ADD Dopers (and others)- how accurate is your biographical memory?

When people ask how good one’s memory is, I have two different answers.

If we’re talking about the ability to recall things read, mine is excellent. I remember most of what I read, making me a treasure trove of useless trivia. Do you need someone to tell you the content of wiki articles about giant short-faced kangaroos, or capgras delusion? I can give you summaries without accessing the internet.

If we’re instead talking about things that happened to me, then the answer is very different. Oh, I remember that things happened, mostly, but…I’m hard pressed to tell you when a good deal of the time, or in much detail (conversations I recall pretty well sometimes). Take a few nights ago, for example. As I was trying to sleep I happened to think about the first car I bought. I quickly realized that: a. I don’t recall buying it beyond where, though I do remember going to the bank that week to cash in the CD I was given for graduation so I could pay for it. b. I don’t know exactly when I got it, though I think it was probably in 2003 since I had it about three years and the next car three years, and then the current one for almost a year and a half and that adds up properly to this year c. I sort of recall liking it beyond its awesome ability to haul stuff and being upset that I had to retire it when both the transmission and gas tank developed problems that’d cost more than it was worth. I don’t remember how often it needed to be repaired or any other details.

This sort of fuzziness is pretty common. I can’t tell you when pets died unless they were around specific dates (my dog died a week before my 25th birthday, and my ferret two days before the Christmas the same year. My favorite cat died ON my 28th birthday. beyond that…) and for some of them don’t remember them dying either, and things like similar contracts at work leave me with little recall of which order we did them in. I approach asking people about things we did or movies we saw on DVD as “a while ago” because I honestly don’t know if we saw something three months ago or a year ago and don’t want to argue about when it was.

I’m probably not very good at sequencing like past events either, like what might have happened a given year when my best friend and I do things we do annually (we go to the fair, help her parents at Halloween, and go Black Friday shopping each year), or what happened with family on a particular holiday or birthday…

Now, after this long-winded intro, let’s turn the discussion to you.

Do you, fellow ADD/ADHD dopers, have similar issues with your biographical recall being being far from perfect? Would you too be horrified to be asked by a cop “what were you doing on [date/time]” simply because you probably wouldn’t remember that date unless you really were guilty? Or are you the opposite, and could tell us what happened for 20 minutes in the 60s?

How about you, uh, normal folks? How is your memory for personal events: solid? squishy like mine?

IAN ADHD, as far as I know. The Grandma From Hell may be, though.

For the last 11 years I’ve worked as a consultant; often in international projects, only once have I gone back to a town where I’d already worked. Starting a few years ago, I can’t recall off the top of my head what year something happened in numbers - I think in terms of “that’s the year I moved to Switzerland” or “that’s the year I had the job in Murcia”. If I need the actual number, I look it up in my resume :stuck_out_tongue:

But hey, I’ve been hearing the Grandma From Hell and her sisters arguing about “no, it can’t have been 1965: it wasn’t on the year it snowed, it was the following year!” since I was a kid, and nowadays I sometimes hear conversations in terms of “Christmas 2009? Are you sure? I don’t think it could be Christmas 2009, The Kidlette hadn’t been born yet!” Being from a culture which doesn’t use NSEW coordinates in daily life but rather “local coordinates” such as Barcelona’s “sea, mountain, right, left” (I’ve mentioned this before in these boards, several times), I’ve got the theory that this is something similar… the general frame of reference is the numbers, but my internal frame is where was I; the internal frame of reference of The Proud Parents is what their kids were doing at the time (including whether they were around yet or not); Grandma’s internal frame of reference includes remarkable events ranging from weddings to those rare times when it snows in Barcelona.

If the OP is looking for a baseline to establish normal vs. ADHD then I’ll be of less use than usual around here, having neither ADHD nor a normal mind.

That said, I have an excellent spatial & procedural memory. If I’ve been somewhere (hike, town, beach, etc.) I can return years later and get around like I’d never left. Likewise, procedures that have been written down and can be readily referenced I can master (which is why insurance claims is not a problem for me). Memories of events, people, conversations don’t fare as well. I’ve gotten so used to being so confused in my struggles with reality & delusion so much of the time that I hardly ever bother trying to remember things like that. In the event I do think I’ve got a memory, the odds are fairly even that it’s not a true memory at all, but a fabrication.

ADHD. I refer to the memory pattern in the OP as having a mind like a steel sieve.

Of course it doesn’t help that my dad used to claim that he had an excellent memory, which he would use to fuel a constant litany of disappointment and blame at everyone who had ever done anything wrong to him or even in his near vicinity. His memory didn’t seem to do anything positive for him. He was always half a step away from resentful anger. So I had no incentive to log life events.

The first time I visited a councellor, I could remember more about his childhood than I could about mine because he had complained about so much of it over and over and over.

My husband has ADD and has the same problem. He can remember anything he has ever read or seen on TV, including the theme songs to cartoons he hasn’t seen since he was 5, with complete and total accuracy. Stuff that actually happened to him though? If it wasn’t a BIG event (a death in the family, our wedding, etc.) he has trouble remembering it and his brain will often just make shit up to fill in the blanks. He isn’t lying about stuff because he truly believes that these things happened but it isn’t uncommon for him to be telling a story about something from the past and have one of his family members tell him that it didn’t happen the way he is telling it at all.

ADD here, hubby is ADHD. Niether of us can remember personal history timelines. Everything happened “a couple years ago,” even if it happened before we met, 17 years ago. We might be able to figure it out if we try, but most times it isn’t worth the effort.

OP, you sound just like my dad. No idea why he never made millions on Jeopardy. ETA: I’m ADD-PI, he’s ADHD.

I however have almost zero recall for books, song lyrics, movies, tv and any factual information I haven’t spend hours nerding out on, but I have a pretty good biographical memory. Usually I can easily recall where and how I acquired most things I own and have owned, I remember people’s ages (if not their birthdays exactly) among other statistics (I know what sizes almost all my female friends wear for instance), and have a pretty good handle on my sequence of life events. Hell, I remember things aobut other people’s lives that they’ve forgotten. I am always surprising my family with early and/or detailed memories of things they haven’t thought about in years.

That said when my depression and anxiety are flaring up (which means a shit ton of hyperfocusing, disengaging from life, and not eating much), things can get fuzzy. I have crystal clear and organized memories from about age 3-11, but a lot of middle and high school is a blur.

Same thing. I am a veritable font of useless trivia, but I can’t remember the things most expect me to remember. I can only name one of my elementary school teachers (because her name was Mrs. English), can’t remember my phone number from our old house four years ago, and have no idea what we had for dinner three nights ago.

ADHD-I here.

My memory for trivia, and things I find interesting is stoopid good. Events in my life or things people recall that I’ve done or said… like looking through smoked glass. Most times, I rarely remember the specifics. This grows proportional to how much time has passed, too.

Ugh, that sucks! I know what you’re talking about, my mother gets angry while talking about things that happened to her grandma when said grandma was 13…

Oh yeah, this too. I inadvertently memorize tv shows - often including their episode titles - and songs too.

I’m ADD-ish. I have a mix of memories. Some are extraordinarily clear, even after half a century. But many are very fuzzy, or maybe gone (how would I know if I had completely forgotten something?). Finding a memory is very dependent on context. Ask me something in general about a trip Detroit, and I could probably tell you little except the approximate date, and a technology show I attended (1981, robotics). But if I focus on a particular portion of that trip I might evoke a lot of detailed memories, but probably not a complete picture of the trip at all.

I don’t think any of these memory styles are unique to ADD though. There seems to be a lot of variance in recall ability among everybody.

I tell people that I have no time sense, because it conveys so many problems I have with both perceiving the passage of time, and estimating the amount of time something will take. Sucks when you’re being asked how long writing a new program will take - I’m in the middle of that right now, having committed to finish something in a time frame that I’m not sure is going to happen. I’m terrible with dates as well. Both Bob and I totally missed our fifth anniversary.

I only remember snippets of my life. I’m always boggled by people who remember their elementary school teachers. However, like rhubarbarin, I suspect a lot of that comes from depression. And yes, I do believe I was depressed in elementary school.

I’m good at remembering how to get places, and pretty good with the really pointless trivia. I’m a little too good at remembering movies and books - I almost never enjoy watching a movie twice and I try to wait several years before re-reading a book, lest I remember it too well.
Here’s an interesting memory related phenomenon I have that I’ve been thinking about recently. Quite a few songs of my favorite songs have very specific memories attached, but the memories themselves are quite unremarkable. Most of them are very specific about exactly where I was, but that location is unremarkable - usually the middle of a block and I’m going from somewhere to somewhere. Example: I associate “Eres Tu” with being on a bus approaching the Fort Worth Musuem of science and history, but being about a block away. Another memory: “Sunshine On My Shoulder” is associated with driving with my Dad and being about a block away from our house.

Weird…I often find myself thinking of similar things about songs. Mostly “the last time I heard this song, I was driving up the bridge into Portsmouth. and the last time I heard the chorus to this other song, I was stopping to look both ways before crossing the entryway to the parking lot at work.” I never really stop to wonder if other people bother remembering things like that.