Session the 19th: The Persistence of Memory

Interesting historical note: “The Persistence of Memory” is that melty clocks painting by Salvador Dali. You probably haven’t forgotten, but I have.

Writing from the psychological safety of bed, surrounded by the Overherd and under the duvet cover a friend bought for me because he knew I liked comfortable things. (Even in summer, I sleep on flannel sheets. It’s so much better than the 100-count percale of my youth.)

This session took place a few days ago. I don’t remember when, because I don’t want to think about that time period.

We talked about, well, pretty much what I talk about on the blog these days. That’s definitely a change from the first posts in this series… it used to be the case that I kept everything bottled up and didn’t talk about it at all on the blog until the session in question. Now it’s like I spill all my state secrets or something.

In particular, we talked about flashbacks. In fact, we additionally talked about That One Flashback, and the loss of time. One thing I didn’t talk about on the blog is how much time I must lose, at times. Like I’ll always check clocks to make sure I don’t lose an hour or two when I know I’m not engrossed in something (in which case it’s legit to lose an hour or two). And occasionally, I really will have missed an hour or two for no reason. I remember one time… I was looking at a clock in the kitchen, and then the next thing I remember I was in bed, and it was two hours later. It wasn’t a dream.

My bartender said that this was… sort of normal. Like, literally, one is in too much pain to remember. I always thought that, maybe, just maybe, this was all my fault: I wasn’t strong enough to remember, therefore I can make myself strong enough to remember, and if I make myself strong enough to remember, these episodes won’t happen. Yeah. Doesn’t work that way.

It disturbs me that my flashbacks are, more or less, just facsimiles of real moments of real pain, and yet the full ones are still bad enough that my brain just won’t remember.

Does this mean I also have flashbacks of flashbacks? That seems too meta.

Does this mean that there are points during my years under my parents that I don’t remember? I mean, fuck, I remember being strangled, why couldn’t I have forgotten about that? Why couldn’t I have forgotten about the time my father raped my mother, and I didn’t understand until years later that this was rape? Why couldn’t I have forgotten about the time my father smashed my mother’s head through a wall?

There are so many things I could not remember, why must I remember any of it?

And what don’t I remember?

The questions above I didn’t ask my bartender. I just talked to him about flashbacks themselves.

So yeah. Lots of mental pain and anguish. Duh.

But I just don’t want to think I’m that weak. There are people who’ve been in much worse situations and yet who’ve pulled through taking care of their parents just fine. Am I such a bad person to have been too weak to put up with all that and left?

Well, some people thought so. Enough to bring about situations that would have killed me. But they didn’t care. I was only a sinner to them. I don’t think I was a friend anymore—but who knows? Maybe that’s par for the course for how they treated friends, which would be fucking sad.

People generally have no idea how paranoid I am.

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6 thoughts on “Session the 19th: The Persistence of Memory

  1. As for the ‘you should have stayed’ — they would have killed you.
    Your parents are not your responsibility; telling you that they were your responsibility was an aspect of the abuse: setting up impossible demands so the child is guaranteed to fail.

    As best I can figure out, people like those ‘friends’ who said you should have stayed are in deep denial. You can tell them exactly how bad it is, and they will refuse to believe, because they are so committed to believing that we live in a world without monsters that they will feed you to the monsters in order to stop hearing about it. Basically, they were abusers themselves; they just hadn’t bothered to attack you until you told the truth and threatened their delusions.

    You are not weak. You are very strong; that’s how you survived this long. PTSD is what happens when human beings are strained beyond their design limits; no one is ‘supposed’ to be able to handle this stuff.

    I don’t know much about memory formation and trauma, but I think it’s only partly related to how bad the experience was; it’s also how chaotic the experience was. An orderly, simple experience is easier to index than a chaotic one.

    Also, in an abusive situation with chronic pain and fear, leaving is much harder than staying. Staying is familiar; it takes less energy. You chose the hard course and you navigated it successfully. You’re doing fine; your situation cannot help being hard and painful, but you’re performing as well as anyone could be expected to.

  2. Wogglebug,

    As for the ‘you should have stayed’ — they would have killed you.

    You know, it’s very strange, but I keep forgetting that when I’m in my cups. It’s so easy to get sucked back in; part of what I’m afraid of if my parents show up is that either they kill me right away, or they suck me back in and then kill me years later after more torture. Not sure which scenario is better. They’re both Grade A Nightmare Fuel, though.

    setting up impossible demands so the child is guaranteed to fail.

    Oh. That would explain a lot of my father’s goal setting. Sometimes I did manage to achieve the improbable, and it sometimes saved me, sometimes didn’t.

    You can tell them exactly how bad it is, and they will refuse to believe, because they are so committed to believing that we live in a world without monsters that they will feed you to the monsters in order to stop hearing about it.

    And that dovetails into another friend of mine telling me that these people were quite convinced that my tales weren’t that abusive… it made no sense to me at all. I’d opened my heart, which was painful as hell at the time and still is but was moreso back then, and for some reason I apparently got that reaction instead.

    PTSD is what happens when human beings are strained beyond their design limits; no one is ‘supposed’ to be able to handle this stuff.

    Heh. I’ve written these very words myself. But I keep forgetting. To me, my experience felt like the norm, so it feels bad not to be able to keep up, so to speak. I think I may never fully understand the differences between my childhood and other childhoods not like mine. I guess the reverse is true for others.

    An orderly, simple experience is easier to index than a chaotic one.

    Hum. Everything felt chaotic, though.

    Staying is familiar; it takes less energy. You chose the hard course and you navigated it successfully.

    This is very true. I even know it, but I always forget to apply it to my own situation.

    You’re doing fine; your situation cannot help being hard and painful, but you’re performing as well as anyone could be expected to.

    What a strange thing that is. But friends of mine have said it repeatedly. I only know that I’ve just done what I can to survive.

  3. I think that is what Wogglebug meant: your experiences are hard to index because they were chaotic.

    Flannel sheets rule. So do duvets.

  4. pericat,

    Ah, that is true. I can catalog, more or less, events that occurred during my history outside of my own home (including the years of college that my parents continued to exert control over). The years before college are a horrible jumble, but I thought maybe that’s just how everybody’s memory ends up.

    Duvets are awesome. I used to have a featherbed a couple years ago, but I didn’t know at the time that featherbeds didn’t mix with being in denial about throwing up due to anxiety during trigger time periods….

    Now that I have a puke bucket and am not in as much denial about what happens during these time periods, though, perhaps I can get a new featherbed.

  5. I actually meant that if some traumatic experiences were relatively simple, with only one thing happening at a time (what I meant by ‘orderly’), maybe they got indexed while events where lots of things happened at once didn’t get indexed in memory. Since this appears not to be the case, I have no clue why your brain retained some experiences but not others.

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