Thursday, October 07, 2010

Memories Lost and Found

One of my favorite things about Facebook is the old pictures people dig out of their memory boxes to share with the rest of the world. People seem to find the most incriminating, unflattering and ridiculously funny pictures they can possibly find, and then they post these pictures and "tag" everyone in them so we can all have a good laugh at the memories.


Childhood sexual abuse left me with little to no recollection of many major events in my life, and most minor events were completely lost to me. I used to get so angry and frustrated because my friends and family would often get together and reminisce... and there I'd sit, lost in a thick fog caused by a lifetime of dissociation. I spent a lot of time wrapped up in jealousy and anger due to my inability to relate to the stories being told by the people I'd grown up with.

When I (re)entered therapy last year, one of the things I discussed with my therapist was that I was hungry to recover some of those good memories. My therapist assured me that in time I would begin to unwrap the good memories as I dealt with the bad ones. I must confess I'd spent so much time "without a memory" that I thought she was blowing smoke, just trying to make me feel better about my recovery. After all, I'd forgotten everything from childhood Christmas mornings to my first date to my high school graduation to some of the major details of my college life. I felt like a hopeless cause. Nevertheless, I attended (and continue to attend) therapy regularly and I dedicated myself to true healing no matter the cost or consequences. I learned to let go of expectations and take life as it comes.

And something's happened to me in the last year or so. I've begun to recover some good memories of my childhood and adolescence. Many of my good memories are actually triggered by photographs. A lot of those old pictures on Facebook are starting to mean something to me. I've noticed some of the old childhood pictures I've posted on my own Facebook account now elicit more than just a surface recollection of events. Many of them now bring forth a rich reminiscence I never thought I'd experience for myself. I never thought it would be possible for me personally, but I've really started to remember.

For example, this photograph used to remind me that I liked going roller skating... that's all... just "Oh, yeah. I used to go skating a lot."

But the other day I was looking at this picture and I suddenly remembered not only that I used to love skating, but that those skates were my favorite Strawberry Shortcake skates, and I wore them until they blistered my heels because I was so upset that I was outgrowing them... and I remembered that my mother (a wonderfully talented seamstress who often earned extra money by sewing for family and friends) made me three of these little skirts to skate in because I wanted to look like an ice skater, and not just any ice skater. I wanted to look like Dorothy Hamill because she was the best skater ever. (I later got the famous "Dorothy Hamill haircut" because she was, in fact, the most amazing and beautiful lady on the planet and I simply had to look like her.) I also recalled that this picture was taken with a Polaroid camera, which I won in a game of BINGO at one of my daddy's company Christmas parties, where they served little cubes of cheese with fancy toothpicks that looked like teeny little swords. (This good memory train of thought goes on for a while so we'll stop here.)

I could give you about a hundred examples of "oh my gosh I'm suddenly flooded with wonderful memories" but I'll spare you the trip down my own personal Memory Lane. I just wanted to write this little bit today to let you know that if this is something you are struggling with yourself, I understand. I know how frustrating it is. Hang in there. Keep healing. Keep moving. Keep trying. Keep on keeping on. And while you're waiting for those good memories to resurface, don't forget to make some beautiful memories of today.

Until next time... may you be blessed - and inspired to pass it on!


From Tracie said...

I absolutely LOVE this Meggs. I love it.

What a beautiful trail of lovely memories that was. It is so encouraging to see this reminder that there is light as we continue on this journey-that it isn't all about recovering FROM the bad stuff but also recovering the good stuff.

Patricia Singleton said...

Thanks for sharing this. The sad thing for me is that the really good memories that I have from childhood always seem to be when I was away from my family of origin - like when I was staying with my grandmother because I had whooping cough. My first Christmas that I remember was at my grandmother's house. My first snow was at her house. My first tricycle was at her house.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting how differently we all respond to trauma. My trauma caused me to develop a very specific memory of my childhood. I would remember so many things and so many details that other people didn't remember because of the intensity of what I was going through (other people would forget as a coping mechanism I suppose), life was charged up with memory for me. Everything from all the sadistic abusive things that were said and done at any moment he could, to things that would trigger my memories of abuse at the time (like certain flowers and colors and smells), to the moments when I was trying to escape and find goodness in the world or inside myself. Which isn't to say that I didn't dissociate because I did very much so, and I certainly partially lost some memories during dissociation or I would come to and realize I had dissociated and was putting the pieces back together of what just happened. But, I would also remember it from a dissociated state, like it was "on the desk top" as they say (it would feel like things were moving in slow motion and I couldn't hear), and the memories would intrude into my consciousness at unexpected moments and take me over with trauma. I also tried to just push it all away. It was difficult to have good memories because of what I was dealing with, it sort of filled up everything. The world felt so chaotic and scary with no security, safety, or anyone that I could trust. I had so many nightmares about that. Any way, when I was a kid my grandmother would take my youngest aunt and I roller figure skating (it was a really big part of life for them). My skating instructor was one of the people that suspected the abuse and tried and tried to get help for me. She just knew in that deep inner, intuitive place. And she saw the change I went through as the abuse worsened. I became depressed, withdrawn, dissociated, sad, lost. Skating holds a lot of memories for me too. Thank you for sharing this!

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