself  in your diary while whizzing around on autopilot as you’re chewing on a worry, you’ll lose them.

I lost a cheque recently because I tidied it away in a hurry by popping it between books in one of my bookcases. My best example was loosing a bowl of Chow Mein because the doorbell rang and I shoved it somewhere while I answered. I found it years later, when I moved house, between the attic bannister and an old picture frame. 

Pay attention to what you’re doing as you’re doing it – that’s all.

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