Memory is the Soul of the Mind

Some say memory is the soul of the mind; without it, you aren’t yourself. Myriad decisions in your life both shaped the path on which you walk, as well as the keepsakes of those steps that you hold dear. What happens then, if you lose your memories? If you lose who you are?


My grandmother lost her life to vascular dementia this past December. The blood supply to her brain was restricted, causing standard dementia symptoms (most notably) her lack of consistent memory. She’d be completely fine one minute, then wouldn’t remember our faces the next. Most of the last few months with her were spent talking amongst ourselves, as she would rest her eyes, eyebrows strained, labored breathing, as if she’s trying to capture her personality– her mere thoughts in a dream.

It was scary and painful for us all to watch her like struggle like that. And I fear that it may run in the family. When I was young, I had one of the best memories around. I’m not sure why I’d felt that way, and to be honest, it probably wasn’t as nearly as good as I now tout. Yet, when I met someone, there name lingered in my mind; there face hung in front of me like a woven tapestry.


But as I grew up, I noticed my long-term memory was… lacking. I wouldn’t possess a lot of my memories of my youth, a collective in whom my brother can easily conjure at will. As I would hear bits and pieces from fellow participants of that era, more would naturally return to the forefront of my mind, so it never really bothered me as much as it very well could have.


It’s just locked away somewhere up there and I can’t directly access it. That’s all.


In my late twenties, amidst a full-time job, a marriage, full-time schooling, and various video productions I pushed myself to places I had never thought possible. I was on my game and it showed no signs of wane. Here, at least I still had my short-term memory to rely upon.


But after graduation, my life took a slight nosedive: I was divorced, my job took its toll on my sanity, and worst of all, film projects grinded to a halt. As these months flew by, I was able to keep busy. I wrote screenplays, blog posts (like this one), and kept physically active. But I became tired. It seemed to me that I was running on pure adrenaline, or the fumes of adrenaline.


After that, I became more lethargic and more exhausted than ever before (and that’s including my chemotherapy). Coupled with that, my short-term memory suffered. I would forget many peoples’ names; it would take me a while to lock them down. For the most part, If I didn’t jot something down (and reference the notes) then I would be lost.


There are many possible causes for this rapid deceleration in memory retention: I’ve met too many people and the directory’s full, cancer and all that comes with it, or it’s a result of this mental funk I found myself in. I chose to blame the latter against my best judgment. I figured it was less of a crutch and more of a temporary beam on which to lean against.


Maybe it’s a perfect storm of all three coupled with the technological age theory– If you possess the entire compendium of human knowledge in the palm of your hand, when it’s needed to research something, you don’t have to pour over encyclopedias or go to the library to use the computer, now all you do is “Slide to Unlock” and Voilà! You have your answer; making it impossible to retain any info, exacerbating our short-term memory loss.


At any rate, I now find myself stuck in that funk, unable to remember the simplest things. I’m already at the point where I’ll forget a word midsentence and I stop, forcing all of my concentration on remembering that very word, so I can retain some semblance of sanity.


I suppose one could argue against that as I sit there, eyes closed, hitting my leg softly, yet rhythmically.


And that’s where I stand: somewhere between the darkness and the light. In an age where my memory should drop slightly, I find myself in a free fall. Where will I land? Anyone out there have some tricks I can try to increase my memory? I’ll need all the help I can get. My “soul” is trying to escape.

-Jamie (@GuyOnAWire)

Some great articles on memory: The Decline of Memory Retention Over Time (warning: also tries to sell you their software) | Memory Technologies Institute

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