Trying (and Failing) to Remember

I feel like my body remembers so much more than my brain. Today in therapy, my therapist asked me what my earliest memory is. I do have some memories of when I was little, but I can’t pinpoint what my earliest one is. The only thing I noticed, when she asked that, was how I felt in my body – and how strong those sensations were.

I had been becoming increasingly dissociated, as we talked about my childhood, even though nothing we spoke about was particularly distressing. I felt myself fading from the room – eye contact which was already minimal became totally non-existent, my vision overall narrowed, the air became foggy and my hands seemed to become separate entities from my body. It was like I had lifted slightly off the ground, and I could not differentiate between myself as a separate entity to the chair and the space around me. At the same time, I was heavy, so heavy that if I had let my eyes close, I fear they would have been too heavy to reopen.

Despite the spaciness, I was also experiencing noticeable anxiety; my toes were curled, my left leg bouncing of its own accord, and a nauseated knot had formed in my core. Weirdly, I could feel my heart beating in places that were not my heart, and this made me feel very on edge, as the pounding was overwhelming. I could not just feel it within my core, I could also hear it. The pounding consumed me.

I identify that I was afraid, but I do not know if it was because of the content we were talking about, or as a result of the uncomfortable and intense sensations shooting through my body.

When I tried to think back into my past on a more cognitive level so that I could just get on with it and answer her question, I got so stuck – as I always seem to do. It was like “it” was all trapped inside my body, unable to get out, too intangible for words. The pulsating through my veins continued whilst I remained shrouded in a cloud of dissociation – a paradoxical conflict of the overwhelming presence and simultaneous total absence of “stuff”. Furthermore, I don’t actually know what this “stuff” is. When I try and chase my memories, it is like my brain gets caught on little cogs of empty space, and there is no where to go. I just lose a little bit of time to analysing a blank page instead.

But the thing is, the few memories that I do have are so detailed and raw, so it is not as though everything has been blotted out for good. I just feel like there is a massive wedge between me now and my past, and I need to pierce through a forcefield of sorts in order to retrieve it. I think if I had triggers, like photographs or videos, the memories would come back in an instant. A part of me is desperate to access all these dusty corners of my mind, but there must be another part that is not so keen, or else it wouldn’t be this hard – surely?

I feel cognitively so willing to get started on the trauma-based work, as my therapist is encouraging me to do. But every time we venture anywhere near it, I just get so stuck. I feel willing mentally, but emotionally and physically, my body is not having any of it. It’s highly disconcerting because I am having such a strong reaction to something that is not really there – at least not in my current grasp of reality as I know it. Because of all this, I cannot stop racking my brain trying to get greater insight into my past – even though there is nothing there, and I feel up against a brick wall. It is like trying to piece together a puzzle in the dark.

Also, I am not the product of what one would describe as a highly traumatic childhood, by any means. I know trauma is subjective, and that I am a traumatised individual, but I cannot help doubt myself – it all feels so intangible. This is a huge reason why these memory blocks are so frustrating – because I do not even understand what my brain is trying to shield me from.

So then I start doubting myself and my therapist, and wondering if maybe it is just a natural process that I have forgotten so much. Maybe the reason I do not remember is because I was so young, and most people do not remember much from such an early age. Maybe we have been over-analysing and over-pathologising, and there really is no ‘blockage’ at all. Maybe I am just a human with a fallible memory like any other? It seems impossible to tell, seeing as though all the subjective evidence (in the form of memories) remains so far out of my reach – and that in itself is immensely frustrating.

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3 thoughts on “Trying (and Failing) to Remember

  1. I just started subscribing to your blog today, and I relate so much to everything you have written, including this post. I was first diagnosed with major depressive disorder, then ADHD, and a few weeks ago with Complex PTSD. Regardless of the labels, I dissociate like you are describing here, and you penned it so beautifully. Thank you for writing about your experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

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