I have the curse of memory. You may ask what that in tales. If we have spent any meaningful time together, I remember everything you said. I can go as far as remembering what you were wearing and the weather out. In the 90s that awesome memory wasn’t working as it is now. In 2003, while in Iraq, while on a patrol a terrorist changed my life and my memories with a perfectly executed grenade and rocket-propelled grenade shot. Memory problems are very common in veterans with moderate-to-severe TBI. TBI-related memory problems don’t work the way you might see “amnesia” portrayed on TV. You don’t forget everything from your past and remember what happens going forward. In fact, you’re more likely to remember things from the past.
Because of this incident and a lot of testing, the doctors realized that I had a special gift. Through my trauma to my head, I have mild hyperthymesia. Hyperthymesia, also known as piking or hyperthymestic syndrome. People with this type of memory recall events, images, dates — even conversations — in minute detail. And they’re able to summon these memories effortlessly.
This is actually the first time-sharing with anyone, but I figured why not? The problem with this hyperthymesia is that it can be a challenge. People with keen autobiographical memory skills remember the bad times in addition to the good times.
When I write and do a speech about an experience, I can visually see and feel the moment in great detail. Imagine remembering every detail and conversation from the first girl you kissed or the first heartbreak. We catalog the moments in our minds daily so we can go back when we want, but for me there just a there, rambling away.
If they diagnose you with HSAM, your doctor will work with you to develop a management plan.
Although HSAM doesn’t carry any physical side effects or complications, it can be mentally exhausting to absorb and store so much information. Your doctor can advise you on coping mechanisms.
Before I went to combat, I was in college and struggling. After combat and my injury, the college experience was a breeze. I found my passion in Philosophy and Journalism and used this power to propel me to earn awards and move up the later in my field.
I can tell you that having memories from when I was a kid is amazing. I remember how life was so easy and how the only thing I wanted to do was play basketball and hang out with my hot cheerleader girlfriend. I desire to talk to people from the past about things they may not remember but realize that some people have stored those memories away on purpose to avoid pain.
I have only met one other person who has Hyperthymesia. We both agree that being able to say “I remember that 20 years ago” is awesome. I carry direct memories for past girlfriends, friends and my life before the old David died in combat.
How to boost your memory
Your memory might not qualify for HSAM status, but there are things you can do to improve it. Here are a few tips:
Get enough sleep. Being sleep deprived directly impacts your ability to remember things.
Stay active. Moderate-intensity exercise can improve your memory and may even increase the size of the part of your brain involved in memory.
One recommendation is brisk walking for at least 2 1/2 hours each week.
Give your brain a workout, too. In addition to exercising your body, exercise your brain and sharpen your memory with activities like reading, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards, memorizing songs or poems, playing a musical instrument, or learning a foreign language.
Want to remember a specific event better? A recent study found that exercising four hours after the event may help you retain the memory better. Exercising immediately after the event had no effect.