adhd · Blog Challenges 2019 · Personal

Remembering Things

e1d57-atoz2019tenthannSo, does anyone else have, like, no childhood memories?

I’m notoriously bad at remembering things.  Weirdly, I can remember dates, and locker combinations and phone numbers (but that might have to do with pattern recognition and stuff), but like, life events?  I remember almost nothing from my childhood.  Snippets, here and there.  And odd ones, at that; like I remember Halloween in fourth grade, and my friend Michelle was dressed as a baby, in a giant onesie with a binkie.  Or the days at the end of the school year in eighth grade, when our third floor classroom was so hot that we did nothing but eat Popsicles and play 7Up because no one could stand to work.  Or going over my crush’s house in 7th grade to film a video for class and the realization that, like, he had a family and a room and a life was, I don’t know, kind of weird and surreal?

But anyway, there doesn’t appear to be much of a rhyme or reason to why I remember what I do, but I did realize that my memories are clearer of any events that I’ve written about.  I kept a diary for several years in the middle grades — fifth through seventh, maybe? — and despite losing the diary before the start of high school, I can not only remember events that I wrote about (as in, the actual event), but I can even remember written details of the entries.  In case anyowane is wondering why so many of my organizational and memory tips are about writing, this is why: the written down events from my childhood are some of the only one I remember with any real clarity.

This is especially true as I got older; when I turned 18, I got into LiveJournal, and chronicled my life there up through the birth of my first child (yeah, I was there a long time).  Big things — my graduation from college, grad school, meeting my husband, getting married, the birth of my son, a friend’s death — are all captured there, as are any number of smaller events — TV nights and sleepovers with friends, movie premieres, days at the mall, concerts, random conversations.  I remember all of it — everything I’ve written down — with a clarity that, for me, is extremely unusual.  I credit that entirely to having kept a record of it.

Memory gaps like this are, apparently, not unusual for people with ADHD.  There was a German study done several years ago suggesting that people with ADHD do not fully reap the sleep benefit of forming and keeping emotional memories the way their neurotypical peers do, and it’s a question (“does anyone here not remember their childhood?”)  that crops up with fair frequency on ADHD message boards (and there are many more here, on long-term/memory in general).

This has been one of the reasons why I’ve been very adamant about recording my life, either on-line or in pen and paper journals — because it’s the only tried-and-true method I’ve discovered in actually keeping a memory of something alive.

Does anyone else have experience with this — with trouble recalling large parts of your life, or with tips or suggestions for improving memory retention long-term?

2 thoughts on “Remembering Things

  1. It makes perfect sense. It is a universal truth that the more senses involved in an event, the stronger the memory. (Smells are big memory triggers for many people.) It’s why taking notes in class, or highlighting in a textbook while you read, help students succeed. You are engaging the sense of touch with hearing or seeing words.
    I have SO MANY childhood memories, but I am a pretty emotional person, and emotional ties to any event also lock it in memory. …I don’t know why I know these factoids, but they must have created an emotional reaction when I read about memory!
    Found you through AtoZ.
    Doesn’t Speak Klingon

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  2. My childhood memories has gaps you could drive a space station through, but I never know how much is trauma, ADHD or the frustrating higher likelihood of experiencing trauma if you *have* ADHD. Most of those I know IRL who also have ADHD also had experience with abuse, bullying or other childhood traumas. (I belong to a support group, so I’m sure there’s a self selection bias there in addition to the data supporting the neurodiverse experience globally higher trauma rates.) So, I get it, and I totally keep a “reality journal” to remember my own life. I just never know how much to ascribe to each diagnosis:-/

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