Remembering is another stage in the healing process. When I was 10 years old memories of child sexual abuse that I suffered came back to me during a class assembly. Right there in front of everyone, the memories came crashing in. It roared in my ear and black came in around my peripheral vision. I felt like I was being sucked into the back of my head and everything was going black. I started to fight it but it was no use. All the sudden I was 3 years old and very confused, in immense burning pain, couldn’t move.I saw the abuser. I’m not sure when I came back to the present as remembering that traumatic event was also traumatic. I ran out of the room crying. It was like a horror movie except it was my life. My life wasn’t what I thought it was. I don’t have much memory of the next few months but I went into therapy as did my family.
I’m still remembering traumatic events all these years later that I repressed and I’m now 38 years old. Survivors can remember at any age and there are seniors in their 80’s and 90’s just now remembering traumatic events that happened to them in their childhoods. Now it effects me much like it when I was 10 but I am better able to handle it because I usually know what is going on. Do you remember that scene in The Bourne Identity where Jason Bourne remembers some repressed memories due to the government experiments? He grabs a table to steady himself and almost falls over. It’s pretty close to that for me. I usually have to get to a safe state of being like sitting down. I can get dizzy and fall. It’s like I’m not even in my body, I’m certainly not in the present.
There are times when I can feel a memory on it’s way, like impending doom. When this happens I get to a place that I will be safe.I let myself feel as much as I can. I employ selfcare and grounding techniques that I mentioned in the last post. Every step is important but I just started learning how to let myself rest. Remembering is painful and exhausting. There is no way I can just go back to whatever I was doing. I need time to process and rest. When I’m ready I write about it, create some art, and talking about it when I’m ready can help too.
Remembering is a unique experience for every survivor. Some survivors remember what happened, others don’t, some of us get pieces or just feelings. I have traumatic amnesia around many events. There are also body memories, emotional flashbacks, and my memory seems to change. I can remember different parts of my life at different times. Sometimes I can’t remember anything and I just exist in this body, dissociating to the point of depersonalization. Some survivors remember the event but not the feelings that went along with it. The healing process can bring out more memories as well as life events and stress. Something can trigger a memory like a life event such as getting married, having a child, breaking an addition. A retraumatization can also bring the memories back.