The Complications of Diagnoses
In elementary school, maybe even sooner, I was diagnosed with short term memory loss. Short term memory, in the average human, can hold a piece of information for approximately five to seven minutes. For someone with short term memory loss, like me, my memory can only last for approximately 18 seconds; this I learned from a psychology major. What this means is that you can list off the numbers of pie, read me a poem, ask me to multiply two numbers together, or fix a grammatical error in a sentence, but there is a 99.99% chance that I won’t remember the first word you said, and certainly not because I don’t want to. Because my short term memory is so short, it takes a lot longer for information to be processed into long term memory and repetition is the only way to unlock that door.
Because of this diagnosis, when I was in middle school, I was put on an IEP because it would take me so much longer to take a test than most of the other students. I can’t speak for anyone else, but it was embarrassing for me. I went to a special room called The Learning Center where I had great teachers, but it s never quite the room for me. They specialized in organizational skills and giving students the nudges they needed to start a project or study for test or write an essay. This was never my problem. My problem was I couldn’t memorize vocabulary words or a chunk of history as quickly as a student with the average capacity of his or her short term memory. An average student might be able to cram for a test the night before and a B or an A, me? I would fail. There wouldn’t be enough of the information stored in my long term memory to recall when I’m staring at the multiple choice questions in front of me. I was on the IEP until eighth grade in middle school and when it was lifted off of my shoulders, it was rather exciting and nerve wracking. The only person I cared about proving to myself was myself, as cliche as that sounds. I wanted to be able to have that faith in my own skills and abilities.
Having been taken off of the IEP, I haven’t needed one since. However, after someone made a suggestion to me, which was supposed to be a joke, I had an epiphany; there was a pretty good chance that I could have A.D.D. Another friend, who also has A.D.D., drew me a Venn Diagram of the differences and similarities of the signs and symptoms of A.D.H.D. and A.D.D. She described A.D.H.D. as being more of an active form of the disorder while A.D.D. is a more passive form, and that the latter is less likely to be diagnosed in girls because most girls have A.D.D.
Of course, being a self diagnosis, I won’t know if I really do have A.D.D. until my next physical, but until then, it has given me a lot to think about. For instance, because memory loss or a worsened memory is common for people with A.D.D. or A.D.H.D., do I really have short term memory loss or is that just the A.D.D. working it’s magic? If the latter is the real answer, then it’s weird to think that I’ve gone through 21 years of my life without having realized this sooner. It’s also weird to think that the diagnosis that I’ve heard about my entire life and have adapted to has a new name.
But hey, it is what it is.