A reader recently wrote and asked why I am not writing my memoirs in chronological order. I tried to explain that these are memoirs, not an autobiography in the true sense. Memoirs allow us to retell things as we remember things.
It’s funny how our memories work – the way we remember events. Sometimes the memories flood in and ravage you, just like a rogue wave in the ocean. No warning. Knocks you off your feet, leaving you gasping for air, scrambling to regain any semblance of balance. Sometimes they sneak up on you, triggered by any one or combination of smell, taste, gesture, or sound. It might also be a spoken phrase, tone of voice, song playing in the background. Other times you are jolted awake by the recurring nightmare that dissipates like smoke, not allowing you to hold the memory and ironically keeping you from letting it go at the same time. Sometimes you might find yourself struggling to remember something. You might think back to events preceding or following the event, to try and rekindle the memory.
So given the fact that memories are not recalled in a systematic way, you might understand why sometimes my stories will come to an abrupt end and leave you hanging. It is not that I don’t want to go further, it’s not that I want to tease you, it is just that sometimes the memory is inaccessible, sometimes I am grasping at the smoke…never able to see the images clearly.
I am sure if you have ever survived a trauma you will understand what I am talking about. They have a label for this: PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Many survivors live with this on a daily basis- victims of molestation, neglect, sexual abuse, spousal abuse, and soldiers, to name a few.
PTSD has a way of causing victims yet more pain, through loss of self, loss of memory, loss of self-esteem, loss of trust, and on and on and on. As we heal, we find the memories surfacing a bit at a time.
If all of my memories flooded back at once, I am sure I would be in a loony bin right now.. or worse. My higher power gauges how much I can deal with at any one time and only allows those to come through. I take a deep breath… let it go and move on.
If I had not gone to therapy, if I had not self medicated, if I had not broken my consciousness into several pieces and hidden them away someplace deep inside where they remained safe.. who knows where I would be.. or even more importantly - IF I would be.
When I force myself to try and remember something too soon, before I am ready; I feel a disconnection. I leave my body and I numb my feelings (emotions). I find myself observing me from outside of my body. This is the only safe way for me to re-experience the events, without opening the wounds. You see, I am still afraid. Very afraid. Afraid of some of the memories.
I feel them clawing at the outer shell of my sanity. I dare not turn around to face them.. not yet. Soon. When I feel safe. When I am empowered. When I have the weapons cocked and ready. Until then, I will walk briskly down this path. Trying to convince myself that I will not be hurt again. Assuring myself that the past cannot catch up with me until I am ready. I have to be ready to defeat my demons once and for all. But there are so many.. so many.
Sometimes I need a rest. I guess that is what my “real life” is all about.. resting between the stories. Time to spend working, studying the mundane, playing at renaissance faires, loving my family, baking, spending time with my pets. It is at these times that I try to find time to heal the little girl inside, the one who was neglected and abused. The one I abandoned in the past when I ran to the streets. The one that lived her life as a victim. A victim I will be no more. I have made the choice to go back to that little girl and forgive her. To forgive that teenager. Forgive myself for walking that line myself as a mother.
And then- once recharged, I find the courage to face another dark memory. Reveal it to the light. See it for what it is or is not. Let it go. Let it go.
I deserve more… but until I release that which I have kept locked up all these years I can never be free. Not really. As Janis once sang: “…Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…”