I, like many people with epilepsy, struggle with my memory.
Firstly, I would say that memory issues are a tricky to talk about by the very nature of the problem. Either I don’t realise how much I forget or I assume I’m forgetting things when actually I have been remembering things pretty well. It is one of things I find most frustrating with my epilepsy. As a young person trying to study, have and maintain friendships, and live independently, it can be really problematic!
I definitely haven’t cracked how to manage it all, but these are the top 5 strategies I use for now….
1. My notebook…
I try to keep as much of the information outside of my head as possible. I currently carry around a wee purple 2020 diary. I write in all the things, places, and people that are happening on a day as far in advance as next December. I check it throughout the day to see where I am supposed to be, or what I am supposed to be doing. These can be both the big things, like “uni for a Seminar at 4 in room 102.” But it can also be the small things. For example, “Remember to text Beth good luck with her test.” I would worry about forgetting this but know that it will be in the book so I will do it, and it will get crossed out when done!
2. Friends and family…
I talk to my friends and family a lot about things I have done and am doing, and often will have done the things with them. In conversations they frequently fill in the blanks with memories and stories without having to consciously make an effort. If there are ever specific things I want to know of memories that feel they are just that little bit out of focus, then friends and family are always happy to take the time to try and bring them back into focus! They are also always happy to remind me, and are forgiving of me forgetting, which can make all of the worries associated with forgetting things less.
I also take A LOT of photos! Photos of all the good things that I do means I can look back on quite comprehensive highlights of experiences, both big and small. This is definitely a big advantage of having a smartphone. It literally takes two seconds to take a photo, and they can be so good for helping you remember what has happened.
When I go home after a semester at uni, family members ask what I have been up to and I get my photos out, taking them through the highlights in chronological order. I also have lots of photos up around my room as I really like being able to look at them all.
This year I am even doing a one second a day video. I think it will be really nice to have at the end of the year, even if I can’t remember all of it. I will have things that can hopefully trigger memories of what has happened.
In terms of strategies for managing memory and learning school/uni content, my biggest thing is just to start as early as possible. I am a big believer in repetition and learning the same things in different ways. The more times I do something the more chance it has of sticking! A lot of my peers tend to do little work at the beginnings of the semester and then loads and loads in the lead up to exams. I instead go for consistency in the hope that then things will be better retained.
5. A pill box…
Something like remembering to take your medication can become quite a stressful worry as it is so important to remember to do. I find that having a pill box means that I can see very clearly if I have or have not remembered to take it, as can family and flatmates if they are unsure. This helps to remove the worries about forgetting. I also find it helpful to fill it up once a week and then can just take it reasonably mindlessly every day, not having to think about doses. I find that especially when doses of medications change, I can struggle to remember to do it properly and can get confused with what I am doing. Removing this from a daily thing to a weekly thing where I can clearly see what I have written is really beneficial.
It is definitely all something I am still working on, and things aren’t perfect, but I feel like I am beginning to get the hang of tips for managing it!
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