My memory leads a double life of knowing and not knowing at the very same time. It is a constant, exhausting battle. Mine is a story about memory gone awry; about traumatic memory and its effect on memory functions and post traumatic stress disorder.
I was sexually abused as a child by a family member. Here’s why I didn’t remember.
Among friends, I am the go to person when it comes to history and trivia, priding myself on my steel trap of a memory. How then can someone “forget” an event as traumatic as childhood sexual abuse?
Simply put trauma affects a variety of memory functions. Childhood sexual abuse can create negative disturbances of memory such as dissociation and PTSD leading to problems in basic memory encoding, storage, and retrieval.
Being abused by a trusted family member is the perfect opportunity for the victim to create information blockage. Memory blocking is not to avoid suffering, but because knowing about abuse by a loved one is necessary for survival.
But the body remembers.
With PTSD, traumatic memories become dissociated, fragmented, free floating in time. They pounce into the present unbidden in the form of flashbacks, nightmares intrusive thoughts and images you cannot control.
I search my memory bank for a coherent, narrative filled with nuance and detail but that is not how traumatic memory is.
Those who expect a clear cut linear and logical account, seem to think of memory as akin to a Netflix stream; click on a title and sit back for a documentary a clear cut representation of what transpired as though a camera had been there filming the whole time. That sadly is far from the reality.
In dissociation elements of the experience are not integrated into a whole but stored in memory as isolated fragments, sensory perceptions, intrusive images, behavior and body sensations. With PTSD I am missing the explicit narrative of information necessary to make sense of the distressing body sensations and images .
I am a storyteller without a story with a beginning, middle, and end.
These pieces tells that story