Every student has felt this when they look at their test and their brain refuses to relinquish any information about what they read the night before. Some are short, like when yelling at your own child and you can’t remember their name. Other kind last much longer; childhood, what childhood, I don’t remember any childhood. The mildest form is annoying, one is called forgetful and teased but nothing major. When you get to my age you can blame it on old age. The other is annoying at best and terrifying at its worse….what did I do and who knows what I did? Amnesia is well documented as to its occurrence.* It is also documented that in extreme cases there is not a specific cure. I am going to share some of the things I learned so far. I continue my research because for me it is an on going challenge. I put a gift in a ‘safe place’ and I still can’t remember what I did with it.
I learned that sometimes not remembering is the greatest gift. It is such a blessing to not remember ever minute I spent with my abuser. My mind blocked out all of it for a time and that was very confusing. I remembered enough to know that it wasn’t my imagination. The rest I really don’t need to know. I read about some people that went to great lengths to remember every single abusive event. I was blessed with a counselor that encouraged me on the route of fuzzy is good. I am of the belief that you don’t need to know all the sordid details to heal from trauma and abuse. Awareness that it happened were essential but details didn’t help in the healing process.
I learned that talking about what happened, sometimes ad nauseam, is what a counselor is paid to do. Its their job, sort of. However, not kind to go out of my way to traumatize my counselor. I check in with my counselor to make sure we are making progress and not running in a squirrel (hamster) cage. (Great picture for this http://lizbrazier.com/hamsterwheel/) Talking about past events is part of the healing process. No reliable doctor would stitch up a severe cut without cleaning it out first. Telling secrets abusers told me not to tell were some of the most important things to talk about but they didn’t come out first. Along with talking, writing is a great tool for unlocking memories that are lost in the mind. One memory can spark another. Art is another avenue of unlocking memories. Expressing a feeling in a piece of art work, a photograph, drawing, sculpture, collage, and many other medium can help open areas of the mind that words can’t reach.
I do give a word of caution here. The human mind is not always reliable, sometimes combining actual events with things I read about or movies I watched. Sifting and sorting through bits of garbage in a landfill would be easier. This took years of work for me to do. I am better at examining a memory and categorizing where it needs to go. Start with what you do know and work slowly towards what is missing. Some memories may stay forgotten.
There are also occasions when someone else will expect you to remember something. A funny event occurred when a woman was talking to me about her 2 sons and how I must remember them from high school. The longer she talked, the dumber I felt. Finally, I asked her what year her sons graduated. She named my sister’s graduation year. I assured her it was my sister and not me that needed to remember. I had no idea who they were. This is also an area that some abusers use to confuse their victims. Known as Gas lightening from and old movie where a man purposely confusing his wife so she no longer believes herself. Memories are tricky and abusers will distort memories on purpose. Sorting things out sometimes requires a professional counselor you can trust.
I learned that sleep has a huge impact on memory. Sleep is when memories are processed. Not enough sleep and your brain gets a backlog of unprocessed memories that may get unceremoniously dumped. The brain actually jumps into super working during sleep time. Your body is at rest so the brain is busy with all the sifting inside your head.
I learned that stress also has a huge negative impact on my memory. I sometimes think I am not too stressed then I can’t remember what was said to me, where I put something or what I am supposed to be doing. High stress has your brain randomly deleting information. PTSD is a high stress illness.
What do I do about memory loss? Reduce stress, sleep better, decide if I need to remember or is it someone else’s expectations, journal, art, and go to counseling. Most importantly remind myself that forgetting is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it just happens. But I still want to remember where I put that gift.
PS Darling Husband, DH, helped me find the lost gift. I put it on the calendar this time.
*web pages about amnesia