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The absence of pain
Have you ever taken notice of the strange yet welcomed feeling of the "absence of pain"? As an older adult I have gotten quite used to aches and pains. The feeling is normalized and hardly noticed. Yet, when you take something that is truly affective on the pain, the absence of pain becomes very apparent. It is an interesting feeling. So present and so strong that you realize that you have been in pain for longer than you thought.
I believe the same is true of the "pain" you live with as a trauma survivor. As one that has experienced childhood abuse, it still takes me by surprise when I become aware (truly aware) of that pain. Being a survivor with both tangible memories and repressed memories,I can tell you that it becomes so normal that you hardly realize they are there, somewhere.
I have large gaps in the memories of my childhood. I could not tell you anything about favorite teachers, best friends, happy memories of games I played or if I had any favorite outfits. In fact I recently wrote of my surprise in seeing a picture of me as a child in front of a birthday cake. I always assumed I never had a birthday party.
As a mental health practitioner, who has dedicated my life to other's pain and suffering due to violence and abuse in their past, I understand this to be a case of repressed memorieis. It is a little disconcerting but a reality that I accept.
I listen to my big brother and younger sister tell stories of our childhood and have NO idea of what they are referring to. When we get together, and talk about the past, the most frequent phrase uttered is..."Remember when...?" and I smile and shake my head knowing that I have no recollection of the event. Most times I just keep to myself that I have no memory of it because then the discussion turns to "How can you not?" and more details of the forgotten event. The strange thing is that it seems most of my repressed memories are of good things. This does not make much sense to me because you would think that the mind would repress painful memories and only recall the good.
Nevertheless, what prompted me to write this blog is that tonight I was truly triggered. This usually does not happen much to me. As a Social Worker and mental health professional, I hear many stories of child abuse and approach them professionally without any difficulty. Not a blink! Tonight however, I was watching "Celebrity Rehab" and one of the celebrities (her name escapes me. I only know her as "Sugar", a former contestant on ''Survivor"). In the show, Dr. Drew asked her if she recalled any childhood abuse. She stated that she did not but always 'wondered' if there had been. Her admission that she could not remember but wondered about it all her life just brought me to tears. The tears, I believe, came from me relating to the fact that I am aware of living with pain I cannot recall totally. How absolutely strange is that?
It is again that idea that you can live your life with pain and feel it to be a normal state but having no idea that the pain is there. It is only when you feel the absence of pain that you are aware there was pain there.
I share this with you, my dear readers, because I know there are so many of us just "doing life" as survivors that are living "successful" lives and are thought to be the ones that lived through it and "got over it". The thing is...there is no true "getting over it". We just live with it.
Is that a good thing? A bad thing? The best we can hope for? I suppose a bit of them all. Because we cannot live our lives in the past, if we are to be "successful" and productive citizens. But where does the pain go? Where is it stored? And when and how will it creep back into your life. That, I think, is the crucial question. Is it best to ignore it until there is a trigger? Do we try to resolve the feelings that cause the pain so that we can do away with it for good? Are most of us "living" with pain that is in a type of remission and all we can hope for is that it remains dormant? Doing what society asks us to do and "get over it" and get on with our lives? I do not know what the answer is. What I do know is that a simple TV show should not make a 51-year-old woman weep like a child because something happened when she was a child that is too painful to remember or talk about.