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.