Setting aside the wrinkles, the drooping boobs, and the inability to see anything closer to my face than two feet, the worst thing about aging is the sudden short term memory lapses that seem to come at the most inopportune times (ie. missplacing your keys when you’re already late; your phone number has vacated your brain when you have to leave a message on someone’s voicemail; your child’s name escapes you).
Yes, the mind is a terrible thing to waste; I always say. I’m not really sure what causes these annoying little brain farts, but I’m willing to do the research to find out. I hope you tag along for the ride; it might get interesting. Oh, yeah, and don’t forget to leave a comment about your funniest memory blooper.
It Can Happen at Any Age
I know that this senescent phenomena doesn’t only happen to the 40-and-over club members. So, that means that it has to be something else that gets in the way of our daily brain fuction. A fine, hilarious example of pre-mature dimentia is one that happened to me when I was the ripe old age of 22.
I had been taking care of my two daughters and picking up the plethora of toys they always left sprawled underfoot. They had already eaten at the neighbor’s house, so leftovers were the evening pick for my dinner. I prepared the plate for the microwave zapping and got distracted by something (I don’t remember by what; long-term memory problems).
Anyway, I panicked when I couldn’t find my leftover steak, mashed potatoes, and green beans anywhere (how in the hell I remembered what was on that plate, I’ll never know). I looked everywhere that a rogue 10″ Corelle plate could travel without help; the floor, the fridge, the table were void of my dinner. I called my then ex-boyfriend/now-husband (long story; I’ll share another time) and told him about the missing steak. And having a healthy interest in the paranormal, (still do) I proceeded to suggest to him that a ghost had stolen the plate; a precarious haunting of sorts.
I can still hear him laughing – silently – as not to accuse me of the absurd direction that my mind was headed. After all, he wanted me back; he had to be nice. Later that night he dropped by and decided not to mention the “ghost” in fear that I might get upset. I knew he was secretly looking for my lost plate. And, without much effort, he found it…in the microwave, right where I had left it. Now that was a serious lapse in short-term memory. We laughed; I cried. I was losing my mind much too early. Okay, you can stop laughing now…really, stop. You’re hurting my feelings.
Understanding the Types of Memory
So, where are we with the whole “why do we have short-term memory problems?” Oh, yeah, I remember. We were going to research the issue. I’ll have to Google it; hold on. If I don’t come back within a half hour, send in a search party; I might lose my way.
Okay…I’m back (Google Chrome is great). Well, from what I see, mild memory loss is perfectly normal for, especially perimenopausal and menopausal women. And it definitely doesn’t mean that you are on your way to Alziemers or Dementia. While the exact way in which memory works remains a mystery, experts in the field believe that it functions in the three stages listed below.
1. The Registration Stage – This is where you take in information through the senses and make determinations about your surroundings and then store it.
2. The Retention Stage – When information is mulled over (digested and repeated) it is then committed to our short-term memory until something else more interesting and pertinent comes along that pushes it out (like a fickle woman to a new beau). If the first piece of info is chewed on enough, it will go to the long-term memory bank; if not, it’s lost forever.
3. The Recall Stage – This is when you get back with your ex-boyfriend; oh, sorry, I meant your ex-thoughts. Yes, when you can recall the information that you previous processed and respected enough to think about longer than a half a second.
Digging Deeper Into Your Memory
Because there is many different forms of memory, (around 9 or so) it may be difficult to determine why we have lapses. But the following list may give you some insight:
Short-term – Your working memory; information is used and then forgotten if not needed again.
Sensory – This gives you the ability to recognize sights, sounds, smells, etc. It will last for life unless you get a head injury serious enough to damage this part of your brain; which is possible if your kids or large dogs sleep with you regularly.
Recent – This type of memory allows you to recall information from day-to-day. It is also the way we learn new things.
Long-term – Your distant past is recalled through this type of memory. Childhood events, songs, ex-boyfriends, etc.
Declarative – This form is associated with your long-term memory and allows you to remember words, world knowledge, and trivial facts; Jeopardy winners…need I say more.
Semantic – Related to declarative memory, it also allows you to recall the meaning of things like why your daughter continues to ignore your requests to clean her room. Oh, yeah, she’s a teenager.
Episodic – Also associated with long-term memory, this is what people lose with amnesia. I can think of a few episodes I’d like to forget.
Procedural – Without this, we wouldn’t be able to drive, make omelettes, or change diapers. That’s funny…without remembering how to do those things, I could have a vacation.
Prospective – Finally, the end of the list. This form of memory allows us to plan future events like, that “vacation,” the “sex talk” with our pre-adolescent children, and how to prevent your husband from watching too much TV or throwing his wet towels on the bathroom floor.
Pheeeew….that was exhausting. I never knew that we had so many parts to our memory banks. It’s no wonder we experience temporary break downs from time-to-time. I think we will have to come back to this subject another time as this is getting lengthy. I feel better informed than I was an hour ago. Now, I can analyze the various parts and try to figure out what my problem is. I think it’s safe to say that most little brain flubs are normal. But if you find that you are having more serious issues, please contact your health care provider for evaluation. Be well.
Resource: Menopause A to Z