Has anybody suffering from poor motivation had any success in habituating memory and attention strategies into their everyday life? How?

Now in my late 50s, my head injury (at age 12) is deemed to be the source of my prospective and verbal memory problems, attentional deficits and occasional bouts of jamais vu. I compensate to some degree through having a relatively intact visual memory and good reasoning, which allowed me to gain a science degree, employment as a military engineering officer and as a civilian systems engineer. Doesn't sound that bad, does it, and, in general, it isn't. However, ...

Pre-accident, I was one of those annoying, natural, slightly extrovert, optimistic over-achievers; good academically and at sports, happy reading a science book, encyclopaedia, etc, exploring the countryside or charging around playing games with my friends. Afterwards, things were different. The effects of the brain injury are difficult for me to express succinctly. I am poorly motivated and feel as if I've just continued on the 'inertia' of my pre-accident self. Not "switched on" most of the time. I tick every box in the ADD check-list except their presence during early childhood. Great difficulty with social situations; although introverted, I'm not 'antisocial', I'm just poor at real-time bringing up detail about the people I'm talking to or the subjects under discussion, plus I tend to be fairly flat in speech and expression, making hard for people to converse with me at a social level. Apart from my wife, I don't have any friends; people I speak to at work but no "Friends" that I socialize with or keep in touch with (I am neither Aspergic nor schizophrenic, so they are ruled out as co-morbidities; depression is often suggested but no actual diagnosis has ever been made). Can't remember poetry or music lyrics or even tunes and have tried for over 40 years to learn the piano (I just somehow can't keep any continuity when playing pieces and still can't read music adequately (ie, no more than a couple of bars at a time)) and can't dance because I can't remember the sequences (dyspraxia isn't an explanation; I had reactions that would have put a cat to shame and am well co-ordinated). I've tried to learn Russian, but ... hey, ho, and am hopeless at computer games (shoot-em-up because I can't work out what's going on quickly enough and strategy because I lose track of things). Good at understanding systems conceptually; I tend to visualize them but often can't remember the names of the individual elements (rather like being able to recognize someone's face but being unable to recall who they are). A good example of the contrast between my modes of thinking is from when I tried to learn to fly a few years ago - aced the navigation exam, which required virtually no recall of facts but instead relied upon visualization and logical reasoning, but scraped through the law exam, even though it was multiple choice and most of the ones I got right were just best guesses (I think I had one of Shakespeare's better monkeys with me that day).

Adequate but poor 'O' and 'A' level results. I scraped through my degree, failed my 2nd year exams first time round and almost failed the 3rd year viva (couldn't remember the detail) - put down to "exam nerves" as I demonstrated ability in coursework & labs. Got married. Surprisingly, got good job offers from my interviews because of my flexible thinking, adaptability and innovation. After 18 months, applied to join up, breezed through selection process and started on next available officer training course. Re-coursed (ie, sent back to start of course) during military training for poor administration (eg, would have won war studies prize with essay if I'd remembered to type it up fully in time). Failed engineering exam during specialist training (to astonishment of staff) but passed a special viva. During my first few tours, got into hot water on several occasions due to poor administration (ie, forgetting to do things). I complained about memory problems during my first tour, saw the psychiatrists who put it down to long-term stress ('interesting' childhood experiences). Got divorced - a major reason being my wife couldn't take my disorganization any more. On third tour, problems really stood out due to nature of job, saw psychiatrists again who noticed excess left temporal slow wave activity and psychomets showed my verbal memory and attentional problems - review of my previous results showed these problems were present earlier but significance had been missed. Retained in service but promotion prospects reduced to zero (I couldn't have handled the necessary staff work). Left service after 16 years, got work as a systems engineer. Remarried ... fortunately, my wife is more tolerant of my problems but still gets frequently frustrated by them and I get even more frustrated by inability to do the things I would like for both her and our children (eg, "must do X with the children" ... several months afterwards "Argghh! I forgot about X! Ah, a brick wall, just what I need to rest my head against." - bang! bang! bang!). Ability to solve problems valued at work but disorganization, forgetfulness and general poor concentration have created endless problems and I am stuck at a low pay grade. Paradoxically, I gradually realized that I perform best and feel more integrated in what others tend to regard as high stress situations, as long as they don't involve too much recall of detail. I thought this seemed similar to the improvements that people with ADD have through drug intervention, tried pursuing it with my GP but that didn't get anywhere. I have never found a way to habitualize any memory / organization strategies into my life and my analysis implies I won't be able to without significant external help ... which won't happen. Recent long-term illness (eg diabetes, sleep problems), plus detrimental effects of ageing vision on my visual strategies, have exacerbated my difficulties to the point where I am even more concerned than usual for my employment.

Most of the time I am fairly phlegmatic about my condition and can treat it with humour; I'm also well aware of how much worse it could have been and generally regard complaining about it as pathetic whining on my part. However, there are occasions when I feel utter despair and this is one of them. I don't see myself as a "survivor", more like the slowly-fading ghost of the person who was destroyed 45 years ago and I'm angered at the waste of my remaining abilities (both on behalf of myself and the people I interact with) due to the negative impact of my dysfunctions. I don't see any hope for improving my situation, so I guess I'm just venting. OTOH, the optimist that lurks somewhere in the depths is probably thinking "don't ask, don't get and if the old routes don't work, try a new one" and I suspect that it's more that creature that's making me put words to electron - you'd have thought it would have learned by now :-)

7 Replies

  • nowt wrong with your typing skills eh

    i have just read all that an now my eyes are bleedin ha ha

    why dont you get a cb radio or a ham

    progretion not dimise

  • Thank you for your reply.

    Computer-based typing tutor and I'm lucky I had a reasonable grasp of grammar and spelling before the accident.

    How do see a cb or ham radio helping?

  • i think that interaction is a key part in all aspects of recovery

    hamm radio is one way that pepole can do this

    i am sorry that you feel dispair today

    tommorow may be diferent

  • Hi there

    I must admit I did find it difficult to read through the large blocks of text in your message so please forgive me if I have missed the point altogether...it happens!

    About 14 months post injury I was really lucky to be accepted onto a memory aids programme and that changed my life... I learned that memory does not exist in isolation and that the other aspects of the injury simply compound the difficulties further.

    They helped me to devise a streamlined system for recording and storing information that worked for me, my lifestyle and my home set up...and because I have no short term memory and suffer terribly with "ooh look shiny...." I was provided some strategies, I was linked in to reqall and I was provided with a couple of gizmos to help pull everything together

    It didn't all fall into place straight away but with a few adjustments along things improved considerably. I still have zero short term memory, still have "ooh look shiny"... and my exec functions remain shot...but I function far better because of the strategies and gizmos...

    I'm afraid my train of thought has derailed itself once more and I am simply going to stop here...I'm not sure if any of this is helpful...If you would like to know more about specifics or have any questions please do ask and I will try my best to answer.

  • Hello iforget,

    Thanks for that expression "ooh, shiny". I hadn't come across that before and it struck an immediate chord with myself and my family! It's now a phrase my wife and daughter use to describe "those moments"! :-)

    I found reqall and I've looked at a few other Android apps. The problem I find is that none of them seem to integrate tasks and calendar well enough for me to cope with, and that they all involve too much cognitive overload in managing them ... by the time I've worked out what to do, I've forgotten what I was going to write or my mind has gone off into confusion space (my 'train' of thought no longer recognizing that it is a train or that there are any rails). What are the other gizmos that you use to help you?


  • Hello nemo_really,

    Firstly thanks for the introduction to jamais vu, have never heard it before but suffer these infrequent bouts also. Seems we are in some similar territory here. I am 42 and had road accident aged 23. No I'm not as educated as you with my 4 grade c O' level passes but doesn't the education of life really begin after schooling? Some of us are fortunate enough to experience and survive a head injury. Fortunate? You may well ask, but my new found theory is quite simply that by having to learn some very fundamental living skills twice (having completely erased the brain) effectively makes us stronger people. This is a very recent, just this week, discovery on my part which came about by talking to some colleagues at work and I was able for the first time in these eighteen years of survival to say that I no longer wish that the accident had not happened but I am proud of myself for coming through the trauma. I was diagnosed with depression some time ago but for years refused to take anti-depressants, but for some strange reason when my new (2 years ago) doctor changed the "label" from depression to PTSD I started to take them.

    Back to the original questions re memory aids, cant say any more than what I expect you have been told by the medical profession - keep note books/diaries. (In 21st century translation get an i pad or similar) As for the music, well I am disappointed in you.(only kidding) I learned to play the guitar post accident and no, I cant read music. BUT music was never designed to be read, only to be heard, and more importantly from a musicians perspective - FELT. just feel your way around that piano keyboard reading music is quite simply irrelevant (unless you, like I, are hoping to get take a degree in it) We guitarists use only finger memory to remember where the notes are and, although I cant play one, feel that this should apply to the piano too. Just remember the notes on the piano will ALWAYS be in the same place. If only learning to live was a simple as learning music (there are only twelve notes, do with them what you will.) ha ha

    Thanks again for the jammy dodger, whoops jamais vu awareness and good luck with that piano.


  • Thanks for the reply, Ryan. Sorry about the late response ... a mix of mostly forgetting I'd posted in the first place and, on the occasions I did remember, not being quite sure how to reply and get it right or just plain lacking in the "energy" to reply. As I happen to be in the frame of mind where I think that getting it right isn't necessarily better than not replying at all ...

    Yes, labels are indeed important and not just from the individual's perspective but also from the medics' perspectives as it often determines how seriously they treat symptoms or complaints.

    I'm glad you managed to learn to play the guitar, but I suspect that part of the nature of the functional deficits I have (whatever they actually may be) prevents me from having a real sense of 'feel' (my wife and my children cringe whenever I try anything at the keyboard because it's about as far from Music as it's possible to get!). Somehow, although the keys always remain in the same place, my brain never quite seems to remember where (and when) they are with sufficient precision to touch them with sufficient accuracy or at the right time. I have the same problem with singing and guitar and anything that involves a degree of continuity in actions (such as games (shoot 'em up and otherwise). I suspect that whatever is going on is closely correlated with my general disorganization.

    Aids are a separate matter and I may raise another post on the subject ...


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