Eidetic memory and ADD – the funhouse that is my brain

Taken from Wikipedia: “Eidetic memory /aI’dεtIk/, commonly referred to as photographic memory or total recall, is the ability to recall images, sounds or objects in memory with great precision, and is not acquired through mnemonics. The word eidetic, comes from the Greek word ειδος (pronounced [ê:dos], eidos, “seen”).”

If you go to the Wikipedia page concerning the eidetic memory, you will find a whole list of quite recognizable fictional characters who have this “condition,” demonstrated on several different levels. FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dr. Spencer Reid (X-Files and Criminal Minds, respectively), Secret Service/Warehouse 13 agent Myka Bering (Warehouse 13), Mike Ross (Suits), and the list goes on. For the most part, these characters remember everything they’ve ever read, heard or seen with 99.99% accuracy and never forget a detail.

And this may be the case of someone who has conditioned, trained and cultivated their eidetic memory throughout the course of their life. For someone like me, however, who just has always had it but didn’t really realize it was a real thing until her 30s, the time for conditioning, training and cultivating was many moons ago. Now, it’s little more than a parlor trick where I buy gifts for people who don’t remember ever telling anyone they wanted a particular something or where I word vomit, verbatim, a conversation someone else would prefer to forget ever happened (most people get the same telltale look of horror mixed with defeat when they realize I really do remember what they said that they are saying they didn‘t say).

ADD is the accepted acronym for Attention Deficit Disorder. Just like it sounds, people with ADD have a difficult time focusing on one task at a time for any extended length of time. ADD tends to present in females in their early to mid 20s but that is not always the case. Some people, male or female regardless – again, like me – have symptoms of ADD for their entire lives.

When I was a kid there was no such thing as ADD. Maybe in larger cities it was more prominent but in Bumsville, Colorado, population 2000, not so much. It wasn’t until I was about 16 that Ritalin started coming into vogue – and I do mean “vogue;” every kid with a behavior problem was recommended Ritalin as an answer, by anyone and everyone with no medical degree. But by then, I had learned to manage my symptoms on my own.


I still have days where I feel like a hummingbird on crack but for the most part I can focus on one task for a good…five minutes before moving on to something else.

I kid. Ten minutes.

The problem is that when you have an eidetic memory AND a distinct inability to focus, they kind of cancel each other out. And by “cancel each other out” I mean I am focusing on so many things at once that I remember too much and forget which drawer in the giant filing cabinet that is my brain I put it in.

Some of the drawers are a little disheveled.  Some are a full on train wreck.

Also, my short term memory and task-oriented memory (I made that up – the part of your memory that helps you remember why you came into the kitchen in the first place) are a little wonky. I can literally forget that I was going to do something immediately following the decision to do it. That’s usually a hummingbird day.

But I do remember. Just about everything. Play a song I knew when it was popular but haven’t heard in ten years. I still know all the words. I remember dreams I had as a small child. And not even the ones you’d expect people to remember, like horrific nightmares (although, those too). I remember the ones that didn’t mean anything or go anywhere. Numbers are a little iffy, due to another condition called dyscalculia, but we’ll save that lesson for another day (or Google it).

I am capable of not remembering things. Well, to be fair, I have a drawer in that cabinet (or box beside it, more likely) labeled “to be shredded.” I’ve just never gotten around to shredding the contents. As a result, the tiny secretary that attempts to organize things up there rummages through the to be shredded box from time to time and pulls out random crap that is completely useless and better off shredded. But alas, I haven’t shredded any of it so occasionally the weirdest things come tumbling out of the vault.

At any rate, I rarely forget anything if I was able to focus on it in the first place. I misplace things, purposefully put things in the shred box, but in the end, it’s all still up there. Somewhere.


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