I notice you like the sicker stuff @ellowrites (lol) This is about memory and mental illness and creativity
18 February 2016
Dr. Barry Gordon, M.D., Ph.D.
Director Cognitive Neurology/Neuropsychology Division
1629 Thames Street, Suite 350
Baltimore, MD 21231
Dear Dr. Gordon:
I was told at 7 years old that I had an eidetic memory. Now I am to understand that such memories do not exist. Because I believe in the scientific method, I am very happy to evolve along with the new science. However, that does not fully explain what is going on in my head. If this is not an eidetic memory, then what is it??
Before I begin, there are a few details you should know. My mom was 12. My dad was 33. He raped her. They were brother and sister. As a result, I was given up for adoption. Right away, I was a “problem child”. Not because I was unmotivated or “slow”, but because chaos seemed to please me at an early age. After testing, I was diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder at age 5. At age 7, I was introduced to Marie Freidel. After further testing, I was invited to join the National Foundation for Gifted and Creative Children. At age 10, I started drinking. I would be a blackout drunk by age 12. At age 12, I also discovered cocaine. Cocaine would turn into crack. I would drink and drug until I was 35. I am now celebrating 13+ years of continuous recovery. I try to help others when I can.
I never had any problem getting into the school of my choice whether it was St. Philomena’s, Portsmouth Abbey, or Bishop Connolly. Of course, I was a pain in the ass, especially to the nuns, once I got in but so be it. I would go from 6th to 7th grade during the same year making me one year younger than my supposed peers thereafter. I went to college. Senior year, I decided to travel around the country with a National Presidential Campaign instead of graduating. Thanks to my ability to speak and sell, not having a degree has not been a financial hindrance.
In 2011, I had what I understand now to be a severe mania episode. In 2012, in the course of 3 hours, I very efficiently laid waste to a charitable effort because I did not like the DJ they hired. The local police, friends of mine, knew they could not charge me with anything but also knew something was very wrong. I was finally diagnosed as Bi-Polar 1. Not surprisingly, my favorite symptom is the first symptom – kinda fits the narcissism which subsided a great deal, thank God, once I got sober.
Throughout this journey, I have had an outstanding memory for things I see. This is especially true of “gatherings” whether they be family centered or politically centered. I am not one of those “ask me the date and I can tell you what I did or what happened” people. One of the criticisms I hear of eidetic memory is that it really is memory by rote. This could not be farther from the truth in my case. For instance, I am currently tutoring a student getting ready to take the GED exam. If you ask me the formula to determine the area of any solid figure, I am pretty much lost. However, if I take a moment and quiet my mind, I can “see” the page the formulas are on and I can read them. It is clear that the formulas are not “stored” in my head while the reference picture is.
This goes for a lot of events. I can see the classroom I was in when the Challenger exploded. I can tell you what everyone wore and what the young lady looked like who greeted me when I left English class that day to give me the news. If you tell me what happened at any political meeting any point in my life, I won’t be able to give you the date, but I will be able to describe the experience in exacting detail. Who spoke when, what the vote board looked like, and what jewelry which page wore that day are all in my head in picture form only. I did not try to learn/remember any of these details – they just exist. If eidetic memory does not exist, then how do anyone account for memory explosion?? I am sorry I do not have a better term for that one. Sometimes if something striking enough happens, the pictures merrily march through without any request by me to see them. Because my mind is as twisted as it is, the pictures are often accompanied by background music. The whole event can be rather disabling.
Because I spend time in recovery helping others, I have run into more than my share of dead bodies. These things I cannot unsee. Every breakup, every failure, every loss in my life, every funeral I have ever been to, I may know nothing about the details, but I can see the location. After my mom died in 1996, there was a memorial mass offered a few months later at the church I grew up in – St. Christopher’s in Tiverton, RI. I have no idea what day the mass was or the time it was held, but from where I stood in the back – after my mom died just being in a church was difficult for a long time – I can count the people now. This has nothing to do with trying to remember anything. Sometimes when I fail, it is the first picture I see. This is one of the many reasons I hate losing more than I like winning.
If eidetic memory does not exist, than someone has to explain the poetry process. I do a lot of writing. Most of it political, some of it fiction. Those are creative processes. The poetry process is not. For the record, I have been published and won a couple of awards. I suppose if you submit enough poetry that can happen by chance. The difference is poetry is not created, it is remembered. The poetry that has received the most praise took only seconds to write because the words came from somewhere else. It is as if there are streams of communal experience and memory in the air. All you have to do is tap into one and using the modern parlance, download it. I see the poetry before it is ever created. If does not exist, how can I see it?? Certainly I cannot store something not “created” yet.
Personally I believe this is akin to what happens to some of us in old houses and cemeteries. Just my personal theory, not knowing any better, but it appears that severe emotional experiences, like being murdered for example, can leave a form of electromagnetic residue, since other animals navigate using electromagnetics that fits the evolutionary chain, that we as humans can sense. It is not a run in with the occult but rather the sensing of an evolved form of scent marking.
These skills also come in hand in math in another way. Doing long division and square roots is a lot easier when you see the chalkboard in your head. It would appear that I have come equipped with map functions, pan and scan, and photoshop as part of the package. If eidetic memory does not exist, how am I able to hold onto the “show your work” version of the math problem as I am doing it?? Again, I get it if there is no eidetic memory – but please tell me what will we call this skill in its place??
Lastly, because I said I was Bi-Polar 1, there is something else we have to go over that I have never talked about in public before. I have hinted as to what happened in 2011 in poetry, but I have never discussed the full experience. I had been on a mania run without sleep for 7 straight days. At that point, as would be expected, I started hallucinating. Thank God for Risperdal and now Invega for when the mania comes.
The interesting part is I could tell that the visual hallucinations, even the ones that “talked”, were not real. No, Big Bird was standing in the emergency room next to the Marlboro man. No, those rocks were not dancing on the beach. No, all those times I have experienced synesthesia, especially when looking at signs while in mania, were not real.
Audio hallucinations are a different matter. I was fully aware a crow was not telling me, “We would kill you if you were still qualified.” (My critics love throwing that one in my face, the crow even has multiple twitter accounts, so I figured I mention it.) I was fully aware that not of the pictures that were talking actually were. I was also aware it was not a spiritual experience or an “electromagnetic” experience as I described above.
Random noises however, I could not differentiate. That was incredibly unnerving. Sitting in a pizza joint and hearing multiple car crashes is no way to enjoy a chourico and chips diner. The point is I know that the memory pictures are not mania. I know when I help the student that is not mania. I know that the memory explosion is different from mania.
I do not expect someone in your position to respond directly to this letter. However, if eidetic memory is to be tossed due to science, could the folks in your field figure out what is going on instead?? Much like advances in understanding the disease of addiction, it would go a long way to helping people. If a study is done, please make sure I get a press release.
Thank You for your time and consideration.
Robert T. Oliveira
763 Mary Street
Utica, NY 13501