Thursday, February 25, 2016

Losing my marbles?

Vincent van Gogh: Eternity's Gate (image from here, and more information here)
I cannot believe it.  I cannot find my book project for which I cut the alphabet.  I must have put it in a place that I cleverly (!) thought was appropriate, and now have forgotten where.  I clutch my head these days as elements of my memory are slipping away.  No longer can I trust myself, and it is becoming vaguely alarming.
What makes this state of affairs even more disconcerting is that I used to have an abnormally good memory, and for trivial items which endeared me to the huge extended family of relatives, and to colleagues too.  It smoothed my path at work, and it became essential for caring for my mother.  But now odd wearings away appear: names disappear although I can remember all other details about the person.  Nouns also scuttle off as soon as I reach out for them - I can see the item in my head, I can even describe it in words, but can I name it?

But this loss of my project is yet a stage further, and is mildly worrying.  I am (was) logical, practical, and reasonably tidy, and for two days now I have looked everywhere - I think - where I would normally have put the stuff.  I'm still calm(ish), and will not panic, and today is concerned with different matters, so will allow the retrieval elements of my memory a rest, so that like the names and nouns which pop up later than needed, it can give me a hint as to where to look.


  1. I know exactly what you are saying. Names of people and places are the most elusive and much time is wasted looking for car keys, books and important letters put somewhere 'safe' (always risky). It would be more worrying, I think, if we didn't know it was happening ...

  2. I too have reached this stage Olga, and it's very frustrating and frightening. Nouns and names of places, as you say are the worst. Being bilingual seems to create more problems as I quite often will remember a word in one language but not the language I am speaking at that particular moment. It's terrifying.

    I have found that taking gingko biloba helps - it apparently helps for more blood to reach the brain.

    The Van Gogh image you have posted is wonderful and one I have not seen before.

  3. Not to downplay your frustration, but you are probably not losing your marbles anymore than the rest of us of a certain age. I used to know where every single piece of fabric and tool and book were stored in my studio, but after my husband died, it just seemed like my brain didn't care to keep that kind of info at hand anymore. Numerous moves into different spaces requiring different ways to store things has further confused me. And yes, I've outsmarted myself more than once in carefully and specifically putting something away in a most logical place only to have no idea what my logic was come time to get it out again. I've pretty much resigned myself to this theory that while my brain COULD remember all these things like it used to, it chooses not to because in the grand scheme of things they are not that important, it is getting old and wants a vacation.

    I've never been very good with names, and if it's not something I'm using all the time I tend to forget all but the general gist of things. But the struggle to come up with specific words - I've noticed that in the last couple of years, happening enough that it was worrying me too. I now think it was the "brain fog" symptom of my recently diagnosed auto-immune syndrome, and since I've been on medication to suppress it, I'm having less of these cognitive issues. It may be worth talking to a doctor who will look past your age and consider things beyond dimensia or Alzheimer's.

    But I do wonder if, like with the trauma of losing my husband, your brain is taking a break after the stress you went through caring for your mother. Sometimes the grief process exhibits in odd ways and we need to let the detail-keeping go.

  4. Thank you all.

    You are right: it is partly age, I think, and largely usage. When I was in salaried work my mind was constantly recalling names and incidents as an important part of my daily routine, whereas now all sorts of other elements are important.

    Sheila, you are certainly right about the reaction to the intense experience of looking after my mother. I think also this idea of the brain wanting a holiday sounds probable: it has most likely decided that hanging onto so much trivia is just too much trouble.

    I shall continue searching for my stuff, and in the meantime use the opportunity to have another clear-out, and count myself lucky to have enough brain left to be creative, enjoy reading, and to think broadly -if perhaps less deeply - about a reasonably wide range of subjects.

    I'm not really in as bad a state as the illustration - just flashes of frustration flare up!

  5. I have those 'moments' too though most of my life I've had trouble remembering names when needed and sometimes even words so it's not just age, though perhaps getting worse. Everyone has said it all here, so I say let us not worry, keep healthy through good diet etc. Being creative is good for the brain too!

  6. Thank you Marja-Leena. In thinking about this whole question I also realised that of late of course the input of all sorts of information has increased dramatically with the advent of the Internet.