Tag Archives: memory

Need-To-Know Basis

flumpMy short-term memory is playing havoc with my life.

I now seem to exist in a permanent state of wonder.

Wonder at why I am standing at the fridge, peering in at the contents. Wondering why I’m holding a bottle glass cleaner in one hand and an unopened sachet of cat food in the other.

The Teenager was diligently typing up study notes for his looming exams the other day:

‘Mum! Oi, mum. When you finally stop watching Mad Men, could you have a look at my notes?’

‘Of course my little cherub.’

Ten minutes later, I put the rubbish and recycling out, placed the to-be-returned library books in a prominent position and vacuumed up stray cat biscuits. Then sat back down and un-paused Jon Hamm.

‘Muuuuuuuuum. My notes, like, d’ur?’

Gah. I completely, utterly, totally forgot. It’s got to the point that if I’m planning to cook dinner, a seismic IQ challenge in itself (any recipe longer than four steps is consigned to the ‘yeah right’ pile), I have to constantly remind myself what I’m doing. Which can be a little bit tricky, especially living with a Teenager.

‘Mum. Muuum! Why are you saying ‘mince’ all the time? It’s, like, a bit weird.’

‘Must get mince out of fridge, must get mince out of fridge, must get … must, oh, um, what was I doing?’

The Teenager looks at me and sighs. As does the kitten, as I’m still holding her cat food in one hand.

Right now, I’m living on a need-to-know basis. Which I guess is a bit like mindfulness without the, well, mindful part. Every day is a brand new awakening, as I stumble downstairs, trip over the kitten and am confronted with reminders – notes, lists, information I completely forgot overnight.

My diary is my new best friend. Everything, and I mean everything, is logged. Not just the appointments, but the ‘buy milk’, ‘put washing on’, ‘order cat litter’.

I had a chat with my mum this morning about it. She completely agreed, it’s hard. Then she said, ‘mind you, I’m 64, hee hee. You’re only 41. 42 this August!’ Is it MS? Or is it ageing? I know it’s MS. Before, I prided myself on my memory, almost photographic. I was highly organised, everything at my fingertips.

It’s been a wake-up call, but in a way it’s a teeny bit liberating. Friends confide in me, safe in the knowledge I’ll forget what they said within a week. I live more in the moment. My brain is uncluttered with insignificant stuff.

I’m trying to see the upside in this. Can you imagine my delight when I opened a kitchen cupboard and found an unopened packet of popcorn I’d forgotten about, left over from book club? It makes it all worthwhile. Kind of.

Photograph of The Kitten, Brontë, a couple of months before we adopted her.

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Please Excuse My Brain, It Doesn’t Know What It’s Doing

memoryI was formally introduced to my brain after my very first MRI.

There it was, in all it’s lesioned glory, glowing brightly on the computer screen. I was entranced and tried to take in what the neurologist was telling me as he counted up the little blobs of white amidst the grey.

I used to like my brain and we got on quite well; it saw me through lots of adventures, exams and crises. And Trivial Pursuits. It could always be relied upon to make snap(ish)  decisions or mull over a myriad of options for any given situation.

Lamentably, it has decided to strike out on its own, making a bid for devolution and taking a lot of important bits with it. Now my short-term memory is atrocious. I repeat myself. I also talk about the old days, but that’s probably an age thing. I repeat myself.

I frequently apologise on behalf of my brain and it can become quite awkward. Say I’m standing in front of a huge cafe menu, chalk-boarded behind the increasingly-impatient barista. I am blank. I literally cannot think what to order. Likewise menus in restaurants, shampoos and conditioners in Boots, colours on paint charts and which wrapping paper to buy for Christmas (someone told me it was soon).

I forget the most basic facts so chatting with me can be a journey into charades. I can’t remember names, conversations or dates. I point to stuff, use my hands to describe things and say ‘aggggghhhhh, you know, that, that, um, thing with the spouty bit?’ ‘Oh, yeah, thanks, kettle.’

However, let’s look at the upsides. For one, I no longer brood on things. Drawn-out arguments are a thing of the past. I could have one on the Monday and bounce into work like Tigger on the Tuesday, all forgotten, unless I’ve blogged about it. Then I brood, meh.

But having a short-term memory means I re-experience wondrous things again and again. It’s almost as if every day is new. I get up in the morning and think, ‘wow, what a lovely day! Oh, great, I can have coffee! Wow! And the cat, isn’t she just gorgeous?’ Until, thwack, I veer into the bannister and it all comes rushing back.

That aside, I will continue to count my blessings. I equate it with a computer and how refreshing it can be to delete and send to the trash bin all that junk that’s been hanging around, and that’s got to be a good thing?

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Dim? Some.

Memory, what memoryI was with the boss one morning last week; we were driving to a warehouse to buy something or other for our latest project.

He pointed towards the humungous Tesco Extra on our left, saying, ‘it’s been refurbished, there’s a Costa there now too.’

‘Oh, um, great! Must check it out, but you know my heart lies with Ocado.’

We got the something or other from the warehouse, loaded the van up and drove away.

‘Hey, boss! Did’ya know that Tesco’s has had some kind of makeover. Someone told me. And Costa’s has opened. That one, over there.’


Then, ‘are you winding me up?’

‘Nope, boss. Just know you love your Costa coffee with the caramel swirly thing.’

‘Yeeeeeees (very, very, slowly), but ten minutes ago I told you about it. You’re freaking me out.’


‘Your memory, honestly’ – then all I heard was the word ‘dim’.

‘Oi! I’m not dim. I won a medal once. For badminton.’

‘Noooooooooooo (very, very, slowly), I said you’re like a dimmer switch. Sometimes very bright but other times, you know, dimmer. More dim. No, not dim. Just not as bright. But not dim as such. You know what I mean.’

*sulks all the way to the meeting with the architect*

But, he had a point. My memory over the last six weeks has been atrocious. Embarrassingly so. I asked my mum, ‘I know I’m ancient now, but was your memory this bad when you were 41?’

Mums are a polite bunch, aren’t they? ‘Well, dear, we’re all different. We all have strengths and weaknesses. We all find our unique place in the world. But yes, your memory is dire.’

The Teenager plays on this – ‘But you said, you said I could have a Dominos. Is your memory playing up again? Don’t forget you said we could get a dog. AND, remember that £20 I owe you? I’m so happy I paid you back’ (he didn’t. I know this for a fact). Nice try.

Anyway, on the one hand, it’s a great cop-out (pesky MS cog fog), but on the other, I am liable to be hoodwinked on a regular basis, plus I just can’t remember anything important. I have to write everything down, to the point that when I walk through my house, I’m accosted by a forest of post-it notes. Which I can’t remember writing. What does ‘T-hhhhhhh!! CJ R’ even mean?

And as for Costa Coffee. I haven’t been yet. Did I tell you they opened one in my local Tesco Extra?

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Older. Not Wiser.

older. not wiserI clung on as long as I possibly could.

On my birthday last week, I loudly proclaimed that, actually, actually, I wasn’t technically 41 until 8.04pm, so basked in the fading glow of my 40th year for most of the day.

I had a leisurely morning, a leisurely lunch with my mum and a leisurely evening with a friend. Very leisurely.

Anyway, after blowing out my candle (singular – I’m now too old to merit one per year) and making a desperate wish (nope, not telling), I scribbled a list of everything I would might achieve over the next twelve months, now I was of a Grand Old Age:

  • I will create a Capsule Wardrobe. A classic trench-coat, several well-cut pairs of trousers and a few silk blouses that hang just so. Plus some select pieces of discreet, yet classy jewellery and a couple of well-chosen scarves, which I would learn how to tie in many different ways, like all the French woman do.
  • Likewise, I would ditch the student wardrobe I’ve been cultivating for the last few decades. I would consign my ‘It’s Your Round’ t-shirt to the charity shop pile, along with my Gap hoodie, washed so many times, it’s faded from bright green to vomity-puce.
  • I will begin a proper skincare regime, with different creams for different parts and different times of the day. Day cream, night cream, afternoon cream, eye cream, neck cream, ear cream and hand cream. I would be slathered.
  • I will consider a National Trust membership, which will give me unlimited access to three thousand sites, ensuring a delightful day out every weekend for the next two hundred years. I will not go straight to the gift shop/ye olde cafe; I will instead join a guided tour and follow the held-aloft umbrella with all the other tourists. However, I will still buy a jar of honey/jam from the gift shop before leaving.
  • I will learn how to cook and love risotto. And a proper Sunday lunch, rather than going for a Carvery, along with a twenty-deep queue of other people. Who nick all the roasties before my turn. And steal all the gravy, tsk.
  • I will no longer hide the fact I highlight TV programmes I want to watch in the Radio Times, with my special fluorescent pen.
  • I may invest in a foot-spa. And one of those things that makes your bath ripple like a jacuzzi.

Yup, I have a plan. I already feel older than my years with this pesky MS – the cog fog, the pavement-watching, the dozing off in front of the telly. Should I embrace it?

Thinking about it, maybe I shouldn’t. I’ve just had a letter from the university I’ll be joining in September. A lovely invitation to Fresher’s Week. Really. Should I stay or should I go?

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What Was I Saying Again?

goldfish‘It’s there, that watchermacallit on the thingiemabob. Next to the dooby-doo.’

This was me yesterday, explaining to The Teenager where an important form he needed for school was.

MS has been having lots of fun with my brain and it’s only getting worse (it’s got absolutely nothing to do with turning 40 of course). I just can’t seem to remember the most simple words.

I’ll pause mid-sentence, sifting through years of education in my mind before finally landing on the word I’m looking for, so happy to have found it that I’ll inappropriately yell out ‘banana! I meant, banana!’. Or some other word that completely escaped me five minutes earlier.

I also make up new words. Like last week when my mum asked me what I had planned that morning. ‘Oh, it’s flab day’, I replied. She sighed and said, ‘oh sweetheart, I know you’re unhappy with your weight, but think positively. Have you tried chick peas?’ I had to tell her that I was indeed unhappy with my weight, but I was actually going for my flu jab.

In my glory days, I prided myself on being able to converse in three languages (four if you count Glasgwegian). Now, I can barely get by with one. Plus, I also have the ignominy of repeating myself, thanks to bizarre short term memory loss. I am in danger of turning into the dinner party guest from hell, the one that’s invited along for a bit of comic relief.

I have visions of Christmas Day twenty years from now, with The Teenager taking his children to one side and gently reminding them to be patient with Granny Stumbling and not to laugh when she can’t remember the punchlines to jokes, or when she asks them for the umpteenth time how they’re doing in school. Just re-fill her sherry glass and hand her a copy of People’s Friend. And under no circumstances are you to bring out Pictionary or Scrabble.

For now, although socially dire, I manage as best I can. In shops, when I can’t remember what I went in for, I’ll look at my watch and dash off, pretending I’m late for some appointment. In restaurants, I’ll point to the menu, as if my mind is on higher things than ordering lunch. And when I’m out with friends, I’ll….hang on, what was I saying again?

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