Memories – We all have them: good or bad, they are here to stay. Our minds are akin to a sponge absorbing all that goes on around us. It’s ever ready to acquire knowledge; the on switch is never off. It stands at the ready for the onset of knowledge that we will need to process during our wakening hours. Our memory is how we acquire the knowledge which will be needed to take us through life. We attend school daily hoping that in time we will understand the facts, figures and languages which at first seem to be so alien. It’s how we recall what has passed; it’s our recollection of what has previously occurred. It’s the place where we sum it all up with our mental faculty for retaining a good or a bad past experience. It’s where we find our remembrance of those that are no longer with us. Our memories are pretty powerful because in all truth they do far more than I have mentioned above. There seems to be no way of stopping its unquenchable thirst. For some this is an easy task: they find that their memory is in an A1 condition. For others, the task of retaining the knowledge they require is far more difficult. Our memories can bring us pain, happiness or distraction – just by the mere fact that at times we take them out to replay a particular episode.
But there is a huge difference for a child that has been abused. The memory of our abuse is ever present within the forefront of our minds. This memory, or so it seems, has not perfected the art of queuing. Pushing its way past any memorable experience that it deems is not necessary. No matter how hard we try we are just not equipped with the tools required. There is just no room for a happy memory to exist; we find only a void of epic expanse. Dragging us down with a force unparalleled to anything we have ever experienced. With us clinging to the walls with all our might – but still we fall. Knowing all too well that with each inch of ground lost, we will be forced to relive every horrific episode we encounter. The trauma is so very deep-seated it becomes a mushroom cloud blocking out the light, hanging over us with its intent of preventing the intuition of anything remotely like a diversion from its intention, which could even come close to making us smile. There seems to be no safe place to gather up and protect those memories that are important to us. It’s a dance with the devil where we have to keep ducking and diving, bobbing our heads up and down like ducks at a shoot-out: the memory of our abuse is an excellent shot – the only one holding the gun – equipped with a seemingly endless supply of bullets.
I would like to share with you a time and place where my memory seemed to be so very hollow. When I look back on that time in my life, whilst I was still only a child, I had no recollection of my abuse. I had filled that place with the happiest upbringing a child could have ever hoped for. I had created a very false place but at that time it was all so real for me; it’s a place that so many abused children run towards simply because they had to escape the horrors within their lives. Let’s think about small children who are being abused – not really able to understand what was happening to them, so confused as to the nature of this touching. For some that memory is also a place of physical pain because their bodies have not even had time to mature. In turn this would mean that they would suffer acutely after each and every episode. If we think about it logically why would anyone want to stay within that place? What can a child do when their understanding of life is still so very stunted at that time? They feel that they have no choice but to run. It’s a race that is only ever taking place within their mind, but it seems to be the only race in which they have a cat in hell’s chance of winning. So they run: with each inch of distance covered and achieved they start to bury their present day. It makes sense when we reflect back that it had been a conscious choice at that time, but in truth, for me, I can’t even make that statement with full clarity. How does a child make sense of anything at that point in time? How in god’s name can a choice be made when it’s the only option that we can follow? We never had the luxury of any choice, but without doubt one was being forced upon us. This is something that can really screw with your mind when we reach a place of healing. We play ping pong ball for hours on end with the ball just bouncing from side to side never able to make that killer power shot.
Our story may differ slightly – which only means we were within our own set of circumstances. What doesn’t alter is that we just can’t cope with the reality that is our lives at that time. I’ve often tried to pedal backwards within time hoping to remember something – anything which would shine a light towards at what age I made that decision to run. What singular act forced me to seek a place within my mind, to push back everything that as that small child I was not able to deal with? It could have been a very traumatic ordeal; equally it could just as well have been that one step too far. I’ve tried to put all the pieces in order mapping out just where and when I removed myself from life.
I was to reach the age of 35 to remember anything, which would reveal the reason that for so many years I felt so out of place. I had repressed all and every memory or thought that linked me to that atrocity. In truth I may never have remembered if this pattern had not returned to my life in a different form many years later. I say ‘a different form’, but that may be a false statement. My abuser was the same person; I was now an adult – which should have made a difference. I still struggle to understand as to why this person could make me feel as if I were once more only 7 years of age. I had to go through 4 years of complete madness to arrive at a point where I could see it all so clearly. My revelation was to come in the form of a phrase repeated over and over many times on a page in front of me. Until the day arrived where everything I had shut out came crashing into my head, with such force that I was physically sick. I guess the name given to this analogy is a suppressed memory, but that day in the ‘there and then’, it was as if someone had taken my life and blown it into oblivion. I just did not want to own any of these memories; I tried to close my mind to all that was surfacing but the hatchet job that was in force at that time just continued on. I remember crying for many hours – I tried to drink away every memory that I was so sure were not my own – If I did not accept them they weren’t real – whilst hiding my head in a bottle. Completely sure that if I did not pay them notice they would have no other choice but to return from whence they came. To be totally honest, that was my answer to resolving the pain, anger and sense of complete worthlessness I felt for many years.
The strangest recurring thought of all is if what was happening to me as an adult had never occurred would I have ever remembered? I know that this phenomenon is in no way singular to me through those people I have had the honour to come in to contact with. Today I have around 95 percent recollection, which may be all that I will ever retrieve. But the difference today is that I now accept these memories are my own, which once accepted it took me half way towards my recovery. We will only ever be able to make those strides when we accept what was – Our past. There are so many reasons that acceptance is lost to us sometimes for many years, but the one that stands out in the crowd for all of us is quite simply the guilt we feel that is our own. But if you take nothing else from this piece, please understand – that statement is so very far removed from the truth. Any guilt felt should be so very far away from you that it’s impossible to quantify.
When we face these memories down, acknowledge that just by their very existence they are holding us back from the road to our recovery; our world is turned upside down by the realisation that we were not to blame in any way shape or form. We may even feel that up until that point in time that we had already been taking steps, which were moving us in the right direction one step at a time. But what’s needed is for us to stop in our tracks and become an unmoveable force. We then understand with complete clarity that we had only ever been marking time. We can’t move forward without embracing those memoires within our hearts, and accepting that they are part of us whilst taking them to a place of healing. You can be sure that the words above resonate in the thoughts of many throughout the world, affecting so many lives.
All I have done here is to say the words out loud . . .