Thursday, January 15, 2009

Time lost... Time found.

God has gifted the human being with the ability to forget things (repress). I don't mean forgetting your car keys, but rather forgetting painful events. When someone is in a bad car accident or is the unfortunate victim of a home invasion, they might forget details or remember things as a "blur" or just an overall feeling or emotion. The same thing can happen with sexual abuse - especially in children. Children are not equipped mentally, emotionally or intellectually to deal with such horrendous events, so it is not uncommon for them to repress the memories - sometimes for many years.

My story that is posted to this blog is my story, but it is from my perspective - the perspective of a wounded, young child. There are pieces that I do not remember, huge gaps in time. I only have a few snapshot memories up through the age of 8. What happened during those first 8 years? Why can't I remember? I can't answer that, but really, answering that is not a goal for me. Should God choose to reveal those memories to me, I will cross that bridge then. I am not one who believes chasing down the lost memories is a good idea. I believe that is a slippery slope that can lead to "retrieval" of memories that are not real at all.

However, over the years of talking with other survivors about our abusive childhoods and our lives after the abuse, I have remembered a lot of things I'd long since forgotten. In some cases these are memories that make my heart hurt, but in many other cases, they are memories that bring a smile to my face.

Where my family is concerned... All I could remember about my childhood home were things associated with the abuse, neglect and my mother's mental illness. I was hurt so badly that I could not remember anything good. As I moved past the hurt and pain, I was able to remember that my family took long bike rides, my mom roller skated at school skating parties, my father let us mow the lawn with him, he took me to work with him sometimes, and he once took me out for a root beer float after I had a bad accident on the school playground (requiring a trip to the dr). These are simple memories, but they are happy memories for me to add to the arsenal of bad ones.

Regarding those high school years that have been sheer torture for me to remember... As I've gotten to know some old high school classmates, they have shared with me the memories they had of me in high school. This is shocking in itself, as I was convinced that I would have been voted "most likely to be forever invisible". They share nice memories - "you were a funny girl", "you were a loyal friend" (I didn't even remember these friendships till she shared a story with me!), "I mimicked your handwriting", "you were nice to everyone". I honestly thought that I was completely unremarkable, unmemorable. Like I could go to my class reunion and no one would even have heard of me. But that was only my perception... my wounded perception.

As women come into group each semester, the number one and two fears are telling others about their life and fear of painful memories. Some suffer from horrible flashbacks and night terrors in the beginning. These horrible feelings can be intense, but they do go away over time. I've never had someone come through group still being paralyzed by flashbacks or terrors in the end. Most find substantial improvement in the first month. That seems like a long time to be in such intense emotional turmoil, but it pales in comparison to a lifetime of slightly less emotional turmoil. The pain you feel today will never resolve itself. Feeling the pain, processing through the memories, exposing your experience to the light, and learning God's truth is the journey!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is so true! My cousin is getting married to a girl from my highschool and over christmas she was telling stories about us hanging out. I also have very few good memories of high school and thought no one would remember me. Many do not, but she did, and that made all the difference in the world! It was so nice to hear some good things that happened during that time!