Dealing with my Acquired Brain Injury – Memory Tips

Due to Lyme and autism, I have almost no episodic (short term) memory.

In fact, I just forgot what the next sentence was going to say. :\

As a writer and a tutor, this can be insanely inconvenient, but like many people with either TBIs or ABIs, I have developed a number of coping techniques.

The first is the making of lists. I make dozens of lists a day. Lists of what I am supposed to eat, what my chores are, what my appointments are, story ideas, friend’s names and birthdays and hints about them ( Page, sometime in August, likes Dr. Who, dogs, drawing), what I need to buy, and agendas for my car.

I keep two dedicated notebooks for this. One on my desk and one in my vest pocket. And I refer to them constantly.

My travel vest is another trick, I picked up along the way. My wallet, keys, notebook, pen, epipen, and cellphone almost NEVER leave my vest pockets. That way all I have to do in the morning is get dressed, put on my clothes and my travel vest and I am good for the day.

I also use a system of geographically based associations to get through the day. I have a place for everything and try to keep everything in it’s place.

So a typical day might look like this.

  • Wake up.
  • Take glasses out of pouch hanging on wall and put them on face.
  • Climb down from loft bed and step into slippers at foot of the ladder.
  • Go to the bathroom.
  • Check surfaces for stray notes, books, clothing – if clean return to my room.
  • Sit in computer chair.
  • Take pill and drink bottle of water from the bottles centered on the desk in front of the keyboard.
  • Place pill bottle at rear of desk.
  • Throw bottle in trash beside desk.
  • Boot computer. It boots to my calendar for the day and my mail.
  • Check both.
  • If there is something that needs doing in either one, write down in desk notebook.
  • DELETE original email and set ten minute reminder on appointments.
  • Check appointment for dress code details (business, leisure, pajama day?)
  • Get dressed.
  • Put on vest.
  • Appointments beep about them.
  • Check them again for further details. Record out -of-house appointments in vest notebook with directions, phone numbers, etc.
  • Pack briefcase if needed.
  • If working, place briefcase dead center of path to front door.
  • If not working, begin to map out chores.


  • Check clothing, brush teeth, use bathroom. (My grandfather taught me that every big project begins with a pee.)
  • Check notes and head for door.
  • Trip over briefcase.
  • Pick up briefcase.
  • Look door latch and step out to car.

NOTA BENE: My car is also a memory node – it stays full of food, water, extra paper, maps, GPS, spare epipen, and emergency kit.

  • Check appointments.
  • Check memory map or GPS.
  • Plan a circular route for appointments – home>appt>appt>appt>home.
  • Set GPS for first location.
  • Go.
  • Upon arrival -mark it off the agenda.

And so on until I am home again.


  • Check chore list and plan a circular route through the house. Place items for laundry area, kitchen, living room in middle of my door way where I will trip on them.
  • As I walk through the living room, put Steve’s book on coffee table, take dirty glass to kitchen, throw dirty shirt into laundry area from kitchen, and wash dishes, and wipe counters.
  • Turn from sink and see dirty shirt on laundry room floor.
  • Put dirty shirt in the machine. If the machine is full, turn on laundry room light and run machine.
  • Leaving the light on, tells me that I am doing something in that room. Turn off kitchen light,
  • Go back into living room and pick my mail up off coffee table and return to my room.

And yes, I have to do it that way. If I pick up my mail on the way to the kitchen, it will stay in the kitchen and be forgotten until I wander in there again.

  • Work in my room for awhile.
  • Go to the bathroom. See glow of light from laundry room. Go check the machine.


This day has added steps.

  • The cat goes out into the back yard and I try to schedule yard work for those days as well. So on days when the cat is out, I turn on all the lights in my brothers room (it contains the patio door), let the cat out through the patio door. Do my yard work working around the house windershins to the garden and then return to the back yard and patio area to let the cat back in.

So there are a few of my tricks.

Any of you care to share?


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