Here’s a question for you, would you want to be able to remember every single day of your life? Sure, you could relive the good in every little detail. But it would also mean remembering every painful thing you’ve ever gone through.
It sounds like something that would only happen in movies or detective series, but there’s actually a girl in the world who can remember every single day of her life. Yes, even the days when she was still a baby in her crib and didn’t know how to speak. Sound exhausting? It is.
Her name is Rebecca Sharrock. The young woman has an extremely rare condition called Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (or HSAM). There are only about 100 people in the world who have this condition. As a result of HSAM, Sharrock can remember in “precise detail” almost everything that has happened in her life.
That means even her days when she was still a newborn. Talking about her condition, Sharrock explained, “I’m very glad that I don’t recall the experience of actually being born. Yet as my recollections are in chronological order I know that they go back to before I was 12 days old. This was because I remember the experience of having a photo taken of me laid down on the front car seat, which was dated December 23rd, 1989.”
Sharrock adds, “There are recollections prior to then which were of me in a crib of some sort (perhaps also in the hospital). When I was in my bedroom though, I was fascinated by the stand-up fan next to me, yet hadn’t developed the urge to get up and explore what it could be.” Can you imagine the baby talk this woman had to endure as a baby and now, as an adult because of her unbelievable memory?
She even remembers her very first thought. It was nothing genius, more like a thought every baby in the world thinks without knowing it. Sharrock recalls thinking that if she cried, food would be brought to her.
Sharrock’s condition is rare and very little is known about how it develops. What is known is that the memories recalled by people like Sharrock are all personal ones. This means that if you give Sharrock a long list to remember, she’ll probably forget something as any of us would. The memories she cannot forget are the ones that she has personally experienced.
Thanks to Sharrock being so open about her condition, we have a more insightful picture of how our perception of the world changes as we grow up. Sharrock explained: “from the beginning I was very tuned in to my own feelings and attaining the needs that I wanted. Until the age of three I viewed myself as the one who the world revolved around. This is only because I only ever perceived the world through my own eyes and senses.”
“Yet as I grew into a young child,” Sharrock added, “I began to understand that I (like everyone else) was a person, and that I was a stranger to most. This I feel had a lot to do with starting daycare and interacting with other children my age.” As the years went by, Sharrock found that there were even more challenges to living with this condition.
Sharrock, who has written one book already and is writing another on her experiences with this condition, described her life as “a puzzle.” Besides HSAM, Sharrock has autism. Moreover, she also suffers from anxiety disorder.
Having HSAM means recalling every single memory. But with the good come the bad memories, too. Sharrock can relive painful memories. She can even re-taste food, which can be a good thing, but also a bad thing if the food was disgusting.
Relieving it all “creates much confusion in my life. When I relive a memory my emotions and perspective return back to however old I was at the time of the memory's formation. Yet my conscience and reasoning remain at an adult level. That's what confuses me the most.”
This condition also makes it harder for Sharrock to live in the present. More than the average person, a person with HSAM will struggle to live in the present moment. This is because memories will always crop up — clear and detailed memories — taking the person back to another time.
And yet, despite it all, Sharrock is doing her best to live a good life. Her openness about the burdens and the positives of having HSAM give her the chance to unburden herself from what she goes through, while giving those around her more insight into the mind of such a unique human being. There aren’t a lot of people like Sharrock, and we are lucky she is so open about this.
So now that you’ve read the article, tell us, would you want to have HSAM? You could re-taste the best burger you’ve ever had and relive the best kiss you’ve ever had. You could also relive the worst breakup you’ve ever had or the most embarrassing moment.