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Your Memories May Make You Sick

Updated on March 5, 2020
Lorelei Nettles profile image

Lorelei often writes about her personal failings, and the things she, her friends, and family have learned or experienced through the years.


One day, I was digging through my dresser drawer looking for a shirt. I found one I liked and as I withdrew it from the drawer I suddenly felt weird. It was a shirt I had not worn since I had been ill and just the sight of it made me feel horrible. Eight years later I was minding my own business when Bill Nye the Science Guy came on television. Within a few seconds of hearing the theme song, I was feeling nauseous. Then I remembered I had not seen the show since I had been pregnant. The mere sound of the show triggered a response in me. Whether it is called nostalgia, Déjà vu, or simply memories, it seems memories can play a major role in how we feel.


We have all heard a song on the radio or TV that connects us to some moment in time in our past and changes how we feel. When it makes us feel happy or brings back loving memories it’s great, but when it brings back sadness or grief it can feel devastating. When a song can bring you to tears or throw you into deep depression something inside of you has gone terribly wrong. If for instance, it is was a recent event like a breakup, it is quite understandable but when it continues to happen after a long period of time has passed, it could be an issue. I remember once, while I was still a newlywed, dropping my husband off at the airport. Soon after leaving him the song, “I Miss You” came on the radio and I cried all the way home. Years later I hear that song and it always brings me back to that moment. This is what a healthy memory looks like. It does not make me sick, make me cry, or make me depressed. It is just a memory for me.


I know a woman who was sexually abused as a teen, she worked with the public and one day her attacker came in. They were face-to-face and he did not recognize her, but she could not forget his face and was unable to cope with the situation. She left the area asking someone else to cover. She hurried to the break room and fell to pieces. This is an extreme case, but similar things can happen to us when we see someone from our past who impacted our lives in one way or another. Maybe it’s as innocuous as stomach flutters or a chill. Maybe it’s an ex-boyfriend we still care for and we feel a fondness for the person. But in extreme cases, it can evolve into vomiting, migraines, or panic attacks. Again, no surprise if it’s a situation like I mentioned above, but tragic if it is over something small. Maybe you do not even know why you feel as you do but your physical ailments are very apparent. Sometimes we must look deep to figure out why such things are happening to us.

A Positive Reaction

Positive reactions to nostalgia should never be a problem, right? Not so fast. According to an article by Dr. Heidi Moawad called The Brain and Nostalgia can become a crutch we can become addicted to and can work with the reward centers of our brain. The problem can be that if we replace our real feelings for feelings of euphoria we are not coping. Of course, it is only a problem if it’s too often used as an escape. Positive reactions can also be used for good. Consider the playing of your favorite songs while in labor or having surgery. What about having someone near and dear when you are going through something dire? Just the sound of their voice can bring us comfort. The reason they are near and dear is that we have positive memories with them. It can also be helpful to be surrounded by aromas that bring back wonderful memories when you are feeling down. When I was a child there were lilacs outside my window. The sweet aroma filled my bedroom whenever they bloomed. The smell of lilacs brings me joy to this day.


Even our night time thoughts can affect us. Previous trauma, arguments, or those bizarre dreams we have of things that have never actually happened to us. For instance, if we dream of falling we may feel very shaken when we awake, but that usually passes pretty quickly. The point is that all of it can affect how we physically feel when we wake up. Dizziness, nausea, or feelings of physical or mental pain can arise. Another side effect of nightmares can be panic. A panic attack can take our breath away, it causes our hearts to race, we may sweat, tremble, and our blood pressure can rise. It can lead to convulsions or even to a loss of consciousness. Again, this could be serious and one should seek professional care if such things happen.

Warning signs

Please note that if you are experiencing any extremes of the ones mentioned or not; if there is evidence of anything else happening associated with your thoughts, there may be a serious problem. Make sure to visit your MD or psychologist, so that he or she can evaluate your symptoms and determine if something more serious is going on. It may be something associated with PTSD or some other issue. On rare occasions Déjà vu can be a symptom of something more troublesome. Take note if there are prolonged memories if there are hallucinations, or the nostalgia is happening frequently.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Lorelei Nettles


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