I can’t remember if I have a bad memory

AJ21D2 Goldfish swimming in bowl. Image shot 2004. Exact date unknown.

[Image: A goldfish in a bowl.]

Oh, no wait. It’s coming back to me. I think I have a bad memory. I can’t remember having a good one, so that must be some kind of indication.

Let’s face it: My memory is terrible. There’s no joking about it. My brain seems so over run these days that it will instantly forget any information that it deems unimportant. It’s a regular happening that I will see a document or link or something, open it to see what it is, realize it doesn’t interest me, close it, then completely forget what it was. Then I have to open it again because I can’t even remember enough about it to know that it didn’t interest me to begin with. I’m taking a medical food called Vayarin for concentration and memory, but pills can only do so much when your brain is hell bent on forgetting anything it doesn’t deem important.

Unfortunately, terrible memory, both long term and short term is all part of the fun that is bipolar disorder. Some people are affected worse than others, but on top of having problems with your memory just due to the disease, pills created in order to treat the disease can make concentration and memory even worse. There’s a drug called Topamax that is sometimes used to treat bipolar disorder that can have some severe cognitive side effects. I’ve never been on it, but I’ve heard horror stories.

One medication that I have been on that’s known to cause these types of problems is Lamictal. On Lamictal I experienced the worst brain fog. Simple tasks were beyond me because I honestly couldn’t remember how to accomplish them. I once went to pop some popcorn in the microwave and stopped short for several minutes because I couldn’t remember how to open the microwave. Other times I would be having a conversation with someone and find myself unable to follow along with what the the other person was saying. I ended up having to do a lot of smiling and nodding simply because I really had no idea what was going on.

As for how to fix this problem, there’s not a lot you can do. I try to write everything down and set alarms and reminders. But things still get away from me sometimes. I’m always making too many plans because I’ve forgotten that I had something to do that day already. I keep a digital calendar on my phone, but for some reason, my phone decides to put events on there twice, not record some events at all and change the display whenever it feels like it, making it more difficult for me to keep up.

This morning for example, I set my alarm clock for 9am. I woke up at 9am and couldn’t remember why I had set the alarm. I was so tired that I just turned it off and went back to sleep. It was only around 10am when I realized that I had a skeptic event that I had planned on going to and was now too late to get there when it started. For all of my alarms and notes, nothing helped me get out of bed on time this morning.

Tim sometimes pokes fun at me because I can’t seem to remember anything but I can recall precise details about Drag Race and lip sync the entire opening to all season’s Untucked. But the only reason that I can remember this is because I watch each episode of Drag Race about 50 times. Whenever I sit down to watch some TV, I always check Logo first to see if they’re playing Drag Race. If Drag Race is on, I’m watching it until it’s no longer on. Constant repetition is the only thing that can break through my dense brain fog.

Sometimes when someone can’t remember anything it’s tempting to think of them as unintelligent or oblivious. But the truth is that a lot of mental illnesses can cause memory problems and as much as a person wants to remember and be able to concentrate, that’s not always possible. Not everyone has the same ability to recall things and having a mental illness can hinder an already poor memory.

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