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Traumatic Brain Injury and Memory Loss

Let’s face it – my memory in addition to a few other things, has not been the same since I sustained a traumatic brain injury TBI 16 years ago. The life and person I knew disappeared that day. Along with my short-term memory issues, TBI has created many struggles for my family and me.

Two big issues I struggle with are my short-term memory and multitasking abilities, which never were troublesome pre-TBI. I was able to remember names, faces, dates, family and friends’ birthdays without trouble. I kept our family’s schedule like clockwork, never missing a beat. Life today is very different -if things aren’t written down, for example a doctor’s appointment, running errands, returning calls or remembering appointments, I will undoubtedly miss them. My cell phone has become an invaluable tool for me. It helps me keep track of my entire life. My schedule, my son’s schedule, social events, birthdays, holidays; just about anything I need to remember goes into my phone calendar. I have a standard phone without any bells and whistles, but it does have notepad which comes in very handy when I need to write something down and don’t have a pen and paper. I no longer can rely on my memory for those tasks. I try to use any tool I can to help me get through each day.

My multitasking days are over. Doing two tasks at once is simply out of the question now. There once was a time when I could talk on the phone, do laundry and/or cook dinner at the same time all while helping my children with their homework. That certainly doesn’t happen anymore. I have to concentrate diligently on one task at time. Moreover, concentrating take a lot more energy that it did pre-TBI. When I’m working on a project, or daily task, I cannot tolerate diversions. This includes music, TV, background noise and talking – I need silence. When there is too much commotion going on while I’m trying to complete a task, I can be easily overwhelmed. When I’m overwhelmed, I get cranky and frustrated. The best thing for me is to take things one-step at a time. Keeping a list of tasks or a “to do list” also helps me from getting too overwhelmed.

The limitations I now experience are hard to accept, and to be truthful, on some days, I still have problems dealing with them. For example, I still hate the fact that laundry doesn’t get done in a day; rather, I try to do a small load every day. Many times this does not go over well with my son (nor did it sit well with my ex-husband) but adjustments must be made. If my son needs something washed and I didn’t do it, he is quite capable of doing his laundry himself. The fact that I must use a calendar for my life doesn’t thrill me, but I simply cannot keep every detail of my life in my head since my TBI.

Working within my limitations generally helps me stay on task, prevents me from getting overwhelmed, and helps my life run a bit smoother. Are there things you do in your life that help you from getting overwhelmed or staying on task? Would you share them with me?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator author
    7 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your tools with us, Ellen! My phone has been a lifesaver on more that one occasion. But unfortunately I don’t have a smart phone so there won’t be any linking any time soon!

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    7 years ago

    I do have memory issues as well. Many who take preventive or other meds with these side effects, or have other conditions in addition to Migraine will have to deal with these same challenges. And then there are the Migraines themselves that can contribute significantly to brain fog and cognition trouble. This is a problem that affects masses of us. :/

    Thankfully I was blessed with a family that understands and helps me out. That said, I write everything down AND put it in my computer and/or phone (which these days can be linked). I also take care to schedule myself and give myself a bit of down time every day. That hour or so is vital to me functioning mentally as well as physically.

    I have a problem with not over-scheduling myself and I know this. I love to say “yes” instead of “no” because “no” reminds me of my limitations to which I prefer to remain in blissful ignorance. I try to spread myself thick. I can do one thing every day for someone else, but I really try hard to keep that limit. I’ve learned to say “no”. The fact of the matter is, when you’re chronically ill, that one thing often gets missed and piled onto another day, and if I’m not super careful, I’m overwhelmed. I try hard to keep a daily schedule and stick as close to it as I can. This does wonders for keeping me on track.

    A relative has ADD and keeps a notebook with him in a pocket so every little thing to be remembered is right there where he can see it. This is a great tool for him, working even better than putting things in a cell phone.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator author
    7 years ago

    Thanks for reading Aaron. MTBI just plain stinks as do Migraines!! Maybe you could make a comic series out of your notes…..

  • Aaron
    7 years ago

    I’m with you on that one, my phone and note pad have been a real life saver for me. Not just for keeping track of my migraines (like we all should), but also for just being able to keep up with what is going on so we at least have a clue. Though I must admit during a migraine if I make notes, well let me just say after I come out of it they make for great comic relief!

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