Thursday, November 11, 2010

Memories.. can be debilitating.. and liberating at same time.

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…”

1 comment:

  1. PTSD is a fascinating subject. But you describe it perfectly. Dr. Janov would be proud of you ;-)
    WWII was devastating , if for no other reason, than that it sent back many men badly broken and not much use for raising kids right. I know those about 6 years or more older who experienced that.

    No one controls PTSD and how it works. The body and brain know what they are doing, apart from our consciousness. Its knowing what they are up to that would be helpful. I offer this as part of Primal theory and Primal therapy of Dr. Janov. Not only do you carry the traumas of your past, but also of life in the womb at about 3 months on and birth. The 1st 3 years are the most sensitive and vulnerable and most important.

    But often, you will have a memory and pain from traumas experienced along the way that will touch off one of the stronger physical pains of those 1st 3 years and back to the womb. Those early pains need to wait till the out later pains are first relived and relieved ,allowed fully into consciousness for the 1st time. That is where help of someone trained in what is going on can assist in subduing the deeper pains of the early past so that the more recent ones can be processed.

    You mention resting and that is exactly how it is. We do need to charge before another memory can be addressed. You descriptions are so right one the mark. I marvel to read them. You are a brave soul. And I am getting addicted to this site. Thanks a lot. Just kidding. I am intrigued.

    I would like to see you also address some things you might have observed about then and now and what seems right and what seems wrong. I have been going over the last 80 years (since about 1930) and figuring out what went right and wrong since then. Cause this is a perilous time we are in by this point. How did we get here and can we get out. This is where boomers should be reflecting and trying to make some sense that can be handed down so that those after us can maybe avoid some mistakes and even improve things, if possible.