Memories. What have you hidden away?

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.photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/vox/2720986040/">Voxphoto</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

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 photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/aussiegall/5213687175/">aussiegall</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>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?

photo credit: aussiegall via photopin cc

photo credit: Voxphoto via photopin cc


37 thoughts on “Memories. What have you hidden away?

  1. After our abusive childhood, my sister has a very short memory. On the other hand mine is unusually long. I know that I have memories that have been backed up from age 1.

    Great post.

    1. I find it amazing how we each decide so differently what to do with a memory, keep it or not. I also wonder with bad memories which is the better coping mechanism? Wow you really do have a very long memory. Another commentor also remembers a v young childhood.

        1. Yes I do think there is a time when we must remember to heal and as you say “grow”. I would have said “move on” but I prefer grow.

  2. I have memories of when I was five years old. Not just visual but smells, sounds, and conversations. The human mind is amazing – it hangs on to some stuff, and blanks out others. I’m convinced there’s a reason for it – why else would I remember my father teaching me my phone number by heart as he knotted his tie before he went to work when I was five? Because something else was important to him than just the number, and I only understood as an adult. He wanted to protect me. And he still does, 40 years later, even if I know my phone number my heart now πŸ™‚

  3. I know it is not exactly what you are talking about, but I remember learning to talk. My earliest dateable memory was when I was about 18 months old, and that is DEFINITELY not my earliest memory, it is just the earliest we can pin down with a date. As I said, I remember learning to talk. Let’s just say, babies understand a LOT more than you realise. Learning to talk is like trying to write using your toes: you know what you want it to do but you have no idea how to make it come out right.

    1. What you are saying is exactly what I am talking about. The way the mind works storing some memories and forgetting others. You have a very long memory. Wow. Again I wonder why that is?

      1. Yes, it is odd. I easily remember being in my cot and heaving everything out of it because I had played with all my toys and was now bored. When I mean everything, I include the mattress! As I said, I remember learning to talk and trying to work out how to make a ‘t’ sound. But no recollection of ever having a nappy on. Perhaps it just wasn’t interesting enough at the time to stick in my mind?

  4. Yes, I’m sure, that we all have some locked doors. When we try to open them is another case. And maybe we never open all the doors. I’m not sure. It is not all, I know how to get out, but I hope it will come one day.
    Interesting post Tric. You were very lucky to find a creative helper.
    Irene

  5. You have opened a door for me. I have a terrible memory, I’ve blamed it on epilepsy medication, but I’m not so sure anymore. My memory seems to have improved a great deal since I got married, had my beautiful boy and girl, and have lived a happier life. Maybe. Maybe there are some doors. I don’t know. Thanks for the food for thought.

    1. Interesting. I found once I really saw how much I’d hidden away, the easier it was to go find it. Maybe if your happy now that is enough. It’s more than most have.

  6. I have an excellent memory for certain particular days and moments that I don’t know why they stick out so well. I had forgotten about this part of your past but I’m proud if you all over again for being a pretty great woman in spite of it. Well, for an Irish woman.

    1. Ha ha. I love that you “forgot” about my past on the very post that speaks about forgetting. Why did you choose to forget? (joking) In fact I’m soooo thrilled to hear that, because it happened but I do not ever want it to define who I am. So you have made me very happy! Thanks Don. Did you read some of the comments where they have very early childhood memories? God help your little ones if they are in that category. πŸ™‚

  7. I am so sorry you were abused as a child. I long for a day when little girls – and boys – are not sexually abused any longer. My abuse began about five or six and like it or not, all my doors are wide open. That may be why I have been a pessimist most of my life. I have a hatred of my older brother and an uncle. Then in my teen it was my father’s drinking buddies. The last time I was sexually abused was just before my 17th birthday. The resulting child changed my life in very negative ways from there on out. I live with these darn “open doors” every day of my life.

    I wish I had something nice and sweet to report on your lovely blog but it is what it is.

    1. Your comment is so relevant. I do think I managed to get through all this because I put a lot of it away. So I had two lives one not so pleasant, but the other one, happening at the same time was great fun. I do think the “always open” doors are much more difficult.
      Maybe just as I learned how to open doors you may one day close them. xx

  8. What a brilliant therapist Tric. Having eyes opened to what you were not seeing. Those years. Incredible. I’m impressed by her willingness to not let up, to not just let you go. And for you to opening your eyes. And LETTING the healing begin. What a huge step that was.

  9. This post, wow. I remember everything about my house in Detroit and an experience in every room. We moved to California and one event causes me to wipe out everything but that event. Four years.

    1. I am sorry to have made you remember your forgetting. I was really quite devastated and disturbed when I realised just how much I’d wiped. Maybe in time you’ll open the friendly doors?

  10. Great post – I’ve never been abused but a friend of mine was abused by her father – her healing process was very interesting as she slowly unlocked doors and some of those unlocked doors caused much pain and also ruined other relationships with family members as some chose not to believe her – very trying. That counsellor was brilliant with that method..Not a therapist type of person either but goods ones are worth their weight in gold..

    1. Yes I didn’t think much of her at the time but now I see she did me a great service. I think many people hide away memories not just those who had traumatic experiences, ours is just more obvious.

  11. this is a powerful piece of writing, tric and what a brilliant therapist who did not give up, but found a way to connect with you. best, beth

  12. Here’s a memory for you Tric. 9/10/01, happened to be my day working at the trade center. It was lunch time, I got a hot dog. I was sitting in the courtyard. I can remember almost every face I saw, I was sitting under one of the huge trees. I looked up at the towers, noted their incredible height. It was a beautiful day. Flowers were blooming in the boxes meticulously groomed by the gardeners. I couldn’t have known the tragedy due the next morning, but I can still smell the air, I didn’t know that the worlds attention would be on that very spot the next day, but still that moment; that trifling and insignificant moment is burned into my memory forever. Strange how memory works.

    1. Wow that really does speak volumes about memory and how we select what to remember. What a memory. Thanks so much for coming back and sharing that. Were you anywhere near the following day?

      1. Unfortunately so, Tuesday I was at the office- Astor place. I drove in with a friend. Everything was fine when we entered the holland tunnel, and disaster on the other side. Nothing worked, and everything was blocked off, so everyone around got out and exchanged hearsay. I remember laughing at the asshole that accidentally flew his Cessna into the tower. We had to leave the car at canal street. There are doors that stay closed from that day, and I’m good with that. My memories are sharp as a tack on Monday, and blurry with holes on Tuesday. Funny, that.

        1. Thank you, but it’s over for me. I was followed by a study out of (my alma matter) NYU for survivors regarding the amount of PTSD in the city after the towers fell, and I think I had enough brain evaluation to call it a day. If it was difficult for me anymore, I’d still be keeping it all to myself. So don’t worry Tric, I’m fine. You’re sweet to be concerned, though. Thanks!

  13. That’s fascinating how we can nearly choose out memories as a sort of coping mechanism. What a fantastic counselor to come up with ways to help you talk. This post really demonstrates the importance of seeking help and talking when a person has suffered abuse. It’s great to see how therapy really works and can make a difference to the individual. My earliest memory is climbing out of my cot. It was a summers day and I walked down the hallway and out the front door onto the grass where my grandmother and grandfather were siting on a blanket. They laughed at me. My granda was lying on the blanket trying to sleep. I kept peeling back his eyelids to talk to him. I was scooped up and put back in my cot. I must have been around 2 and a half. I remember I wasn’t impressed and I swung my leg over the top and slid down the side. I appeared at the front door and again I was scooped up and put back in my cot. They weren’t laughing this time. I’m guessing I was cranky and due a nap! Sorry for long post!

    1. I cannot imagine having such an early memory, although my little one insists she does. (gulp hoping they are good memories).
      That sounds like a lovely memory especially since you’ve now lived through being a mom to little ones that age.
      You’d better be careful in case early memory runs in the family!

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