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.
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.
Does this resonate with you? Please join in by leaving your thoughts and feelings about this topic and don’t forget to subscribe to the comments.