Memories that aren’t memories

There’s something that has been in the back of my mind for a few weeks now. Ever since we discussed Jackie, and Bea wondered of Kenny had hurt her, too.

“My parents had a group of friends…all couple friends, really, they are still friends. That’s the thing, they could never really stand up for me, do anything about Kenny because they would risk their entire circle of friends. But we did camp and do things with all the friends. They had kids….” I list out the kids, all girls, all ages between my brother and just two years older than I am. “I just….well, you were wondering…do you know what I’m trying to say?” I finally give up, after stumbling over my words, and look at Bea. She just gives me a look of understanding, nothing in her face says that she thinks I’m being dumb, or silly for not being able to finish out the thought.

“If Kenny touched them, too?” She finishes the sentence for me, and I nod. “There’s no way to know. Do you remember him being in trouble, a big trouble? Or any of the parents keeping their kids away from Kenny?”

“No…..I don’t think so, no. What I remember anyway, no.” Blank spaces in my memory can be so frustrating. Even normal everyday things are missing. I shake my head. I’m thinking back, but there’s nothing.

We sit, quiet for a few moments. I take a drink of my coffee. Being up at 4:00am made today a coffee day, instead of a tea day.
“Do you remember how it ended with him? What stopped it?” Bea asks.

I think. I don’t. I’m afraid if I say that, she will decided I’m lying. That it’s not true, that nothing actually happened when I was a little girl. Slowly I shake my head, “No, nothing, there’s nothing. I don’t know.”

Bea nods her head at me. “That’s okay. There aren’t always concrete memories to deal with. Is there anything that seems like an ending, or feels like it might have ended things?”

I shake my head. There’s something, but it’s nothing at the same time. How do I explain that? Who has memories that aren’t memories? “There is something…..but it just opens more questions. More holes. I don’t know.” I’m frustrated. I feel like I have no answers, and I hate not having the answer.

“That happens. Trauma memories aren’t like other memories, there can be holes, blank spaces, more questions. You might never get the answer to those questions,” Bea says. I’m looking down, sneaking glances at her. I’m mostly present, but I can feel that I want to go away. Sneaking glances up at her face seems to help ground me; every time I look at her, I don’t see the annoyance, disbelief, disgust, hatred, anger, or horror I expect. I see understanding, I see kindness. That’s all. She looks like the same Bea who greets me, the same Bea who talks about Kat with me.

“There was…….we always rented a cabin every summer with them. I was 12, my parents didn’t go, but they still sent my brother and I. I think they were having problems, were working things out while we were gone, maybe, I’m not sure.” I stop there. I’m so unsure of how to continue this, how to explain. How do you tell someone you know something, when you don’t remember it at all? I look at Bea! and she nods at me, so I keep talking. “Something happened. I don’t remember that trip at all…………but I feel, I know something bad happened.” Now I look down, cover my face. I’m so afraid she won’t believe me. I feel sick to my stomach, and my heart is beating too fast. I can’t breathe.

“That makes sense. So many, many people don’t have memories, they have feelings, a belief, but no actual concrete memory. If you were 12, that was after the sexual education at church, right? You were 11 then?” I nod, yes, but I don’t look up. “Well, then it makes sense to me that you would have to completely block those memories out, bury them so deep you can’t find them, because that was after you realized what he was doing, that it was sex, and you really started to feel dirty, fear going to hell, all of that. The abuse was too much for your psyche to handle.”

I look up at her, then. She’s just Bea, and she believes me. It makes sense. It’s awful, and frustrating, but once again, Bea has reframed my version of things to make sense. I’m not crazy. If I feel so strongly that something happened at the cabin that summer, it did. “Oh…okay. I didn’t know, I didn’t think…..I just….something happened.”

“Yes, something happened. Maybe it never really had an ‘end.’ Maybe things just ended with him as he grew up and moved away, and you grew up,” Bea suggests.

Something about that suggestion seems partly real. I don’t know. I shake my head. “I just don’t know. It’s blank.”

“There might never be an answer. Sometimes blank spots stay blank.” Bea sounds sad, resigned almost. Like this is too bad, in some ways, for people like me who want the answers.

“I just want the answers. I hate not knowing.”

“I know. Not knowing is so very, very hard,” she says, “Processing the memories and the experiences is important, but it’s the feelings that really matter. It’s the feelings you have to deal with, and learning to be grounded in the here and now, learning coping skills for today…all of those things matter, too.”

I nod. They do matter, and I’m making progress, I know. I just want answers, I want my past back. I want the holes filled in, and the gaps gone. I want to be whole and healed. I don’t know to do that without having answers, and lists, notecards, binders, timelines. Maybe, learning to accept things as they are, without a perfect timeline, a perfect list, is part of the healing work I need to do.


6 thoughts on “Memories that aren’t memories

  1. I have spent years trying to get back all my memories and have been unsuccessful but what I did do was deal with the feelings and effects of what happened that I know in the deepest part of me. I have let go of my need to know all and stay steady on the lifelong path of healing. Good luck. Look forward to following your blog.


    • Thank you, and hi. 🙂
      It’s hard to give up the idea of knowing everything. I’ll have to stop by your blog and visit soon– it’s always helpful to read about how others have let go of needing to know, or how they have started and continued to heal.


  2. I know that feeling of trying to remember…when I started to think about my mom’s friend I suddenly remembered that she let him live with us. I have no recollection of where he slept. It still bugs me that he lived with us for I don’t know how long, where he slept, if he ate with us…there is just nothing except these brief but vivid moments of whatever.
    But it is okay, “normal”, and doesn’t invalidate what really happened.


  3. Swiss Cheese memory is what one of my therapist called it once. It’s frustrating. What always frustrates me the most is; I feel that my good memories have holes too because of all of it. I want to remember things my mom reminds me of but some of just isn’t there. I’m glad it’s not a made up thing.


    • Swiss cheese memory– perfect name. It is seriously as frustrating to me to be missing the good things, as well as wanting to fill in the holes for the bad things. But you aren’t alone, and it’s not made up.


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