Memory

Memory is a weird thing. This morning I found myself singing a song that I learnt in Year 4 of Primary School (so aged 9?). I knew all of the words and the tune. It wasn’t even a song that’s well known or that I’m likely to hear- it was one of those songs teachers get out of the random songbooks for class assemblies and then you never sing them again. I didn’t even participate in that particular class assembly because I had to have my teeth removed that day. But I knew all of it!

I used to have a fantastic memory. I was loathed by pupils I taught because I never forgot a missed detention, even after the holidays. I could remember entire portions of conversation and quote them back to people, telling them what clothes they’d been wearing that day, what day it was, where we were and what the weather was like.

Now I divide things up into ‘pre-endocrine’ and ‘post-endocrine’. Most things I was told or I learnt before having an endocrine disorder, I can still remember. Anything afterwards, probably not, although I don’t forget everything. So I can remember songs I learnt in Year 4, and the fact that I had my teeth out the day it was supposed to take place. But I can’t always remember what I’ve ordered in a restaurant nowadays and I have no idea how our new Sky Box works because it’s massively different from the old one. It doesn’t matter how many times I try, the next time I come to repeat the action, I can’t remember how to do it. I can work it out though, it’s just learning it as ‘new’ again.

Bits of the day sometimes go missing. I first noticed this while I was still working and a really, really lovely child was insisting that they’d handed their work in and telling me where I was and what I’d said and I had absolutely no recollection of the interaction. Or what I’d done with the work. But they were one of the nice kids, so I believed her. After this, I started coming up with systems to help me remember things:

  • I write notes to myself in my phone of things I’ve done. Now I’m not at work, it’s usually things like ‘you’ve already made an appointment for X, there’s a photo of the letter on the 23rd June in your camera roll’. And, if I write them in my phone, if I can’t remember if I wrote a note or not, I can search my phone for it.
  • I take photos of everything and put them in different folders so I can find things.
  • Lots and lots of reminders so that I do things on specific days
  • Everytime I take meds out of my usual routine, I tell my phone
  • I ‘study’ before I meet people so that I know what I’ve said to them the last time and what’s happening with them. All from the photos in my phone. This is why I like text message conversations because there’s a record! If you tell me a time and date on the phone but don’t also text it to me, I will probably have forgotten it by the time I hang up!

If I lose my phone, I’m stuck basically. I can’t write everything down though, so I try other things to help me remember:

  • If I count things out on my hand, it sometimes helps me remember an order of tasks to correspond with each number.
  • I try rhymes. So last weekend I met a lot of new people and thought ‘Pip is wearing pink’ to help me remember. Except Pip took her pink cardigan off. And then later Viv was wearing a similar pink and Pip ended up wearing black. So it doesn’t always work!
  • I keep things in the same place all the time. If you move things, it’s really confusing because I assume I’ve moved it and forgotten, so spend ages trying to ‘think how I would think’ to try and find it.

However, sometimes I get flashes of memories. So if you’re telling me about a friend, I might suddenly think ‘oh the one with 2 kids and a dog’ and have absolutely no idea where I’ve heard that or if it is that person. But then when I check, it usually is. Unfortunately, it tends to be the really, really useless information I remember and not actually the useful stuff! Sometimes I think things which happen in dreams actually happened in real life. I think it’s because the haziness people remember dreams with is my general everyday feeling anyway, so to me they feel the same. Obviously if you’re eaten by a dragon in my dream, I know that’s not true…!

Sometimes I get an emotion attached to something, quite often to do with another sense. So if I was eating something and felt sad because of something that had happened, I will probably feel sad the next time I eat the same thing, but not necessarily remember why. Sensory connections are quite common anyway- we used to talk to pupils about revising with the same music or the same perfume on to help with memory.

Memory is so interesting. I used to get frustrated about having gone from one extreme to the other, but I mostly try and laugh about it. I’ll forget I was annoyed about it pretty soon after anyway! 😉

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