Me & My Bad Memory…and What I Need to Do About It

Over the past three years if you know more or read this blog, you would likely know I’ve been pushing myself thru self improvement with my depression and anxiety. And I have had many victories. My lowest is now much higher than it used to be. Panic attack frequency has gone down dramatically. They are now few and far between. I have improved my productivity by a ton. And I’ve pushed myself to be more relaxed in social situations.

A lot of what I learned boils down to the essential ingredient of ‘love yourself.’ Forgive me if it sounds like living in Southern California has changed me, but as hippie dippie as it sounds, ‘love yourself’ as I’ve come to experience it is like a real miracle cure. I don’t wanna get into that too deeply, because I’ve mentioned that a lot in several previous posts. And honestly, rather than another short description, I’ll just write a whole post on it later.

Anyway, there is an area in my life where I still need to apply this philosophy. There may be several more areas where I should do this that I’m still blind to, obviously I can’t know. But as I discover them, I need to remedy that.

That area is my memory.

I used to have an excellent memory. I remembered most every part of every meaningful conversation I had ever had. I was good. And what was even more awesome was that people would sometimes approach me like, ‘Hey, I don’t know if you remember me, but we did that one promotions gig for US Cellular together four years ago.’ And I’d respond with, ‘It’s Tiffany, right? You’re from Detroit and you have two cats?”

And I felt like a bad ass.

Now, my memory is not great at all. Not only will I not remember your name, hometown and pet status, but I may not remember your face or the interaction at all. But most often this happens to people who approach me like, ‘Hey, Rich! Great to see you.’ And I’m faced with the awful dilemma of fessing up and saying, “I apologize. I don’t remember you. Remind me where we met?” Or spending our conversation in my head trying desperately to match your face and words with anything in my mental filing cabinet.

I’ve done both and they’ve both turned out badly.

Also, this usually only happens in social situations where I’m often in a place that isn’t super well lit, but I might be.

A few years ago I ran into my friend Lindsay Goldapp at the Dallas Comedy Festival. We were in the theatre. The lights had gone down. And I had completely forgot that she had moved back there. I get a tap on my shoulder and she’s like, ‘Rich! How are you? Good to see you!’ And what I could see of her shadowy face did not ring in my brain as someone I knew. So, I said something like ‘Hey. I’m sorry. Tell me your name again.’ And she looks at me like I’m a complete moron and says, ‘It’s me. It’s Lindsay.’

I may be slightly misquoting, but the meaning’s the same. Anyway, I instantly felt like a moron. My synapses fired and all my memories of her associated with who I was speaking to. But there was no putting the genie back in the bottle. I made it awkward. I asked someone to tell me their name even though it had only been a few years since I’d seen a lot of her in Chicago.

She may not even remember this for all I know. But I felt like a jackass instead of a badass.

Last night I attended a party that was filled with people I know from the Westside Comedy Theatre. And they’re all awesome. But there are also like 300 of them or more. And I don’t remember about 40% of their names on the spot. These are people I’ve seen several times over the past three years.

So, I often just talk to someone as if I might know them hoping to figure it out, before I need to recall anything out loud. I makes me feel awful, because I’m not fully listening to them. I’m listening to parts and then sending some of my attention neurons off to analyze what I’ve heard for clues. And half the time my lack of recall gets noticed anyway.

Another thing that happens way too often is that I forgot something fairly important about a close friend. Either a conversation we had that was meaningful or a fact about them that they probably don’t share with too many people.

I think I know why my memory’s not as sharp. If you’re interested, my theory is that I now meet so many more people, because I have so many different social groups that are all expanding in some way. And I’m just at capacity. I have to shift to a whole new subset of people for different functions.

That is a part of it, but I mainly think  my memory isn’t so great, because I feel stress living this bohemian hand to mouth starving artist life. Another thing you may know about me is that I”m a writer/actor/comedian/teacher who is 35 and living a fairly meager existence in hopes that all the free work I’m doing now (making videos, performing, writing, etc.) will one day pay off into a well paying job. And then I won’t have to sweat every month when a bill is due.

A big part of my self improvement attempts is about how I’m becoming a more disciplined worker. And I’m very thankful for that. That’s the only chance I have to graduate to the next rung in my career ladder.

However, what I have not worked on enough is how to cope with and even enjoy life when it still feels so unstable financially speaking.

That stress gets to me a lot sometimes. I’m working on it. But I know it affects me when I’m socializing. It’s difficult for me to ruminate and think about the night I just had, because I need to get back to the grind stone. Gotta produce. Gotta crush it.

I remember once hearing the quote, ‘When you aren’t working you have no days off.’

That made sense to me, because I was looking for full time jobs at the time and every day I didn’t have a guaranteed job coming up was a day I felt I needed to spend all day applying for jobs. It was exhausting.

I’m not looking for a full time job right now, but I am instead spending all my free time working insanely hard to make things. I allow myself social time 2-3 times per week. And that’s 2-3 more times than I used to only a few months ago.

I know I need to strike a better work life balance. I’m working on it. In the mean time it’s affecting my memory.

My point to all this? I am ashamed of my stress induced bad memory. It’s a part of me I don’t want you to see or know about. If I hide it from you, it’ll be okay, right?

Nope. Gotta love myself. All of myself. Even the parts of me I don’t like. And what better way to remove it from hiding than to write a blog post about it and put it on Facebook and Twitter.

So, here I am to say that ‘My name’s Rich and I have a bad memory.’ The first time I noticed I had a bad memory was…umm…hang on, I wrote it down I think…where’d I put my notebook? Oh boy.

Thanks, y’all!

Coming Out of a Depressive Episode

Today, for the first time in two weeks, I don’t feel oppressed by an undefinable, but still very powerful force. That force is Depression. I’ve had it – as far as I can tell – my whole life. Didn’t start dealing with it until I was 18. Didn’t make palpable steps toward battling it until the last two years.

So, why am I excited to write about it?

Because I can see my demonstrable progress and it’s awesome.

Duration: Two weeks sounds like a long time to be depressed and frankly it is a long time. But so far in 2017 this has been my longest stint of depression and I used to have 3-6 months at a time. If two weeks is my new definition of ‘long’ then I’m killing it!

Productivity: A huge part of how depression affects me involves my productivity. I remember going days without doing much of anything – sometimes that included showering. Depression fights me tooth and nail to stop doing anything other than Facebooking or Netflixing. These last two weeks I have gotten a decent amount of stuff done. And I know that because I track everything now.

Whether it’s health (eating & exercising), work (teaching, writing) or leisure (time with girlfriend, friends, movies) I have lists and charts that I keep daily. And I can look back at the last two weeks and see that my workouts and eating dipped a bit, but overall were still pretty good. I spent a lot of time with amazing friends, and I still managed to accomplish a number of work related tasks.

Coming Out of It: It’s always a weird eye opening experience to come out of a depressive episode. I don’t know if others experience it the same way or not, but for me it’s almost like I’ve been wearing a heavy blanket over my head. And today for whatever reason, the blanket is gone. I can stretch and look up and experience things more richly again.

The trouble is that in the past I would shed this metaphorical blanket and then realize that the last two weeks (or however long) was a depressive episode. And then I would remember that I’ve accomplished next to nothing in that time. I would look at everything on my to do list and understand that I am way behind on all of it. This would overwhelm me often shoot me back into depression.

If you ever feel depressed or anxious, you need to believe that it can get better. It takes a lot of work and the process will feel excruciatingly slow, but you can do it. And even though I will likely never be completely cured of depression I can make it happen less frequently and less intensely.

Thanks, y’all!