If You Have a Brain Like Swiss Cheese: Menopause and Memory Loss
One of the MOST ANNOYING symptoms of menopause is the forgetfulness that accompanies it. I have no idea what causes it physiologically but sometimes I feel like my brain is Swiss cheese-lots of holes and pretty dense. Perhaps like many of you, I forget why I was headed into a certain room, forget acquaintances’ names when I see them at the post office, forget if I fed the dogs, and just about everything in between. You can tell me about an appointment I have one minute and the next I am double-booking myself because I forgot about the appointment I made ONE MINUTE ago
Does this happen to you? It seems to be a common problem, and here’s how I’ve tackled it. Many years ago a dear friend, Ann, gave me a book, “Write It Down, Make It Happen” by Henriette Anne Klauser. Ann always seemed to pack so much into a day and almost never forgot anything, as far as I could tell. I was going through a rough patch in my life and was directionless. This book changed my life in so many positive ways but the best way I can relay what it has meant is this: If you want something, write it down.
This means big things and little things. The book is primarily about the big things (if you want to find a mate, sell your house, start a business, change jobs and so forth) but it got me in the habit of writing down what I want, from something as mundane as a grocery shopping list to creating a new career for myself. My friends probably think I’m obnoxious but when they moan to me that they don’t have enough money or they wish they could go into business for themselves, my mantra is, “Write it down, make it happen.”
How in the world does this help with the forgetfulness of menopause? I write down everything. When I think of something I need to do or want to do, I write it down. I have this silly thing where I even write on my hand. My husband makes fun of me but I can tell he really thinks it is a bit charming. When I’m walking to the car and I think, “Oh no! My brother’s birthday is next week. I need to get a card!” I write “Rick” on my hand and then I don’t forget. Guaranteed if I don’t write it down right then and there, by the time I get to the car and find a piece of paper, I’ve forgotten what I wanted to write down. I’ve made a habit of keeping a piece of paper taped to the kitchen counter. I write down everything on it, the little things “milk, eggs” and the big “Create time to spend with Sarah” (my daughter). My current list has “Look into lowering property taxes” and “Call the painter” plus write this blog posting (which I can now cross off).
It may sound extreme but trust me: Over the years, I’ve found that if I do not write it down, it doesn’t happen, and if I do write it down, I will find a way to make it happen if it is important to me. The really big things take some time, and I might carry around a note to “get in shape” for months but all the time I know it is on my list and I know what I need to do to make it happen. It may save me from the candy machine. As with any goal, the first step is the hardest. But by writing it down, I have taken the first step. I have envisioned success-I’ve written it down. I have expressed what I want and now I just need a strategy for making it happen. Author Klauser explains it better-get her book at the library. The book is awesome.
Here’s my advice: Each day, write down something you would like to have happen. It might be big, it might be small. Then add things that have to happen (“Buy toilet paper.”) When you think of something you have to do, write it on the paper (keep the paper in the same place ALL of the time so you always know where it is). When you are away from your list, write a word on your hand to remind you. It looks a little funny but it looks a whole lot better than missing an important appointment. Each week refresh the paper list. Will it keep you from remembering why you went into the kitchen? No. Or if you fed the dogs? No (unless you put that on the list and cross it off when you do it). But it will help you keep focused on what matters and will keep you from forgetting your brother’s birthday, the fact that you need to refill a prescription and oh, yeah, that you need toilet paper.
I hope you try this. Please let me know if it works for you.
Toni wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Menopause.