Sunday, May 29, 2011


I am not quite sure what happened to my memory. I am barely in my mid-30s, but things just don’t seem to stick anymore. My memory has never been particularly great, but these days especially, everything seems to just go in one ear and out the other. And that is really pissing me off.

At the risk of sounding kind of nerdy, when I was a teenager I could remember things much better. I was no genius then either, but I seemed to be able to keep things in my head better. I was never any good at maths or science subjects, nor was I any good at French, which for reasons which were never entirely clear, was the foreign language at my school. I was much better at English, history, literature, legal studies. On a nerdier note, I could remember most of the dialogue from the original Star Wars trilogy verbatim.

The fifteen years since then have gone by very fast, and I don’t have much to show for them. But I do have a memory that seems a lot worse than it used to be. I don’t think this can really be due to age. Early-onset Alzheimer’s seems rather unlikely. Part of it is probably due to depression. Some of it may be from side-effects of medication. Some of it may be due to being socially isolated. But whatever the reason, it is frustrating as hell.

It probably isn’t just memory either. My ability to really comprehend, to take things in is not great either. And a lousy ability to understand combined with a lousy ability to retain things is, well, a pretty lousy combination!

I’m frustrated as hell about the whole thing, and I don’t know what to do. I eat pretty healthy, I exercise more than many people do. I tried doing a “brain training” book for about a year but it didn’t seem to really make much difference. I’ve tried to study Japanese probably about ten times since I moved to Japan and always give up for some reason or another without having improved much at all. I’ve tried to learn to play the guitar but nothing seems to stick there either.

I’m not quite sure what the point of this post is. Basically, I just wish I had a better brain that would allow me to have a better life. But that doesn’t seem to be on the cards, so I guess I have to struggle on with the one I was issued.


  1. I just read a fantastic book called "Organizing in the Google Era" which really points out that our society wherever you life, is overwhelmed by information. We get burned out, emails, blogging, etc...and that our brain can only handle so much information at a time. At most our brain can focus on 3-5 chunks of information that is relevant to us, otherwise, our brain just blocks it out...I was getting really frustrated too, not being able to retain info. It's a great book to read for both the scientific facts/data, advice and general knowledge, D.R.

  2. I can relate, unfortunately. I've asked psychologists - my professors as well as therapists - if depression causes irreversible cognitive deficits and they all say nobody knows yet. I also don't care to believe that my drop in ability is from being 31.

  3. I suffer from this problem as well, although at times it seems to be better than others. I haven't quite figured out what could trigger the change. However, I have noticed that my emotional memory is exceptional which I believe happens in a different part of the brain.

    At one part it was bothering me so bad that I started playing games at this site to try and improve my memory. I did this under the assumption that using that part of the brain more would give it a workout and thus help my memory.

  4. Hi everyone, it is something of a comfort to know that I'm not alone in getting frustrated at my inability to recall stuff.

    @Wendy - thanks for that, it sounds like an interesting book, I might check it out at some stage.

    @Tanya - Who knows, but I wouldn't be surprised if it did. I hope it doesn't. Existing in a fog of lousy memory is not much fun. Some things I seem to retain quite well, but a lot of stuff just slips through my fingers.

    @Running Circles - I tried doing a Brain Training book for a year or so, which had daily mathematics questions and every week a word memorization task. I'm not sure that it really made much difference. I do crosswords on and off - at the moment I am doing the one on semi-regularly.

    Thanks for the heads-up about the lumosity website. I tried the first three tasks, and did by far the best with the vocabulary one. My brain seems to grind so slowly!

  5. Hey, if it can't be changed, why stress about it? Some AA quote I'm trying to remembers now...the courage to change the things...??...Awe, fuck it. Can't remember.

  6. Hahaha @ Anonymous
    Unfortunately, I don't have any advice for you, but like and everyone else here, I am in the same forgetful boat. I think for me my breakdown set off a chain reaction and after that my memory began to fade. I think now my bad memory is a combination of depression and stress. U have no idea how hard it is to try and cope with this and be in university. In a way it's very sad because I was known for having a good memory and a lot of my good memories have faded. It's also been a weird blessing in that some really awful childhood memories are fading to. If you find some way to combat this let me know.

  7. @Anonymous - Heh. I know what you mean. Hopefully I can learn to follow that half-forgotten piece of advice at some stage.

    @Stephi - Sure, if I find a solution I will let you know. I don't have great hopes of doing that, but it would make for a good blog post. I haven't given up hope entirely, but I can't see things changing in the short term at least. My best wishes for your studies, I can only imagine how challenging that is.