Memory isn't what it used to be
December 29, 2012 12:32 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone any experience with having distorted time periods or even days. What I mean by distorted is that my concept of time is really off and if I didn't have a watch on I don't think that I could accurately guestimate ten minutes, let alone hours of time.

When I think back during the week, I can't really remember the days and the events that occurred in them, but if someone reminds me that we did something, it's there. It's kind of like multiple choice tests in that I can't recall a particular memory but I know that they are there if someone reminds me or if I were to write down what I am doing and saying throughout the day. I can already imagine myself compulsively writing down everything I do and making my life pretty miserable if I am trying to record everything that I do in a particular day. The worst part of this is that I am very tangential in my thinking. I could start off on a particular topic and easily forget what were originally talking about. Sometimes, it feels like I am losing more of myself on a daily basis if there is such a thing. Yes, I do take medications for anxiety,but this time problem has been going on for quite a while. I'm afraid I'm going to end up like some sort of bad neuroscience project gone bad. Somewhere between the character in Memento and the short stories by Oliver Sacks.
posted by nidora to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Doctor. Neurologist? Not sure what kind, but definitely see a doctor. Is this a recent, new thing? The doctor will want to know.
posted by Weeping_angel at 12:45 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Depression and/or anxiety can definitely cause memory problems as preoccupations consume too much of your thinking for new memories to take hold.
posted by rhizome at 12:59 AM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

What medications are you taking? I took Klonopin for a while for a neurological problem (but Klonopin is also used for anxiety) and I literally do not remember that time period. Some medications can really interfere with your ability to consolidate memories.
posted by sunnichka at 1:13 AM on December 29, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you for the information, but I don't want to turn this into a Med post since I couldn't comment on what a doctor would know about this.
posted by nidora at 1:18 AM on December 29, 2012

I mean this as gently as possible, but: can you clarify what you're looking for, if not medical information? The person to see about this is really a doctor, and I'm not sure what we can contribute other than anecdata and recommendations to see a doctor.
posted by third word on a random page at 1:22 AM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you for the presenting this in a gentle manner. :-)

I guess what I am saying is that I don't want this to be a post about which drugs to take or not take, as I could only make that decision while seeing a doctor in person.

I will say this, that if I didn't take any medication, I don't know that I would be able to sleep at all. It's like my body gets rested but I am constantly over-analyzing everything.

My apologies if this limits any of the responses. Maybe I should not have posted this since this is something that Askmefi cannot respond to without it being a medication answer.
posted by nidora at 1:43 AM on December 29, 2012

If your meds are interfering with your ability to be present in your own life on an ongoing basis, then that seems like reason enough to get them changed. If you're concerned about the fact that your mind drifts from one thought to another unbidden, well... that actually sounds a little like meditative practice, and not all that unpleasant. Is it that you cannot stick to one train of thought, or that it takes effort? 'cause if its taking effort is somehow pathological, I've got 40 years of neuro visits to start getting caught up on.

Shorter: rephrase, please?
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 1:43 AM on December 29, 2012

Response by poster: I guess the question could adequately be answered by meditation and not getting enough sleep. Those were two answers that make sense although I don't honestly get the meditation thing. I spent a decent amount of money on some meditation discs by Jon Kabat-Zinn and I get frustrated while I am doing it, because my mind cannot stop wandering.

Maybe this is all vipasana meditation is getting me anywhere. I feel like I just don't get it. Any suggestions to stopping the monkey mind and actually being present instead of constantly being in your head?
posted by nidora at 1:52 AM on December 29, 2012

I know someone who I would characterise some of their past thinking about time similar to yours. For example, they would mention us doing something "a few days ago" that actually happened months prior (and when I examined the memory with them they would agree it was a different season with different weather but it "felt" very recent and they felt there were no other more recent memories taking up space in the intervening time). Or they would commit to doing something in the next day or two and then weeks/months go by and when reminded they thought only a couple of days had past. They found memories/experiences of decades prior much more "real" than what had happened a few minutes ago. Possibly related, their dreams were also much more real than their wakefulness, actually, I would not characterise them as being fully awake. They were slow in movement, speech and thought, but they did not perceive any delay (if I recieved no response to a simple yes or no question after several minutes I would try to rephrase and usually get briskly told off for "interrupting", an extremely slow walking pace was "hurrying" them) Frequently our conversations would seque into topics that were not verbalised as related; me:"I would like to go to the museum today." them:"yes, that would be nice (Thinks about the street the museum is on, remembers a positive memory of meeting someone on that street 25 years ago) Bumping into Stephanie would be nice.". They were on minimal medications at the time, I do not think this was a side effect of the drugs; I think their brain was so overwhelmed it was coping by limiting new inputs and reducing processing to the bare minimum. They sought professional help and made a relatively quick turnaround through proper medication, lifestyle changes and medication.
posted by saucysault at 1:59 AM on December 29, 2012

I'll go in precisely the opposite direction from saucysault. This isn't the community-sanctioned AskMeFi answer of "MOAR THERAPEE", so do what you will. I won't say "you sound bored, unchallenged, uninspired, and like you need a moderately profound change in what you do and think every day," but I will say that what you're describing rings bells of familiarity with my own experience when I was bored, unchallenged, uninspired, and desperately needed a major change in what I did and thought every day. Get out of your comfort zone.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 2:02 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Whoops, just noticed my last line makes no sense, replace one of the "medications" with "therapy". I should also note that the person felt this was not normal for them and felt they were losing "themself". They said they felt much like they had previously felt like when on dissociatives (cough syrup) and knew they could not have performed tasks that were normal (school, work, social life) a few years prior while in this state so this was something new in their life and they were unhappy with it.
posted by saucysault at 2:13 AM on December 29, 2012

Honestly? I thought everyone was like this! If you put the average person in a room with no clocks and tell them to wait exactly ten minutes, they're either going to have to count seconds or they're not going to be particularly near to ten minutes. If you tell them to wait four hours, it's basically hopeless. People can't even estimate a minute (I've watched a whole group do this and it's pretty amusing--even with counting seconds I'm off by ~10%). That is why people have clocks everywhere, are constantly pulling out their phone to check the time, and so on.

Similarly for not remembering everything that happened in, say, the past week. People remember a few things and then piece together the rest through association. Some parts aren't recalled or aren't perfectly recalled, like maybe misremembering that it was Tuesday that you went to the store rather than Wednesday. This is...just how memory works, and has nothing to do with your sense of time.

You might want to read up on studies about eyewitness reliability. People go into court making an honest effort to recall what happened and when as accurately as possible and are still really bad at it.

That said, yes, you should talk to your doctor if you observe some other people and still feel like you're well away from average or if you're noticing a sudden decrease in your time sense or recall.
posted by anaelith at 3:17 AM on December 29, 2012 [10 favorites]

Came to say what anaelith said. Unless you find yourself losing time (blacking out) or this seriously affects your quality of life, I wouldn't worry about it too much. You just sound like a scatterbrain to me.
posted by windykites at 6:16 AM on December 29, 2012

However, the "tangental" thing caught my eye just now. In a good conversation, that does often just happen- people don't stay 100% focused and on-topic- but there are a few things that can cause it if you're incapable of staying connected to the larger conversation; have you been tested for ADD? That's the first thing i'd think of.
posted by windykites at 6:20 AM on December 29, 2012

I get this a lot. I'm the parent of a 2 year old and a 7 month old. It happens when one of them gets sick and I'm up all hours of the night.
posted by bfranklin at 6:34 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have ADD and what you describe happens to me perhaps not as extreme. I seem to lack the ability to judge time. I often have to set time limits on day to day activities. I also often have a hard time remembering when an event occurred. It helps to keep a planner as a way to go back to verify you were there and when it was. As an insomniac I think this makes this tendency worse.
posted by lasamana at 7:04 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I dont know much about the time loss thing but just wanted to say that meditation isn't about stopping your thoughts. It's about stepping back and watching them float by.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:27 AM on December 29, 2012

I am having something like this right now. My mother died two days before Thanksgiving, and my father disowned me on Christmas Eve. I've been struggling with my sense of time and with things feeling not quite real--like I can remember things but I don't feel sure they really happened, they have a dreamy quality. I can't keep track of what day it is, and have to count back to remember that, say, Christmas was just four days ago. I thought it was likely a side effect of grief.
posted by not that girl at 7:38 AM on December 29, 2012

This is not an unusual reaction to intense stress, either physical or emotional or both. This is not an unusual reaction to sleep deprivation. This is not an unusual side effect of many sleep and anti-anxiety medications. This is not an unusual symptom of some illnesses, none of which I am going to name here because Googling them will just stress you out, but both my father and I experienced impairment of our chronological memory and ability to focus in conversation as part of completely different illnesses (neither neurological in our cases).

So really, go to your doctor. Be extremely detailed and frank in your discussion of what you've experienced and how it's affected your everyday life.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:17 PM on December 29, 2012

I would suggest talking to a therapist or doctor about dissociation. Losing time, feeling like you're losing yourself, getting lost in may have learned dissociation as a coping strategy at some point.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 12:40 PM on December 29, 2012

I have had similar symptoms, and I found that doing things recommended for depression/anxiety reduction actually helped me. Maybe whatever you're taking for anxiety isn't working, or maybe you're being treated for anxiety when what you actually have is depression (it just looks to you like anxiety).

The brain is a weird place, but definitely I would look to change up what you're taking to see if that helps.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 7:22 PM on December 29, 2012

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