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No Long Term Memory = Lack of Human Connection
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An_245560 posted:
I saw a post on here from 2 years ago:

"I just turned 21, and have no real memories. I know things from pictures and conversation, but I can not acctully remember anything. As far as i know nothing traumatic has happened to me. What could be going on here. Memories start fading even from a year ago. Any help would be appreciated."


This post struck such a chord with me. A very personal one. I don't have memories from my childhood/young adult life. I am now 26 years old and, when I happen upon an old 'friend' from grade school, high school, or college, I find myself feeling embarrassed and ashamed as they recount events or classes we may have had together because I don't recall anything. I don't remember attending prom, but I did - 3 times. I don't remember climbing trees with my siblings or opening Christmas presents. This isn't to say that I have no memory at all. I have some very fuzzy snap-shot like memories but they lack feeling. They are simply static moments in time in my brain that aren't quite clear. I've even had the terrible experience of realizing that some things that I thought were memories I had completely fabricated.


I once recounted a memory to my mom. One that she would certainly have recollection of as it was significant in my brain. She told me I was flat out dreaming. My memory never happened.


One of the worst things about having no long term memory - besides being able to reminisce with people or maintain bonds with old friends - is that I don't know how to put into words what it is that I've been experiencing my whole life. I excelled in school, but don't remember anything now. I was very good at memorizing things for tests but I can't recall teacher's names now. My first job out of college, I don't remember projects that I worked on or people's names. My youngest sister (10 years younger than me) and I used to play dress up and I would take pictures. When I look at those pictures I can't recall those days. It's terrifying and sad. Inside jokes are meaningless and my family often feels like I'm only focused on myself because I don't remember significant moments in their lives. I don't know how to explain to them that I don't remember significant moments in my own life either. No concerts, no dances, no moments of great joy or sorrow. Just fuzzy nothings that may or may not be real.


I got married almost four years ago to the man that I went to three high school proms with. He's been with me since I was 15 and I don't remember most of our relationship. I know he's always been there, and I know he means the world to me, but our wedding day is brought back only by the pictures we have, not by the feelings or emotions that I should be able to think back on without a photo album in front of me.


My question is this: without being able to explain in words what I'm going through, how do I figure out why my memory is the way it is? How do I approach a doctor and say "hey, I have no memories... what's wrong with me?" I've only ever tried to explain this to my husband. He is kind and tries to be understanding, but since I lack the vocabulary and eloquence to describe my lack of memories, he doesn't know how to help or what to say. If anyone here can provide some insight, or even tell me I'm not alone, I would appreciate it. I'm afraid that I'm headed for a very lonely life if I don't try to figure this out.
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susiemargaret responded:
Dear A256 --

i am so sorry that you've been having these memory problems (see PS1) for such a long time, esp accompanied by the uncertainty as to whether the memories you do seem to have might not be a reflection of actual events.

i found your post to be very articulate and descriptive. as far as i can tell, i understand exactly what you are talking about. consequently, i don't see why you say that you "don't know how to put into words what it is that you've been experiencing your whole life," that you "don't know how to explain to others that you don't remember significant moments in your own life ... no concerts, no dances, no moments of great joy or sorrow, just fuzzy nothings that may or may not be real," and that you "lack the vocabulary and eloquence to describe your lack of memories." none of these seems true to me.

i think that your first step should be to make about 10 copies of your and my posts here, and of any other relevant paperwork you've generated over the years, including your medical records with the drs' and nurses' notes, any test results or analysis, and any radiologists' or other specialists' reports for x-rays, MRIs, and CAT scans (the office is allowed to charge a reasonable fee for making copies of your medical records). as you see various drs, keep the notes up to date, and NEVER give your last copy of anything to anyone.

then get checked out by a neurologist (PS2). there may be some "physical" or structural reason related to your brain or bodily anatomy that is responsible for your condition (PS3). when you go for your apptmt, take a copy of your post here (which is more than adequate, in my opinion, to describe both your memory problems and your concerns about describing them to anyone), your medical records, and any other reports or correspondence you can find that discusses your memory problems.

if all seems normal once the neurologist has had a look at you and has tested whatever s/he thinks is necessary, then my view is that it is time to see a counselor and/or a psychiatrist. the counselor can help you talk about your day-to-day problems, including the issue of whether you truly want to know the source -- if there is a discrete one -- of this condition or if you want to "start from now" and learn some coping skills to work around it, or some mix of both. the psychiatrist can assess whether a short course of antidepressants or other psych meds might be helpful.

i hope you can get this dilemma resolved in a way that is satisfactory to you. i send you caring thoughts; please keep us posted on how you are doing.

-- susie margaret

PS1 -- for other readers, the earlier post to which A256 refers is at http://forums.webmd.com/3/neurology-general-neurology-questions-and-support/forum/47 .

PS2 -- i suggest starting with a neurologist rather than your primary-care dr; this is because your circumstances strike me as more complicated than the ordinary ones that a primary-care dr is likely to see in the course of everyday practice. of course, this judgment is yours to make, not mine.

PS3 -- i am not a medical person; i welcome, solicit, and indeed beg for correction, amendment, or replacement of any inaccuracies in this post.
what good is gold, or silver too, if your heart's not good and true -- hank williams, sr.
 
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lifes responded:
K,

First, I'm curious about your experience... What is it that helps you to experience feelings of any kind? Do you smile and feel happy? Can you cry when sad? If you do feel at any time, do your feelings suddenly go into hiding when you are stressed? Are there ANY memories that you access FIRST by emotional content?-- for example, if something happened just yesterday with a friend and you felt happy, can you re-experience the "memory of being happy"? or do you first remember your friend / where you were, THEN recall you felt happy?

How do you know that you do not feel? What emotions are you aware of feeling--ever? And when you recall the small number of memories you do have, what emotions would you assign *generally*, overall, to your past? mostly content? Happy? unhappy? Confused? Perplexed? Grief/ sadness?

Would you describe your lack of memories as if a big blank? or more like a fog?

Yes, you are NOT alone. Memory is NOT absolute, nor does "memory" act the same among people with shared experiences. If there are 4 children and 2 parents celebrating Christmas in 1991 and the family had a minor car accident on the way to grandma's house, ALL SIX persons can have totally different recall and memory! Stress, depression, and trauma--meaning an unusual and highly emotional event-- can ALL affect memory and recall.

K, generally, amnesia that begins in childhood is related to abuse or to some situation in which a child could not cope. You can talk to a counselor about what you may have "purposely--by accident forgot". If you don't suspect anything unusual in your childhood, then you may need a more complete physical work-up.

Memory is NOT simply "an" experience. Memory is increased through repetition. For example, close your eyes and talk out loud about the streets you drive every day. Where are you going? Do you have the radio on in the car? Is the window up or down? is the AC or heat on or off? What are you wearing? Did you put perfume on that day? As you pass the BEST part of your drive, what do you feel, generally? relaxed? thoughtful? rushed? On the WORST part of the drive, how do you feel? Generally, you should find better recall on ordinary daily repetitive tasks.

Have you experienced a death in your family? If so, without looking at pictures first, begin writing a few paragraphs to describe that person... Who? relationship to you? hair color? eye color? how tall? weight? What colors are the person's clothes, as you recall the person? Close your eyes... take a deep breath... now, in one word, what do you FEEL about that person? I had an uncle I disliked, so my word for him is hate. For my grandma, though, I feel "family connection". See what comes floating back to you over a few weeks about the person.... If you can recall even pieces, it may be you need to give more attention to feelings and thoughts in the memories you DO have.

But it isn't totally uncommon for people to have "blank" years.

I hope some of these ideas help. You can also test your short and long term memory-- or ask your Dr to give you a short cognitive test in the office. Otherwise, MD or DO will likely refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist for memory / cognitive testing.

Lifes
 
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Helly03 replied to lifes's response:
I can completely understand what she's saying because i have the exact same problem and i might have had it all my life. I have no life story to tell my kids if i ever had any, I have no funny anecdotes no jokes, no "facts" that I state that i don't doubt. I live through the recollection of events by others or photographs. I've never learned the full lyrics to any of my favorite songs no matter how many times i may hear or repeat the lyrics. More than a storage problem its a retrieval problem.
 
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susiemargaret replied to Helly03's response:
hello, H --

i answered in your other post, http://forums.webmd.com/3/neurology-general-neurology-questions-and-support/forum/47 , but what i said there was to ask if you have seen a neurologist. have you?

-- susie margaret
what good is gold, or silver too, if your heart's not good and true -- hank williams, sr.
 
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Dustlawyer responded:
I guess if misery loves company, I'm here with you. I can now re-read books from a year ago and do not recall anything. It is like reading them for the 1st time. I have thought my memory loss was due to the constant medicated state that I must remain in to deal with the agony that I have without medication. Now I am not so sure. I wonder if it is part of the disease itself causing the loss of memory and the difficulty of recalling names of people I know well. I have small fiber sensory neuropathy and like the others I have seen, we are just shunted aside. There is no hope is what we have been told. Does anyone know of any research going on to further medical knowledge of our disease?
 
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susiemargaret replied to Dustlawyer's response:
hello, D --

is that your inquiry on small fiber sensory neuropathy at http://forums.webmd.com/3/neurology-general-neurology-questions-and-support/forum/145 ? if so, you've got two responses to it; why don't you take a look?

-- susie margaret
what good is gold, or silver too, if your heart's not good and true -- hank williams, sr.
 
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mkc1955 responded:
I have the exact same problem; thank you for describing it so eloquently. I didn't tell anyone for years, for some reason I was embarrassed as though it were my fault. I finally spoke to my doctor, who seemed sympathetic, if skeptical. He referred me to a neurologist who had absolutely no idea. ("You were probably just born that way.") I had a brain MRI which showed no structural abnormalities.
Just from reading, I lean toward a problem with the hippocambus, but results of the MRI make me think it is a functional problem as opposed to a structural one.
I also tried to email an expert in memory, but she blew me off. I think they (MDs) think I'm trying to get them to "fix" me, but I don't have any delusions about that. I just want to know why. I'm 58, so I'm also starting to worry about what relationship it might have to dementia, early or otherwise.
I also excelled in school, earned 2 BS degrees, and I'm a successful medical professional.
And THANK YOU for letting me know that I'm not alone.
 
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mkc1955 replied to mkc1955's response:
P.S. My comment was a reply to An_245560. I wish we could talk.
 
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lifes replied to mkc1955's response:
Mkc,

You are definitely NOT alone. One reason I responded as I did was I had 'memory problems' about many ages/events. I knew many of the reasons 'why', but it was unnerving to feel 'memoryless'.

It is a scientific /medical fact that some senses strongly connect to memory-- such as smell. I had great difficulty remembering my mom until age 14...but that was when she died. Obviously, feeling 'motherless' had a true cause, her death, but I thought I should certainly remember her at other times! I went on a 'mother-memory' search...looking for ANY memories of her...ANY feelings of her. It was frustrating! I truly felt alone, since not only both my parents died within 2 years, but because even 5-10 years later I could barely remember either of them.

One day in my mid-late 20s, I was doing housework and NOT thinking about past or 'looking' for memories. I wasn't even thinking about my feelings about the past. Suddenly, I smelled butterscotch! I never bought or ate butterscotch anything; it wasn't my favorite flavor; there was NO reason I'd smell butterscotch. But the smell of butterscotch was SO strong. In those years, I often called my sister to ask her for dates/years and facts about things I recalled but could not place into a context...like, Where did this happen. So I called my sister and said, I keep smelling butterscotch---is this a memory or...???

She said Don't you remember?? Mom loved butterscotch--hard candies, pudding... you don't remember that?? I said no. We had a pharmacy that sold oils to make candies, in tiny bottles...so I went there and bought butterscotch oil...opened it and took a strong whiff of it. Suddenly, memories of my mom came flooding back. Some of it was just pieces, like a housecoat she wore. But the butterscotch smell...my gosh it was a feeling-memory, of feeling connected to her... It was SO strange, but SO comforting. For several years, when I needed a 'mom memory', I sniffed the butterscotch oil to remember her.

Forward 30-some years... The other day, I was thinking again of mom. I've now outlived/passed my parents' ages when they died, and felt really sad. As I was thinking about that (outliving my parents), suddenly, I could see my mom sitting and crocheting. Wow, a 'new' memory of her.

It feels odd to not recall before these very ordinary memories...things I saw, heard, smelled. But memory about ordinary events IS more fleeting. We don't give as much 'attention to' (attend to) daily, routine events the same as when a 'big' event occurs (ex. Christmas). But both routine events and 'big' events can get sort of lost amid events of our own daily lives.

What I've found is memory and memories are tricky... they like to hide especially when we 'think too hard' to remember. I started making my 'best guess', based on what I believed, thought, or felt was true. Often, my best guess IS pretty accurate.

I had several siblings. Our memories, impressions, conclusions, etc. do not always 'match'. What I remember, my siblings don't...and vice versa. We all lived with the same parents--why such differences? Our ages, times ones were in school (while I was still home, not yet in 1st grade), and what we 'attended to' in what we heard, saw, observed, felt, thought, were all different because we are each individuals with unique perspectives. "Memory" will ALWAYS have differences between people, even siblings, or between parents and child/children. When a parent says "That never happened", it may not have happened in the same way for the parent versus the child. Children, especially before teen years, have unique recall and perspectives. Memory is not right OR wrong.

My best suggestion to stir memories is to write your best guesses and hunches...pay attention to strong 'feeling memories' and 'smell memories'. Rather than searching for "a memory", describe your "best recall" of certain years. Write an age, where you lived, and best guesses. You'll be surprised what you remember.

Lifes
 
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mkc1955 replied to lifes's response:
I think I have a different experience than you. I have no best guesses and I don't search for memories. There is just NO memory/"feeling memory". I have some memories of specific incidents/occurrences, nearly all involve strong emotion. But I remember them as snapshots. Twice (that I can remember!) I forced memories of my daughter as a baby into my memory-I knew by that time that everything would go away. Example: I was holding her next to her crib, getting ready to put her to bed, and I felt so much love for her. So I told myself-"I am going to remember this moment forever" (sounds schmaltzy, I know). But I do remember it-like a snapshot, not the feeling. Other memories I have nearly always involve a negative emotion-embarrassment usually.
I am certain that I was never abused or had other emotional trauma-I have discussed this with a counselor and she agrees that I have no signs of PTSD. I have 4 siblings and my parents are still living-we are all VERY close and get together at least once a year. I have never shared this with them; they are the source of my memories and I pretend that I know what they are talking about.
I am convinced that this is a physiologic problem, not psychological. My brain is either incapable of converting short term to long term memory (or very inefficient at it), or for some reason long term memories can't be accessed. I favor the former (sadly). I will always want to know the answer (why), but I think I have run out of routes of exploration.
Thank you!
 
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lifes replied to mkc1955's response:
I can understand...I thought I had no 'best guesses' either. But when I just wrote 'as if I do remember', I found I had more 'best guesses' than I realized.

It isn't surprising that strongest emotions encode and embed memories.

You might want to search online for journal
such as
memory memories
brain and memory

I know I saw some memory research in professional journal articles. You might have to exclude (use minus sign) to avoid dementia and Alzheimer's results and find research about general memory and remembering.

Lifes
 
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mkc1955 responded:
Please reply to me. I know exactly what you are going through.
Mary (mkc1955)


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