This is my third idea for a blog topic this week.
Due to mental illness, I have a memory like a sieve. So I write everything down.
I have a note on my phone where I write all of my ideas for blogs. I usually have about five topics in advance on there. I’ll also jot down specific thoughts for each post as they come to me. And then when the day arrives for writing, I choose one of those topics to write about.
Well, sometimes I decide to abandon that system all together. I might be going through something in particular that I want to talk about. Or an event will happen in the media that inspires me. So I’ll ignore my list of ideas and write about something new.
This happened to me last night. I thought of a great blog idea and I thought to myself, ‘That’s so genius, there’s no way I’ll forget! I wont bother writing it down.’ And yet, here we are. I forgot it.
So after being too disinterested in my pre-prepared ideas and forgetting my brilliant epiphany…Here I am writing about the process of forgetting and how it affects my life. Third time’s the charm, right?
Stress, anxiety, trauma, depression and mania are all linked to memory problems. And lucky me, I have all those in spades.
Stress, anxiety and trauma can affect the way we process information, We may be hyper-vigilante, meaning we are constantly looking for threats in the environment. We can zero in on certain things at the expense of others.
For me, this might mean remembering the way a situation made me feel, but without any of the details. I might remember feeling judged or threatened, but I can’t explain why. Or I might remember one phrase that was said that I have fixated on but none of the others that are contrary to my worries. This is not me deliberately ignoring information, this is just how my memory works. It focuses on threat information.
Dissociation and trauma
The other thing with trauma and memory is that I dissociate quite bit. Well, a lot if I’m honest. For me, this mostly looks like just zoning out. But I literally am not in the room. Or in my body. I can lose huge chunks of time and memory as a result.
People are constantly telling me that they told me something that I have absolutely no recollection of. It usually turns out that I wasn’t fully present or in the room at the time.
When depressed, my brain is filled with tar. It weighs heavy on my shoulders. Now, obviously the depressed brain co-mingles with stress and anxiety. But it also has some unique impacts of it’s own on my memory.
Depression can impact on my ability to encode information. Encode is a fancy, technical word that essentially refers to the process of your brain converting the pure sensory information into a code your brain can understand and store. As many of you would know, depression makes your brain slower. Which means this process is compromised. Leaving us struggling to remember things that were just said to us.
Like with depression, a manic brain can’t encode information properly. But for different reasons. When I’m manic my brain is moving at a million miles an hour. The brain literally doesn’t have time to encode and remember everything that is said and done. People have actually accused me of using this is a scapegoat but it is 100% legitimate. I often don’t remember things I have said and done whilst manic, and it usually takes a lot of convincing to make me believe I did some of the worse things.
I know this process can be frustrating for others. And feel invalidating and hurtful because I don’t remember something that was a big deal for them. But it is terrifying for me. Similar to dissociation, losing chunks of time and not being able to remember is very frustrating for me. It can make me feel like an in complete person.
Why am I sharing all of this?
I was really angry at myself when I woke up and got my laptop out to write and realised that I didn’t remember what I wanted to write about. I felt like a failure. Memory problems can be confronting for anyone but as a 24 year old, it can be especially upsetting. I put all this pressure on myself that I should be in my prime. I feel like I shouldn’t have memory problems at my age.
So going through this process of discussing the ways mental illness directly influences my brain and memory with all of you was very helpful. It interrupted and diverted my harsh judgements of myself. It has helped me to be a bit more forgiving to myself for forgetting my awesome blog idea. And hopefully it has produced an awesome blog in and of itself.