In the past 4 days I've had 4 lapses in memory. Otherwise I'm 100% fine. Is this a problem?
May 20, 2012 1:59 PM   Subscribe

In the past 4 days I've had 4 major-ish lapses in memory. Otherwise I'm 100% fine. Is this a problem?

On Thursday, I attended a writer's reading night at a friend's house. I remember feeling cold as I left her house, but didn't think it odd that I was in a cardigan. I only realise 1hr+ later on the drive home (carpooling with others) that I'd left my coat at friend's house. Not just my coat - my house keys, car keys, gym swipe card were all in the pockets. I couldn't even remember if I'd left my phone in the coat or not (thankfully I found it on my bed when I got home)

On Friday, I filled up my car with petrol and drove around town for 20 minutes with the nozzle door (and the black cap inside) wide open. I was really paying attention to the road, driving safely, looking in wing mirrors which clearly showed the door/cap open. I only noticed it when a driver next to me pointed it out when stopped at lights.

On Saturday, I had an exam. Before I got out of the car, I checked that I had everything: pencil, eraser, calculator, photo ID. When I went inside to register, I'd left the A4-size admittance document on the passenger seat, had to run out and get it. It's big and white and rather hard to miss, but I'd done just that. I've sat 7 similar exams, so it's not like the admittance doc is a new concept to me.

Today, Sunday, I carried a load of washing through the house. I had my wallet under my elbow and heard it fall as I opened a door with my elbow. I literally said to my mother 'Oh I'll leave this door open so I won't forget to come back for my wallet'. Mother brought my wallet to me 2 hours later - I'd left it in the hall where it'd fallen. This is a Chanel wallet with 400+ in it, so it's not something I could easily forget, but I did.

Background info:
I don't drink alcohol, smoke and the strongest caffeine I drink is green tea. I avoid dairy, sugar and 'white' carbs, but chow down on wholegrain everything. I get 8 hours of sleep every night, even naturally awaking around 7:00 without an alarm. I'm down around 2 stone since March. Periods regular from a lifetime of them not being so. No birth control, no other drugs.

Looking back on what I've typed, the incidents seem somewhat insignificant. But in my head they seem *huge*. I find myself checking things over and over now, because that gut-wrenching feeling of having forgotten something is so horrid. I don't know if the incidents are enough to see a doctor about - I thought I might need to at least speak to someone earlier, but now after writing this question, I think I'm blowing these incidents out of proportion.

Has anyone experienced mental lapses like this? A small voice in my head says it's probably period-related, but can that really turn someone into a total dope? It doesn't feel fatigue related, I sleep as much as I need and am quite diligent about that. This feels different from forgetting someone's birthday or a name - this is like forgetting physical things, belongings. And the 'brain rush' from suddenly remembering is like a shot of adrenaline.
posted by Chorus to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Are you under more stress than usual? You mention an exam - perhaps studying/worrying about that. Other family or relationship stressors? That's what does it for me. Also, relax, because minor forgetfullness is pretty typical for some people. I think you're blowing it out of proportion because its unusual for you.
posted by DoubleLune at 2:08 PM on May 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

I've done some of these things and others like them. My instances don't worry me and I am confident that my mind is fine.
posted by J. Wilson at 2:10 PM on May 20, 2012

Has anyone experienced mental lapses like this?

And how! I have ADHD-I. YMMV.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:14 PM on May 20, 2012

This sounds like you're just having an off week perhaps due to stress and hormones; I wouldn't worry. Incidentally, do you mean you've lost two stone in the last couple months? If so, that's rather quickly and would make you pretty tired, even if you're getting enough sleep.
posted by Specklet at 2:15 PM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree that stress would do this. When I start not missing my stops on the subway, I start paying very close attention whenever I'm using something sharp. Because, when I am really stressed I tend to do something automatic and stupid and end up in the emergency room. (Once every two years like clockwork.)
posted by zeek321 at 2:17 PM on May 20, 2012

I started having occasional lapses like this when I entered my thirties, FWIW.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:29 PM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're losing weight and dealing with exams? Sounds like stress. And maybe hunger. And the obsessing over/fretting about it could just be anxiety manifesting as worrying about forgetting stuff.

I turn into a raging she-beast when my blood sugar is low. Take care of yourself physically.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:30 PM on May 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

Stress will do this to me. Also lack of sleep; maybe you're getting your usual hours, but it's not quite as restful because of stress or anxiety?

If it persists after you get through the exams stress, maybe see your doctor and talk about having your thyroid checked. Memory issues and unintentional weight loss can be signs of an over active thyroid.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:35 PM on May 20, 2012

Actually, can't tell from your question if your 28 pound weight loss is intentional or unintentional. If it is intentional and you're counting calories, maybe you might want to think of increasing your daily calorie intake a bit to see if it helps with your memory. As PhoBWanKenobi says, a lot of people have memory issues when their blood sugar gets low.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:39 PM on May 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm down around 2 stone since March.

That's like 15 kg or 30lb right? That's a pretty decent drop in weight. How did you achieve this weight loss? What percent of your body weight does two stone represent? Some people who are significantly above their ideal body weight can, without significantly stressing their system, lose 2-4 pounds a week, especially at the beginning of a significant diet/lifestyle change, but for people closer to normal BMIs the rate of 1-2 pounds a week without side effects.
posted by midmarch snowman at 2:43 PM on May 20, 2012

Nthing exams and preoccupation. I do the weirdest stuff when I have something on my mind. Once I poured water in the coffee grinder and put beans in the kettle. I've put things in the freezer that belonged in the dishwasher and vice versa. It happens when I'm working on something intense. Exams definitely qualify.
posted by Addlepated at 2:56 PM on May 20, 2012


The weight loss is entirely doctor ordered and I'm following a diet by nutritionist that's heavy on complex carbs and natural nut butters. I'd ridiculously high cholesterol back in March and was ordered to change diet immediately. I'll be starting a gentle exercise routine in June to help shift the last stone (was 3 stone overweight).

I didn't think stress (99% work-related) would essentially short circuit one's brain like that and cause lapses?

Also, thank you to everybody who has responded so far - even just typing this has put matters into perspective.
posted by Chorus at 2:58 PM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

These seem to me less memory- and more attention-based. The experiences you describe -- mental lapses turning you into a "total dope" -- are pretty much a day-to-day reality for me. Getting on the bus going in the wrong direction (despite knowing where to go), forgetting my phone at home and realizing just after leaving my apartment (multiple times a week), leaving a shopping bag with my newly-purchased shoes in a dressing room for twenty minutes, etc.

My sister is the same way and has been diagnosed with ADD, to which she attributes these habits. I haven't been diagnosed but suspect I have a touch of it as well.

I also experience ambient stress and anxiety consistently, but when it's heightened, my lack of attention is especially bad. Are you especially stressed or anxious? Have you been "overthinking" things? Bigger concerns or thoughts might be monopolizing brain space at the expense of remembering smaller details.

Try a few focused activities -- yoga, meditation. These tend to relax and ground me in the moment, giving me more awareness of mundane details that sometimes go forgotten.
posted by aintthattheway at 3:05 PM on May 20, 2012

Probably stress but you say your diet has significantly changed. Could you be dehydrated? Dehydration can cause short-term memory deficits.
posted by Morrigan at 3:18 PM on May 20, 2012

On Saturday, I had an exam.

Oi, here's our culprit. I once forgot my shoes to an exam. I walked at least a quarter of a mile, took the exam, stepped outside the room and realized that I was walking around like a lunatic in my stocking feet. Another time, I went to an exam at 9 p.m. the night before -- exactly twelve hours early. To this day, I have no idea why. My partner will remind me of everything on days that I have tests, because I get so focused. It doesn't happen all the time, but you only have to forget your shoes once to realize that you might have concentration issues.
posted by Etrigan at 3:22 PM on May 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Could easily be stress - and if you are losing a lot of weight, this will add physical stress to your mental stress. It's all the same system in the end.

As an anecdote: a close relative of mine worked in a very stressful environment. It was a business that is affected by the weather and since last summer was pretty turbulent weather-wise, she worked very long hours all summer long. Her memory degraded terribly, in ways that could have been dangerous for herself or others - in the end she was put on disability with full pay. If the company could have disavowed the connection between the work environment and the memory loss, they would have - but a number of different doctors agreed that it was. Once she stopped working her memory improved, after time.

That was a lot of memory problems to go with a lot of stress, but it does scale. Take care of yourself, mention to your doctor or the nutritionist the memory problems next time you check in about your weight. They can help you rule anything out, diet-wise.
posted by newg at 3:30 PM on May 20, 2012

Talk to your nutritionist, or whoever prescribed the diet. Sounds maybe like your blood sugar is going low on busy days. Living on carbs will wreck havoc on your blood sugar if you don't watch your meal timing very carefully. Especially as you lose weight, you have less energy in reserve to bridge the gap between meals.
posted by gjc at 4:05 PM on May 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I didn't think stress (99% work-related) would essentially short circuit one's brain like that and cause lapses?

It absolutely does for me, and it's become more apparent the older I get. The first time I noticed it was when I was in college (university) and now that I am in my late 40s I have a whole set of strategies for coping with stress-induced forgetfulness. (For instance, when I was organizing my dad's funeral, I had a set of very detailed checklists that I carried with me that included things at the level of detail like "After talking with the funeral director, make sure that you have collected all of the papers you've brought to the funeral home.")

Anyway, best of luck with your exams and with all of this.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:34 PM on May 20, 2012

N'thing that stress does crazy things to memory/ability to concentrate. I have a lot of stresses in my life lately and it is funny to me the things I have trouble with. A few months back I was driving my car from one meeting to the other, worried about someone close to me, balancing my bank book in my head, hungry, and trying to compose a grocery list at the same time. I literally could not remember how to work the turn signal; I have been driving nearly 25 years! My brain just said "enough! there are no more neurons for multitasking!". Knowing this is a problem means I am gentle with myself and expect that others reduce their demands on me. Yoga/exercise is helpful if you can make time for it.
posted by saucysault at 6:21 PM on May 20, 2012

Sounds a lot like stress if you ask me.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:29 PM on May 20, 2012

This sounds completely within the normal range of someone who is stressed. If you had ADHD you would have had similar experiences daily or weekly for your entire life; since this is new and most likely temporary we can probably rule that out.

Don't stress about stressing, don't stress about paying more attention or you'll actually pay less because you'll be paranoid you forgot something. Put all your stuff in one place near the door when you come home. Change out of your work clothes. Do something to relax. Don't talk about work with anyone when you're not actually at work.
posted by desjardins at 8:57 PM on May 20, 2012

I didn't think stress (99% work-related) would essentially short circuit one's brain like that and cause lapses?

Stress makes me into a total idiot. Even preoccupation with something makes me very likely to do the kinds of things you mentioned. I think my brain can only deal with so much thinking at one time and if I'm forcing it to think too much about one topic, it says screw it, and just drops everything else. Vision is one of the first things to go, I can be looking right at something and wondering where it is. Sometimes I look for my sunglasses and I'm wearing them and not up on my head either, on my eyes.

That or I suffered some kind of head injury as a child because I can be epically absent minded at times.
posted by fshgrl at 10:20 PM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I hope I'm not the only one who read this and was mortified that you have described occurrences of my everyday life as indicating that I might be "a total dope".

I've got two graduate degrees.... I don't think intelligence is measured by whether you forget to screw in the gas cap sometimes.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:09 PM on May 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Each of these incidents happened when you were going through a door. It's common to forget things when you go through a door (and are under stress and in a diet).
posted by tel3path at 2:21 AM on May 21, 2012

I totally agree with treehorn+bunny.. at least one of these things happens to me daily and I'm not a complete lunatic. I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:54 AM on May 21, 2012

Your new diet doesn't sound healthy to me. All those carbs are likely wreaking havoc on your blood sugar, not to mention all the anti-nutrients found in improperly processed (which they likely are) grains and nuts. People react differently to diet, and maybe for some people this is fine, but it sure seems like for you it isn't. It definitely wouldn't be for me, either, or many, many people I know who tend towards chubby. Blood levels of cholesterol are VERY poorly correlated with diet, so there is no reason you need to avoid eggs, dairy, or meat. Great that you stopped the sugar and flour, not so great that you are no longer getting high-quality protein to balance out your carbs. I think you need to modify your diet. Get a different nutritionist if need be, or do it yourself by experimenting.
posted by parrot_person at 4:31 AM on May 21, 2012

I hope I'm not the only one who read this and was mortified that you have described occurrences of my everyday life as indicating that I might be "a total dope".

I've got two graduate degrees.... I don't think intelligence is measured by whether you forget to screw in the gas cap sometimes.
posted by treehorn+bunny

Okay, I think your mortification is a tad misplaced. I meant 'dopey' as in 'sleepy', 'foggy', 'befuddled', not 'thick', 'dumb' or 'stupid'. I have no doubt that someone with two degrees is very intelligent and I'm sorry to have caused you offence.

To rephrase, change it to: 'a total dunder-head'

Anyway, thank you to all the above posters, as usual one's ills in life seem to be down to diet and stress...
posted by Chorus at 5:30 AM on May 21, 2012

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