Recently a friend of mine said, “Leslie, you have a great family. When you are feeling bad, would it help to think about them?”I said, “The last time you had a toothache, I mean a ‘I have to see the dentist today!’ toothache, did it help to think about your family?”
She understood my point and was not offended. (I told my therapist this story and he laughed really hard. I don’t know why.)I warned my friend that I was going to use that conversation in a blog post. I like sharing some of the things she says because I think they reflect what many others may be thinking, but don’t say to me directly.
On that same day my friend said something like, “Well now that you have your memories back, it should start to get better, right?”I wish that were the case. I admit this is something that has been confusing to me too. The idea of why healing takes so long, I mean. It seems to me part of the reason is because we keep coming back to the same topics over and over. That frustrates me and sometimes I will say to my therapist, “I know we have talked about this many times before, but-“ Obviously we are still talking about it because it is still bothering me. You see, I want my healing to be linear, a straight path up the mountain and then, “Yeah, I’m healed” and as a reward I get to ski down. Or something like that.
Reality is a bit different. My therapist says that it is more like links in a chain. You seem to go in circles for a while, but each circle is a link that connects to another link and slowly you inch forward. The reason for the circles, rather than the linear path I would prefer, is the way the mind and body deal with trauma.
I can only speak for myself (it may be different for some survivors and similar for others), but my memories do not come all at once. They come in small bits and pieces like a puzzle that needs to be assembled. I suppose that is a mercy, because even remembering this way is unbelievably painful. So I receive a small piece, I cry, I work on it in therapy, and then usually I have a short “denial” mode wherein I take a little break. If the break gets too long, I start to have migraine-like headaches, or other psychosomatic symptoms, until I start dealing with my issues again.
All of this would be clearer perhaps if I could give actual examples of the memory puzzle pieces, but I can’t because that would cross my line of what is too graphic. Instead, I found a great quote to that illustrates my point. It comes from the book, THE UNSAYABLE: the hidden language of trauma by Annie G. Rogers Ph.D.“Trauma is a letter written on the body in vanishing ink, a character of the alphabet that seems to stand alone as it emerges into view. As one letter collects other letters, a message emerges that demands to be read, to be known. “
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