Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by deficits in social communication, social interaction combined with repetitive behaviours..
Yeah yeah yeah, we know.
Truth is, it’s not all shit because autistic people have some awesome traits that most NTs would give their dominant hand for. I’ll talk about these traits in a series of posts, but today it’s all about autistic memory.
Granted, my memory is now crap, but that’s due to a health condition. Prior to this I was a machine when it comes to music. Never mind about naming bands and songs, I could tell you band members life stories and name songs with ONE SECOND of intro. I mean, if that’s not a superpower, I don’t know what is!
Ok, maybe ‘superpower’ is exaggerating things a little..
If I’m passionate about something, I remember stuff. Disinterest presents like tumble weed blowing across my brain and out through my ears. Such was the case at school during maths, geography, science, chemistry, biology, home economics. P.E and English language where all I remember was how shit it all was..
That, plus being bullied every day.
Don’t get me wrong, there will be many autistics who positively salivate at the prospect of double maths, but this is my story and the only salivating I ever did at school was at the thought of wolfing down half a packet of chocolate digestives the moment my school bag hit the kitchen floor!
My dispassion (that a word?) reflected in my marks. In those tumbleweed areas, I scored pathetically low and those teachers never really knew if I was thick or just lazy as I scored highly in the subjects that interested me, like history, art, creative writing (English) and music. I got 98% in my history mock exam and was set for examination glory the following year but my final exams coincided with the sudden death of my beloved grandmother and the anxiety proved too much for my autistic brain. Every piece of information in my brain was lost amidst a sea of grief. It wasn’t until many years later that I realised I had a case for a re-sit but as it was, I flunked all my exams except art – which I’d already done.
My memory was a thing of wonder before fibro (and it’s delightful symptom known as ‘brain fog’) reduced me to someone who’s in constant frown mode as I frantically try to extract information from my once, oh so reliable brain. Now I often have dig deep to recall the information and it’s very frustrating. Here’s an example for you:
I’m a Fleetwood Mac fan. Have been since Rumours came out in 1977. So maybe you can imagine my distress when I ‘forgot’ Christine McVie’s name?
Christine McVie? Big deal!
To me, it’s a very BIG deal.
It’s a deal of mammoth proportions!
What’s worse is that I’d been watching a documentary about her and Dennis Wilson (Beach Boys) only an hour earlier. When I was recalling the programme, Christine’s name was lost to me and remained lost for three hours. I could see her. I could hear her voice. But her name just wasn’t there. It was gone -seemingly erased from my memory. To me, this was on par with forgetting one of my children’s names!
Three hours later, poof, it was there and the relief was immense. Had it not been 3am in the morning, I’d have shared the good news with Hubs because, for a few hours, I genuinely thought I was in the early throes of dementia and in true catastrophising style, I saw myself wandering round town in my nightwear by Christmas..
I don’t know why this happened. I wasn’t drunk (chance would be a fine thing) and I wasn’t on mind altering meds. I know short-term memory issues are very much a thing with fibromyalgia but this was long term memory, so maybe it’s something I should be addressing with the neurologist when I finally get to see him?
Another personal experience of the wonder of autistic memory is my son who was obsessive about numbers as a small child and as a result he memorised the entire twelve times table at the age of 4. The school thought they had a mathematical genius on their hands but I knew it was all about his photographic memory..
These days, his obsessions are gaming related and he’s memorised every Pokémon that there is. Plus what they evolve into and what they eat for tea. His memory is like mine was. It’s machine-like.
The world of gaming brings in a lot of coin these days, especially if you’re a designer, so maybe he will get the job of his dreams after all? It used to be a cashier in Tesco until I crushed his dreams by telling him that they don’t get to take all that money home. Oops!
The downside to my memory is that I have a whole bunch of memories that I wish I didn’t have. Shit things people have done or said to me stick to my grey matter like chewing gum to shagpile. Sod’s Law says I can manage to forget Christine McVie’s name but none of the stuff I want to forget..
My passion for music and ability to recall songs (brain fog allowing) provides me with the antidote to those toxic memories and what better memories to recall than those of the three boys who call me ‘Mum’ teamed with one of the most uplifting songs ever written.
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes.