My name is Karen, or at least I think it is.
You see, I suffer from short term memory issues. It’s a problem I have had for a couple of years. I suffer from short term memory loss beyond the usual joking about “baby brain” or “mummy brain”.
You see, I am chronically sleep deprived. If you read this blog, you will know we have struggled with sleep issues with our small boy so sleep has been somewhat lacking in the past few years. That has had a cumulative effect. I also have anxiety, and we all know that anxiety and sleep deprivation go hand in hand, like a nasty partners in crime. You can’t sleep because you are anxious. Tiredness makes you anxious.
It is common knowledge that sleep deprivation can cause short term memory and memory loss issues. There are lots of sources out there to explain the science behind it, this being one that gives a relatively simple explanation.
There are some days when I cope and manage, but there are some days where I literally cannot remember the names of things as I am talking about them. I can’t remember people’s names. I will make a mental note to do something or act on something and I won’t be able to remember what it was a few minutes later.
I also struggle to remember long term memory “things” and familiar things.
This all sounds very alarming, and I was very alarmed. Because I have anxiety, particularly around health issues, and also a family history of dementia and Alzheimer’s, I have been very worried that I was in fact loosing my mind. Some of these “symptoms” can be signs of those illnesses starting to manifest.
Thankfully I also have a GP who is familiar with me, and my history, and whilst there is little they can do in terms of “fixing” me, I am at least reassured that I am not loosing my marbles just yet, but my body and brain are just reacting to the cycle of sleep deprivation, tiredness and anxiety that is spinning through it.
I even managed to make you a pretty diagram to describe the cycle, please be impressed. I haven’t made one of these since I was at school (I can remember that but not the name of the person who is coming to tidy our garden next week, go figure…)
Lack of sleep = tiredness = short term memory loss = anxiety = lack of sleep. Rinse, repeat.
You get it? I have it.
It affects my daily life. It affects my relationships. It makes me frustrated and it can also frustrate other people who may think I am just being stupid. It can make me more anxious when I feel like I have let something slip because I don’t remember or because I have forgotten, but I am working on trying to help myself.
There is no cure. There are medications I could take to level off the anxiety and help me sleep, but currently I choose not to take medications (for many reasons, that’s a whole other blog for another day) and there is therapy. Unfortunately the waiting list for therapy is LONG and I am not considered an urgent priority (which I also understand, as frustrating as this is for me, it is not life threatening or causing me to be unable to function, although it does affect my life)
So, for me, it’s a daily battle to keep my tired, anxious brain in order. Thankfully I have understanding friends and co workers who pick up my slack when I forget things, or gently nag and remind me when I have forgotten things.
I also literally have to WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. From the smallest thing, to things that need to be done urgently, people’s names, dates, ideas. I have to write them down.
So, my name is Karen, or at least I think it is, and I am struggling with short term memory loss. I am not going crazy, I am not rude or stupid because you told me your name just a few minutes ago and now can’t remember it. I am not horrible because I forgot to write down we are meant to be having coffee next week, but I forgot to. It will hopefully ease as we get more sleep (we are getting a little bit more) and I work on some techniques I have been shown to improve things…
Now, what was I doing? I have forgotten…. 😉