I Forgot What?

Puzzle Mind

A couple of weeks ago, my external life took a back seat to my internal life.  Although my external life is pretty good these days, my internal life is pretty ugly.  It is a series of traumatic experiences with emotions to match.  When it is time to pay attention to the internal life, it means my childhood memories are coming back.  And I had better pay attention.  I had better be ready for some depression, some sadness, some anger that rivals a toddler’s tantrums, some anxiety and some intense exhaustion.  Needless to say, the external life starts to slow down a bit.

Don’t get me wrong, the basic stuff still happens.  The kids eat.  They go to school.  I go to work.  But phone calls get missed.  The emails pile up.  And obviously, the writing just doesn’t happen.  There are entire nights of staring at the wall.  There are a lot of naps.  There are many self-care visits to therapeutic practitioners.  Over the years, I have learned what it takes to face the memories.  These coping mechanisms are critical to my recovery.  If I don’t do them, there will be one result.  I will get sick.  I will get so sick that there will be no external life.  Everything will stop.  And as a single mother, that is simply not an option.

The latest memories are intense.  As my coping mechanisms get stronger, so do the emotions I must address.  These memories are clarifying a few things.  First and foremost, I am accidentally alive.  I already thought that.  But now I know it for certain.  The number of times I cheated death seem nothing short of miraculous.  I was one heck of a kid.

More importantly, these memories are identifying some people in my childhood that may be helpful in putting my puzzle together.  And for that, I am grateful.

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I have been asked many times how the memory recovery process works.  For me, it is a process.  It is almost scientific.  It starts the same way for every memory.  I usually get joint pain.  I call it “trauma body”.  On the bad days, it can hurt to walk.  When I was in my twenties, I thought I had arthritis.  I probably did.  It was arthritis caused by trauma.

Next, I get an unexplained burst of raw emotion.  It could be any emotion.  I will feel rage or extreme sadness which can provoke depression or suicidal thoughts.  A turning point for my recovery process was the realization that these emotions were not associated with the present moment.  Honestly, it is probably that realization that has saved my life.

Once the emotion passes, I start to get a glimpse of a place.  It could be a place that I have already remembered.  These days, after so many memories, it usually is.  But the new memory will add a detail, a new person or a new aspect to the place.

The most surprising part of the internal process comes when my external life gets involved.  Events from the present moment will serve as reminders of the past memory.  I will try to remember a name only to hear it blurted out by a news anchor on the television.  I will wonder what someone looked like only to meet an individual that looks just like them.  I will drive by a house, and suddenly realize that the house is identical to the house in my memory.

When I least expect it, I’ll remember something that will start to piece together a scenario in my mind.  At first, it will seem relatively innocent.  Maybe it will be a friend or a group of friends or a family event.  Maybe it will be a party or a gathering.

Within a day of that understanding, the reality of the memory will hit me like a ton of bricks.  It will leave me stunned.  My first reaction is always the same.  How could I forget that?

When I started my recovery, I would get frustrated when the memory recovery would start.  I used to see the memories as a problem to be solved.  I used to see them as reliving my pain.  I don’t anymore.  Now, I see that my inner child feels comfortable enough to share new information with me.  Now, I see memory recovery as another chance to heal from my trauma and integrate as a whole being.

Do I wish I could spend my adult life without this process?  Sure.  But I can’t keep my head in the sand.  With every memory comes physical and emotional relief.  I am healing on all levels.  I don’t want to run away from that.  I have been running for thirty years.  It is time to remember.  It is time to heal.

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25 thoughts on “I Forgot What?

  1. (((Hugs))) really sad to see things are more tough just now.

    Am pleased to see that you are aware of how memories are processed for you, though and as someone who’s name I can’t recall once said “this too will end”.

    Sending lots of support your way.
    x

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    • Thank you so much. When I go through memory recovery, I often think of my friends with DID and the difficulty of integration. I admire you for the work you are doing. It is so challenging.

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      • You’re doing a great job with challenging the challenges `survival` throws your way. Try to keep hold of that, when you’re in the darker moments.

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  2. I am thankful for your blog and the personal stories you share in order to help others. This post was especially interesting as I suffer from PTSD from my childhood and have very very limited memories of the first 12 or so years of my life. It’s very scary to have a past memory just invade your present life so I certainly sympathize with that part of your journey.

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  3. This is so informative. It’s wonderful that you’ve figured out how it works for you, then you can focus on self care rather then worrying about what’s happeneing. I’m sorry however that you’ve had to live through more surfaced memories. Do you ever wonder if it will ever end?
    I had a memory the other day, and now I can’t remember what it was, but it’s left me with a “yucky” feeling.

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    • I actually don’t believe it will end. I believe I will probably be retrieving memories for the rest of my life. I don’t say that in a negative way. I just think as I grow and develop as a person, memories will surface to help me understand my old belief patterns. I do have a hope that it will get easier. But that may just be hope. 🙂

      Sometimes I forget memories again after I process them. I write them down to help with the processing, so they will always be on the computer.

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      • That’s a good way to see it I guess. I wish they got easier too.

        I like your idea of writing the memory down. This one I can’t even fully remember when I had it. I’m wondering if it was when I was half asleep.

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  4. It is weird that I should read this post today, last night I had the first memories of the abuse in years? I didn’t get angry, sad or anxious as I used to but instead I worried about my childhood friend who’s dad it was that abused me, I haven’t seen him since my wedding 32 years ago. I hope he is ok?

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    • I am sorry that you are dealing with memory recovery too. It sounds like you have worked through some of the heavier emotions at this point. I believe once we are not drowning in our own pain, we can become concerned for the pain of others.

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  5. I dont think, i can ever make up for my lost childhood, for the damages are permanent. I dont know what to do, feel weak and weak every day, sometimes even feel weaker than a dead person. I dont know where to go, what to do, just feel happy, to take a breath .

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    • I have felt that same way and I know they seem permanent. I am working through some emotions today that seem like they will never end. Do you have a therapeutic outlet? A therapist? A group? When you feel like this, it is hard to get through it on your own. Don’t try to do that.

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  6. I completely get this, but never understood what was happening until just now…oh my gosh thank you for my light bulb moment. counseling has been amazing and hard ,your advice and encouragement meant so much. I am slowly moving past my agoraphobia ,all just from telling my story to a few survivors and them encouraging me and therapy which was only possible through abolition international. you where one of the first people I told my story to and your words meant more then I can express. much love and many blessings selina

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    • Thank you so much Selina! I am so glad to hear that your recovery is going well. I know you are moving toward your whole self. Please consider joining the survivor forum too (link at the top of the blog page). I would love to have your comments and input.

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  7. Hello, and thank you very much for your post. I am actually interested in the introductory half. You say your external life slows down when your trauma flares up, but your life doesn’t fall apart completely. How do you keep your job going? How did you learn to focus on your studies and career enough to maintain them while experiencing trauma symptoms? Is it the coping mechanisms you allude to? Do you have a blog post related to that? DBT and mindfulness come to mind. Is there anything that you have personally used?

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    • Hi Vicki, I don’t have a blog post about that. As I think about it now, I find it hard to name. I do believe that my higher self saves the worse for when I can experience some down time. I remember always being severely depressed during the Christmas breaks when I was in school. When work isn’t busy, I can get paralyzed. However, I have pushed through some very busy times when I have been in the middle of some dark memories and emotions.

      Mindfulness is key. Self care is key. But I can admit that I am not always great at that. The one thing I can tell you for sure … my kids. I have this extremely intense drive not to fail them. I am so determined to give them the childhood I never had that I refuse to allow my past to conquer me when they are living in my house. And I am willful to a fault. I will push through almost anything. I do believe there was some kind of divine intervention that brought them in to my life prior to my first memory. I would probably not be here otherwise. I know this isn’t all that helpful, which is probably why I haven’t written more about it. But for me, I needed some kind of goal that I absolutely refused not to meet. For me, it was raising my kids in a real home.

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  8. Hi, I am in the process of remembering some very painful memories about my sex trafficking when I was toddler. My family was also middle class, dad an engineer and mum worked as a teacher for few years. I also buried all sexual abuse memories due to traumatic amnesia and I felt so weak and powerless that I taught myself to forget. When I grew up, I had several incidents where I was injured or raped and I didn’t ask for help as I had learnt from my childhood that there is no help or hope and no one cares.
    I contemplated suicide few times but never had the courage to end it.

    I developed various defense mechanisms to cope as I grew older, I recently learnt that due to my child abuse I had traits of NPD, BPD, HPD, DPD, Bipolar, DID, Schizoid personality and I am medically diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome which is a form of Autism.

    As i’m piecing this all together, I am learning that I was a sweet Autistic girl who was trafficked by her mother at a very young age and when she resisted, he mother physically abused her. I was dunked in a pot of hot boiling water and was declared dead by the local hospital, my dad took us to the city hospital where they revived me. I still have marks on my body from this event. My mum physically tortured me all my life with her well into my teens and I escaped on my own as soon as it was possible for me to escape and I have never gone back to her. For the last 4 years, there has been 0 contact and thats the time I have been busy with resisting taking therapy but its becoming more and more obvious that in order to survive I have to deal with the darkness inside me, there is no other way. Anytime I ignore my therapy, physical symptoms start to manifest like very bad panic attacks, episodes where I feel I can’t breathe and going to pass out. One day when the memory about my boiling water incident was surfacing, I had to call the ambulance as I thought I ws having a heart attack. They took me to the hospital and did several tests and there was nothing physically wrong with me. I felt very guilty for wasting their time but it seemed so real. Now, for last few days and nights the sex tranfficking memories are surfacing and its utterly horrendous. I will survive and have a happy life. I can’t sit on it though, thats the key. That makes it worse.

    Apologies if I’ve written too much. Thanks for reading.

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    • Hello Mish, Thank you for writing your story here. Your experiences of memory recovery are very similar to mine. I have had the same heart experiences when I am retrieving memories. It feels like my heart is contracted in to a tiny ball. It is extremely painful. Keep going with the memory retrieval. You already know how critically important it is. Elisabeth

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  9. It makes me feel so angry (which is by the way a new emotion for me as I was never allowed to get angry as that probably threatened my mother and she tortured me even more so I always imploded on myself when I felt upset) when abusers think/ say that children won’t remember or that children and very resilient or that children tempted them to carry out the abuse. If these abusers can see for just a few hours the impact their actions have on the defenseless child and the rest of the child’s conscious and subconscious life, they will think twice before abusing or hopefully stop. I understand most abusers have been abused themselves and thats why critical thought is very important in my opinion, not just blind following authority as authority is not always right. Anyways, i’ll stop now or I might just spend th rest of the night writing on this topic.

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    • There is nothing wrong with writing. 🙂 I use it therapeutically all the time. It has now expanded to blogging, but the writing that ends up on my blog is a small fraction of my writing. When you speak, it sounds very familiar. I had the same issue with anger initially. Sadness is also very hard for me because it was not safe to be vulnerable. I am still learning to express the right emotions in the right ways. It is like relearning the live.

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      • Yes, I feel the same way about sadness. It makes me feel incredibly vulnerable and I feel like a failure for not living up to my family’s dysfunctional expectations. I am learning though that its ok to be me no matter how bad or low I look on the outside. Previously, I was using my husband and people who cared about me to dump my negative emotions on and gather some self esteem to prop up my NPD, BPD subselves and go out and face the world with false selves. This made people think that I had got it together and if anything I appeared too confident on the outside, All that was a facade to psychologically escape my mother’s torture and trafficking of me. For the longest time I felt there was nothing wrong with me and people getting upset around me was a sign of weakness on their part, I blamed people for rejecting me and thought they were either jealous or had issues themselves. I changed 3 continents as my mind felt if I only I was in a different place my issues with people will dissapper, None of that worked and back to the same problem all the time. Then I realised that I was carrying these wounds inside me and hence wherever I went, these wounds would follow and manifest into the current reality at the time. Now I’m facing these wounds, my external life is not so traumatic anymore. I haven’t made any drastic changes in my life recently. In my case, to constantly feed the inner need for perfection which was the psychological fear of not being raped or trafficked or killed drove me in one unstable situation to another.

        I am very happy that I found your blog, It makes me feel less alone in my journey. Good luck with yours. 🙂

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