This past Father's day was (literally) erased from my memory. How? Why?
October 9, 2016 8:38 AM   Subscribe

I was talking with my dad today and he told me he enjoyed our going out to eat on father's day at a restaurant I have no recollection going to with him (ever). He described the meal in detail to the point where I'm sure he's not making it up, but what he was saying didn't even jog my memory - it's like the day didn't happen. I'm in my early thirties so I'm very worried about this. Has anyone had anything like this happen to them, and how did it turn out?

Although rare, this isn't the first time this has happened. i had a birthday party about 7 years ago where a group of people were telling me how much fun they had for a party they threw me - they described many details, what we did, etc. but I had no recollection of the event. I told them so (which i kind of regret) and they just kind of stared at me with bug eyes like they were seriously worried about me. I was a little worried too, but i assumed it was because i had drunk a lot that night and left it at that, even though i didn't even remember anything from before i had started drinking as well.

Now this next thing happened with my dad on father's day, and I am freaking out. he also said we went to a movie which i very vaguely remember, but i don't remember it being on that day as i don't even remember what we did on father's day.

I can only think of three reasons for why this happened, but i can't imagine how the first two could cause a total memory wipe-out of a whole day. One was that my mom had been diagnosed with cancer around that time. Number two was that I had been smoking (not cigarettes) a lot to cope with what was happening with mom - but i'm sure i wouldn't have smoked on father's day. But i can't remember. Three, it could be amnesia or dementia which i am now terrified of.

in any case, I am planning on calling my doctor tomorrow to maybe make an appointment for a neurologist. I feel terrible that i lost an entire day of memories with my dad even though i seemingly participated in it - my dad seemed hurt as well.

My questions are, has something like this happened to anyone else who is relatively young? did it turn out to be a memory flub, or was it something more serious? I'd love to hear from medical professionals as well, although i know YANMD. Thanks.
posted by Thanquol180 to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am in no way a doctor but I've most definitely been around people who were drunk or high and later had no recollection of events. and I'm not making light of this but in one instance you say you were drunk and in the other you had been smoking (weed, I assume).

Both are known to cause memory impairment. If you're partaking to the extent that it may be causing memory loss, you may want to reconsider your usage.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 8:46 AM on October 9, 2016 [17 favorites]

When you think back to what you did this year for father's day, does anything come to mind?

Do you remember details of what you did on other special occasions this year? Can you remember something that happened on Christmas or New Year's? What did you do for your birthday this year? What about a less exciting holiday like Memorial Day or Fourth of July?

If yes, but just not this particular day, I would chalk it up to a weird brain fart, or hey, maybe you did imbibe enough of a recreational substance close enough to that time that it affected your memory of the day. If you have trouble recalling a lot of things like this, I would talk to your doctor, yes.
posted by Sara C. at 8:53 AM on October 9, 2016

Response by poster: Another thing i forgot to mention regarding my memory - I'm screwing up simple turns of phrase in conversation that i used to have no problem with. this happens pretty frequently. for example, today i said someone "toned someone out" instead of "tuned someone out." I have never had issues like this before. I have a harder time finding words and people used to say i was eloquent.

I actually stopped smoking since last month and never have more than a beer or two max now since i noticed my memory and vocabulary were getting kind of funky. i was also worried that I was getting schizophrenia as i looked up symptoms (mistake, i know) and i had a bunch of them (more monotone voice, seeing things out of the corner of my eye, etc. I have depression/anxiety by the way.

i didn't find out about the father's day thing until today though.
posted by Thanquol180 at 8:53 AM on October 9, 2016

If you were drinking and smoking a lot, you could have some degree of post-acute withdrawal syndrome for a long time.
posted by BibiRose at 9:07 AM on October 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

As someone who has suffered badly from health anxiety in the past, my strong advice to you is STEP AWAY FROM THE GOOGLE. Anxiety loves to produce physical symptoms that seem to reinforce your worst fears. Anxiety can cause or exacerbate almost any physical symptom you can think of.

Memory loss? Check.
Aphasia/other word or speech processing issues? Check.
Disturbed vision? Check.
Pain? Check.
Fatigue? Check.

And so on. (Ask me how I know?)

Of course, it's natural to worry about big memory lapses like the ones you've mentioned, but you are planning on seeking medical advice, and at this stage, that's all you need to be doing. I know it's far easier said than done, but try to stop ruminating on this, get some fresh air, see your friends, read a good book. I'm rooting for you, friend.
posted by Defying Gravity at 9:10 AM on October 9, 2016 [26 favorites]

Do you have any corroborating evidence that what your father said you both did on Father's Day is accurate? How old is your father? Is it possible he is wrong? If not, see the doctor.
posted by AugustWest at 9:11 AM on October 9, 2016 [8 favorites]

my mom had been diagnosed with cancer around that time.

When I started reading your question, I was waiting for you to say something stressful/traumatic had happened around the same time. Sure enough, there it is.

I can't speak to the drugs part, though they probably don't help, but from experience I can tell you stressful or traumatic events can wipe clear memories of whole days (or more) from your mind.

It's good you are going to the doctor to get checked out, but I'd advise against further googling and just see what the doctor says. Good luck--I hope you get some relief.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:31 AM on October 9, 2016 [30 favorites]

Is it possible your dad is mistaken? Do you have siblings? My mom is forever confusing something I said with something my brother said. Can you check your bank statement or your credit card to make sure this did, in fact, happen? Was there someone else there who could confirm details for you?

Random question: Did you maybe take a medication that causes drowsiness that day? When I take a Sudafed, it's like I'm on another planet.

I understand your concern, but "I have dementia" is a pretty big jump to conclusions. I would eliminate less drastic possibilities before freaking out.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:39 AM on October 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

Seconding hurdy gurdy girl -- stress right around an event becomes a magical memory eraser. Are you the type of person to enjoy having a surprise party? If the experience was actually upsetting in any way, and you had a lot to drink to compensate, that might cover your other example. A doctor's appointment is still a great idea. (Gentle reminder, so as not to compound your anxiety: if you're in North America, the office could be closed tomorrow. Just call again later in the week.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:42 AM on October 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've had that happen twice (or one and a half times?), both during stressful times in my life.
Once was a dinner outing with family & friends. People kept mentioning the restaurant and, for a few years, I had no memory of it happening. Until one day, ding, it came back.
The other time, and I still can't remember, was when we were tailgating with a friend. I remember all sorts of details about that day/night EXCEPT this one person there. I've been told by others that I spent quite a bit of time talking to her. I still have no memory of this person. I'm sure it'll come back to me.

No drugs or alcohol involved. Just stress.
posted by Neekee at 9:50 AM on October 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Anxiety has wreaked havoc on my memory. I haven't lost entire events, but I've lost many hours of conversation, sometimes about important things. Maybe you should just go get a quick physical, then look for a therapist.
posted by getawaysticks at 10:25 AM on October 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Trauma is known to cause memory loss and wonkiness. So it's definitely possible to have that be involved. It could also be stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, nutrient deficiency, etc, etc, etc.
posted by Lady Li at 10:27 AM on October 9, 2016

Forgetting entire events combined with being unable to access words? Add in being unable to perform at a normal (for me) level of intelligence and processing, and this describes me perfectly. I recently saw a couple of doctors for it. I had brain MRI (unrelated) that as far as I know* is fine, and then the other doctor said quite definitively that if it wasn't something showing on the MRI, then it was anxiety and stress. So now I have a handful of strategies to deal with that, including anti-anxiety meds. No drugs or alcohol involved at all.

*About a month ago, and nobody has called saying it's bad, so I must be fine
posted by Stewriffic at 10:31 AM on October 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

To clarify - the little slips of the tongue in particular could easily be caused by anything on that long list. Also by lots of other stuff. Basically, there are things that happen to you when your body is under stress, and because diseases stress your body you end up seeing a lot of those listed in disease encyclopedias as symptoms under (insert terrible thing here). But actually they are not necessarily useful for diagnosing (terrible thing), because all the symptom itself is telling you is "hard times!"

Also, memory is dramatically different between people. This is a relatively recent realization, that not everyone has the same vividness or type of detail in their memories. I have one friend with 0 visual memory at all - she can't picture her own mother's face, or anything like that, and it took until she was in her twenties before she read an article about the phenomenon and realized everyone else was being literal when they talked about visualization.

So if nothing has *changed* for you, if it is just the way you've always been that under stress sometimes your brain doesn't record things to long term memory, that's probably not a medical issue. It's sudden *changes* that would suggest a brain tumor or memory loss or so on.
posted by Lady Li at 10:36 AM on October 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Before you panic, start finding out how much you've forgotten. It's pretty certain you will have left a trail around that time, bank transactions, chat messages, and if you use Google maps the timeline feature may be switched on. At least make sure this really did happen.

I had a traumatic event at the start of this year, and I'll add myself of the list of people saying that it's amazing how much is wiped from your memory. Good luck.
posted by welovelife at 10:56 AM on October 9, 2016

Data point: when I'm stressed, I start being less eloquent, and then I start worrying about it, and then my unconscious starts making it worse. Seeing a doctor is a good idea, staying off the internet is a good idea, but it seems very likely to me that you have a wonky memory (so do I - there are days I've totally forgotten) and stress.

If you're at all like me, you can have stress profoundly affect your health without being consciously aware of the degree to which you're stressed. Your mom has a serious medical issue - serious enough that you were trying to numb your feelings to cope.

A close relative has idiopathic early onset dementia. I've read a lot on PubMed about it. I'm not a doctor or an expert, but what you are describing does not match up to the actual research. There are very particular forms that dementia-related language loss takes, and none of them are "I forgot this turn of phrase but remembered it later". That is, in fact, one of the descriptions they give to distinguish normal forgetting from concerning forgetting.

Again, I can't promise anything because I'm not a doctor, but I bet this is stress, weak memory and the beginning of aging, not a brain tumor or dementia.

I very clearly remember the first time I had scary forgetting - I was 31, in the library, thought to myself "oh, after I get this book I should totally get [other book]" and when I'd gotten the book, I had forgotten the other one. It was totally gone, like it fell into a void. It was really scary. Ten years later, this type of thing happens much more often, to the point where I make more lists and do little mental double checks. I'm not impaired, there's nothing wrong with my brain, it doesn't happen constantly or anything, but I'm getting older. You are too.

Concentrate on not worrying right now. It is extraordinarily unlikely that you are in the first stages of a grave illness.
posted by Frowner at 11:18 AM on October 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

my mom had been diagnosed with cancer around that time.

I'm an anxious person and when my mom got diagnosed with cancer I lost chunks of time or remembered them out of place. I also take ativan for anxiety and while most of the time I don't have memory issues with it (though that can be a side effect) when I am super stressed and taking it I literally can lose hours like this. I don't love it but it happens. I agree with people, work on some self care, make sure you're getting adequate treatment for your depression and anxiety and try to set this aside and check back in with yourself in a week or two and see if it's still a thing. Occasional memory lapses are sort of in the normal range. Increasing memory stuff (more like no short term memory, difficulty recalling words or recognizing familiar places and people) would be more concerning. Stress can mimic a lot of diseases particularly to the anxious.
posted by jessamyn at 11:44 AM on October 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you were consisting smoking decent amounts of weed around this time, it could have played a role here, whether or not you smoked on the day in question. Especially if you were leaning on it to deal with some bad news. Taking a break from weed seems like a good idea.

During a stressful and traumatic time in my life, I frequently used wrong words and wouldn't even realize it or would take several moments to sort it out. Brains are weird.
posted by ewok_academy at 12:02 PM on October 9, 2016

Check out Memory: Remembering and Forgetting in Everyday Life, by Barry Gordon (a neurologist). It's a detailed guide to when to worry about memory issues. The short version is: most people who worry about their memory do not have serious memory problems.
posted by phrontist at 12:08 PM on October 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

A classmate of mine forcibly lost a lot of his short and long term memory skills as a way to cope with the traumatic divorce his parents were going through and his mom's cancer diagnosis shortly thereafter. He categorically cannot remember the details of any event or conversation that happened during that period of trauma, or during a time where that trauma resurfaced in some way. I thought maybe this was a temporary thing for a while, or that maybe he did remember certain things and was just avoiding the topics. But he seriously cannot remember anything about that time period and continues to have memory loss in times of stress. It might be that intensive therapy could help him process the trauma and move on from it, but I don't think he wants to. He just lives with the memory loss and the people around him have learned to not take it personally. :(
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:13 PM on October 9, 2016

Echoing others that this is more likely related to stress and anxiety than anything else.

That doesn't mean "do nothing," but it does mean "don't stress yourself out unnecessarily about this."
posted by samthemander at 12:16 PM on October 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

How do you eat? How much sun do you get? Low B12 levels can cause neurological issues, including memory loss. My father was having memory issues and they found out that his B12 was so low that they would have had to give him an injection if it were any lower.

In the absence of that, I'd blame the smoking. I doubt it's anything serious. You may just be one of the unlucky few who has side effects like this from marijuana.

But, of course, get anything serious ruled out first.
posted by Amy93 at 12:36 PM on October 9, 2016

I think everyone has occasional lapses of memory, it's just rare to find out about it later on. That's why I keep a journal.
posted by miyabo at 12:50 PM on October 9, 2016

Datapoint: my very first AskMe question was about something similar (a young person experiencing a sudden memory loss, although I later found out that there had been some previous cases of minor memory gaps, too). The person I was asking about was put through very thorough neurological testing; I don't know what the final diagnose was, but they have been on antiepileptic medication ever since. And symptom free and thriving. Good luck!
posted by sively at 1:32 PM on October 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've noticed everything you describe in my friends who have become regular pot smokers. People say it's harmless, but i had a close friend who started smoking nightly. I swear she seems like she has brain damage when I talk to her now.

Pot is supposed to be harmless. But I can pick out a regular pot user in two minutes or less. . I can tell if someone smoked a lot of pot in high school now that they're 32. Because pot permanently alters your brain. In scary ways. Don't smoke a bunch of pot. Cutting way way back now will help. Yes I know I seem crazy because science has not totally validated my experience. But my sample size is pretty large here.

Ok pot smokers are super mellow and generally moderately happy. But also all the things you describe above plus other scary things.
posted by Kalmya at 2:34 PM on October 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

IANYD but I agree with everyone else that quitting smoking (of all kinds), drinking no more than 2 drinks at an occasion are both things that I would strongly recommend. Also, ensure you are getting enough sleep. I know every single time I think "lord, why can't I remember this? Am I losing my marbles?" I realize I haven't been getting enough sleep.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:51 PM on October 9, 2016

People forget things. Even whole dinnersm or whole days. If forgetting this dinner is causing you this much anxiety, my guess is you are a worrier? You don't have a brain tumor or Alzheimer's. Those don't present with you forgetting a party or some other event in its entirety. And the slips of the tongue are probably being counted via the confirmation bias. You are fine. Get it checked out to help you relax if you want, but maybe try taking better care of yourself. Focus on making sure your needs are getting met. My experience with this kind of phenomenon is that the person needs help of some kind and they aren't getting it for themselves. Thoughts of brain tumors ate super distracting and take you out of your normal life. Is there something you're trying to avoid?
posted by orsonet at 5:21 PM on October 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

My comment here is at best anecdotal, but nearly 20 years ago I lost all memory of almost an entire year. It had been an incredibly stressful and traumatic year, and several months later, I realized that I had very little recollection of many of the prior months. Like, I wasn't sure where I was living or how I was paying bills and surviving. Nothing of that ilk has occurred since, but it's hard to remember what you've forgotten. Right?

So of course you should pursue all relevant medical advice, but remember that stress can be a powerful amnesiac. Hugs.
posted by defreckled at 7:49 PM on October 9, 2016

are you on medication for depression or anxiety? some of those can cause memory/cognitive issues when used long-term.

and might you have sleep apnea?
posted by AFABulous at 11:48 AM on October 10, 2016

About five years ago three of my friends went on a traumatic day sail on New York harbor where they got caught in a storm. All three of them called me right afterwards, independently, and filled me in once they got in safely, on how scary, cold and miserable it was. I was supposed to have gone on that sail. I stayed home with a terrible head cold.

In the succeeding years, each of those friends (who usually have good memories and are neurotypical) at different times, independently, have misremembered me being on that boat and out there with them in the storm. "Hey,
slateyness, remember when we got stuck in that storm and drifted out to the verazano?" "No, that was you and Jenny and Anne, I was home sick."

Memories are funny.
posted by slateyness at 6:08 PM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older Travel advice for El Paso, TX please!   |   eBook App to replace Bluefire Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.