Too sad to be good convo partner?
December 1, 2011 12:24 PM   Subscribe

Ok, so I've been having this problem lately (and I think it's related to my recent depression) where I meet new people and kind of expect that I'll never develop any friendship with them, but then it actually does happen, and I realize in horror that when they bring up previous conversations we've had, I act completely clueless because I didn't bother to remember it in the first place, and they say something like, "Remember we were talking about how my mom lives literally right next door to you?" (seriously, that happened today) and I remember suddenly, but clearly have already made it obvious that I didn't remember it in the first place... That's been happening a lot lately, and I want to know how to recall what I talked about with people more.

The thing is, I'm not always like this. I've been diagnosed with depression in the past, and in the face of a recently more stressful period in my life, went back on pills (Lexapro). My mood isn't the worst it's ever been, but it's enough to drive me to distraction in social settings.

I just got back on pills this week, but I remember the last time I was prescribed something, and I don't feel like medication really made much difference; what changed was a certain couple of life circumstances that were out of my control, but happened to shift things in my life for the better. So this time around, even though I know the pills are a positive thing, even if just for the placebo effect, I'm not sure it's going to do much without working on how I think.

I'm pretty poor, so my "therapist" is someone who basically talks to me for a few minutes when she renews my subscription, which of course is not very often. But I've been in CBT before, own the Feeling Good Handbook (though I admit I haven't had the guts to open it in a while), and want to use this time to really change some habits of mine that get in the way of what's troubling me, namely that I find my interactions with other people pretty unsatisfying right now.

I want to remember how it was that I used to be able to pick up the convo with someone after a couple weeks. I didn't always have such trouble remembering previous conversations, but it's been happening to me a lot lately. Like, it happened twice today. With both of the girls I'm currently trying to chat up. Ugh.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I think, until your depression is back under control, you're going to need another coping mechanism for this issue. Perhaps just "Cliff's Notes" versions of the conversations you've had, kept in the easiest way possible without writing them down (because bringing index cards to a get-together looks a little tacky). So you can say, "Megan got a new puppy and her Mom's sick, so when I think of Megan, I'll picture a sad puppy face looking at Mom," or something.
posted by xingcat at 12:42 PM on December 1, 2011

I have a very patchy memory - so I carry a notebook around at all time in school/work situations (so nothing important gets missed), and outside that I just tell my friends the truth that my memory isn't fantastic for things like conversations. I've had good friends refer to themselves as my "external hard drives" for remembering things!

People get upset when you forget things because it makes them feel unimportant. If you make it clear that you do find them important/interesting, it's just that you have a general problem with memory it should be fine. And if it's something really important (like not forgetting a birthday, or an allergy or a big thing like that), write it down.
posted by Coobeastie at 1:21 PM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have struggled with this too, and would not suggest writing down details you worry you may forget. It sounds like the trouble is that you're distracted by interior stuff, so you're not "in the moment" and you're not really processing the things you're hearing in the conversations. Keeping a notebook will likely exacerbate that disconnection. I know it would for me, anyway, because I've tried it.

I found the main thing to focus on is relaxation and letting go. (That includes not worrying if you don't remember everything, because it's not really the end of the world and you're not obligated to be perfect etc.) If you can put your stuff down briefly to have a conversation, you'll be better able to remember the conversation. Also, finding out that you can put your stuff down temporarily is empowering, and will actually help you deal with the stuff.

I have had good results with a long-term course of talk therapy, but no experience with any medication. My guess is that at least some of the meds out there probably won't help with being in the moment or learning to observe and influence your mental state, and you may want to review your meds with that in mind. IANAS.

Or, move your whole social life to Metafilter :-)
posted by maniabug at 2:06 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe you're expecting too much of your memory. We can't remember all details of all conversations.
posted by maurreen at 2:37 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Take the next step and do the exercises in the Feeling Good Handbook. You gotta follow through.
posted by facetious at 3:24 PM on December 1, 2011

What I tend to do is relate conversations to the time and place in which I had them. I picture the booth we were sitting at, remember what I ate or drank, the time of day, that kind of thing. Once I locate the context and the general situation, I find the details of the conversation much easier to remember. So during conversations or events, I try to take a moment to notice little things around me and construct a mental picture of the scenario: that mustard container is a little offset; the leaves outside were dry enough to crunch loudly; my ankle was sort of sore. By "sketching" the scene, so to speak, I find the details start to fill themselves in. If you find that that works, you'll also find that after a short time you won't have to do it consciously anymore, it'll just become habit. Good luck.
posted by Errant at 4:41 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I haven't come across the feeling good handbook but am slowly working my way through 'overcoming depression' and it's been really useful to me. It uses a mixture of CBT and mindfulness stuff. Depressed or not I'm quite sceptical about anything that might be considered new-age - but I felt the explanations of the mindfulness exercises and the rationale made perfect sense to me.

What you've said kind of chimes with my experiences and edging through the book has actually helped me understand it a little bit better. It's not like I feel particularly in-compassionate but that perhaps my attitude towards myself is bleeding into how I expect others to see me and that creates a state of anxiety that in some way disables my ability to be properly aware of my present experiences without necessarily being conscious of that. In turn that may lead to not focusing on the things I want to focus on - like perhaps your problem of not really taking away all the info from a conversation

I don't know what the exercises are like in the feeling good handbook but if they are anything like the ones in mine I've found them very useful - generally for my state of mind but I think with practice they might really help me socially when it comes to being aware of the present and not being too self-conscious to properly listen and take things in.

I hope that's of some help and hasn't come across as just me venting my shit, but in short - try to give the exercises a go. Good luck.
posted by pmcp at 6:09 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think depression and sometimes even depression meds mess with your memory.

Don't beat yourself up about it.

Tell the person you're sorry, you have a crappy memory, you wish you remembered the conversation but you're excited to have it again!
posted by Salamandrous at 6:32 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

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