Ep. 26: The woman who remembers every moment of her life since birth
On today’s show, I’m proud to say, I’ve got someone almost entirely unique. Rebecca Sharrock is one of 80 people in the world with HSAM, which is an ability to remember every moment of your life, stretching back as far as the womb. What would you do with such a power, or is it a curse? Rebecca will shed some light on the matter. She also has obsessive compulsive disorder and autism, but it’s her near-perfect memory that puts her in the rarest of rare groups, one that makes up just 0.000001 per cent of the world population.
Given the cognitive nature of the episode, this seemed like a great idea as a follow up to last week’s podcast with cognitive scientist Dr. Lera Boroditsky, where we discussed the way languages shape thought, and how the mind works.
Rebecca is a huge Harry Potter fan – something we both share, and were able to bond over. She was actually supposed to be going on a trip to the Harry Potter World at Universal Studios, but it was cancelled due to Covid. As you’ll hear, she knows the books off by heart and is able to finish any line from Harry Potter that I throw at her – you can find the video version of that clip on Twitter and Instagram on andrewgold_ok, while Rebecca is on r_sharrock on Twitter. The things she shows me are truly remarkable, and open up all sorts of questions about the human mind, memory, the subconscious and how it all links up. Also, her lovely mum Janet shows up halfway through to give some great insight about what it’s like living with somebody who remembers everything good and bad you do or say.
A few warnings. One, I’m going to attempt my terrible, terrible accent. Rebecca’s not the first guest we’ve had from Queensland, Australia – I had the Coffin Confessor who reveals secrets at people’s funerals just a few episodes back. Another warning – something my girlfriend Julieta has picked up on and mocked me about – is that I’ve been mentioning a lot lately how many languages I speak. It comes up again here, so I’m going to make a concerted effort in future episodes…to keep doing it. At the end of the day, it took an extortionate amount of time and effort to learn to speak five languages – and it has very little practical use day to day – so I might as well gloat about it on this podcast. That’s what I told her anyway.
I hope you enjoy this episode – if you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe – and please leave me some lovely new reviews on the Apple Podcast app – they’ve been drying up the last week or so – tell me where you’re listening to this, and any funny stories relating to the episode or your state of mind. I’ll read the latest ones out at the end. For now, I’m trying to impress Rebecca Sharrock with my best Australian accent.
P.S. if you like this episode, you might also like my one with NME music journalist James McMahon, who discusses what it's like to live with crippling OCD.