Thursday, November 7, 2013

Childhood Amnesia

My sister and I have never gotten along very well.  I love her so deeply, and yet I find her hurtful and damaging and I keep my distance throughout our lives, as much as possible.  But this summer I practiced giving her loving kindness and understanding, and our relationship blossomed with tenderness in a beautiful way.  At one point during last summer's visit our cousin came over and was sharing about the trauma she has been working through in therapy, some of it happening when she lived with us - terrible mistreatment by our father. 

But on this occasion and others, when my siblings talk about our childhood- I do not remember it.  Like, at all.  This last trip my sister made mention of some kind of regret or sadness about how our father treated me, too, as a child.  I can't quite remember what she said- the amnesia just grabs whatever is related to this, apparently, and gobbles it up.  And it turns out this kind of selective amnesia is a major feature of disassociation.  No surprise.  On the stand at my own restraining order hearing- I couldn't remember many details of the abuse I lived through for years.  I also rarely spoke of it, but a friend testified to events I had forgotten.  It turns out that childhood abuse primes a person for this kind of dissociative amnesia. 

It bothers me sometimes that so much of my childhood is just a blank, voided, non memory.  I don't understand why instead of just forgetting the bad stuff- I have almost no memory of any of it.  I don't remember my childhood years, largely.  I have memories, and I have happy memories, but when my siblings talk about shared experiences of times when I was THERE- I can't remember any of it.  And when I heard my sister tell a story about the 3 of us sharing a room together, I couldn't remember it at all (she told it to me a few years ago.)  Then I heard my cousin relate the same memory from her perspective, very similar, unprompted by my sister, this past summer.

Somehow, having two independent recounts of the same event (which was a nightly thing in our room)-  and me having zero memory of it ever happening-  it gives me such a sick feeling- that my brain is wiped clean of my childhood and I can't remember so many things that my sister and cousin do recall similarly enough.  Why?  Why can't I remember?

Do I need this?  I don't want it.   I want to be free and done and past it and just pretend I have nearly global childhood amnesia, and just move on. 

My sister remembers that after my cousin's mom died, when she was living with us, the 3 of us shared a room, and we would give each other massages before bed as we were falling asleep.  It was unfair because I dangled my hand/arm down from the top bunk and she had to do all of the work on the bottom bunk reaching up to massage my forearm.   My cousin explains that when she was there, it was unfair because my sister and I both got massages from her, but she never got them back.  I don't remember any of it - at all -  except that to this day my favorite most sensitive place to receive touch is my forearm, and I am now a licensed massage therapist.  Clearly these experiences profoundly affected my life- so why can't I remember them? 

Is my dad's general abusiveness what's causing me amnesia, or is there some event that if I will remember, will cause all of the memories to come rushing back?   My dad is dead, my life is now-- I don't want any of this to be my story.  I want health, love, wholeness, and the courage to move the fuck on.  If I have to revisit my past, I'll do it- but I am so freaking old and I have so much I want to do- I don't need childhood stuff fucking me up or defining me any more- I am so over it.

1 comment:

  1. I have the same thing and I agree it is really fucked up. I have around ten memories before the age of four that have been substantiated by family. But zero memories between four and twelve years old. I am the only member of my family.. including extended family that has this.. I do not remember birthdays, Christmas, riding the school bus everyday to the same school for six years, eating dinner, talking baths, going to bed, etc… it is like a did not exist but I did not realize this until much later. My daughter almost died when she was five from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and six months later my 33 year old husband was diagnosed with cancer. That is when I first started taking anxiety medicine. It has only been in the last four years and with therapy that I realized the extent of my memory loss. It was caused by disassociation that I learned to do to survive betrayal trauma and sexual abuse.
    Therapy is so expensive.. and slow.. but my biggest problem is that no one wants to talk about those days. My house burned down when I was 9 and we lost everything so I have no toys, dolls, clothes, pictures, etc… to stir my memory.
    Fortunately I am functional… have two wonderful grown children and a great husband..I am college graduate (with Master's degree) I look so normal on the outside
    but am a shell on the inside.
    I will keep you informed if I find a miracle memory cure ha not funny I know this fucking sucks.