I Remember the Day … or do I?
I’ve recently found a writer online who had MPD, Multiple Personality Disorder. She has been able to integrate these personalities and is doing quite well, especially considering the absolute Hell of her childhood.
She and I have had a few short conversations about being abused as a child and having mental illness, hers is Bi-polar and mine Depression and Anxiety Disorder, and these discussions have me thinking, remembering some of the things that took place in my life.
I have a difficult enough time navigating present day challenges that I rarely think about the past, on purpose, at least. I have written a few articles about the subject of abuse, experienced as a child and as an adult, but for the most part, I just don’t “go there” intentionally. I do have memories that pop up every once in a while – some would call it PTSD, I suppose, but not all of the memories are all that bad.
What I do not have is memory of my childhood, other than snippets, from birth to around nine years old. What I mean by this is, I hear other people recounting simple things like, “Oh I remember the Chirstmases in our home when all of the relatives would come and we would have a lovely dinner …” or “I remember when I was six years old and got my first bike …”
I’ve tried to discuss this with my sister, my only source of information, but she is very reluctant to remember anything from our childhood and gets upset if I question her. She has helped me remember a few things though and she has corrected some things I thought I remembered. A couple of years ago I mentioned to her that I can’t seem to remember any of my birthdays and she casually told me that is because they were not celebrated. I was dumbfounded and pushed for more information. “No parties you mean?” She repeated, they were not celebrated, no party, no cake, no presents, nothing. My heart began pounding and I was furious! Not even a friggin cake? I mean how much effort would that of taken? And what does that say to a child that no one is happy that you were born? You’d think that they could at least pretend to celebrate the day – I mean I remember eating cake at other times, don’t I? I know we ate pie. My mother’s pies were famous. No cake, huh, no balloons, no presents, certainly no parties. Okay then, that would explain no memories.
But Christmas, I have a vague memory of a Christmas. They, my mother and the man that was allegedly my father and my sister’s stepfather, took us with them when they shopped and I ruined my surprise because I peeked though the aisle and saw my mom holding a clown puppet – at least I think it was a clown. My sister was surprised by her gift – boy was she – a lousy, stinking , Webster’s Dictionary! What a crappy present to give a ten year old girl, especially if that is to be your only gift. That would explain why I have only one memory of Christmas until I was eleven and mom and I were living on our own by then. She seemed to get better as I got older. She had my sister sent away for being a delinquent and the father left with one of his mistresses so she had less to upset her by then.
I do have memories of our pets. We always had dogs and cats and they were my friends, usually my only friends, because we moved constantly and being the new kid is not conducive to being very popular. We also had a violent chicken, which probably suffered from some degree of mental illness like the rest of the family – well, it could happen! All I know is our Uncle gave us girls this Easter chick that quickly grew into a large nasty chicken and this chicken hated me! We didn’t have indoor plumbing in the house we lived in at the time and this damned chicken would lay in wait for me to have to use the outhouse and then chase me, pecking at my heels until they were bloody. I am terrified of anything larger than a sparrow to this day if it isn’t in a strong cage!
I have only a couple of memories of the dad. I seem to have this memory of getting up to use the bathroom while it was still dark out. He was shaving and I was mesmerized by the process. I don’t remember any interaction with him other than he let me watch for a while and it seemed nice, like we had shared a moment or something. I didn’t know what I had missed not having a father daughter relationship until seeing my husband with his daughter. We had his son and daughter for a visit and were watching a scary movie. He was in his overstuffed chair and she was next to me and her brother on the couch. She looked at her Dad with big frightened eyes and with the slightest nod of his head she went straight for him. She sat on the floor between his feet and he leaned forward and wrapped his arms around her. She was too old to sit in his lap or I’m sure that’s right where she would have been. I felt like someone punched me in the stomach and a new whole opened in my heart. Man, what would that be like? Imagine having a big strong Father you could just look at and they would be right there to protect you from fears, to comfort you? Amazing!
But, back to this whole remembering thing. I’m fairly certain that I don’t have years upon years of repressed memories since some of the things I do recall are horrific enough it seems they would qualify for my brain to stick them into a compartment somewhere deep inside of my brain. And what if there are a bunch of repressed memories? What possible good could come from knowing about them at my advanced age?
I guess the main thing that has come from this remembering is that an act of omission can be as damaging to a child as an act of commission. We learn to value ourselves by feeling valued and if that doesn’t happen, full development of a person probably doesn’t happen. I have despised mediocrity as long as I can remember and would rather someone hate me then ignore me, so I have another piece of the puzzle. If I remember, or think I remember, anything else, I’ll let you know.
In the mean time, make sure you celebrate the people in your lives and let them know you’re really glad they are part of your life.