‘‘Hello, how may I help you?’ the voice asked from the other end of the telephone line.
‘‘Err …’’ I replied hesitantly.
I had phoned the doctor’s surgery and by the time I got down from number five to number one in the queue I had totally forgotten why I’d rang them. Like most women, I’d been multi-tasking to the max.
Whilst waiting to be connected to the receptionist, I had cleared away the breakfast dishes, tidied the front room, plugged in my mobile to charge, got my son’s PE kit ready for the next day and loaded the washing machine.
I could feel the receptionist’s impatience emanating down the phone line, then I suddenly caught sight of the empty tablet packet in front of me.
Only then did I remember that I was ringing to order a new prescription for my husband.
Job done, I went off to do something very important, walked into my little home office and instantly forgot what I had went in there for.
Since I hit my mid-forties forgetfulness and confusion has become the order of the day. It’s as though I woke up one morning and someone had rewired my brain to a less effective setting.
I frequently look for my glasses which are on my head (I have been known to find two pairs up there!) and my son still can’t get over the day I had a whole shop looking for my lost purse whilst it was tucked tightly under my hot, little, oxter! My brain definitely doesn’t function at the same level it used to.
One embarrassing example of brain fog occurred recently when my husband, son and I passed a taxi depot in our car. It had one of those digital signs that flashes up information outside. I use a taxi for the daily morning school run and was interested in the rates they were advertising.
‘‘Oh look!’’ I said excitedly, ‘‘remind me to ring them and enquire about their Mini Mum fares.’’
My husband looked at me with exasperation at my stupidity. The sign said minimum fares but somehow in my scrambled brain and the way it had been displayed with a capital in the middle of the word, I had translated it as Mini Mum fares, taking it to mean fares for mums on mini journeys, like the school run.
‘‘Seriously mum, you think they will charge you less because you’re short?’’ my nine-year-old asked from the back seat. Evidently, he was on a whole different misconception journey of his own!
Confusion and forgetfulness is not just a female problem. A study by the US Mayo Clinic involving 1,200 people between the ages of 30 and 95 found that almost all have experienced declining memory by the age of 40.
The most likely cause is the hippocampus, a horse-shoe shaped lobe close to the middle of the brain which slowly shrinks from the age of 30 through to the mid-60s. Men reach their peak performance of recalling facts in their 50s, but women don’t achieve this until around the age of 61.
This is because of the menopause. Falling oestrogen levels affect women’s concentration, mood and memory. Though thankfully this period of brain fog is thought to be temporary.
A 2009 study found that when women’s hormones began to settle after their menopause their memories and thought processes returned to being as effectIVE as they were before.
People often think it’s strange how they can’t remember what they had for breakfast yet can recall vividly the days of their youth. This is known as the reminiscence bump. Looking back over our lives we will most likely recall our 20s most clearly, because this is normally the time of ‘firsts’, our first job, falling in love for the first time, having our first child perhaps.
They stand out more in our minds because they are such important events and we think about them more.
I get many exasperated looks from hubby because of my foggy misconceptions and inability to remember things, though he isn’t averse to forgetfulness himself! Truth be told our conversations involve an excessive amount of Googling these days as we try to recall names, faces and places, some from the present, some spanning back over the 30 years we’ve known each other. But in the midst of our arguments over our accurate retrieval of facts and memories, I often think how nice it is to have someone to forget things with.