The brain fog of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome can really impair our memories -- both short and long term. The short-term memory problems are evident when we walk into a room and don't remember why we're there, or when we tell ourselves over and over not to forget the grocery list and then arrive at the store only to remember it's sitting on the kitchen table. Those things are aggravating, potentially embarrassing, and often detrimental on the job or when it comes to those have-to-do things like paying bills. In my former job as a TV news producer, a good short-term memory was crucial -- what did the reporter just tell me about that breaking story? What did I need to go change? What did I urgently need to tell my video editor? That was a big part of the reason I finally left that job.
The short-term memory problems can hamper and force us to change our lives. The long-term memory problems, however, can remove pieces of our lives. I developed full-blown fibromyalgia when my daughter was 19 months old, but the symptoms had been steadily creeping up from the time she was born. I continued at my old job until she was 2.5, and then I began to slowly improve. As a result, my memories of her as a baby and toddler are fuzzy and piecemeal. I don't remember what baby foods she liked. I don't remember her first step. I don't remember much of anything, and some of the memories I do have are hazy. When I think back on my older son at that age, the memories are crisp and vivid, like they happened yesterday.
It was a hard realization to come to, that I don't remember most of my daughter's baby-hood. I've had to mourn it as a loss and come to accept that it doesn't mean I'm a bad mother or that I love her any less -- my brain simply wasn't able to make good memories during those years.
Memory is a complicated thing. We don't completely "get" how it works yet, so we don't know how to fix memory problems. Are the memories in the brain, somewhere, and we simply can't retrieve them, or were they never recorded in the first place? And either way, why?
A common belief in the scientific community is that our daily events are recorded as short-term memories, and then while we sleep our brain basically transfers what it deems important into long-term storage. Our long-term memory problems seem like a double whammy -- neurotransmitter dysregulation and other brain issues, like blood flow abnormalities, appear to impair our ability to capture things in short-term memory. That means the record of that day's events is incomplete. Then, we sleep poorly and have abnormal brain activities during sleep, which may be disrupting the transfer to long-term memory. What we're left with is sometimes Swiss-cheese, sometimes seen through gauze, and sometimes nothing at all.
Do you have blank spots in your memory -- missing days, weeks, or years? What important things are missing, and how has it effected you? Have you ever recovered chunks of missing memory? Leave your comments below!
Learn more or join the conversation!
- Brain Fog: Symptoms, Causes & Possible Treatments
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- Grieving for What You've Lost to Illness
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