My own bad brain!!!

by Deb
(Ontario, Canada)

My name is Deb and I have a very bad memory. It's also very unpredictable.

memory problems story
I remember very little from the past, and when I do it is all out of order. It makes me seem like I don't care or as if I'm lying about things.

I have such gaps in my memory that my brain just draws conclusions from what is there... I also have to wonder if when I was younger, and used to remember my dreams (I go months without being aware that I dream, and never remember them when I am aware I have been dreaming) that I may have gotten my dreams and reality mixed up.

I'm able to write well as I'm not actually stupid, but I don't really think quickly enough to speak nearly as well as I write. I don't know... could it be I was exposed to something that has ruined part of my brain?

I have very adverse reactions to chemical odors... I can't stand chlorine or bromine in swimming pools and hot tubs, I can only swim in lakes or rivers.

Most household cleaners make me feel ill for days. I can usually only use vinegar to clean with... it makes me wonder.

My condition is not as debilitating as others might be, but I do feel it holds me back quite a bit!

Doug's Reply. I have to ask: have you ever seen a doctor about this? A physician could perhaps run tests to determine whether your condition is the result of exposure to chemicals or some other identifiable cause.

Much of the mental deficit you describe seems related to "episodic memory". One way of classifying memory is by information type:
  • Episodic Memory. Ability to remember events and experiences from your own life. Requires conscious recall.

  • Semantic Memory. Ability to remember facts. For example, remembering that Ottawa is the capital of Canada. Also requires conscious recall.

  • Procedural Memory. Ability to remember procedures such as physical skills. For example, how to read and write, how to ride a bike, how to drive a car, how to tie your shoelaces. Does not require conscious recall; for the most part, you can either perform the action automatically or not.

Exposure to chemicals and toxins can result in poor memory. You might also want to consider some of the other causes of memory loss. That page also explains in brief how doctors test for those causes in particular individuals.

Keeping a journal is one way to improve episodic memory. I have some issues with episodic memory, though not as profound as yours, and I've found that writing in my journal and then periodically reviewing previous entries has helped with this. (I've kept a journal since 1996.) So this is something you might try.

As for remembering specific events (at least going forward), consider taking a mental snapshot during special moments. This may help you form clearer mental images of those moments for future recall.

I really do think you should consider consulting with a doctor, in particular a neurologist. As you may know, neurologists specialize in diagnosing and treating issues related to the brain.

Thanks so much for sharing your story. Even though it is normal to assume you are the only person in the world with this problem, there may be thousands of others in a similar situation. Obviously a "bad brain" as you call it is not something one typically draws attention to; it is natural to conceal it, and to compensate for it somehow.

It is always helpful to know that someone else shares the same pain and challenges; your story will help others realize they are not alone and encourage them to search more actively for solutions.

Best regards,
Douglas
Memory-Improvement-Tips.com
This is information only. It is not medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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Dec 18, 2014
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Bad Episodic Memory
by: Anonymous

I know for a fact that I have a bad episodic memory when compared to other people. I can't remember what I did (exactly) a year ago.

For example, I went on a trip to Singapore with my parents to visit my brother. My mom's memory of the trip is better than mine.

And when I go further back into the past it gets worse. I can barely remember what I did in my freshmen year of college, and this is only 8 years ago (it was fun - nothing traumatic).

It is so bad that I am friends with people from back then only because I am friends with them on facebook. I don't even know why we were friends except for a few vague memories of hanging out together.

I wonder if this is because I don't reminisce enough about the past or if there is an actual problem.

I don't have too many problems with other kinds of memory. I am also quite intelligent (w/o trying to brag).

It would be helpful if someone could elucidate me on this. Do I need to go to a doctor or should I just try harder to keep track of events?

Doug's Reply. You can check with your physician, but I've never heard of anything doctors can do about this, especially if you've always been this way (i.e., if nothing's changed). Certainly other people have complained of the same problem. This may simply be the way your brain is wired.
journaling
Journal to remember events

Every brain is a little different. Somebody has to fall on the low end of the curve, even as there are a few rare documented cases of individuals who can remember every single day of their lives (hyperthymesia) - the extreme high end of the curve.

A poor episodic memory does not necessarily mean there is something "wrong" with you. Although as you point out it can be worrisome, inconvenient, even embarrassing.

One way to tackle a poor episodic memory directly is to maintain a daily journal. You'll want to review your entries periodically and more than once in order to strengthen your memory of the events. But this helps a lot.

Keeping photo albums with labeled pictures also is helpful. Look through them every once in awhile to jog your memory of those times in your life.

As always, it's never a bad idea to consult your doctor as appropriate to get their insight and advice. There are of course some diseases that can negatively affect memory.

Regards,
Douglas
Memory-Improvement-Tips.com

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