ADHD & Memory

Before my ADHD diagnosis, if there was one thing I had confidence in, it was my memory. I could remember things most couldn’t—like the theme song for Fuji Television’s coverage of the FIFA World Cup in 2010, or what I dressed up for at my preschool’s Halloween party (Ariel from The Little Mermaid.) I’d even become fluent in Japanese by the time I was 17 (thank you, hyper-focus), was generally good with names and memory-based games were a piece of cake. You know, the kinds of things that would be considered the hallmarks of a Good Memory™.

Turns out I was just so confident in my memory, that I didn’t realise how shitty it actually was. Well, it’s either that or my memory has just gradually gotten worse with age, as ADHD symptoms tend to with age when untreated or you’re under stress—based on what I’ve read or been told, at least.

Despite the fact that my tendency to misplace things has been getting gradually worse since I was in university—with me eventually becoming the person who had to leave her keys on a hook by the door otherwise she’d never be able to keep track of them—I have never really viewed myself as a particularly forgetful person. That’s even including the multiple times I’ve left my house keys at work.

It wasn’t really until I was speaking to my manager about my diagnosis that things really clicked. 

“To be honest, I’ve always thought you were kind of forgetful. I mean, sometimes you completely forget about tasks I ask you to do,” he told me. Despite being one of the worst people at task management on the face of the earth (in my own very biased opinion, of course), I was genuinely surprised to hear that he thought that. Like, I said, I really, genuinely didn’t think I had any issues with memory until I was diagnosed. 

To be fair, I shouldn’t have been surprised at all, though. The number of times I had found myself scrambling to get something done after being reminded by someone should have been evidence enough… or literally everything I’ve mentioned so far in this post. To say that my diagnosis has taught me more about myself in one year than 27 years on this Earth alone really isn’t an understatement.

Now that I’ve become more aware of just how bad my short-term and working memory are due to ADHD, it’s frustrating to count the times I set out to do something like, for example, pay my bills, only to return home having bought something I definitely didn’t need instead of doing the thing I had set out to do initially. All my bills are automated now, so this isn’t as much of an issue anymore, but the point remains: forgetting then remembering several hours later what you’ve forgotten is frustrating as hell.

Obviously, there are a lot of ways around this like lists, reminders or alarms on your phone, putting things in designated spaces, but my biggest issue seems to be the fact that I see a reminder, acknowledge it in my head… then forget about it completely. I know I do better with remembering a list of tasks to do when I’m reporting to someone like my manager because of the accountability factor, or having a set routine in the morning (or whenever, really)  because linking one step to the next helps me remember what exactly comes next… though I’ve found that it occasionally ends up jumbled for whatever reason—but I digress: it works most the time.

However, what about the random and unforeseen things that suddenly get put on my already small plate of a working memory? The kind of things I can’t tie to something else because they happen to be something a phone call on a random Saturday afternoon at home, or a task with no specific deadline on a work project I’m not directly involved with? Those are the things that I find slipping through the cracks the most because even with multiple reminders, they are the easiest for me to tell myself I’ll do them later… and promptly forget about them entirely. It’s definitely something I’m still trying to figure out how to deal with better since it’s not as simple as having a reminder pop up again in an hour or the next day. 

Adding more accountability into the mix might be an option, but I need to do some research into effective ways of doing that.


Since I’ve written myself into a bit of a corner here, I thought I’d try changing things up with a fun anecdote about forgetfulness in my daily life… but I must admit: I’ve already forgotten what said anecdote was going to be, let alone whether it’d be entertaining in any way. Although, I suppose that since this is a post about forgetfulness, it’s much more fitting for me to have actually forgotten what I was specifically going to write about. 

How typical of an ADHDer, am I right?


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