Memories.. (or the lack thereof)

I’ve been reading blogs written by survivors for quite awhile now and one of the things that has always struck me, when compared to my own blogging, are the detailed descriptions of the abuse, and certain events from their childhood.

It’s not that I don’t want to be that open with my readers here, the simple truth of the matter is, I don’t have those kinds of memories. I guess my defense mechanism as a child, which later became my “disease” as an adult, is what is called dissociative disorder. That is, under extreme stress, I would simply stop being me. I didn’t go as far as creating alternate personalities in my mind, which I’m sure is a disorder you’re more familiar with, but this is related to that. Instead of creating another person to become, I simple stopped being, to some extent. You could think of it compared to how we all can from time to time, be driving along, not necessarily thinking about anything, wind up at our destination, or miss an exit and not remember how we got there. That’s called Highway Hypnosis. This was an extreme case. 🙂

When I was in therapy, one of my biggest fears about it was that the therapist was going to make me describe detail after detail of the abuse, and that I wouldn’t be able to. Luckily, the therapists I saw during those years, never viewed that as all-important. The feeling was that there were things they could do to help me recover memories from my childhood, or even the handful of times I entered a “Fugue” state as an adult, but that was optional. The more important lessons were learning healthier ways of dealing with stress, recognizing where the abuse was affecting me as an adult, and learning to correct that with more normal, adult perspectives. It took awhile to develop those tools, and start on a path to a healthier mental state, but taking that approach as opposed to trying to go through every memory was the right way to do it for me.

Of course, I still occasionally wonder about the memories I’ve lost, or the memories I have of childhood that feel more like a movie I watched than an event I experienced. I think in some ways I always will, but the more important focus, for me, has been on making sure I experience life to the fullest now, and spend as much time making memories as I can.

Therapy gave me the tools not to ignore my past, but learn from it, see it for what it was, in context, and make good mental health choices. Those tools then allowed me to spend my current years enjoying the now and looking forward, instead of forever focusing on the past. My past is still there, and I always need to be aware of how it might be affecting me and the decisions I’m making, but it no longer rules my view of life. That, to me, is healthy. I encourage you to find the right mix of tools that help you get there.

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  1. I am glad your therapist saw a way to help rather than hinder your healing process.

    As for your memories, I would think they are better off where they are, sometimes the recall is more pain then what you can bare, I always feel like my childhood was stolen from me – something I live with every day, and I feel cheated because of it.

  2. Part of my blog is writing about the abuse I went through as a child and then as an adult. I’m not for sure how much is okay to say. I don’t mind telling my story, but will it put people into shock?

  3. Thanks for the comments everyone, it’s been interesting to read about how other people have managed with their memories. Raymond, just write. Your website is yours to write on, don’t worry so much about what will shock others as much as what you feel the need to express. You’d be surprised how much doesn’t really shock people as much as you’d think.

  4. To some extent dissociation is related to what is one of my issues – just ignoring it and hoping it will go away. During my childhood my Mom would take us and spend the night at grandma’s or somewhere else to get away from things as they happened. But at the end of the weekend I would get picked up from school and we would go back home as if nothing ever happened. It was surreal to go back and Mom had cleaned up the place and it looked the same and nobody mentioned anything about what made us flee the Friday evening before. My counselor’s brilliant observation was “that is just a crazy way to live.” But even more silly than that statement was that this had never occurred to me. (DUH!)
    Even in my present life I find myself pushing my relationship problems under the rug and hoping they would go away and finding it easy to gloss things over and get into that “safe place” in my head where things are just fine and I didn’t really just yesterday say what I said in an argument with my wife or I don’t really have to stand up for myself–I can just move on and hope she doesn’t keep doing whatever it was that made me feel disrespected or put down. I am still to some extent living that “crazy life.”

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