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how do you try to remember

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i just wrote about this in my blog, and thought hey i should bring it up here to find out how other people deal with memory side effects!

my memory is bad in three ways: personal memory, conceptual understanding, and word finding.

i'm discovering i am using different strategies to deal with each of these, and i'm wondering if other people use the same processes:

personal memory: (i am currently obsessed with the fact that i can't remember last christmas). i think the harder i try the more it is escapes me, like it's even harder to remember other christmases than before i started obsessing about it. the more i think about it, the more every christmas just gets all fuzzed in together. so i have to not think about it and see if it spontaneously returns (oooh this is hard).

conceptual understanding: (like how a hard drive is partitioned - i completely forgot this weekend that this does not mean physically divided in half argh). if i think about it really really hard i will probably remember how something like that works - but i'll forget again in an hour. once something has stopped naturally making sense (like a partition means just that, not an imaginary line of binary somewhere), i have to work hard to get that knowledge back (if at all).

word finding: i seem to get stuck on finding the original word i was looking for rather than instantly seeking synonyms.

i'll start with what i think the first letter of the mystery word is, then go through all the words i can think of that start with that in a very serial fashion. if i'm trying to think of the world "astute", i'll remember it starts with an a, so i'll methodically spin through this visual list of words that begin with "aa" then "ab" then "ac", with each category containing as many words as my brain can spit at me quickly enough. sometimes, i can do this inside of a few seconds. sometimes, it doesn't work at all.

i don't think to try to solve the word-finding thing by association in that moment. if i am trying to remember the word "astute" i will not think of "clever" - i'll just get stuck running through my alphabetical list. this doesn't work very reliably obviously.

so what do the rest of y'all who can't remember shit do when you're having a medicated moment? ;)

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Personal memory - Accept that it's not very good. Rely on other people or pictures or writings to trigger more memory. Stay relaxed and don't sweat what won't come. Sometimes it does after I sleep. Other times, it just doesn't. The more I stress on it, the worse my memory and the worse I feel. Writing stuff down helps with current things I need to remember, too.

Conceptual Understanding - I rely on reflex memory sometimes. Just do, don't think about it. At work I find that some experiences are ingrained enough that I can do new related things without much difficulty if I don't analyze it as a new thing. To be honest, this is the type of cognition loss that will quickly get me working with my pdoc to adjust meds. I can deal with a little of it, but not a lot.

Word find - Heh, I've become adept at synonyms, 'thingy,' hand gestures and pointing.

and I'll add...

Spelling - Spell check!!!

Grammar - MS Word helps w/the basics.

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I read a book a long time ago, I've forgotten which book it was, but that book put this image in my mind that stuck with me about memory. Think of your long term memory as a filing room filled with books and files - a huge library with a lot of stacks that's not very well organized. In this huge library is one little person (mine's a man) who doesn't have much to do until you ask him to go and fetch a memory. Say you've said out loud, "What did we do last Xmas?" Now he's deliriously happy and throws down his newspaper (or whatever time killer he has) to go and track down in the towering stacks whatever you did last Xmas. However, he's halfway down the aisle and you ask again, "What did we do last Xmas?" Well, your library is hopelessly outdated and he doesn't have a cell phone or pda, so he has to stop what he's doing and go back to the front desk to listen to your question. He hasn't had time to find your memory. The more you ask, the longer it will take to find the memory. That's why if you just give the little guy a chance, he'll dig around the stacks until he finds it, and then (sometimes hours later) he'll shout the answer out to you.

Of course, since the stacks are hopelessly unorganized, it may take weeks, and it may take a long time for your memory to be found, or your little guy may forget himself what it was he was sent to find and may need a reminder, or the memory just may be lost. But for the most part, it's better to ask once, and not obsess about it until the memory is found. Or you can guide your little guy with hints as to where he might find the memory.

That little trick has helped me *a lot* in retrieving memories. I read that book back when I was twenty. I wish I could remember the book. I don't think it was a good book other than that little bit.

Another trick I use to get around lot of memory blocks is free writing. If I start writing about *this* Xmas for example then just let it go, and start writing about other Xmases - childhood and other Xmases I remember - then I'll start remembering the one that I forgot in bits and pieces. In the end the pieces will fall into place.

If I know how to do something and have forgotten how, I'll try to explain it to someone - even if it's my teddy bear. Explaining things is a great way to bring back memory! Teaching is one of the best ways to learn. I also try to write a "how to" if I can... it brings back a lot of things I've forgotten.

As for word finding - ha! I rely on other people and dictionaries to find the words I've forgotten. I just can't keep my lexicon updated no matter how hard I try. That's what outside resources are for. ;) Don't worry too much about it though, as long as you can carry on a coherent conversation, you're still good.

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I don't know if this was the book you were thinking of, but it reminds me of "The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci" by Jonathan Spence; it's over twenty years old. In part, it describes how Matteo Ricci, a jesuit priest, learned Chinese by creating "rooms" in his memory. Guess that sounds really boring, but it's a pretty good book. Spence wrote a lot on Chinese history, "God's Chinese Son" was especially good. Sorry for the thread-jack.

Perhaps I'm just lazy, I've just come to accept that I've forgotten a lot of personal memories. Some pop up from time to time, and I should keep a journal...maybe a New Year's resolution.

Many years ago it really bothered me that I'd lost so much memory, couldn't remember a lot of the books I'd loved, etc. After letting this bother me A LOT, I decided that I had to re-frame the situation or I'd make myself even more depressed. I decided I was just saving myself a lot of money; hell, I could re-read books many times, and every time was mainly a new experience. Now when I read a book, I put a check mark inside the cover; it really pissed me off when I "read" a new book and realized about 300 pages in the I'd read it just a few months ago. It also pissed me off when I bought another copy of the same book I'd already picked up. I love that Amazon gives me a reminder that I bought the product before; one year I mistakenly ordered duplicates of almost all the Xmas presents I'd bought for my family.

Verbal memory--thankfully, it's a lot better now. In the past, I'd get lost in the middle of a sentence very often. I finally told my students what was going on, and they kind of made it a game to figure out what the word I was struggling for was. After I'd been asked by students a couple times if I was drunk or stoned, I figured "outting" myself probably wasn't as bad as the explanations they'd invent for themselves. Either way, I was seen as crazy, so I didn't figure I had anything much to lose.


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  • 6 months later...

I was going to make a new topic, but figured I'd add to this one since they're similar and hopefully get some more replies since I think lysergia asks some good questions.

So I've noticed I've had a worse memory for a little while now, but I thought it was more scattered brained than anything else really. Well last night we saw Transformers 2 at midnight. Loved it. We saw it with friends again today. And there were some parts I didn't remember from last night which I thought was weird but then just kind of blew off. Then suddenly a scene went by and I thought something was missing. I leaned over to BF who saw it with me last night and was like this is different the scene where she blah blah didn't happen. He looks at me and was like... it just did.

I swear to you I cannot remember this happening. Like that scene I would have SWORN was not in the movie. How could something happen and me not remember it AT ALL? And the thing is my friends will be like, well you just told me that and I cannot remember for the life of me telling them. And I'll agree to stuff I don't remember. And it's gotten horrible.

I mean I already have the issue with forgetting words from my meds, I say thingymagigy all the damn time. But to lose personal memory of things that JUST happen?? That scares me.

Any more tips and similar stories?

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I have no advice to give you, but I completely understand what you're going through. I totally understand how frustrating it is!!! Do you have pictures of last Christmas? Sometimes when I look through pictures, it helps me regain memories. I actually just bought a new digital camera so I can take more pictures in order to remember things better. I find it's very helpful for me to look through old photographs.

I also have difficulties with personal memory. In fact, I have great difficulties. I only remember very little from my childhood and even high school. It's getting to the point where I don't remember the first few years of college even though I just graduated. I don't even remember my childhood home even though I lived there until I was 14. (Hell, I just took a vacation last month to Disney World and I don't even remember the details of THAT anymore!) Sure, I had some trauma during those times, but there were many happy times as well, and I wish I could remember those. I never suffered any abuse, so I always found this odd. Sometimes memories spontaneously return for me, but it's rare. What's weird is that I remember people's phone numbers, even if they have been disconnected. I remember my cousin's old phone number in his house... he moved out when I was four years old. And when I remember an event, I usually remember a lot of random details. For example, for my first kiss with my first love, I can tell you the date, the time, what else happened that day, what I was wearing (down to jewelry, purse, underwear, and shoes), what perfume I was wearing... but I don't remember our first kiss, even though it was only 7 years ago. So I know I have an EXCELLENT memory; my brain just happens to remember the wrong things. It's absolutely annoying, but on the bright side, I'll never forget a birthday! ;)

Another good thing about my screwy memory is that I always forget the endings of movies unless I've seen them a billion times. So I get to watch the same thing over again and have the same fresh feeling. And if I watch it enough times, I can basically recite the movie back to you. It's very weird. My brain is one strange little organ.

As for the word seeking, I have the same problem. I also don't look for synonyms, but try to describe the word I'm looking for. The reason I don't look for synonyms is usually because I can't think of the words of any of the synonyms! My description of the word I'm looking for usually comes out as, "You know what I'm talking about. That thing. You know. The thing that does that thing." (My mom for some reason always knows exactly what I'm talking about.) This only came about with the Lamictal, which I see you're on as well. I naively believed this wouldn't happen to me. I was an English major. Impeccable vocabulary, spelling, and grammar. It's all gone to hell. It's a small price to pay, though.

I wish I had better advice than looking through old photographs, but that seems to be the only thing that sets off any memories for me. I just wanted to let you know that I sympathize with you. It's INCREDIBLY frustrating.

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