If you had asked me two years ago what my thoughts were on repressed memories, I would have told you they were total…. bullshit. I would have told you repressed memories only occurred when a girl had regrets for her lapse in judgement the night before. There is a whole bunch of holes in that statement, but I would learn repressed memories are very real.
They shake your confidence and make you question what you know to be true.
What are they? Repressed memories are defined as memories that have been unconsciously blocked, due to it’s association with a high level of stress or trauma. This theory suggests that even though the individual cannot recall the memory, the memory is still affecting them consciously.
I remember exactly where I was when I had my first repressed memory recovered. It was a normal day…. well normal for us. We were at the lowest of low points for our family. My daughter was deep in processing her trauma. She was changing more and more everyday. More anger, more outbursts. She never seemed happy anymore. Nightmares, phobias, bed wetting and all the effects of her abuse were at their peak. Her behavior was a constant reminder of what happened to her. Her Father and I both were working high stress level jobs. Her baby brother had just turned one. We were both desperately trying to understand and help our daughter and everything seemed to make it worse. Our plates were over flowing. To top it off, we couldn’t articulate our grief and heartbreak to each other, so our relationship was suffering. We both were very much alone at a time we needed to support each other more than ever before. We shared the same goal, but we didn’t know how to come together and unite. This started a cycle of resentment and more isolation.
One night, the kids were sleeping. Their Dad was watching television in the living room and I was sitting on the bed in our bedroom. It was a warm day, so the bedroom window was open to allow the coastal breeze to flow in. I was reading on my phone when I could smell a faint smell of a cigarette. This time, the smell of the cigarette made me feel anxious, dirty and shameful. I instantly had a memory play in mind. This memory had familiar players and places, but the memory itself was brand new. This memory was of my abuse, but abuse I had never remembered until now.
I was in the teal room at my Grandparents house. I was wearing my two piece flowery pajama set. My Dad was laying next to me rubbing my back, then he moved my underwear and pants down to below my knees and began to molest me again. He was laying behind me, with his hands reaching around me and his mouth by my ear. His breathing is deep, wet and slow. His smell is a mixture of alcohol and cigarettes. He got up and began to touch himself, in front of me. His breathing is louder and faster. He was aggressively pleasing himself. His face was scary to 5 year old me. Demon like. He asked me if I liked it. I didn’t. I was scared. I wanted this to stop. I don’t know how a 5 year old has the courage, but this time I let out a very timid “no.” He continued. I stayed frozen. Then he stopped. He got on top of me briefly and molested me again. then he rolled me on my side and got behind me. I remember staring at the hall light in an attempt to disassociate from what was happening to me. One single light surrounded by the darkness of the house. I felt him penetrate me. It felt gentle. Gentler than the way he was touching me with his hands or touching himself. I stared at the light until he was done. He left the room. I don’t remember him saying a word. My underwear and pants still at my ankles, I pulled them back up. I was wet, sticky and alone.
This memory was new. I had never had any memory more than my Dad touching me. My Father had raped me. I kept this new memory inside for months. I saw the replay in my head everyday. Multiple times a day. It felt like it just happened. Again. I googled repressed memories. I read about the theories on whether or not they are real. I doubted myself. I fell hard into isolation and hating the world for what happened to me and then my daughter.
Finally, After another day and night of fights. Fighting with myself, my partner, my daughter, the neighbor- really whoever fell into my path of toxic energy. I hit rock bottom. I wanted to die. I no longer saw myself of any value to my kids, my partner, my friends and family or the world. I didn’t want my daughter to end up this way. To feel this kind of hate for herself. This forced me into therapy. I couldn’t use the words to tell my therapist what happened. I had no problem explaining the molestation, but explaining the rape was different. I just couldn’t get the words out without feeling immense shame. It would take 6 months for me to be able to tell my therapist and my partner. Saying it out loud was the turning point for my healing.
The day I told my therapist the words of what happened to me, was the day I finally allowed myself to FEEL the abuse. Feeling the sounds, the smells, the physical pain… They all were in a section of my brain left untapped for almost 30 years. The trauma and pain of these memories had changed the way I processed interactions in all relationships.
Now it was time to fight.