Blog Post | It’s Not My Fault, The Doorway Made Me Forget!

 

It’s Not My Fault, The Doorway Made Me Forget!

 

You might think that people with ADHD would have really poor memories, but in fact, that’s not the case. People with ADHD often can have a terrific memory for past events, and they can remember upcoming events quite well. So their memory is clearly working.

However, one aspect of memory in particular that is often disrupted in ADHD is working memory. Working memory is the ability to keep specific information online, to recycle it in your brain over and over again so that you can use it in the immediate or short-term future. 

A good example of working memory in action would be you meeting somebody and they tell you their name and phone number and you have to walk over to your phone and enter that information. People without ADHD might have to put some effort into it and it might feel like a bit of a struggle. But typically they will be able to recite that information in their mind over and over and then type it into their phone correctly. People with ADHD tend to lose or lack the ability to remember things that they just need to keep online for anywhere from 10 seconds to a minute or two. 

Remembering information that strings out longer than seven numbers or a sentence or two can be challenging for most people, but for those with ADHD it can be a severe challenge even with much smaller batches of information. 

Deficits in working memory are also something that we see in people who have frontotemporal dementia or damage to the frontal lobes. Also, age-related cognitive decline will show deficits in working memory. 

As for myself, I have always struggled with working memory issues but didn’t really take notice of it until I was in my 30s. Of course, like many others, I started to worry about cognitive decline or early Alzheimer's issues. What I didn’t recognize was that I had struggled with these same issues in school and just put it down to not paying attention. 

At some point a few years ago, I heard the term “doorway amnesia” and it seemed like a perfect phrase to describe what I experienced frequently on any given day. This is my common and extremely annoying experience of arriving somewhere only to realize I've forgotten what I went there to do. 

My day looks something like this: I leave the room for another location in my house on a mission to retrieve or take some action. I arrive at my destination (if I’m lucky) only to find I have no clue why I made the trip. I might stand there for 30 seconds or more hoping for magical thoughts to appear or a lightning strike. And I got nothing. So back I head to my point of origin only to have the reason pop back into my head. 

Let me just say, when you live in a house with stairs, you tend to find most things you want or need are not located on the floor you are presently residing on. So the last thing you need is unnecessary trips due to a doorway disorder. 

I needed a plan to bolster my working memory and I didn’t care how silly or ridiculous it might seem to others. Time to get creative and out of the box in my solutions. 

These days if you are in my house, you might hear me singing a song about getting the phone charger (which is always on the opposite floor from where I am needing it). You might see me carrying a sticky note or notice writing on my arm. And if you pass me on the stairs, I will most likely not speak to you since I will be repeating my mission statement and cannot afford to get distracted. I will be happy to talk to you once I get back through that doorway portal and reverse my temporary amnesia. 

Hey, don’t judge me, it is not my fault — the doors made me forget.

 

Katherine Jahnke
ADHD Coach | Center For Living Well with ADHD, LLC

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