Memory Hacks: How do you help your mind? - Thyroid UK

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Memory Hacks: How do you help your mind?


Following on from the recent post by Taytaydarz regarding speech issues/ verbal recall and cognitive impairment from Hypothyroidism, I would love to know how those of you with these debilitating issues work around your mental deficiencies.

I have ME/ CFS, Fibromyalgia and am hypothyroid. Each separately comes with cognitive issues, but the three together combine to make a brain that struggles to speak a sentence, a mouth that slurs words and a memory that would forget my head if it weren't screwed on (and yes, I am supplementing the relevant vitamins and minerals etc!). I am disabled in body AND mind yet every day presents a metaphorical mountain to climb.

However, fighting the good fight, I am currently studying to be a restorative/ remedial yoga teacher for spoonies like me (cue; me sleeping through my course hours at a time, with a hot water bottle clutched to my chest).

Despite having the memory of a goldfish with dementia (no offence meant - that's how it feels; I've even spoken to my GP about early-onset dementia and run through the possibilities with him), I need to do an Anatomy and Physiology exam as part of my course. Needless to say, I don't stand a chance of passing, since my brain is as joined-up as a toddler's dot-to-dot. I rely on my iPhone to leave the house with my keys.

So... For those of you with disabling cognitive issues, how do you remember things? What helps?

Have you certain methods which help to jog or organise your memory?

If you had to revise and retain information for an exam (at 41 years of age and out of practise even without the cognitive problems!), what would/ could you do to make the facts stick?

Any tips gratefully received!



20 Replies

Hey Abi :) Reading aloud helps me. I often have to recite poetry and so I might Google the author/poem/youtube and see what comes up; for anything like e e cummings it's a godsend and someone else's voice certainly helps. Equally well typing or writing stuff down hleps, too...but that typo is intentional - I often do this and it drives me nuts, so I need a spell checker! ( which I hate - my spelling was sine qua non in my previous professional role and I feel limited by its loss )

Acceptance. I think if I were still studying I might apply, tail between my legs but head held high, for a medical extension in a time-limited environment. This is not my freaking fault until someone proves that it is and if I can't think as straight as I used to, it's no different from dyslexia or dyspraxia is it?

Abi-Abster in reply to Rapunzel

Thank you, yes. And I've been offered more time in the exam but it's no use if I have no information retained to dredge up in the first place!

And I know how you feel: I'm a writer by trade and speak four languages, so good spelling has been drummed into me in training. And yet I can't even seem to keep a grasp on speaking my mother tongue anymore!

Ooh the frustration....

One thing works for me.

Writing things down, I carry a small pocket book and pencil for day to day things.

Checking it regularly becomes normal after a while. I have also found that people do not mind you doing it at all.

As far a passing examinations again I write the article down lots and lots of time over and over again. In the end you will find by doing this you can leave out a lot of the words like And / The etc that makes the passage shorter overall. After practice I became good at leaving lots of words out that really do not add any substance to the thing you want to learn and remembering. And in the exam itself as soon as I put pen to paper the very first passage I learnt always came out. Not just the short version

Good lucks

Abi-Abster in reply to Royo

Great idea on abbreviating articles - that's an ingenious memory method: kind of like a predecessor to text speak! Wonder how to apply that to anatomy and physiology...

And yes, as for lists I would be lost without my iphone and it's various Reminders, Diary alerts, and Alarms. Three different apps reminding me what I'm supposed to be doing and I'm still barely functioning!

Thanks for your thoughts :-)

Have just looked at the info you have added to your bio. When you get your medstested after the change over to NDT then please post them with the ranges and we can comment on them. The results are read differently on NDT but your doctors may not realise this and freak out!

Thanks Lovely - I'm not on NDT yet, just T3 (6.25mcg 3x daily) and T4 (75mcg daily). I started adding the T3 7-8 weeks ago and added the third T3 dose over a fortnight ago.

I have some Thai NDT here to try if needs be. When do you think I should try it - if at all?

I've totally improved on T3, but my clarity of mind has reduced again and my pain is back. It's like I've plateaued in terms of improvement and have regressed slightly as my body's adjusted and got used to the T3.

Still nowhere as bad as I was before the T3 of course, so it's all relative! :-)

I would continue with the T3 if it's working well for you. You may find that changing to NDT isn't the same ratio for dosing so may not work as well.

The T3 is working well but has plateaued, leaving me slightly regressing in terms of hypothyroid symptoms which have now increased.

I'm wondering actually, since historically I have always responded really well to the dessicated animal Nutri Thyroid from nutri advanced (this stuff - ) whether NDT would suit me too. I appreciate the Thai NDT I have is strong stuff, though!

Is it possible to take a combination of T3, T4 and NDT?

Or how would I know when/ whether to drop the T3 and try NDT? I'd love for my brain to work and to have increased energy.

Many thanks for YOUR time and energy!


Plateau could mean that you need to raise it a little if you feel you are slipping back. I have come across people dipping into two things but whether it's the right thing to try I don't know. Not having done that I can't hazard a guess NDT is already at a correct ratio so I imagine if you are adding T3 to T4 you can vary the medication to suit you.

I started my journey years ago of NDT or extract as it was called then. I found it very good but a prolonged strike caused me to try Levo and that worked well till probably around the menopause but nothing really went right then landed a load of allergies which didn't help plus found out o was t converting well which had t been a problem before so may be my many food problems wasn't helping on the vitamin front but I spent 6 months addressing conversion and learning about NDT again and then changed over and been pretty stable one I got onto the correct dose so that was easier for me than adding T3 plus the allergies and intolerances I wantedto get away from chemicals as much as I could.

I have hypothyroidal dementia and have found that T3 makes a massive difference to my dementia. I have also learned a number of tricks to help the memory: Try to remember things in terms of pictures rather than facts, the more extreme the "picture" the more it may stick in your memory. This works well too for numbers when you can link a number to a special thing, for instance here we have a "99" icecream (a soft ice cream in a cornet with a chocolate flake). So any thing with a 99 in it has a picture of an icecream cone, 66 becomes an upside down icecream!

Another way to help draw back memories is to use clues, like photos taken at the time and reviewed later will often help me recall an outing or something that happened. Rhymes and rhythms also help, and attaching facts to music sometimes help the recall. Try not to push your brain too hard if you are trying to remember something, go off and do something else and it might just pop into your memory when not under pressure. I also avoid noisy busy, noisy places as my brain simply cannot process the information fast enough with all the extra distraction.

Good luck,


Abi-Abster in reply to heathermr

Heather My Lovely, thank you for all these wonderful tips. Mmm... 99 flake ice-creams... those were the days!

Music and audio is how I try and remember things, also visual images as you said.

It's word recall when speaking, words going in and sticking when studying/ listening to a conversation that I have issues with, so your recommendations were really helpful.

What is hypothyroidal dementia and how does one know one has it - ie; how does it differ from the experiences with which many of us hypothyroid folk struggle?

Thanks again for your time :-)

heathermr in reply to Abi-Abster

Extensive notes used to work for me and a dry run before were a great help for public or ordinary speaking. All that is far beyond my capabilities now and I have to read things out now. Some people I knew with Dementia used to tape record conversations for their records. Word recall is difficult, especially when I know what I want to say but cannot get my mouth to actually say it! I find it easier when with people who know me and will be patient enough to let me try and join in the conversation. Nothing is worse than some clever soul trying to "help" you cover times when the words don't come. But it is important to hold onto these speaking skills and practice them whenever you can. Make it under your terms and with people you trust to build your confidence, but above all else SMILE and LAUGH. These are great things to break down stigma.

Hypothyroidal dementia is a dementia that is brought on when hypothyroidism is not treated correctly over a long time and damage is done to the brain. Having had a career around computers as a Software consultant specialising in payrolls and then lecturing in College, I lost my job when I was diagnosed with Dementia. Basically I started to exhibit memory problems, the loss of dealing with numbers, confusion and huge lack of confidence often associated with Dementia at 50 years of age. Since I finally forced treatment with T3 six years ago my dementia had improved dramatically but I am still going downhill slowly. As the T3 has improved my dementia, it indicates that it is based around my thyroid problems although a head injury around 30 years ago has not improved things either.

I have learned to take everything a day at a time and not to mourn for what is lost but to celebrate what I can still do and keep doing it. A sense of humour is a very good weapon to wield in times of stress and helps the day go around! We have also been lucky in that my husband has been able to take redundancy from a very stressful job and we have taken retirement early to travel while I can still get travel insurance. Its now 12 years since my diagnosis and I am still hanging around doing what I can.

Good luck to you,


Post it notes are good! Write relevant important exam info on them in a short-hand version you can understand. Then plaster them all over the place. If it's an anatomy and physiology exam, brain and head related info high up, and graduate downwards as you place the notes according to the bit of anatomy it refers to. You will then be able, hopefully, to picture the note in your mind. Also recalling the information at the same time. You can use different coloured notes for different bits of anatomy too.

Abi-Abster in reply to MariLiz

Yes! Great idea. I was thinking to start at the top and work down, but separating the info into post-it notes and putting it in order (rather than all on one overwhelming sheet of words) is a great visual aid to jog the memory.

Thank you!

MariLiz in reply to Abi-Abster

Good luck with your exams! I hope the notes help.

Abi-Abster in reply to MariLiz

Me too! Haha 😉

Hi. Like you I was studying for exams while in the depth of brain fog. I had a lot of technical information to digest. I found that breaking the study sessions into really short periods helped me to digest the information. At really bad times I would study for 10 minutes then do something else for 5 minutes such as read a magazine or a book then 10 minutes of study again and repeat. It was a slog but I was able to retain the information in this way. Even passed with high marks :)

Abi-Abster in reply to veecaa

Clever you! And well done too :-)

It's a shame we don't get some kind of extra qualification for wading through pea soup to study, do exams or work. We have to start from a minus number just to get to where normal people are at 0, and then work even harder to get to a point where we might succeed!

Yes, and I agree, breaking studying down into bite-sized chunks has got to help. I think repetition is also essential.

Thanks for the reminders!

veecaa in reply to Abi-Abster

Thanks 😄 All the best with your study. It's frustrating but you sound determined enough to persist with it and it is a great feeling when you get through it. Sheer determination seems the only way to progress in anything when you have thyroid issues! X

Abi-Abster in reply to veecaa

I am nothing if not stubborn and determined - rather like you, perhaps! 😉

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