Memory and Depression - Can you get out of the fog?

I have blogged here in the past about how at times I feel really stupid that I didn't understand early enough what was really going on in my head. It has been a revelation to learn more and more about the brain, how it works, why it reacts the way it does and what we can do about it.

 

One of the big markers for depression is Memory Loss.

I am not sure when I noticed that I couldn't remember huge chunks of my kids early lives, but this should have been a key signpost that all was not well with me.

So first a little backstory.

When each of my children was born, this was a hugely happy time in my life. Nothing unusual there, most mothers look upon the births of their kids as THE achievement of their life.

I know I do.

I was so caught up with the kids and the wonderful feeling that enveloped me at that time, that I actually remembered in detail, each gift they were given at birth, at their baptism, each birthday present, all items of clothing purchased by me or others, all the toys and books. Every single item and moment in significant detail. What words were spoken, to whom and why.

I was all over it!

No journal - just in my head., like a movie

Yes, I know....perhaps a little obsessive...

It was just how my brain up until that time worked. This flowed through to work too, I just remembered stuff, in detail, without notes. 

But something started to change.

I am not sure when I noticed the difference, but I could no longer remember things like, who had their tonsils AND adenoids out and who just had adenoids out. I could not remember if immunisations had been done. I started to worry that if I had to advise medical history for one of the kids I would have no idea what had happened. 

I could not remember any preschool moments for my daughter at all.

I could no longer remember swimming lesson milestones, piano concerts, early beach holidays.

They were just gone from my head.

Completely.

For me, there just seemed to be this large space full of bad things. Full of negativity. Like nothing good had actually happened to me at all. Nothing.

I could remember disappointments. I could remember arguments. I could remember significant financial stress.

I only seemed to have this feeling that the past was full of bad stuff only and this entirely consumed how I saw the now. 

It has been a source of great sadness for me that these moments of my children's early life had gone from my memory.

Why and What is with the Hippocampus?

Well here are some things I have learnt regarding the brain ( and there is a happy ending here )

When we are depressed, the hippocampus area of the brain shrinks. And this is the area that controls memory and emotion. You can read some more about this here 

Depression really attacks the executive functions of the brain. We can't sleep, can't make effective decisions,  can't function as we normally have done. You can read more about this here

The other crazy thing is, that whilst this is going on, our brain also reaches and holds on to ( like a sugar hit) bad things, negativity and this gives the brain a  jolt, a little hit that it likes. It almost makes room and prefers this negative stuff and pushes out and away the positive stuff.

How bizarre is that! Just part of our long term cave man like responses to threats. 

So hence, why sometimes when I learn about this now, I think Duh! if only I had known. I could have had treatment much earlier.

So, for a long time I just felt that those memories where gone for good. That even though they had been imprinted in my mind - I would never be able to draw from them again.

Finding some good

At home, my husband uploaded all our photos of the kids to Google Drive and then he put this on all TV screens in our house. We have TV screens that allow photos to loop around when nothing is on - but the power.

We have these on all the time.

So in this house, for the last 12 months, I have had photos scrolling around constantly of the kids when they were little.

Initially I didn't really notice what was happening, but as I have become better and better, something wonderful has been happening.

I can remember those events.

They are not lost!

At first I just started to notice the photo, but more and more recently, I can actually remember the event that surrounded the photo. And not only that, I am starting to remember more than just that event from their childhood. 

The relief that this has brought to me is quite amazing. I really can't describe it, but if as a mother, you had most of your children's stories stolen from your head and then they are starting to re-appear, I am sure you can appreciate that feeling.

 

Today is World Mental Health Day

If you or someone you know is struggling to remember things, think again. Are they OK?

Do you need to speak up.

Do you need to just listen.

Memory can come back, but depression must be treated and then those good memories can get stronger and you will feel better.

So get out those old photo albums or digital photos and look at them.

Regularly.