We all have a past. Hopefully for most of us there are parts of it which when recalled still make us smile or laugh. They bring back the memory of childhood friends, or people we no longer have contact with.
My last post to my brother seemed to trigger a lot of happy memories of days gone by, for many of those who read it. Remembering a time when each day was a lifetime to be enjoyed, and tomorrow was eagerly anticipated.
Isn’t memory a strange thing? I have seen people witness the same event, but remember it so very differently, or even not at all.
It is the “not at all” that amazes me.
Why do some memories stand out for some of us? How is it that sometimes we forget what should be memorable occasions?
Most of my friends are amazed at my memory. Now don’t get me wrong, and in case my children ever read this, I forget where my keys are hourly, my banklink card is permanently missing and names and dates are a real struggle. It is in the recollection of events, moments and occasions that I excel.
I think it is because I am essentially a story teller,(a good liar as a child), that I can recall moments, or events, often in great detail.
I remember which of my friends children had chicken pox and what age they were. What age their children were when they walked, and a host of amusing stories starring their children which they have forgotten or cannot remember at all.
My memory was something I ranked as one of my real strengths. Which I think makes what happened in my early twenties even more fascinating.
Shortly before my second child was born, the man who had abused me as a child was due to go to court. It was a difficult time to say the very least. However my real difficulty was that my memory was blank as regards details. Those years were a blur, and it was only in nightmares or flashbacks by day, that I could remember events.
It was suggested I should see a counselor. As a date for the trial seemed to be coming ever closer, I reluctantly agreed. I’m not really a therapist sort of person, but going to court with no proper memory would be a disaster.
So off I went to session one. However as therapy is all about talking and I was unable or unwilling to do so it was not very successful. Session two came and she pushed a bit harder. I remained very polite, but resolute, I was not able or willing to go talk.
As I arrive into session three the counselor says “I’ve been thinking about you, and different ways we may try to break down the wall you have built around this”. I thought that that sounded hopeful. “Maybe when you’re at home you might write down what you remember of your nightmare or flashback immediately afterwards, we can read it and then burn it”.
I looked at her and thought “Are you for real?”. She wanted me to wake up from a nightmare, then relive it again by writing it? “No, I don’t think I could do that”, I said.
“Okay, how about you draw a picture of it?”. Once again I politely said, “No, I don’t think I could do that”. “
“Well how about I put down a whole lot of different words and you can pick up certain ones and we can discuss them”. Immediately a lot of words popped into my head. Words I did not wish to talk about, so once again I shook my head and embarrassed to be so uncooperative, declined. But she was not to be put off. “Okay, she said, how about you bring in photographs? “Photos of your family, your childhood, your daughter. Then I can get to know you a little better”. Now this I liked, I loved photos. So I happily agreed.
That week instead of dreading the next session, I looked forward to it. I spent the week digging out old photographs and reliving bygone days. D day arrived and in I went hoping that at last I’d be able to contribute something to the session. We spread out the many photos I’d brought in and they were arranged chronologically. We picked out a few for special mention. I smiled to myself, this I could do.
Then she asked me a few questions. “Why did you chose these photos?”. “Did you leave many at home?”. Then she said, “Do you notice anything about the photos you have brought in?”. I looked at them, but no, I couldn’t see anything odd or noteworthy. Then she picked up two photos. One was when I was about thirteen years old, the other was the day I met my husband when I was nineteen. “You have no photo at all here between these two photographs”.
I looked at the many many photos spread on the table, and couldn’t believe my eyes. I was stunned. There was not one photograph from my life as a teenager, when for me, my life was interrupted. I listened with half an ear as she explained how I appeared to have wiped a large amount of my life’s memories. How could I not have noticed? I knew I’d wiped him from my memory, but everything?
We spoke a bit more but I remember very little. I gathered up my photos which I’d been so proud of moments earlier. Now they seemed to be part of the secret. I went home reeling. It was as if I had lost a part of me.
On returning home I searched high and low for just one photograph from my teenage years. However there was none to be found. Those photos had been left behind when I moved from Dublin, along with six years of memories.
Looking back I believe that was the day when healing began. Understanding just how many memories were missing, allowed me to go looking for them. Slowly over time I began to excavate my memory. Carefully opening locked doors deep within my mind. Sometimes the door was quickly slammed again, as frightening demons emerged, but equally I learned, that not every door held a bad memory. In time I had restored many many years of happiness. Events and moments that had taken place during those difficult years. These memories allowed me to remember happiness. A feeling I’d lost.
As I write today, I am a lot older than that troubled young girl in her early twenties. Over the intervening years I’ve unlocked most of those doors. I am content with my present and have learned to accept the past and move on.
Have I opened all the locked doors? Who knows. Maybe we all have locked doors? Have you?