NOTE: This story shares the experience of ONE Autistic Person. Other Autistic People’s experiences may vary. This is because Autistic People are not a monolith.
Not relating to my experience doesn’t mean you’re NOT Autistic, just like there are some things in my life that even non-autistics may relate to.
I first realized my memory was different when I was young while watching a cartoon at my grandparent’s house.
My grandmother entered the room just as the commercials had come on, startling me from my television-induced trance with a question – “What are you watching?” she asked in a friendly voice.
Though I had been deeply engrossed in a show only seconds ago, and I was reasonably sure I was enjoying myself and what I was watching, I COULD NOT remember what had just appeared on the screen before me.
“I don’t know, but it’s good!” I tried to explain.
“What do you mean, you don’t know? Is it a new show?” she asked, probably confused (and likely suspicious) from my answer.
“I can’t remember what I was watching now, but I know it was really good,” I explained further.
“You’re too young for your memory to be that bad!” she exclaimed in a playful, teasing voice as she turned and went back into the kitchen to finish making lunch for both of us, leaving me stuck in rumination over her words.
Was my memory “bad”? If my memory was terrible, why did I have very clear childhood memories starting back when I was still in diapers (including those I couldn’t shake even when I wanted to)?
My grandmother didn’t seem worried – did she? No… she was laughing. Maybe she thought I was making a joke or not being honest with her. I’m not lying.
What WAS I watching????
As an adult, in hindsight, knowing what I know now, I believe my grandmother most likely didn’t believe my story, thinking I was “pulling her leg,” as she used to say (or she would have been more concerned).
As a child, I took note of my grandmother’s words, “You’re too young for your memory to be that bad!” and decided never to mention my struggles remembering things again (until now).
I developed tools and coping skills that would help me appear to remember things I wasn’t actually remembering (pretending to remember things, using context clues to find the missing information when my memory failed me, and using humor to deflect when acting as if I wasn’t confused failed me).
Not remembering what you were doing minute to minute is confusing, and that’s why having rituals, routines, and plans is so helpful to me. They help alleviate the confusion I live with day to day.
I’ve got that out-of-sight, out-of-mind problem.
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