This is the most vulnerability I will ever display for the world wide to see. I am scared, currently, of the judgement more so than the healing, but unless we face our fears, we really don’t get any where right? I’m going to tell you some things I really hate talking about. But what I do know, is that, whatever happened to me, it wasn’t my fault and the displays that happened in the aftermath are probably a result of that incident. And I honestly don’t know how to really heal from it when retrograde amnesia, or dissociative amnesia is part of the problem. Don’t worry, the therapist and myself are working on it. I am in the care of a mental health professional and we are working on a lot of things both present, future, and past.
What is retrograde amnesia and more so, what is dissociative amnesia? According to the Mayo Clinic: “Retrograde amnesia is a loss of memory-access to events that occurred, or information that was learned, before an injury or the onset of a disease.” So, how does that even associate with me when I haven’t had a disease or a brain injury significant enough to block certain memories from my noggin? If you look further into it’s definition, Mayo Clinic provides a list of injuries and diseases that cause such an event. Each one is categorized differently. So what happened to me when I was too young to remember in the first place, or really, remember events as an older child into adulthood can remember events, is obviously more so on the psychological side of “injury,” AKA psychogenic amnesia or dissociative amnesia. These two, also according to Mayo Clinic is, “a memory disorder characterized by sudden retrograde episodic memory loss, said to occur for a period of time ranging from hours to years.” This absolutely explains so much as to why I remember things so differently when I was in my younger years; like, before Kindergarten and for a few years after that when I attended some therapy at that time as well.
So what is it that would cause such a thing, what is it that I’m trying to tell you that happened to me that could be so potentially traumatizing that it would cause such a subset of behaviors and memory issues that have certainly played well into my adulthood years, that made me quite susceptible to even the smallest of traumas that most people wouldn’t even consider it traumatic, just an unfortunate event, shrug it off and move on, unscaved? How do I even tell you what that event was when I, still to this very day, cannot remember? All I can assume, for the time being, is that a sexual event happened, as I said, to me before I could even really begin to recollect memories. Why am I coming to this conclusion or assumption? Because of the aftermath. Let’s take a closer look.
So we all can gather by now that when we are born, we cannot recollect that event. In fact, we generally don’t remember a lot of things for about 3 to 5 years after our birth. And of course, by that, I mean recognize or acknowledge that we remember. It really isn’t until we begin to communicate in return that we acknowledge our memories. I recall on a few accounts of my mother telling me that she felt that when I turned three or four (or at least around that age) it was like a light switch went off in my brain. I went from being this really sweet, gentle, caring, yet curious little tot to a brat who would tantrum. Now, I know what you’re thinking, it’s the terrible two’s or the thrifty three’s that got me, that phase really kicked in. Well, I believe that to an extent except for the fact of what happened after that. The aftermath is a tall tale sign that something traumatic happened.
It started with a natural curiosity of my lady parts, but it got worse, it was more pronounced. Generally, as I have discovered with my own girls and their discovery of their lady parts, it took us maybe two times to tell them that if they were going to do that they needed to do it in privacy; like, the bathroom or their bedroom, no one in it except them, and quite literally, that’s all it took for them to behave more appropriately when it came to their own discovery. But for me, it was different. My parents told me many times and I still didn’t listen or understand. Now, I really feel like this happened around the age of four. I don’t remember anything previous to that and anything around that age is exactly what you would call a dissociative memory, but most of those memories are when the problem truly became a more “public” one. Like, I can remember certain things but the way in which I remember them is almost like an out of body experience, not through my own eyes. With that being said, the first incident I do recall, when I entered Kindergarten, so I was about five years old now, was sitting in a group setting close to the chalkboard where our teacher was giving us a lesson. I don’t remember what the lesson was. All I remember, and again, I was looking from the outside when I remember this, is I was touching my parts and I was sitting next to a little boy, I am seeing myself looking around at everyone continuing to touch myself and then seeing the teacher look back at us (probably to see if we are paying attention) and scolding me asking me what I’m doing. Obviously, I quit and started scratching my legs. I knew better because my mother, after the umpteenth time of having to tell me it’s not appropriate to do it in front of other people, had gotten pretty stern with her own voice. I told the teacher I was scratching my legs and the little boy, who didn’t know any better I’m sure, confirmed to the teacher the same revelation. After that, I still did it, but more in secret.
Now, imagine, if you will, that whole scenario I just described to you, I remember it like I’m a ghost or an angel, floating in the farthest corner by the ceiling, and it’s as if I can see everyone and all their movements, the tops of their heads, like I’m looking down on everyone. This is how I remember remembering things. There are somethings I can remember through my own eyes; like, seeing them or looking into their eyes, making eye contact and I’m not a ghost by the ceiling recollecting things. I remember I thought I would be funny by putting the hood of my coat over my face and try walking a distance just to be daring. I see the path I’m going to walk, right in front of me at eye level. I see the hood to my coat, with it’s fuzzy, fur-lined rim coming at my face, I see the darkness the hood provided, and I remember the feeling when I ran into a cinderblock pillar, busting my nose and making it bleed. I remember those things from a first account basis, but the more sexual tendencies, I don’t remember in that way. I was very disconnected from myself. I was very dissociated. It was like that even through therapy when I went to see a psychiatrist. What prompted that was the troubles I was having academically as well. I had a hard time reading and comprehending and then in second grade it became it’s worst.
First grade wasn’t too terrible, though, I only remember very few things from that time. When second grade hit and therapy became a real thing and I had extra homework to do at home, I had to go to transition classes, which were like extra homework too, I was overwhelmed, that much I know. But this was when I started remembering things a lot less dissociated. It was when I started realizing (with the help of therapy of course) that what I was doing was simply inappropriate. This was when I started to get better. I equally remember not talking a lot about the sexual tendencies in therapy too. It felt more academic than anything, but when we did, I remember the heat coming off my face like I had set it on fire. It was embarrassing to talk about and I simply couldn’t remember what had happened to me or what prompted me to feel like it was appropriate to behave in such a way in public.
Again, why do I feel like something sexual happened to me? If we look at what cycles are repeated from generation to generation, we can see that an abused child can, in fact, repeat the abuse to their own spouses or children. It’s even been said that abused spouses who leave tend to repeat the abusive cycle as well. Thankfully, therapy is a lot more common these days and there are many more programs cycled around ending the violence. I’m thankful for my parents and their efforts in teaching me appropriateness even when it was quite embarrassing, scary, etc. for them! To not know is worrisome as a parent and I’ve even experienced that myself as a parent. So, I just feel like I was continuing a cycle, thankfully with only myself. And even more so, when we start repeating our parent’s behaviors from a very early age (I’m not saying my parents did this to me what so ever so please don’t even try to twist that shit), I feel like I was only repeating what was done to me. But taking into account what my mother has told me, about flipping a light switch in behaviors, and the public sexual tendencies I had, I would greatly assume that it was done to me. By whom? I have no idea. I honestly cannot recollect any memories before the age of four, but who really can?
Now, I realize this does not in any way excuse any of the behaviors I’ve ever displayed in my life. It’s not a reason from middle school and on. I was more of a healed kid those days, more appropriately behaved. I would say in third grade and fourth grade I grew into a lying phase, but never anything significant and I wouldn’t say it was consistent or had anything to do with the incidents previous to it. I suppose it could have, but I’m just not there yet to understand. All I can say, is that in times of trauma (or CPTSD triggers), my brain does exactly this but in a much lesser form. I will say affirmatively, that I couldn’t adequately remember a lot of events in regards to my ex husband. It took a while before I could really remember the details, let alone communicate them. I was beyond dissociated when it came to incidents with his mother. For a long time I defended her until I was able to recollect without dissociating. People thought I would lie about what had happened to me. The problem was just that I couldn’t remember and by the time I’m an adult, what I see when I know I’m dissociating in memory, I tend not to rely on because it’s like story telling version of events, or as though it’s completely fabricated so I’d tend to not repeat until I could recollect through my own eyes. So with the omittance of information, of course it was going to look like I lied. Somethings just didn’t add up until they did so for myself. I didn’t want to lie, I wanted to be sure I wasn’t fabricating things in my mind in order to “feel better about myself and what I went through.” I was never really shamed either for going through what I went through. I wasn’t shamed until I could adequately remember things as they happened, until I could face them in my own mind. I no longer dissociate really, rather retrograde when things are triggering me. I can’t communicate very well either or gather my thoughts enough to prioritize them until the anxiousness has gone and I can breathe and I’m safe from any harm. Generally, when people or situations have more of a potential to cause physical harm, I will retrograde. I will go through the motions of course, but I won’t be able to remember the situation and the details as they come.
And I’m not telling you things to gain pity or attention. I am the last person who wants attention. I have a hard time accepting compliments because I don’t want to be the center of attention. But I simply get it now. I simply understand that even though it’s something I don’t know the true nature or cause of it, I understand the profound affect it had on me all my life without me even realizing it until a few days ago when I really wrote things out from start to finish. To realize where I really need to start working harder. To get to a point where I can go through things, hard things, and not feel like it’s completely traumatic, it just is what it is.
Thanks for listening to me, reading about who I am, why I am, and what I am. I hope it gives someone a starting point for their own healing and improvement. I hope you can see that in talking about it, even with a stranger (your therapist preferably) it’s the beginning of a truly courageous and brave path you will encounter. I really REALLY didn’t want to come out with this. I can’t even tell you how ashamed I make myself feel for having had problems like that. I look back on it now as though maybe that’s why my sister felt the way she did. I did get a lot of attention from my parents because of it. And maybe she was too young to understand it as well which could be why, initially, I felt she was my most pivotal relationship to where I felt invalidated. I feel ashamed that my problems projected in the way they did and could have made someone, another innocent little kid behave in a similar manner. I am ever so thankful, like, seriously, I can’t even describe with words how thankful I am to my supportive parents who in turn did everything they could to make sure I didn’t repeat a cycle. And as odd as this is going to sound, I’m thankful to myself for knowing I’m better than any bad thing thrown my way. That I really can learn and have learned and will continue to get better. I have hope and I have faith!
In conclusion, I just want to state that none of what I’ve been through is in any way, shape, or form a reason to excuse me from my mistakes. I just understand more of why I did what I did and now I can be more conscious and aware so that I’m not repeating mistakes, not making things more traumatic than they really are. But it absolutely, more than anything, makes me realize why I have had the victim mindset for so many damn years. I mean, really… how do we heal from something we don’t remember and aren’t entirely sure whether or not our actions after that are a direct result because of it? I think really we just find a way that’s better than our previous behavioral patterns, that we try to find better for better outcomes.