Forget About It!

Jun 4th, 2011 | By | Category: All Posts, Guest Blog

by Patty Hite

Have you ever thought how ridiculous these three words are? “Forget About It!” I have been told to do this so many times over the years, especially about my abuse. I’ve spent so much time and energy trying to follow that suggestion and I have come to the conclusion that it is absolutely impossible to do.

How does one forget about it? It’s my past. It happened. I lived it. I felt it, I touched it, I smelled it. Tell me HOW am I supposed to forget it? Do I snap my fingers, click my heels three times, or pray that it leaves? Can I smash it with a hammer like an old computer hard drive or do I try to replace it with more happy memories? Can someone tell me where the delete button is, because I have tried everything possible to remove my memories of abuse and it hasn’t worked.

Forget about it? As a young child, I witnessed my dad raping my sister, and that was the beginning of my efforts to forget about it. My mind locked that away along with memories of my own sexual abuse and I did forget about it until many years later.

But those memories came back like a flood and from that moment on, my life changed. Those experiences are locked in, never to leave. Sure, I wish it never happened. But it did. There is no doubt about that. My memories don’t lie. No one planted them in my head. I didn’t read it from a book. It happened.

Even after my mind unlocked those memories, I spent many more years trying to forget. I stuffed it in the back of my mind and did everything to try and keep it there. I started doing drugs at a very young age, and then I tried alcohol. Yeah, I became someone else during those times. I didn’t think about the abuse I saw and experienced. I could actually go a few days in between the hurt and pain that would try to sneak up on me with flashbacks and triggers. The more they surfaced, the more drugs I did.

Drugs were getting harder to find and I was getting scared because of the chemicals in those drugs. So I would forget about it by going to my happy place. I would zone out mentally from my surroundings and my past. Although my body performed as though I was present, my mind was not there. I could communicate with others only to walk away and not remember the conversation. There was no fear of what happened, no fear of what may happen, nor fear when something bad did happen.

By separating from my memories, I separated from myself and everything around me.

The problem with forgetting about it by drugs, alcohol or dissociation, was that I forgot everything. By separating from my memories, I separated from myself and everything around me. I would live my life talking to people everyday, only to forget who they were. The time I spent with my children is a fog. I have the pictures, but few memories.

Clinging to abusive men and abusive friendships was a way of forgetting about it too. Fighting each day for my life and learning how to walk on eggshells, living with extensive drama helped to mask the past pain. Except then, I had more traumatic memories of abuse piled upon my childhood memories. Forget about it? That only caused more pain.

So, here I am. Fifty-nine years old with the memories of my childhood and adult abuse. They aren’t going anywhere. I can continue to spend more wasted time on trying to forget about them, or I can face them. Relive them. Instead of trying to push them aside, I can look at them with my adult eyes.

So I’ve pulled those memories out to the forefront and dusted off the cobwebs. The pain has been unbearable at times. There have been times I couldn’t breath and I cried for days. But I faced it.

It wasn’t so much the physical pain of the abuse—it was pain of my broken heart that hurt so much. It was the pain of knowing that my dad had gone from father to predator. The pain of remembering the uncle I loved and cherished had crossed the line from hugging to fondling me. Understanding that the men I loved and trusted didn’t love me. Yes, there is pain in remembering my abuse. But there is much, much more pain in trying to forget about it.

Revisiting my memories of abuse and my dysfunctional upbringing is like finding a box in the corner of my closet. I don’t know what is in there, but I get so excited when I open it. Each time I revisit my memories, a new awakening happens. It’s facing facts and it’s facing truth. I’m able to find my hidden emotions that I pushed aside. The smells and things I saw during my abuse no longer torment me. I can actually walk into a room and smell his cologne and not have a panic attack. Wallpaper with little flowers doesn’t make me dizzy, and hearing kissing sounds don’t cause me to throw up anymore.

Each time I revisit those memories, I release more pain and reveal a part of me that was hidden. I am in those memories I tried so hard to forget. Pieces of me. Whether it be an emotion or something I touched, or smelled, or even a thought. Me. To forget about IT, means forgetting about ME. I’m remembering and healing and rescuing myself from the past. I’m my whole self in the present. Forget about it? NEVER!!!

As a survivor of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, Patty Hite has been tenaciously pursuing her healing for over thirty years. She’s a passionate advocate for all survivors and dedicates her life to inspiring emotional wholeness in others. As a former victim of spousal abuse, she’s delighted to find true love with her husband of ­­­­five years. She’s blessed with four children and six grandchildren.

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49 comments
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  1. Patty,
    Wow! Such powerful words! I don’t know very many survivors of abuse who haven’t been told to forget about or who desperately wanted to be able to forget about it. For as long as I’ve known what happened to me, I’ve known that the only way out was through so I didn’t make a conscious effort to forget, but so many well-meaning people suggested the “forget it” route to me and it felt very invalidating and sometimes discouraging. I know many of them were reacting out of their own unresolved pain and couldn’t handle hearing about mine. I give explainations to some people and I just don’t talk about anything very deep to some others. I know not everyone can or wants to understand and that’s okay. The important thing is that I know what’s best for me. Thank you so much for sharing this!
    Love, Christina

  2. Christina,

    You are so right!! It IS discouraging to be told to forget about it. Growing up, I didn’t need anyone to tell me to forget it, I was so brainwashed into believing that is what I am suppose to do. Especially when it came to family. I used to keep silent when people, no matter who they were, told me I needed to forget about it and move on. Now, I tell them, “How do you forget memories?” I mean, when I think about it, isn’t that a little ridiculous? lol.

    Thank you for your encouraging words. Knowing what’s best for us, for me, IS what is important.

    Patty

  3. I love this article and yeah for writing it. It’s a wonderful statement of healing and encouraging for me to have someone who put into words what’s wrong with forgetting. Words of dismissal, “forget about it” may be meant as encouraging people to get on with living. But it doesn’t work for people who experienced childhood sexual abuse when we are trying to regain our lives.

  4. Kimberly,

    Some people who have told me to “forget about it” may have been sincere when saying that, but there are some who wants me to shut up about it. Usually family who wants the abuse to remain in the closet. And they were words of dismissal. What they don’t understand is that Survivors do want to get on living and we all wish we could forget about it. My best response to them is, “Can you forget your memories?” It just doesn’t make sense does it?

    Thank you for your comment. Appreciate you!! Patty

  5. Patty, I completely agree that people who tell trauma survivors to “forget about it” are completely off base. I found EMDR very helpful for cutting the emotional cords that kept me emotionally tied to the memories of abuse. I still remember, but the memories no longer hold power over me.

  6. It happened, yes. You have and are dealing with it, yet. Getting over it?

    Well, it’s not a matter of “getting over it”, it’s a matter of understanding what happened, to the best of your ability, to bring to light what happened, to the best of your abiitiy and to bring to justice the perpetrator, to the best of your ability. Living with the repercussions of it, for the rest of your life, will always be an up AND down hill journey.

    “Get over it” is like saying, “Stop remember, stop feeling, stop dealing, stop learning, stop breathing.” It is a part of our past, yes, but it’s also a huge part of us. Not that it governs our lives, but that we were changed by the experience and now our reality is that it happened to us, regardless of what others believe or don’t believe, we know what happened, we know how our lives were changed by it and we know we survived it and are dealing with it to the best of our abilities at this time. Maybe better later, maybe not as well on some days, but each day, we are doing our best, nothing more can be asked of us.

    After all, why should we “get over it”, like it’s just some silly little hurdle? Healing, dealing, putting things into perspective is not the same as “getting over it”. I think of getting over it the same as if you got a B on a test instead of an A, you get over it and try harder next time. There is no “try harder next time” with this. But the abuse does NOT define who we are. If they are uncomfortable, it is THIER problem to deal with! Maybe the comeback could be a simple, “Thank you, I’ll let you know how that works out.” :-)

  7. A common phrase my former husband used was to say shut up and forget about it and he used to say it to try and stop me speaking about what had happened to our daughter. When I did need to talk about it in the years afterwards he would utter those words, because me speaking about what had occurred reminded him I believe of how badly, how miserably he had failed his child in the first place and the best way for him to stop his guilt being triggered, the part that he had played in it all, was to silence me. I ceased talking to him about it eventually and went and found someone else who would let me express my hurt and my sadness, without condemning me for doing so and who would not stop me from trying to tell my story, about what had occurred. I was robbed of the capacity to speak as a child, I wasn’t prepared to be silenced as an adult, especially as it involved my child and as the cycle seemed to be repeating. I didn’t want that for her, for her to go through what I had to endure. I wanted it all to halt right there and then and the only way that could happen was for me to get help from those who understood what abuse does to people and of the necessity to speak about it.

    I found that family members who told me to shut up, did so because it brought up their stuff and they wouldn’t and couldn’t, weren’t prepared to look at their stuff; it was far too painful for them.

    Those memories, all memories are imprinted on our brains. To heal, to begin to heal, we have to speak of them and particularly the horrid ones, put words to them from a time that we could not vocalise them and bring them out into the light of day. Like you Patti, narrative therapy has helped me enormously and once I could do that it enabled me to actually to speak; to speak about them, to speak up and in time gave me the strength to stand up for myself.

  8. Darby,

    People can be off base when they tell us to forget about it. But, I am finding that the more I’m told that, the more determined I am to inform them that I will not forget it. Glad you are doing better with your memories and there is less pain and hurt. thanks so much for sharing. Patty

  9. Tyann,

    I agree… “Why should we get over it?” Besides, how can we possibly forget it? Actually, now, I am glad that I stopped trying to forget, because I have learned to pull myself together and I like myself. Finding the lost pieces of myself have balanced me out. I am getting more and more healthy and I like that.

    thanks for sharing, Patty

  10. Kathryn,

    Thank you for sharing. The things you wrote reminded me of my ex, too. Actually as I was reading your comment, it painted a picture of those who didn’t care about me, were the ones who insisted that I forget about it. They didin’t care about the effects the abuse has on me, they didn’t care how their words were trying to force me to shut up. I understand that there are some who repeat that phrase because they were told that by their children. But there are those, who use it as a way of protecting themselves.

    Again, thanks for sharing and I am so glad you could relate to my blog. Patty

  11. Hello Patty ,

    Thank you very much for your powerful ,encouraging words
    the more people tell me to forget about it ..it tells me to remember what happened
    to me and work harder and harder in my counseling sessions.
    thank you for your inspiration —because patty my abuse was so bad my father
    even made his own torturing tools ..
    So Bravo to you for being so strong and sharing with us again “Thank You Very Much”
    May Your Angels always shine a bright light on you and yours.

    Sincerely,
    Maria Ortiz

  12. Maria,

    Thank YOU! I am so glad that you push ahead in spite of what others say!! I’m so sorry for what happened to you, but I am so glad that you won’t stop finding yourself. You are valuable and worth it!!

    Your words are so encouraging and appreciate them so much.

    Patty

  13. Patty, what a wonderful blog and so relevant to us survivors who have struggled for years to “forget about it’. This is a truth that I have learned over the years, that we don’t forget but facing and dealing with the memories as an adult begins to take away the power that they have over us. The processing of the emotions and feelings helps to take away the fear and empowers us to go on and build a better life with good relationships. As long as we try to forget the trauma will rear it’s ugly head again and again turning our lives upside-down. Like you it was painful to revisit the trauma and events and go through the losses and sadness, but I think the process is healing in a way that we cannot imagine, until we try it. Thanks for such a positive spin to help those that have friends and family that are invalidating us by trying to erase US along with the past. Erasing US is not the soultiong to being whole again..

  14. Linda,

    Thank you for your encouragement. Everything you said hits it right on the head. Especially about others trying to erase US. Now, that reality hurts, but I had to face that too in my life, but it was only by facing the memories of my dysfunctional family that I was able to see the truth. The more we visit, the more truth is revealed.

    Thanks again and I appreciate you, Patty.

  15. So many times I’ve been told by so many people “just forget about it” “what are you doing talking about it, it happened so long ago?” “why are you raking all that up after all these years”

    They might as well say instead “shut up, I don’t want to hear it” because that is one thing I hear when I hear statements like that.

    If only I think! I know I have gaps in my memory but some things were vividly imprinted in my memory. I always knew I’d been abused. I’ve often wished to forget but that is not possible. I am who and what I am because of the abuse. My life is different because of that abuse. I cannot just wipe 20 years out of my life just like that, that would be like giving me permanent amnesia, how messed up is that? It’s just possible.

    Yeah, I guess you can say this post resonated with me!!

  16. Ooops just saw the type in my penultimate line – I meant it read “it’s just NOT possible”

  17. Fi,

    You are right!! It is just NOT possible. I feel the same way when people tell me to forget it. It is an insensitive way of telling me they don’t care, or don’t want to stir things up. it hurt so bad, so many times. I tried, but it wasn’t possible. Now, I am wondering why I spent so much time trying to keep silent and trying to forget. Even to the point of using substances to try and do it.

    Thanks so much for your comment. Patty

  18. Hi Patty,
    Great post. I tried all the same stuff to forget about it. Nothing worked and I never got close to getting over the chronic depressions and dissociative disorders and those memories were getting closer! I had to face the pain. It was the fear of the pain that made me run so hard in the first place! It really does hurt to realize that my own parents were such a big part of the abuse that I went through.. but that is the truth and it really hurts to face that people didn’t see me as a human with feelings, but rather just an object. But that was the truth too and in the end, it was facing the pain of that truth that set me free and enabled me to set my boundaries and heal ~ as soon as I really faced what i had to heal from in the first place. I will never forget either!
    Hugs, Darlene

  19. Darlene,

    I know what you mean by it really hurts to face the truth about those who should have loved us. That was the most painful to me. The truth of it. Once I gave up my fantasies of this perfect family, I thought my heart would explode from all the hurt. But you are right, facing the pain of that truth, set me free. I was no longer held back from healing. I had to realize the truth before I could go any further. And I am glad I did. Now my life has balanced out. Im not afraid to face the truth and I’m not afraid of the future.

    Thanks so much for sharing. I appreciate you! Love, Patty

  20. It may sound redendant, but people who say to forget about it, etc., are those who refuse to walk in your shoes, and they refuse to walk in their own shoes, or else they would participate in the discussion instead of trying to end it

  21. Kate,

    I think that is very true. Many people don’t understand what we have gone thru and the effects it has on us. Hopefully, with more and more survivors speaking out, others will understand more and won’t be so quick to give advice that hurts us so much.

    Thanks so much for sharing, Patty.

  22. Hi patty

    Thank you for writing this & sharing it with us. It’s a very good piece & I can empathise with everything you’ve written as I myself have just begun to re build my life aged 45. I went down the same paths & tried to block it all out but the love of a good family dragged me back out of that situation.
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart
    Liz x

  23. Does ‘Let it go’ mean the same thing as ‘Forget about it?’
    Someone at work told me that. I felt like giving him an award for coming up with the most hackneyed phrases of anyone there.
    ‘Forget about it’ is a hackneyed phrase. For those who aren’t familiar with professional writing and communication, a hackneyed phrase is one that’s lost it’s meaning b/c of being overstated. That’s the main reason I try to avoid them. But I also don’t like saying that to people, b/c it doesn’t feel right even when I say it to myself.

  24. ‘Click my heels three times.’ LOL
    It’s good when you can be humorous. I couldn’t at first. Everything was deep and serious, like my brother is now, and I couldn’t find humor. Not until I met a guy who was a real comedian, trained in it and all that.

  25. Liz,

    Thank you so much. And it’s never too late to start rebuilding. ((hug)) Patty

  26. Vicki,

    I’m glad you can find humor in things. It’s important to allow ourselves the freedom to laugh at rediculous things like. “forget about it.” It is quite funny, considering the fact that it will never happen.

    Thanks for sharing. Patty

  27. I must admit I really really chuckled at “click my heels three times”, in fact just typing these words I have a big grin across my face, I don’t know why those words are so funny but they are!!

  28. I’m curious as to why it’s easy for me to read all kinds of fiction books, and I can follow the entire passages. But when I read posts on here, if I read them all the way through, a mist–one I actually see–clouds over me when I’m reading certain paragraphs, and I miss the meaning of that paragraph.
    Has that happened to anyone else? It’s kind of scary, b/c I’m afraid that one of these days I’ll go in and never be able to come back out. I don’t know if I’m controlling what happens anyway. I think I’m NOT managing it. I don’t know why it makes me unable to remember a single word I read in the particular paragraph.

  29. Fi,

    “Click my heels three times” is quick to come out of my mouth. I use it many times when someone else expects things from me that I am not giving them. lol. When I say that, it makes them laugh too and is a good way to “get them off my back.” lol

    Patty

  30. Vicki,

    I used to do that when things would trigger me. I would feel like I was in a fog. It was important for me to overcome that because I knew that being triggered meant I needed to deal with something. so if something I read triggered me, I would find out what it was by revisiting my past and getting to the reasons why.

    Patty

  31. […] Posts: “Forget about it!” by Patty Hite on Overcoming Sexual […]

  32. Our memories our a gift.
    How hard it’s been to get to the point of understanding what a gift it is to remember. It certainly did not feel like a gift when they first began to pour in. It felt like the end of the world.
    Without those memories, I didn’t really know who I was. As you said, it was more than just pain that got blocked from me.
    Without those memories I could not have understood how much of my behavior was reactive because I had no sense of what I was reacting to.
    Without those memories, I lived in fear all the time and had no idea why.

    Now, I know.
    It’s not possible to destroy a monster until you can see it, hear it… know it. Now, I can move forward, knowing I am lovable and worthwhile, with that monster securely in the past where he belongs.

  33. Shen,

    I really like what you said. “Our memories are a gift.” That is how I fell too. At first I hated them, and thought I could never get over something so horrid and painful. But I welcome them now, because I can face them and because I am facing them, I am becoming more and more of who I am. And I am loving me.

    Thank you so much for sharing, Patty

  34. How can I do that when I don’t even remember a single word of what caused it? Or stimulated it. I dislike the word trigger, b/c I was held at gunpoint for at least 5 hours. I think words are important, especially that one, so I use it extremely sparingly.
    Do I re-read the whole passage again? That’s the only way I can think of. Otherwise, there’s nothing to remember except a white mist. A REAL mist not a figurative one. I don’t feel like I’m in a fog. I actually see the mist in front of my eyes and everything disappears for as long as it’s there.
    It was so intense and so physical, in fact, I actually debated whether to call my Primary doctor and let him know what happened. I decided not to, b/c it’s happened only once. If it happens again, I’m going to give the matter more consideration.
    I wish I could call my psychiatrist, but I know what he’s going to say if I do. I can almost hear him saying, “I told you to stop doing the work.”
    He did tell me that, I just didn’t listen. Again.

  35. […] Is Overcoming Sexual Abuse Really Possible? My Healing Journey: Stumbling and Getting Back Up Forget About It? My Support System is Led By […]

  36. i am still living the pain of the past how do you forget

  37. Sandy,

    There is no forgetting the past. It’s locked in our memories. We lived it, it is there to stay. But, the good news is that thru healing and facing our past, we can diminish the pain and the guilt and shame and blame that are wrapped around those memories.

    I know it seems impossible, but it is true. This is one truth that I cling to and have seen the results of it. Facing our past memories diffuses the power it has over me. I can face those memories and know they are memories and not my present. Each time I visit them and face the fears and the emotions of that time, I become more empowered now.

    I started out by reading abuse reference books. There are some on this website that I highly recommend. Being involved in a support group is tremendous also because other survivors share their stories and victories of how they overcame different things concerning their abuse. Some survivors get professional help also to help them sort out their memories.

    There is hope in healing, in which ever way we do it. And in time the memories become memories with no power. ((hug)) Patty

  38. As a child I was brought up with an inprint in my mind to “forgive and forget” these words came from my mother.
    During childhood and early adult life, I continued to beleive my mother words, whilst not knowing that my belief gave others (whom done me wrong), an excuss to continue with their wrong behaviour.
    I have been able to forgive some (although would never condone their wrongfull behaviour), but I really do struggle to forget. I believe that as hard as is it to forgive, it gives me the freedom to accept my experience and move forward without carrying any bitterness. In being able to do this also releives me of feeling the victim and therefore empowers, as those whom have done me wrong have no wrongfull power over me anymore.

  39. Sharon,

    Thank you for sharing. I think most of us have been taught wrong concerning the forgive and forget theory. I’m so glad you were able to find the truth. I love the truth. And I especially love the way you stated it: ” I believe that as hard as is it to forgive, it gives me the freedom to accept my experience and move forward without carrying any bitterness. In being able to do this also releives me of feeling the victim and therefore empowers, as those whom have done me wrong have no wrongfull power over me anymore.”

    Thank you, Patty

  40. If it were this easy to forget, wouldn’t we do it.. How rediculous. I’ve heard Oh the past is the past, just get on with your life. I read somewhere that is like putting a bandaid on a large tumor. It has to be cut out. It is no wonder we get angry. We have to go through so much pain again
    and it was never our fault. Ugh..
    Irene

  41. God Bless you!

    Maria Ortiz

  42. Irene,

    I agree!! It is rediculous. ((hug)) Patty

  43. Marie,

    Thank you! And He does.

  44. Dear Patty
    I would like to send my internal gratitude to you for sharing your vulnerabities so honestly and publicly, it is extremely corageous and admirable.

    I can really relate to all aspects of your story and particulary the fact that you became memory poor.

    I have acquired this, and though it was attributable to the amount of marijuana I was smoking in order to numb my pain. I now know this is no longer the case as I had stopped smoking over 5 years ago.

    I knew about my abuse, but it is very hazy, as I am aware of the tramatic effects this has had on my daily life.

    Having been on your journey for quite some time, I wonder if you could possibly help me with my own personal growth by answering me some questions please.

    Kind Regards
    Natasha

  45. Natasha,

    You can contact me on Facebook. I am not a professional but am more than willing to share my experiences to help you any way I can. Patty

  46. I came across this believe it or not by tying into googel “how to forget memories of childhood sexual abuse”. Thank you for writing this, I spend so much time trying to forget and your words sound like something I myself have/would write. I want to forget so badly. And while I don’t think that want is going to go away straight away reading your story has helped me in some ways see my efforts to forget aren’t really getting me anywhere but only causing me more pain. Thank you again for sharing this.

  47. Emma,

    I believe we all try to forget because we have been programmed by others to move on. I believe in moving on, but moving on in a healthy way could only be achieved by remembering my abuse and learning how to overcome it. To feel empowered instead of victimized seems to be the best solution for me. Life can be good and we all deserve it!! Patty

  48. Remembering helps us set proper boundaries and keeps us safe in the present. Even so, it’s important to reach a place where we can distinguish between the memory and the actual event. It isn’t happening now, and as adults we have to power to keep it from ever happening again, but when we have fully processed the past, we can know that in this moment we are safe and whole and the pain lessens. And lessens. And lessens.

  49. Dear Patty,

    Your story really hit home with me. The thing that made me burst into tears was the last thing you wrote. That there are pieces of yourself in those memories. I have gone through my live half in coma and trying to repress those memories. Scarred of the nerve wrenching pain that comes with those memories. I applaud your work and that of Bethany and Christina. I have been reading this website since of today but i feel it allready helped me so much. To read about such powerful, strong woman that have made it through hell and back is simply amazing. I’m not easily touched but i am now. Good luck and keep up the good work that you do. Thank you.

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