Monday, February 15, 2016

Dear Auntie Em

Dear Auntie Em,

Why is it that I can remember all the words to Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves (Cher, 1971), but I can't remember why I walked in a room? I am afraid I'm getting Alzheimer's.



Dear Forgetful,

I know, right? Of all the crap-a$$ things to happen (the inability to lose a pound a week like you could in your twenties, the fact that you have virtually no libido, the propensity to go from zero to hyperb!tc# in 2.3 seconds), losing your mind is the WORST! (Mainly because it affects your ability to win at trivia.)

Fortunately (or unfortunately...depends on how you look at it), you're not alone. This feeling like you have no idea what you were supposed to be doing is normal.

Which makes it even sadder, somehow.

But lest we forget(HA!)...for many years, the medical profession didn't believe in menopausal symptoms! (Mainly because doctors were men and they thought women were crazy, anyway. "Hysterectomy" and "Hysterical" both begin with "Hyster", meaning 'womb.' So apparently, just having a womb makes you crazy, according to the medical profession.)

In the last few years, studies have been conducted to note the presence of "brain fog" (as opposed to "loss of cognition", which is not being able to learn stuff, sort of) in peri-menopausal and menopausal women. And guess what?  It's not all in our minds! (Well, it is...but you get what I mean.)

The University of Rochester Medical School (and I trust U of R because I lived there) has done some studies, and they have found:

"The difficulties that many women describe as memory problems when menopause approaches are real, according to a study published today in the journal Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society."

(First of all, the fact that there is a magazine called Menopause means that one of us needs to subscribe and share all the good information. Especially if there are shirtless pictures of Hugh Jackman. Like Tiger Beat for your fifties.)

"The most important thing to realize is that there really are some cognitive changes that occur during this phase in a woman’s life,” said Miriam Weber, Ph.D., the neuropsychologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center who led the study. “If a woman approaching menopause feels she is having memory problems, no one should brush it off or attribute it to a jam-packed schedule. She can find comfort in knowing that there are new research findings that support her experience. She can view her experience as normal.”

So yes, you can remember Cher lyrics at the drop of a hat, but it stinks that you can't recall your new next-door-neighbor's name. You're an old dog. That means you need to learn some new tricks to help you retain information. Here are some to try:

1. Keep a calendar:
 I keep a calendar two different ways: one that's a paper notebook-style about 9" x 5". (It has pictures from Downton Abbey, so it makes me happy. You can have flowers or plain black-and-white or whatever your little heart desires.)This travels with me, and anytime I get new info on a meeting or whatever, it gets written down. Then, when I get home, I add all my stuff that I've written down for that week into my phone with the alarm set for each. The reason for this is two-fold: the act of writing is helpful in retaining information. (That's why we have kids take notes in school.) Secondly, having that alarm go off prior to a meeting or appointment (and I've set the alarm to go off at a time that will give me ample opportunity to be at the right place on time) is a memory-jogger. I'm always pleased when I have remembered without the phone, but just in case I haven't, it's there.

2. Learn to focus:
 Remember back in the day when your kids were little and it was like trying to keep seven plates twirling on the sticks without having any of them fall and break? The elementary kid was standing on a stack of VHS tapes trying to microwave his own fish sticks and the toddler was trying to bathe the cat and the baby was nursing and you were vacuuming up hairballs ALL AT THE SAME TIME? Well, you don't have to do that any more. Your kids are capable of reaching the microwave all by themselves now, and the baby is eating solid food. What we had to do, cognitively, we don't need to do now. Now we have the luxury of being able to focus on one thing at a time. Which is what we should do, if we want to more easily remember things. It's like the idea of taking forces you to concentrate on one thing, which helps keep that one thing in your brain. Multi-tasking isn't ANYONE'S friend, regardless of age or gender. Failure to give something your complete attention results in failure. There are entire books written for the business sector about this subject, and they overwhelmingly come to the same conclusion: it doesn't work. So take your time and pay attention to the things that need paying attention those fish sticks (in the oven, because they taste better that way) so that they don't burn.

3. Learn something new:
 There is a reason you are getting all those ads for cognitive-related games...the internet knows how old you are. And they would love for you to spend $9.95 a month to access brain games that would help you to retain what little mind you have left. 

But that's over a hundred bucks a year. And I don't know about you, but I would rather spend my hundred bucks subscribing to a magazine that includes shirtless pictures of Hugh Jackman, even though I have no libido.

Guess what? You don't need to spend one single dime in order to learn something new!! You can use the magic of the internet to help you for free (and get them back for sharing your age with companies)!

YouTube and other video sites can teach you stuff that you don't know. Khan Academy is great for math and science (though I don't know why anyone would voluntarily learn algebra, unless it's to help a grandchild). You can learn American Sign Language or Spanish on YouTube, and there are all kinds of games you can download for free if you have an iPad. Personally, I am learning various music video dances(Thriller, anyone?), which is killing the two proverbial birds--working on my short-term memory AND getting exercise! It's a win/win!

4. The sticky-note trick:
 There are sticky-notes EVERYWHERE in my life! When I think of something I need to do--pick up something at the store, talk to the parent of a student, send a birthday card--it goes on a sticky note. That sticky note goes in a pre-assigned place, with the interim place ALWAYS BEING MY CAR.

Now this sounds weird, and I will try to explain so that it's a little clearer.

I have a full-time job outside the home, and in order to get to that job, I drive. I spend a LOT of time in my Honda. So if I am at home, grading papers, and I notice that I have a kid who hasn't turned in a few assignments or has failed a couple of quizzes and I need to get in touch with a parent, I write it on a sticky note AND THAT NOTE GOES ON MY DASHBOARD RIGHT THEN. If I remember that I need to pick up the dry cleaning, I write it on a sticky note AND THAT NOTE GOES ON MY DASHBOARD RIGHT THEN. If I'm at school and I think of something I have to do at home, like put something in the crock pot the next day, I write it on a sticky note AND THE NOTE GOES ON MY DASHBOARD (unless I think of it while I'm teaching...I can't leave a room of 34 hormonal 17 year-olds while I run out to the car)RIGHT THEN. If I think of it during class, I put the sticky note on my computer monitor because that's the last thing I'll see when I shut it off at the end of the day. I am single-handedly keeping the sticky note companies in business.

Think of these sticky notes like the notes preschoolers get pinned to them when there's something important that needs to be said from teacher to parent or visa-versa.
Hey! If we all start pinning notes to ourselves, we could start a trend! (Or not.)

So anyway, "command central" (if you will) is the Honda.The sticky note comes into the house or classroom with me, if it's applicable to that location. It stays in the car if it's in regard to an errand or a location that isn't the house or the classroom, like a medical appointment. If you work at home, your "command central" could be your kitchen table or bathroom mirror--wherever you gather your thoughts for the upcoming day.

And so, Forgetful, you are probably not losing your mind. You are, however, more forgetful than you were. You have to come up with some strategies to help yourself, and there is a plethora of FREE information on the internet. There are also medical professionals who can help and perhaps you'll try one or two of my suggestions.

If you'd like to read more about the menopausal brain fog study, the link is at the end of this post.

Yours in Solidarity,

Auntie Em


Cassie @ Primitive & Proper said...

you had me at tiger beat for your fifties!!!!!

Rose L said...

Doesn't have to be menopausal. I have been rather forgetful most of my life! My friends say it is because I am scatter-brained, or have to many things going on at one time. or I am just easily distracted. Whatever, I have always been plagued!

bookworm said...

This would be funny if it wasn't so true. It's really annoying at work, and I'm not sure my boss would want me to redecorate my cubicle and computer in sticky notes. But I may just try that. Alana

LetsTalkAndWalk said...

huge fan of sticky notes as reminders!

Kirby Carespodi said...

LetsTalk--I know, right? If that guy from 3M hadn't invented sticky notes, I would have had to.

Leanne said...

now I've got "gypsies, tramps and thieves" stuck in my head!

AnnMarie aka Vintage Junkie aka NaNa said...

Great post! Funny and useful all at the same time...see, you multi-tasked! I do write everything down and get great satisfaction in crossing off the things when I've accomplished them. It does matter to me that I am in good company through this, so thanks for writing it! Go U of R!!

Kim said...

Lists, lists, lists..and sticky notes, too! Now, if I could just remember where I put them all, I'd be golden! ;)

Bliss said...

Tiger Beat for your fifties... ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha.

The Plagued Parent said...

The sticky notes are a great idea! Esecially the 'put them on the dash now' part. I am famous for writing notes, then losing them.

Amy Renea said...

I HEAR you!! ...except I am in that fog you speak of when there are children everywhere and focus is a wishful dream. is the window between kids and menopause 7.5 years of intellectual bliss??

Tina@WhatWeKeep said...

I'm all for Hugh without his shirt on. I have notes everywhere, but dry erase boards are my best friend. Of course they are pretty so they'll catch my attention- otherwise I'd ignore them as something else to clean.
I play games on my iPad so I won't get demented. Oops, too late!
(That's a family joke)
I'll be reading the link and studying the photo of Hugh. I might have a hot flash.

Tina@WhatWeKeep said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tina@WhatWeKeep said...

for you, Kirbs!

Marie Blackburn said...

Oh, I so enjoyed this Kirby, thanks for the chuckles! You mean I might be normal (well I've never been normal - I'll take Johnny Debb over Hugh Jackman any day). Seeing him rocking out at the Grammy's the other night brought back my libido if only for the few minutes he was on stage. But my forgetfulness, you mean I don't have to live in fear that the curse handed down to my maternal grandmother and my mother after her, may not be mine to bear too! This blogging thing and the huge learning curve that goes along with it is my way of keeping the old noggin firing on all 4 cylinders. It used to run on 6 but I repaired the broken two with sticky notes. I think I need a bright sticky note on my office wall that says YOU ARE NORMAL. That way every time I leave my office and find myself in the middle of another room wondering what in the heck I was there for, I can be reassured when I return to my office.

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