Memory issues– a multitude of obstacles having to do with different types of memory. Depending on which part of the memory is affected, the difficulties can be wide in range and scope. The resulting behaviors cause frustration and can affect day to day life in jobs as well as family relationships.
As told to me by Bill Gunnin.
I spend more time looking for things than doing things. I think I have everything together, but then I don’t. Lately, losing things and trying to locate things has been more stressful than anything else I am dealing with. I am trying to organize my life because of the new piano tuning business I have started, but there are specialized tools and small things and I have trouble sometimes finding what I am looking for. My stuff is spread all over the house, which invades your space and that won’t work. I organize and organize and organize, but it always seems I am overloaded. Then I can’t remember my organization or which file I put something into. There are times I am doing my very best to have everything together, but there is always something that isn’t where I need it to be, like a tool, or a file, or my glasses, or my phone, or some form or paperwork.
One of the problems, and I don’t know how to change it, is that I get obsessed on locating on things. Because of that, sometimes I lose perspective on how important the item is. I get fixated, and I forget what I am working on. It is hard for me to realize the thing I am looking for might not be as important as what I am supposed to be doing. I feel if I have the item then I will be ready and I have a desire to be ready for anything. Sometimes it causes me to go slow, like with packing for a trip. I have to consider every possibility, and when I can’t remember where something is that I might need, I have to stop and turn the house upside down looking for it. Then once I find it, whatever it is, I can go back, but then everything is out of place because of my previous looking. My difficulty making decisions jumps into the mix and it just causes stress and frustration, and takes me forever to do things that most people can do in five minutes.
It reminds me of my mom and her brain cancer. Remember how she was always unsettled and had to go somewhere? She was looking for something, but she couldn’t name it and she kept walking in circles. I might not be as severe as she was, but I feel that. I have to be ready; I cannot be unprepared. I may not accomplish anything because of getting ready all the time, but I will be prepared.
I can lose something sitting in one place. Like in the car the other day when I lost my sunglasses. They were just gone. I had not even left my seat and they just disappeared. I was to the point of insanity in my frustration. I honestly believed I might be going crazy. I couldn’t stop looking and let it go until I knew what happened to those damn glasses. I have no memory at all of putting them into your purse. That doesn’t even make sense to me, but at least we found them, even though it took 45 minutes of looking in the car first. I get so frustrated, and by the time I find what I am looking for I have wasted so much time, and then I usually have misplaced something else.
As much as I resist order, I know order helps me rest. So, I can’t rest until I find what I am looking for and put it in order. I think this may happen because it’s not just one thing; it is memory, indecision, feeling like part of me is missing and I can’t find it…just like all the stuff I am always losing, I have lost myself.
It helps the turmoil when you come to my aid and help me look. Having someone to share the difficulty with makes me feel less like I am crazy. Having you help me makes me not feel so alone in it. I know it’s frustrating to you to always have to stop and help me. I know I depend on that a lot and it’s not fair, but I don’t know what else to do when I am in a tizzy. It is in the moment, and I get stuck there. Not to mention if we are going somewhere it slows down everyone else. Plus, you have done this for so many years you are an excellent finder, much better at it than me. It does makes me mad though when I have been looking for something for hours and you can walk right in and find it in a minute.
I think the problem may be a memory thing rather than an organizational thing. It is because of my need for organizational systems that my memory issues are exposed which increase my anxiety. I can’t let it go, because I have a system in place. When I can’t remember, my system doesn’t work at all, and this makes me feel crazy and stupid. I haven’t left the room, but whatever it is I have misplaced is not there. Things cannot just disappear. I have to keep looking because if I can’t find it now, the search will get bigger tomorrow. At least I know where I have been today, so it limits where I have to look. Tomorrow my memory will be even worse.
I get angry when I can’t remember things. When I can’t remember something like the name of the trail I was trying to think of today…Raven Cliff Falls…I have hiked that trail so many times, it is discouraging not to be able to remember it. It causes me anxiety and fear of what I can’t remember. I should be able to recall more. I wrote and wrote and wrote things down so I wouldn’t forget. I have notebooks full of stuff, but that doesn’t work because all I do is write, but never accomplish anything. I don’t throw them away because I am afraid I will forget all of it. Now there’s a new app to help file notes and things in your phone. But then I can’t remember which file and it turns into another thing to distract me.
My memory gaps cause so much distraction for me. I am spinning wheels, because I never feel ready to do it, whatever it is. It is like when you go somewhere and you feel like you are forgetting something, and you are wracking your brain to think what it is. You trace your steps trying to make sure you have everything. It is common for me to feel that way at some point every day. It drains my pool of mental resources. Getting ready…trying to remember where I put things. Memory issues prevent me from moving forward. Shame is involved. It makes me feel embarrassed. Angry at myself, and I get tired of it all the time. I just want to be able to get my stuff together.
I have tried to make some systems to help. I check when going in and out of buildings to make note of what I have with me when I go in, so I can check to make sure I still have them with me when I leave. I have made it a habit most of the time, except when I forget. As soon as I realize something is missing, I try to call all the places I have been to find out where I left it. The sooner I call the sooner I can go pick it up and get back on track. I am trying to be intentional in what I am taking with me and where.
I feel like I live my life on a roller coaster. I feel very capable and smart sometimes and other times I feel like a total idiot. I mean, who loses things without even moving out of a chair? That is crazy. And now it takes a long time to get prepared for things, and I know it used to take less. That scares me a bit.
I have a new thing I have tried to do more recently. I am consciously trying to find a place where things belong. I am trying to get into the habit of putting things back where they go. I know other people do that, but it has always been hard for me to remember where the place is and believe it is the right place to keep it. I’m frustrated, because when I haven’t found a place for something to go, I lose it. Do you think that could be why I get so frustrated? Is that possible? Does it make sense?
You ask me does it feel like being a little boy again, since my tears and anger seem like that to you. My first thought is what does it feel like to be a little boy? I have trouble remembering. When I think about that, it isn’t a feeling I want to have. I’m afraid of not being able to express frustration with words…just feelings without names and my inability to figure them out. As a little boy, there was confusion about my feelings…the usual development part of being a kid…until I learned how things worked. I guess, in a way now, it is like the confusion and pent up emotion from when I was a kid. I know the embarrassment feels the same, only now I am not a little boy. It seems like the shame is bigger, because a grown man should be able to remember more than I can.
Sometimes I am certain I have a memory of something, but then I can’t figure out if it is a true memory. Is it from this day or years ago? If it is vivid and I KNOW it happened, I still might not be able to figure out when it is from. Sometimes the memories are clear, but knowing when I had them is not. I can be certain I put something in a place, but I cannot be certain that it was today when I did it. No matter if I make notes on paper, or in my head, I still cannot always tell if the memory I have is the most recent one. Like, I remember putting a tool for my piano in a certain place, but the tool is missing; it is not there. So, did I not put it there? Or do I remember something I actually did, but I have done many things with the tool since then? Or did I put it there when I first got it and not yesterday like I thought? These are the questions that go through my mind to torment me while I am looking in every possible place. And I still haven’t found it, so I cannot finish working on my piano. It is maddening.
People do not know how this kind of problem can affect daily life. It seems to me that everything I do takes three times the effort of other people. It is hard just for me to get through the day intact sometimes. If it was only the memory issues maybe I could adjust better, but throw in all the other things that are silent parts of my injury and how they affect my thinking, and I feel like I will never get to where I want to be. I will try, very hard, but I will not succeed. That is the worse feeling in the world.