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I had a title for this post but I forgot it

Forgetful

Lately I find myself opening up my web browser and having to wait a few seconds before I remember why I opened the browser in the first place. Sort of like my brain is a computer that has frozen for a few seconds as it distributes enough resources to properly load my Rememberio 1.0 program. Usually the thought comes to me, like “Oh right, I wanted to look up what movies this actor has been in” or “I need to look up the location of the shoe store on Google Maps.” But still, there is this slight pause that is sort of annoying and slightly perturbing.

I learned in my college psychology class that we have two forms of short term memory. There is the super short term memory that lasts for about 7-10 seconds. Anything you think of in those seconds can then be copied over to your regular short term memory, where it will stay for a longer amount of time and may eventually be copied over to long term memory. (This is the part of the entry where someone with a science background will nitpick my retelling of these concepts and tell me how I’ve screwed up my summary of something I learned in 1999, but whatever. Please be nice about it if you do. I ain’t a doctor, I just play one on this blog.) Sometimes you don’t copy over something in the super short memory and that’s when you get that horribly annoying feeling that you know you’ve forgotten something but you have no idea what you’ve forgotten. So then you try to backtrack through your thoughts trying to recreate the mental path you took to think of whatever you forgot.

I’ve come up with three theories on why my memory is experiencing mental hiccups:

1) It is the inevitable result of a fast-paced, social media world where my attention is constantly being pulled a zillion different ways at once between Facebook, Twitter, email, my web browser, my phone, constant background stressors like finances, health insurance claims, gas prices and oh, right, my actual real world environment where my neighbors’ kids run screeching like dying chimpanzees downstairs.

2) It is the sign of the cognitive impairment that comes with chronic pain.

3) It is a result of the aging process by which I will become old, forgetful and senile.

I’m not sure which one of these things is making me slightly forgetful, or if it’s a combination of some of them, or if it’s due to something else entirely.

Oh, and literally hours after I had written this post, as if the universe were reading my forgetful lil’ mind, I read an article that says fat people have worse memories than skinny people. So maybe my weight gain since my headache began is to blame. Let’s add this then:

4) Weight gain ↑ has led to memory loss ↓.

Anyway, I’m not sure what there is to be done about it other than to buy lots of post-it notes and start doing crossword puzzles to exercise my mind. I’m not a big crossword fan, so I’ll probably just keep forgetting things instead. Wait, what was I talking about?

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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12 Comments

Mymsie • April 20, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Alcohol helps the brain remember :D http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-04-alcohol-brain.html

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Amanda Bozeman • April 20, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Great… I’m 4 for 4. And I quit drinking in January.

I don’t like crosswords, either. Have been considering Sudoku. Think that would help?

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Brittney • April 20, 2011 at 3:11 pm

One mental exercise that I’ve found pretty effective is to memorize poetry. Not something I’d normally spend time doing but my college classes require some Sylvia Plath memorization, and I have been much less forgetful lately. There’s also the extra benefit of ‘wooing’ someone with your new found knowledge. Though, I’d watch what poetry you use. As awesome as she is, I wouldn’t recommend Plath as a means of courting (learned that well enough).

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Lisa • April 21, 2011 at 12:41 am

I think it is because you have done so much at the computer, it alone no longer provides the visual cue for what you wanted to look up. You have to find positional or other cues to remind you what you were looking for. I find how memory works fascinating. I include an url to a clip differentiating between forgetfulness and dementia. I found it very interesting the way she talks about the capacity of that short term working memory. 5 to 8 things she says is all most of us can hold in working memory, and it’s all downhill after 25. 25?! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJk02XI_sRA

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Jessica • April 21, 2011 at 1:28 am

It’s Mercury Retro.

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Hunter • April 21, 2011 at 11:13 am

Interesting. I usually boot up the computer with a task in mind (I keep it shut down as I don’t use it on a daily basis). Browse everything but the reason I booted up in the first place, then shut down. Five steps away from the computer, I remember why I started up in the first place…DOH!

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PastaQueen • April 21, 2011 at 1:59 pm

@Lisa – Hmmm, that’s interesting. It sort of reminds me of the idea of memory palaces. That’s when you imagine a room you know and then you “place” things you need to remember in different places in the room.

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Johanna • April 21, 2011 at 2:51 pm

@Lisa – That is a good explanation. I’ve kind of assumed that what Jennette writes about and I have experienced as well is the result of the Zoloft I’ve been using on and off for years. But the computer explanation feels more spot on and I believe you could be right. Very interesting!

Jennette, I really enjoyed your new book, but related to it almost too much and my own head started aching every single time I picked it up, at the gym on the stair master for instance. I’ve tried to imagine myself in your situation and it’s almost impossible. I was very sick for six months and almost died last spring, but my worst fear all that time was that the aches and pains that I suffered would never go away and that I’d somehow have to live with them for ever without finding any explanation or cure. My illness did eventually go away and I’m almost completely restored, but reading about your headache brings back those feelings of desperation and I feel for you so intensely. I wish I could take you headache away and throw it into outer space, but since I cannot I can only say that I’m very interested to know about your future struggles, and if you ever need any support…

But still, how is it possible that it just won’t go away and where is it coming from? Well, whatever the answer, it is a miracle that you are still here, writing and blogging as if nothing particular had happened at all. Just awesome!

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elkit • April 24, 2011 at 4:26 pm

For me, one of the strangest and most fascinating things about forgetfulness is that my body remembers better than my brain – for example, I get up from the living room sofa and go to the kitchen to do … what? I forgot. So I walk back to the living room, and as soon as I am in the previous spot, my brain remembers what I was about to do. How the heck does that make any sense?

And the mention of memory palaces reminds me to continue reading “Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything” by Joshua Foer that talks about how to do that.

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PastaQueen • April 24, 2011 at 7:27 pm

@elkit – That link Lisa left at the top of the comments goes into that a bit, how your position in a room can trigger a memory.

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Reyna • April 26, 2011 at 4:18 pm

A proper balanced diet is the way to go. I had honestly experience problems with my temperament and short term memory and I still do but not quite as bad as I did before I commenced my proper diet. I like many of us ate well or so I thought I did, but the fact of the matter I was not! With the hectic pace of lifestyle we are forced to carry processed foods tend to be our solution to help us stretch our time but we seem to be spending more time and money having to fix these problems with various health center memberships and tucks here and our shrink. My husband and I visited Taheima Wellness resort & Spa in Puerto Vallarta late last year as a friend of us highly recommended it. This place was fabulous, we learned a lot in out stay there, But in short our eyes were opened to proper eating, going organic is key and avoiding processed foods as much as possible. With a bit of physical work such as yoga I noticed my attitude towards everything improved and so did my memory. Funny how eating the proper diets can make our everyday activities so much easier, while living healthy

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Leah • April 27, 2011 at 11:10 am

@Reyna – I think i visited the same resort at least it sounds like it http://www.taheimahotel.com , and as you mentioned we were amazed when we realized about proper nutrition. I will admit we ate excessive red meat in our families diet and have stepped it down a bit. We have noticed more energy and we have a much better attitude towards the world!

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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