Building Memories

My memory palace has saved my sanity – it’s enabled me to live life again. Without it I’d become an empty shell reliant upon notes (and other techniques) left around our home reminding me to complete the most mundane tasks.

 

Building my palace started by revisiting an old family home – it wasn’t somewhere I was able to venture inside but was able to photograph from the outside. Re-familiarising myself with the building included sketching the rooms onto paper as I remembered them. My grandparent’s home was five stories and included a cellar and an attic which had provided lots of space for my cousins and I to share some wonderful memories. Each visit bought back a memory that I spoke into a voice recorder. The images I made enabled me to gradually build up an image on paper and eventually in my mind. Once I could remember the layout of the building I was able to close my eyes and imagine walking though each of the rooms.

 

Memory palaces work by associating the memory you want to store with an item or image that you place within your palace. One way I embed a memory is to write a four to six line poem and pair it with a photograph of an event and they get placed together inside the building that now forms my memory: if I have ever shared this act with you (because I often turn my poetry into a physical image too) then know you were a part of a day that meant a great deal to me.

 

As with any filing system there is a natural order within mine. Its somewhat precise, almost OCD and depending upon the memory it will depend on where I store it. Those of you who have read my thrillers will be very aware that I often write about confined spaces and one of my characters isn’t keen on them – that claustrophobia stems from my head injury – I also write about terrible happenings within cellars. Within my memory palace my negative experiences and memories are placed in the cellar. I certainly don’t avoid visiting and willingly walk down the steps to find out what might be lurking down there but its always good to know that I can walk back up and firmly lock that door behind me!

 

Over the years it’s taken me to develop and master this system into something that is reliable there have been some funny events that have needed some huge adjustments. As a family we discovered that wrong information that gets stored is immensely difficult to correct – there isn’t an override button I can press that deletes mistakes. It’s caused a laugh at my expense but I am now so very careful what gets kept and what I choose to ignore. Unfortunately it also means some things get forgotten – that what is important to some people may have been neglected by me and that can be an upsetting process for others to comprehend.

 

If anyone has any questions, please do ask me at support@donnasiggers.com

Memory

Memory loss is devastatingly frustrating and something I was determined to overcome. Forty-two is far too young to succumb to brain malfunction to the extent I was experiencing: we all forget at times but what I was experiencing was so very different. Many factors were, upon reflection responsible for what was occurring inside my mind but I was unable to find the words to express myself or, indeed help myself.

Overwhelmed by being assaulted my body went into shock and begun a slow process of shutting down which occurred over the course of a few days. My emotional state was in turmoil with denial very firmly kicking in until I crash landed which saw me very firmly placed in a hospital bed and in need of emergency CT scans and other tests. I’d plummeted from someone juggling a busy family life, work and full-time degree study to someone who couldn’t make a cup of tea or tell you what a pen was called. Months of internal torment and medical testing revealed my IQ of 192 had diminished and I wanted it back. After fifteen months I began the long, slow process of building myself a memory palace and, over five years post my injury I now function. Although my time-line of events is blurry I can remember a lot of my past (but not all of it) and am less reliant on some of the processes I needed to file new memories away – it has become more automatic than it once was. Embarking on new learning (or relearning old information as if it was new) is a time-consuming process but its one that I am truly thankful I have mastered and will never take for granted.

Having spent many years re-learning what every day items are called; who significant people in my life are and how they fit in; how to read and write again and so much more I can finally say that I'm in a good position again but still feel I have such a long way to go before I have fully caught up with myself.

With determination it is possible to regain what has been lost under some circumstances and I if you are going through something similar its my aim to give you hope.

Welcome!

Sharing my head injury story via Instagram has become second nature so I've decided its time to expand this and make it an official part of my website. Recent re-wording of an extract from my original recovery journal back in September 2015 (almost four years ago) was well received and I though this might be a great place to begin:

"My head injury has shaken the very existence of who I was and aspired to become. Frustration, anger, grief and pain overcome me still: each day a struggle to function at any level of normality. Independence and spontaneity replaced with symptoms that set limits on my identity and ability. Knock-on effects of the assault have resulted in me becoming what I can only describe as someone different. No longer can I juggle family life, work and study; I have taken a back-seat in life as I watch it occur around me. I need for this to change and today I begin the journey to take back control. Determination, motivation and a genetic stubbornness have kicked in as the fight to regain something of who I once was commences. Memory issues continue to restrict me constantly but I have discovered something that I am hopeful will help. A complex process called a memory palace that is giving me faith in my future. Finally I’ve been blessed with a plan that might actually change what I can only describe as internal turmoil..."

As you can tell I was still angry and grieving. I'd lost my identity and was most definitely not accepting of my circumstances. My focus was on inability rather than ability: on what I had lost not gained. Everything was misaligned. There was also a huge battle commencing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and I was embarrassed. Speaking openly during interviews became the opening I needed to begin expressing myself and although publishing LOST SOUL: Poetry From A Broken Mind And My Journey Of Recovery was one of the hardest things I decided to do it has opened up so many opportunities for furthering my mental health advocacy and allowing me to accept who I have become.  Now stepping up and speaking out I am taking to the stage to share my knowledge and insight.

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing many aspects of my life with you. In the meantime, if you have any questions please do contact me: support@donnasiggers.com

Look after yourself.

Donna