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It’s a simple expression isn’t it?

“Thanks for the memories.”

One that is perhaps less used nowadays than it once was perhaps.  And indeed they are funny things aren’t they?  Memories I mean.  Some good, some bad, and often they are things that are not deliberately made until perhaps something tragic looms on the horizon and in readiness for a forthcoming loss we deliberately ‘make memories’ to help us through that loss.

Of course some memories are perfectly mundane and ordinary whilst others seem to be almost magical, holding the ability to inspire laughter or happiness or perhaps sadness and even fear within us.

This painting for example, is one which I painted in memory of some sadder, more troubled, happenings in my life.

Ironically I can’t for the life of me remember what happened to it.  But I do remember that I painted it and that I did so some time ago when I was teaching art and in order to demonstrate that style and how different styles can be used to different effects.  Some to heighten impact some to lessen it.

See how fragile memory can be?  I remember painting it.  I even remember why.  But I can’t remember when and I can’t remember what happened to it.

But memories are so very important aren’t they?  Memory itself is so very important.

Think about it for a moment or two if you will.  It serves so many different functions in our lives even though we often take it for granted until we begin to lose it.

They are building bricks…

Aren’t our very relationships built on memories?  We wake up in the morning and generally speaking automatically know the person we woke up next to.  Why?  because we remember them from the last time we saw them and from times before that.  We remember, how much they mean to us, how special they are. Indeed isn’t how special that person is built on the memories that we have of them and of experiences shared with them?

They are comforters…

When we are down, or low, or alone, or struggling, how many of us think (remember) of when times were better,  or of people who are so very special to us?  Drawing encouragement, strength, comfort from those times and those people in the belief that things will get better once again?

They are teachers…

How many times during the course of our lifetime do we come across something that we haven’t done for a long time and yet we remember having done them before and from that memory we know how to do it again?  Or even something new but similar to something which we did before and the memory of something similar teaches us how to adapt.

Or perhaps it is completely new to us but we remember seeing our parents or grandparents doing it and so the memory of seeing them do it teaches us how to do it?

They are confidence givers…

“Ok.  I know can do this because  I have done it before!”  Is not an unfamiliar sentiment to many of us I would suggest.  It is that memory that is giving us the confidence that we need?

Let’s go back to that ‘waking up next to someone’ isn’t the familiarity that we have as a result of our memory of them, even extremely recent memories, the very thing that put us at ease and which gives us confidence?

They are identity givers…

So very much of who we are today as individuals comes from the experiences we had in the past and as a direct result of the memories that we have of those experiences.  Consider, if you will, folk who do suffer from Alzheimer’s extreme Amnesia.  Often they are so very disoriented even to the point of becoming combative and so often because of that lack of identity in themselves or an inability to identify those people around them.

But what happens when it starts to go?

As wonderful and useful and indeed I would suggest essential memory is for us and as much as it does, as we have already seen, give us we have to ask ourselves what happens when it starts to go or indeed if it begins to get corrupted or contorted?

That can be so devastating and scary can’t it?

Anyone who has an elderly relative who suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s will know of the often tragic effect that this can have on a person and indeed on their loved ones and those relationship which we spoke of earlier.

But memory loss or memory difficulties are not exclusive to the elderly or to dementia and Alzheimer sufferers. It can be experienced t any age and as a result of many different circumstances or conditions, just as not all elderly people struggle with memory problems.

Actually, it seems that poor mental health and indeed mental illness and memory difficulties often go hand in hand and this can put extreme pressure on us.

I cannot begin to describe some of the immediate difficulties that I personally have experienced as a result of my memory problems.

Forgetting to take medication and all the resultant effects of this.

Forgetting appointments with doctors and psychiatrists and then being made to wait ages for another one.

Leaving cookers and deep fat fryers on, although thankfully I have yet to burn my house down.

Typing text messages to friends either of my own volition or in response to messages they have sent me and then forgetting to hit ‘send’ and then spending hours  worrying because they (of course) didn’t respond to the message I thought I had sent them but hadn’t.

Forgetting to the lock front door etc.

Going into rooms and forgetting why I went in there in the first place.

Of course sometimes the results can be quite comical.  One morning I was sat at my computer typing out a blog and suddenly realized I had forgotten to get dressed that morning.

Now there’s a mental image none of you needed!

Thankfully the blind on my study window was down or it could have been even more embarrassing than it already was.

But of course whilst there can be humorous aspects to memory loss or difficulties remembering things it can also have extremely debilitating effects.

The resultant lack of confidence can be so difficult to live with.  Constantly being embarrassed bout looking stupid when you don’t remember the ends of the sentence you were speaking.  Or when people ask you questions, the answers to which you know you know but just can’t for the life of you remember.   Constantly getting up in the middle of the night to make sure things are turned off when they already were or to check doors you locked only minutes before.

Coping with memory loss…

Of course there are things that we can do to aid us in this struggle.

Reminder notes pinned to doors and cupboards, fridges and medicine cabinets.

Check lists of things to confirm before going to bed.

Setting routines and keeping to them – creating repetitions can be a great way of dealing with this.

Putting reminder alarms on our phones and computers.

Admitting the need to and accepting help from folk with live with and whom we trust.

Having our Folic Acid levels checked!  I recently learned that mine were desperately low and that this really affects our memory and focus and as a result I now take Folic Acid tablets and it certainly has helped.

Of course most of these things deal with immediate or short-term memory difficulties.  But one of the things that I personally struggle with is the loss of longer-term memories.

Longer-term memory loss…

I have mentioned this before in my posts.  I remember very little of my childhood and indeed so very much of my life seems to be a blank when I try to remember it.

I cannot begin to tell you how sad I get when I look at photos and can’t remember them ever being taken or what was happening when they were taken and it can be so soul-destroying when you look at a photograph with you in it and it is like looking at someone else’s photograph.  Someone else’s memory.

Some time back now, my therapist – this was back in the days when I had a therapist – suggested a technique of indirect memory recollection.  I m fairly certain that was not the proper name for it and indeed I can’t remember if I was even told the name for it.  But basically instead of trying to directly remember specific memories you just remember casual things and indirectly build your memories from there.  Chain linking from the initial thought until you build up a comprehensive picture.

So for example. remembering your favourite candy as a child could lead to why it was your favourite candy, when you first came across it, who you shared it with, special memories linked or associated to it.

One of my favourite past times just recently is reading other blogger’s blogs and one of my favourite blogs to read (I am sure she won’t mind me sharing this) is The Journey of a girl with many faces.  It is a blog which is a life-journal in which Carla remembers some of her past experiences.  It really is an excellent blog and I have to be honest I have over the past few days now often thought that perhaps I should write one similar in the hope that by doing so it would indirectly bring back more memories for me.

The purpose of this particular blog is to allow me a vehicle through which I can not only work out my own mental health and the struggles I face with it but hopefully also help others with their own struggles.  Also it is intended as a vehicle through which folk who are interested in mental health relate issues can see the kind of impact poor mental health can have on a person.

I have to tell you. Of all the impacts that my poor mental health has on my life.  The struggles that I have with my memory and focus and especially the relative loss of huge chunks of my past is th most difficult to deal with.