For the past couple months, my memory has not been the best it’s been. I am a nerd who can usually re-call random facts about anything. But, I’ve been struggling to retain and recall information for longer than a day. I’m also only 25 years old. Brain fog is getting the best of me. Whether it is from all of the medications I take or my illnesses, I don’t know the true cause. It could be both.
I have some memories of my great grandmother in hospice not knowing where or when she was and being completely bed ridden from dementia. It was devastating to my family around me at the time. I was very young, so young I can’t remember anything but those images and being afraid. Today I am afraid for a different reason; I don’t want that to happen to me.
Even though these moments of forgetfulness are scattered and eventually I remember something, it’s becoming more frequent. As I enter my junior year of college, it’s getting more challenging to complete assignments, remember everything for a test and maintain my focus. Luckily, there is a magical place called YouTube that introduced me to how to make a memory palace. The first thing I saw was a guy who explained how he uses this technique to memorize the first 100 decimals of Pi. Now, I don’t need to do that, I just need to remember things I think are important. I can’t believe this works for me and I am so glad that it does. It’s not the easiest thing for me to do, but in the long run it has been so helpful.
My palace is actually my apartment, because as a visual person I can literally walk through it to recall certain things including harder concepts for school. Luckily, I have a pretty active imagination, and have learned to overlay or add an image over a place in my apartment.
I walk through my apartment and at the same time I walk through my memory. Luckily I am alone for most of the day because you would see me walking through my apartment talking to myself and looking at things that don’t actually exist. I eventually will get to making a palace that only exists in my mind, and hopefully won’t have to physically walk through my own apartment. But for now, it works.
It has been a great exercise for my brain. It takes a while to build the palace though, a few days at least to get it down. And I have to type it all out in an outline a couple times before I start the walkthrough and images. After that I walk around and decide what is going to go where. Like, where is Captain Kirk going to sit (I can’t say what that one is for, it’s too embarrassing, and there’s more to that image than I care to admit).
The church lady would judge me.
This is useful for breaking down complicated concepts that memorization of the definitions and steps can’t do justice. What is the point of knowing a definition but not knowing it’s application? Walk through the definition with images of each section, and the dirtier the better. I know, it’s weird but everybody remembers the dirty/offensive jokes before anything else. The human brain is a dirty place, especially mine.
I have to say, as weird and wonderful as this technique is, it is also exhausting. So I only have a couple of things in my memory palace at the moment. The rest I keep in an outline ready to be “placed”, but I at least have a reference on my computer.
My brain is my life, and I have no other talents or anything else to rely on. All I have is my mind. And forgetting things is a horrifying prospect. I had two sad weeks recently where I couldn’t get through a homework assignment or put together 400 words in a coherent manner. Even though my palace only holds a couple of things, the exercise of putting a mental concept to a physical place has helped me more than I can say. It’s not perfect and doesn’t work for everything, but it is helping me get through this brain fog.
I’ve realized that there are no simple solutions to anything in my life, and I have to work harder and harder as time goes on. If that means walking through my apartment talking to myself, so be it.