How do you know if you've forgotten something?
It's quite common for people with mental illnesses, across many flavors of them, to have poor memories. For instance, people who have AvPd (Avoidant Personality Disorder) often report having a difficult time remembering people's names. To the extreme end, abuse survivors have large blocks of their memory unreachable to them.
I mumbled a little bit here in my last post about my poor memory. I thought you and I could explore it a little more now. The ironic catch, though, is that at least half of the ideas/stories I want to share I've already forgotten. I can hear some of you suggesting that I keep a notebook or get an app for my phone so I can jot down ideas when I get them. I fail at that every time I attempt it.
My shortcoming with that idea is the same as why I do a podcast journal instead of a written one. I despise going back and looking at ideas, thoughts and feelings I've put to paper. I'll either use too sparse of a shorthand for me to be able to remember fully, or I'll dismiss the writing outright as being "stupid," "Whiny" or "Embarrassing."
Voice memos? The only thing I dislike more than reading my thoughts is to hear them. Many people are surprised that I've never listened to one of my podcasts. Sure I listen in fits and starts as I edit each episode before publishing, but I've never sat down and listened, as a listener. I've had several podcast runs with my friend Dave. We took turns editing and such. I've never listened to one of them.
And it's Dave that has me thinking about my poor, or lack of, memory.
Dave is a fantastic friend. We get along wonderfully. He's caring and sharing of himself. He'll find a way to make time for you. He'll go out of his way to help out. He's supportive. He may not always feel like he's the best option to get something done, and he's honest about that, but he's always willing to give it his best shot. (Sorry folks, he's married already.)
I've known Dave for 27 years this fall. We met as suite mates freshman year in college. 5 years later, after both graduating and realizing living at home was not viable for either of us, we found an apartment and took on the world.
Here's what I remember about the first five years + the early years living together. Tecmo baseball, an eye poke, +Live+, he moved across campus and Myst. I don't remember meeting him, where we were when he poked me in the eye, how he was invited into my dorm room to play Nintendo or even a single conversation.
How did we get from graduating to moving into an apartment? That's not a small endeavor. But we did it. How can I have a best friend of nearly 3 decades and not remember so much?
There are hypotheses of course. But as with so much of the very young mental health sciences there is only so much that is known yet. The first one that I thought of, and then read about later, is that I spend so much of my cognition on worrying about how others are viewing me (AvPD) and trying to appear happy and engaged (Major Depression) that in many situations I'm so distracted by those efforts I simply do not have the focus to make memories.
I've also seen this idea:
"In fact, researchers from Brigham Young University believe they’ve worked out exactly why depression affects memory. They believe it damages a process called ‘pattern separation’, which is your ability to differentiate things that are similar. The more depressed a person feels, the more difficult it becomes to distinguish between similar experiences, meaning they’re less likely to remember them."
"An emerging literature has begun to document the cognitive consequences of emotion regulation. A process model of emotion suggests that expressive suppression (conscious efforts to inhibit overt emotion-expressive behavior), should reduce memory for emotional events. Results from recent studies have supported this."
This second suggests that since folks with AvPD are often tense and anxious it makes sense that we'd have difficulty forming lasting memories.
This is only the smallest of primers about how my (and maybe your) memory fails me. I may be starting to understand it, but I surely do not like it. I've used Dave in this post because explaining how there are so many lost memories from raising my girls is much too painful.
My friend Kate used to do a thing at the end of her blog posts where she asked questions. I'm officially stealing that idea from her. Please leave answers in the comments if you could.
Who is your best friend?
Do you have similar experiences with poor memory, boht short term and long term?