Memory Loss for no apparent reason

by Debbie
(Houston, TX)

I am now 57, and in my 4th marriage. I have three grown children and one aged 5, still at home. A late adoption while living overseas.

memory problems story
My first marriage was for 16 years and where I had my older 3 children. I was then married less than a year, and then for 7 years to a sociopath in Hawaii.

It was a time when I was extremely wealthy, and then dragged through an awful divorce that lasted 3 years. I was emotionally and financially devastated at the end.

For the past 9 years I have been with the love of my life, and we adopted a baby while living overseas. We are now back in the USA.

During my 7 year long marriage to the sociopath I suppose I was traumatized to the max. That is the only thing that I can actually recall that might make sense. Possibly why I don't recall all the details of that mess.

But, ALL THE TIME my friends remind me of this time or that time.... where we were, who we were with, etc., etc., and I can sort of remember their stories a bit it, but not really.

I actually have always been aware of big black holes in my memory prior to the awful marriage in Hawaii - middle school and high school are just a memory or two - I don't remember classes, teachers, or many friends.

Over the years I have just dealt with the memory loss - glossing over it when someone asked me about a time, or referred to something I didn't remember. But I am growing more concerned.

It seems like I have excellent short term memory, but long term memories fade as soon as they move into the long term category.

Should I be worried??? I feel like I have forgotten 75% of my life!

I remember only one possible head injury - where I was unconscious for a minute or two (as far as I recall) and that was when I was thrown from a friend's horse - at about 12 or 13. Could that ONE incident - where I only suffered a sprain and some bruises on my legs, be the reason for a lifetime of memory loss?

Does this lead me straight into one of the scarier diseases?? Any remarks appreciated :)

Doug's Reply. Hi Debbie, the type of memory you're talking about is known as "episodic" memory. Episodic memories are the memories of experiences and events.

Two other main types of memory are "semantic" memory (facts and general knowledge) and "procedural" memory (like how to ride a bike). Episodic memories are stored differently
in the brain compared to other types of memories.

With this in mind, and also keeping in mind that this is merely information not medical advice, I can imagine a few possible causes regarding your situation:

1) Memory loss due to brain injury is certainly a real thing. From your description of being thrown from the horse, it doesn't sound like you were unconscious for very long. But according to the Mayo Clinic, even minor head trauma can cause memory loss:
A head injury from a fall or accident - even an injury that doesn't result in a loss of consciousness - may cause memory problems.
2) Since you don't have a lot of memories from childhood, this could simply be the way your brain works. Each person has strengths and weaknesses, and there are variations.

Regarding memory for events, there are a few people on either extreme. Some, like Joey DeGrandis, can remember what happened every day of their lives.

At the other extreme are people, normal in other respects, who can't recall their past at all, as described in the article Some Perfectly Normal People Can't Remember Their Own Lives.

They have a rare condition called "severely deficient autobiographical memory." (A screening test is poor performance when asked to draw a complex figure from memory.)

3) Have you considered marriage-related PTSD from your time in the difficult relationship and the rough divorce? The emotional trauma associated with PTSD is sometimes linked to memory loss.

4) Are you taking any long-term medications that have memory loss as a side effect? These can include antianxiety, anticholesterol, antidepressant, and hypertension drugs, as well as some sleeping aids.

Those are just a few possibilities. If you really want to get to the bottom of this, a possible next step would be to undergo neuropsychological examination and testing.

Neuropsych exams and tests may help your doctor pinpoint other possible causes of your memory problems. To help rule out various causes of memory loss, the physician might want to perform blood testing or CT scans, for example.

Completing a written neuropsych exam can help your doctor determine whether episodic memories are your only deficits or if you might have other types of cognitive gaps as well.

As for the future? Identifying the root cause of your memory loss may answer that question.

Hopefully we'll get some comments here from other visitors to this site who have experience in this area. Thank you for sharing your story.

Best regards,
This is information only. It is not medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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