No, amnesia is not the solution for traumatic memories

5c2b022dea44a98459b63648fefae35al-m17xd-w1020_h770_q80

Have you ever tried to talk about your PTSD issues with someone, only to have them cut you off with the advice to “just don’t think about it”?

If only it were that simple!

I wanted so desperately to “just stop thinking about” my traumatic memories, that I actually tried to force myself to have amnesia. I thought: other people get amnesia, so why can’t I? I tried everything I could think of to psych myself into having Zero Memories, because total amnesia would surely be better than walking around with a head full of horrible, haunting, trauma memories.

But I could not do it. I even tried self-hypnosis to no avail. My life is still my life, my memories are my memories, and they are, apparently, here to stay.

The best thing I have found for dealing with my trauma memories is simply: acceptance. Accepting that my reality is real, my life is indeed my life, the things that happened actually did happen, and no amount of wishful thinking is ever going to change any of that. It is what it is. And yet, in spite of everything, today I can honestly say that the Lord brought me through!

I recently googled the addresses of two houses that I lived in more than fifty years ago, where some of my worst childhood traumas happened. To my surprise, I discovered that both of these houses are listed online as having been for sale in the recent past. One sold in 2014, the other in 2016. Although they are no longer for sale and their listings expired years ago, all of the interior and exterior pictures are still there.

As I clicked through the photographs, I remembered this terrible thing that happened in this room, and that awful thing happening in another room. On and on, through more than fifty pictures between the two houses, my memories flooded in.

I was feeling overwhelmed! But then, a picture came up that was taken inside a family room that had been added onto the house, after it was foreclosed and my family moved away. This picture, which you can see at the top of this post, is centered on an open doorway that leads from the new family room, into the dining  area and living room beyond, two rooms that hold many haunting memories for me.

Above the wide open doorway between the new part of the house and the old, hangs two large banners. The words on the banners, in beautiful bold letters, declare:
IT IS WELL … WITH MY SOUL

Amen!!!

~The above post was inspired by this terrific article by Cynthia Bailey Rug:
https://cynthiabaileyrug.wordpress.com/2018/09/15/just-dont-think-about-it/

Advertisements

16 thoughts on “No, amnesia is not the solution for traumatic memories

  1. The Eclectic Contrarian September 15, 2018 / 10:57 am

    Healing is a process. Ignoring it and “getting over” it is as effective as the old army cure-all of drinking water for every ailment… it takes time, prayer and learning to place it entirely in the Lord’s Hands.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote September 15, 2018 / 11:16 am

      I just want to add that while time, prayer, and placing it in God’s hands, are wonderful survival tools, PTSD will often persist, to a certain degree, in spite of doing these things. Just as someone who is totally blind or deaf or in the final stages of cancer, will probably not be miraculously healed just by doing those things. PTSD is caused by physical damage to the physical brain, caused by severe trauma, as has been amply proven by brain imaging technologies. Just because it is invisible to the naked eye, does not mean it isn’t real.

      But God’s grace will definitely see us through with PTSD, the same as He will with other physical ailments and disabilities, when we trust in Him! My chaplain husband, at the age of 69, still has PTSD from combat in Vietnam. And as for me, at age 65, I still have occasional PTSD symptoms stemming from my pastor father being arrested in 1965 for trying to murder my mother, and then my deeply depressed and broken mother trying to gas herself and the five of us kids to death, a few months later — plus many other traumas. I don’t think that traumas this severe are likely to go completely away, in this life.

      But I am a thousand times more healed than I was when I was at my worst. It’s like the difference between Humpty Dumpty having just a couple of cracks in his shell, versus being totally shattered. I once was shattered. But no more, thank God!

      Liked by 5 people

  2. Alexis Rose September 15, 2018 / 11:14 am

    Wow Linda, what a great many-layered post. That while dont think about it, get over it its in the past, suggestion from others is so invalidating! I understand that it usually never comes from a place of malice and had everything to do with the person but its really hard to hear. Especially, if we have doing our best to try live with and process memories we had previously repressed. It must have been really difficult to look at those pictures, and then comes a beautiful message in a new room that was added on.
    Amnesia is not the solution and there is peace for our souls that were hurt. ❤️

    Liked by 3 people

  3. atimetoshare.me September 15, 2018 / 11:18 am

    I can relate to this. I have the ability to forget bad memories by selectively choosing not remember them in the moment. I don’t know if it’s a gift or just a survival mechanism. My young life was filled with problems. I know your memories are far more difficult than mine. The problem with forgetting is that we might also erase some of the good stuff.

    I love how you ended this post. Even when we force the memories to return, it can be healing and it will be well your soul.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote September 15, 2018 / 11:33 am

      Hi Kathy! Thank you for your very validating words.

      What you said about my memories being more difficult than yours — the reality is that I was far more damaged by the more “ordinary” hurts that happened in my childhood and early adulthood, than by the really huge, totally insane, homicidal stuff.

      I think it’s because even a young child knows that attempted murder is always WRONG. But the day in, day out stuff, of being verbally put down and/or ignored by my parents, and teased at school for being “different” in my old outgrown clothes and because of my nervous, shy personality — feeling unwanted, unloved, never good enough, and believing that nobody liked me and no one ever would like me — those things cut me to the core of my being. I blamed myself for not being good enough, and because I thought I was to blame, I hated myself. And nothing, in my experience, hurts as bad as hating yourself!

      If you had any of these kinds of things going on as a child, then your childhood was no less painful and damaging than mine.

      Liked by 3 people

      • atimetoshare.me September 15, 2018 / 1:23 pm

        Well I guess I’m right there with you then. Verbal abuse was my nemesis. I’ve learned to rise above it since those days but the pain leaves horrid scars.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Phoebe Sparrow Wagner September 15, 2018 / 3:17 pm

    Hi Linda,

    Wow, do I understand! A newish friend, really an acquaintance I met maybe 2years ago said, “get over it!” To me and I found that enormously damaging in itself. My “guide” Wendy, never tells me such things and she is fully committed to helping people who deal with great traumas. Another thing is that true global amnesia, such as I have for two hospital stays, cannot be self-induced. You either can remember what happened or you cannot.

    However, what I have found very helpful, for me at any rate, and this may not be something you can or even choose to do, is this: I find that when my thoughts erupt into a spasm of terrible memories, the resulting emotions and anger etc are so paralyzing and painful that I did consciously decide “I’m not going there until and unless it is safe for me to do so.” To that end, when I notice my thoughts turning bad, I immediately find anything to distract myself away from that terrible rut that trauma has clear cut into my cortex.

    I know the emotions stem and arise from the thoughts I think, and the story about them I tell myself. So if I try to tell a different story, like, for instance, “okay, that was my life, but I am here now and if I can be happy then all of my past including the trauma, has brought me here and I would not be here without yes even the trauma.” BUT I fully confess that re-telling my story in a more positive way does not work when I am acutely triggered, so that is when distraction plays a huge role.

    In some sense, I understand that I cannot remain attached to my story of abuse and victimisation, because in a real way this will only lead me down that same trauma path, and even “attract further victimization and trauma”..But to explore these things requires a feeling of safety, which is not usually available, so I get relief from the thinking instead, by distractions and doing things with my mind that I love. Like studying or reading French, or listening to songs, because the verbal aspect of both tend to crowd out the insistent trauma memories.

    As Wendy says, it is a practice, like any spiritual practice, to know when your thoughts are headed down aN unhelpful path way and to consciously decide not to “indulge” their wish to ruin your day! It does take a lot of practice to do this, and I would be the last to say it is easy. On the other hand, I do know there is a safe place for them, for me to experience the memories and even triggers in security, and that is my sessions with Wendy — she wants them to be as long as necessary for me to get through things, so they are usually 2-2.5 hours every time but the thing is, knowing I can hold on and let things “in” in a safe place with her allows me to also decide NOT to let them in or to control me at other times.

    I hope this makes sense. It might not be your cuppa tea, and I dunno if you have a safe place/person with whom you could both process memories or at least let them out, but who also, by being a safe person, might allow you to go the distraction route. I myself have found it very helpful…and you know (I know you above all know!) how terribly I have been tormented by my memories of trauma…

    The idea that even trauma memories are part of the story of our lives that we write or create and can de-create also helps me. Because I can say, of say someone who brutalized me, well, in their story I was only a bit character, and they likely told and tell themselves something entirely different from my story about it. But I understand that these are all stories, all dramas, that are not really Truth…and if we can retell the story In such a way as to increase ours and the worlds happiness, that would be my aim…

    Lots more to say but your blog post brought up a lot too. Thank you for writing this! And for the lovely photo of the new banner in your old house…I think that was amazing! And beautiful.

    Love
    Phoebe

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote September 15, 2018 / 5:06 pm

      Wow, thank you for all of that! I read through it quick, because I was down at the VFW hall cleaning and decorating for a dinner they are having tomorrow, and I am a little too tired for deep thinking. But I will come back and give this a more thoughtful read, probably tomorrow.

      I appreciate you so much. The artwork you do is amazing. The closest I can get to art is doing computer graphic design. But I find even that very therapeutic and relaxing.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Phoebe Sparrow Wagner September 15, 2018 / 3:20 pm

    In paragraph 3 where I say “that was my last” should be “ that was my life” — silly iPad thinks it knows what I want to say better than I do!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote September 15, 2018 / 5:08 pm

      Lol my tablet does the same thing. I will correct that for you later, after I get on my computer. My laptop works better on WordPress than my Kindle Fire does.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote September 16, 2018 / 7:27 pm

      I did it, changed “last” to “life” in your third paragraph. It makes perfect sense, now. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  6. lavenderandlevity September 16, 2018 / 5:19 pm

    I was able to dissociate intensely enough that are entire events that I have written records of – even testimony of – and don’t consciously remember. There are also things I remember clearly, but through enough of a depersonalization that effectively they feel like they happened to someone else. I think it did save me for many years. It got me to a point where at one point I found out about abuse at the beginning of the week, defended my thesis in the middle and then went back to my personal Hell after to “deal.” That kind of dissociation can’t last, it turns out. This year has been a year of another discovery of systemic abuse, workplace harassment over having to deal with, etc. And, because I had only shoved it away, somehow this year was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It is SO much better to process each trauma as they come – or when the veil finally is broken (because it’s not like the world is going to cease being traumatic), you’ll end up trying to process 30-odd years of crap that happened to you and to those you care for all in one hideous three month period *while still dealing with the immediate abuse case.* In hindsight, I so wish I had actually not relied on dissociation that completely, because when it fails it fails *hard.* The amnesia doesn’t last, and without backup coping strategies you crash hard when it fails..

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.