I wish I could say that statement were true for me. The problem with memory repression is that everything is foggy. When repressing recurring trauma, it can be hard to remember the good stuff because the brain is so busy trying not to remember the bad stuff. Of course, I remembered my father existed. That would have been hard to reconcile. But I didn’t remember the abuse. It sounds like a good thing. Who would want to remember that? And it’s true. I would prefer not to remember it.
There are downsides though. I wrote earlier about the physical and emotional affects of memory repression in Memories and From There to Here. But there’s another downside. I can’t selectively forget. If I forget the abuse, I have to forget the people who tried to help me. Otherwise, there would be no way to reconcile the memories in my logical adult brain. Why was someone trying to help me when nothing was wrong? This is a problem for me. I want to remember the people who tried to help me. And I can’t. I may remember the color of their shirt, or where they lived, or even something they said to me, but no faces and no names. There’s just no significant information that will lead me to where they are today.
There is one person in particular that I would love to talk to. He tried to do the right thing. He was the first person to tell me that my father was doing something wrong. He even confronted my father. He was young though. And my father knew how to threaten people. He was always good at being violent. Eventually, my helper left, and I was hopeless once again. Now, all I have are half memories of him. I know he was wearing brown when we first met. I know the house he lived in for the summer. I know he played the guitar. Sometimes, images will flash through my mind. I have images of him sitting on his deck playing his guitar and singing songs. I have images of him standing in his kitchen. Still, there is no face and no name.
The sad part is that I saw him after I forgot him (even as an adult). Every time I saw him, I immediately repressed that moment. I stored it away with all the other memories of him. We even had conversations, which I forgot the second after they happened. He was hurt. He thought I was ignoring him on purpose. He thought I was being malicious. Honestly, that would be easier to understand. The truth is always harder to understand. I feel bad for him, but I feel worse for me. On some level, I desperately wanted to tell him why I didn’t know who he was, but the defenses were too strong. There was too much pain to push through … even for him. I could not remember him without remembering the abuse, and I wasn’t ready.
I know what you are thinking (because I thought it). There has to be a way to find him. If I know where he lived, I can find him. If I saw him when I was an adult, I can find him. I am the most willful person I know. I can muscle through anything. I always have. I have called and emailed everyone associated with that house. I have contacted people who I think may have been his friend. I have contacted people who worked with him. It is a crazy conversation to tell someone that I remember someone that I don’t really remember. I can’t really describe him, or recall his name, but he sure could play the guitar. Huh? Unfortunately, I have learned that there is no detective work good enough to overcome the defenses in my own system. If some part of me is not ready to find him, I won’t find him.
And so, the fog continues … for now. The defenses will eventually fall, and I will find myself face to face with a man who tried to help me thirty years ago. Until then, I will just keep muddling through the memories.