"I've never tried to block out the memories of the past, even though some are painful. I don't understand people who hide from their past. Everything you live through helps to make you the person you are now.” -Sophia Loren
You know those TV shows where someone gets amnesia or they've blocked out a chunk of their childhood but then they see a hypnotist and all the memories come flooding back?
Yeah I used to think that was total bunk.
And it is. Mostly.
But the whole block out memories thing and then suddenly remembering them all? I never believed that was possible.
I thought that memory was all or nothing. People with trauma must block out the whole thing. The past must be a total blank, just a fuzzy dark recess of nothing where memories should be.
I was sure that hadn't happened to me because I remembered lots of my childhood. I remembered laughter and dancing and coconut cream pies and the smell of chlorine in the morning. I remembered Barbie dolls and Thunder Cats. I remembered kittens and horses and violins and roller skates and bicycles with streamers. I remembered Janet Jackson and side ponytails and LA Gear.
Clear as day, as it were. The metaphorical day which must stretch blue to the hills.
In 2008, I decided to go to therapy. I'd been stressed at work. Not just stressed, overhwelmed. Not handling my stress. The walls of my soul breaking down. Plus I thought it would be good to talk about all sorts of things, not the least of which being the toxic men I picked, my adoption, and my relationship with my mother.
And I talked. And I talked. And my therapist listened. And I talked. And I talked.
And then a light turned on.
It was as if I'd been living my life in the small corner of a room. But I'd thought that corner was large. I lived there with a small light illuminating just that one corner and I was happy there. Well, I wasn't happy there, but I thought I was happy and that seemed enough. Enough for 28 years of life and memories.
Then someone turned on a bright light and suddenly I saw that the room was large and I saw everything that was piled and cluttered. They had been sitting there for years, ignored, collecting dust, out of sight, out of mind.
All my memories. So many. Years of memories which I never knew were missing were suddenly back.
I didn't like what I saw. But I was happy to see it.
I remembered the fear and the pain and the tears. The pieces fell together and I understand why I behaved the way I did. I understood that certain things were not, in fact, my fault. Remembering allowed me to let go of my guilt for not being good enough. Allowed me to be angry for things I didn't remember to be angry for. Remembering allowed me to heal my wounds and to move on with my life. Remembering allowed me to be an adult. Finally.
Nobody planted those memories there. Nobody hypnotized me or guided me to them.
The talking turned on the light. I found those memories myself.
And no offense to Miss Loren, but I didn't choose to block out those memories. I didn't have a choice. I didn't even know I'd done it. It just happened. Like a heart beat or a lung taking in breath.
It was hard for people to believe, hard for my father to believe, which I understand. I would've found it hard to believe too. I thought that kind of thing was bunk, until it happened to me. Or, at least until I realized that was me.
I'm as whole as is possible at this point. I worked hard. Therapy was indeed hard work and I went ready to put in the time and effort. I still work hard. It will always be hard work and I know that.
I'm not the same person I was before. Things that rolled off my back before I have a hard time letting go now. I no longer let others push me around. I don't bury my feelings anymore; I swim in them until my fingers get all pruney. I'm quicker to cry but I'm quicker to laugh too.
But when I write about my past, posts like this one, it might be hard to articulate, hard to write, but the memory is right there ready to express itself. It doesn't feel fresh, the pain doesn't sear like it did two years ago. I imagine it's how most people remember their pasts. Somehow vivid yet distant.