|| Memories, Good or Bad
by Teresa Joyce, NAASCA representative in the United Kingdom
Our memories bring us to pleasure, fond remembrance, and joy, to state but a few. But, on the other side of life, memories can bring us pain, a feeling of desertion, and deep isolation. Either way, memories will never be able to aid us with the gift to predict the future.
And, as for the past? Well, that can never be altered because it's somewhat set in stone. The past is set to stay with us as we journey through life, and we can only ever make the best of that situation. This journey is one that all of us need to make, because within the acceptance of life, it needs to be lived. So, we endeavour to take the bad along with the good, as we continue to experience the ride on the roller coaster called life.
If we are lucky, the good will always outweigh the bad, which in turn, gives us the strength when required to shoulder the bad when it arrives.
But what if we were to turn that statement on its head where the bad has always outweighed the good? What if finding any good has never seemed possible? Well, we are then destined to travel a completely different journey, on the roller coaster into hell, where the downs are always present and the ups seem impossible to reach. They just don't seem to have any influence, or contribute at all, within that ride into the dark side of life.
For a child abuse recovering adult, the paragraph I've written above is no great mystery. In fact, all that I have achieved whilst writing that paragraph was to randomly tear a page from within their book of life. So, let's stay with that analogy and I will endeavour to use it to emphasise my meaning.
If we were to think of life as being much like a book, we pick it up at birth, where every book begins on that first page beneath its front cover. Then there is the intrigue of what may lay within each chapter, which sits between both covers. We really don't know where we will be taken as we plough our way through the pages towards its conclusion. At times, we may have already somewhat guessed its ending, but that doesn't deter us from continually turning to the next page with enthusiasm. On reaching its conclusion, we reflect upon its content and mull over the story and any effect it may have left upon us.
Even if it was so very far-fetched and off the scale, we still accept that it was only trying to reach within our imagination. If it was distasteful within its content, we could have easily chosen to put it down. If it was a love story, then we are washed away within the romance and, for most, the girl always gets her guy, or clearly, she was not destined to be with him. There was no one standing above influencing our choice of whether to read on or not to do so, as we choose to pick it up or put it down at our leisure. Whatever the above triggers within you, they are still very much scenarios of choice which, by their very nature, can be no other.
But, if we were to pick up the book of life of a child abuse recovering adult, none of the above relates. There is no beginning that they remember, there are no chapters that they can recall totally. In truth, it's just far too muddled. Most certainly, there has never been an end in sight, even if the book's author has now departed. Indeed, there is no conclusion that can be made on this now unfinished, unedited manuscript. If we were able to pick up every one of the books I've described above, tear them into tiny pieces, before once rearranging them without care, they would still make more sense combined that way than the book of life for a child within abuse. They were given no other choice than to read on, whilst holding on to their emerging book of life alone, terrified, confused, and controlled.
The front and the back covers were always open on demand with a force that, unless you have experienced child abuse, is impossible to understand. There was never any second guessing its ending because there was no end to be seen. At times, they can't even remember its arrival; it just seems as if it has always been there. Controlled by discipline and by exterior elements, the content of the continuing chapters was always written in another's hand. There was no foreword page outlining the story and their abuser who, as sure as hell, did not want any recognition for their work; or ever contemplate another's contribution to the book of life they were heinously destroying. That abused child would have been the only one to ever glimpse within its open pages, however completely without the art of understanding or being able to read from the devil's pen.
In all truth, our memories are the foundation for the book of life that will form from within us as we grow, it just hasn't as yet reached its end until the end comes to us all naturally. We could say that on birth all our pages are blank, just waiting for the input of life where we start to accrue our memories. As thee memories arrive, they are mentally jotted down because we are a manuscript in progress. The content within the chapters has many years in which to formulate our story, and it's unavoidable that the end will at some point arrive.
But, for a child abuse recovering adult, those chapters between the covers from beginning to end will have no distinction; they are all within the same unaltered and extended manuscript. Scrambled, confused, with no access to the forthcoming, yet unwritten pages, they rapidly and continually turn over each day, without any real sense to be made, without compassion, and without any aid from any direction. Their book of life experience could never be put aside or discarded; there was never any finality, even if many years may have now passed them by.
As I have stated above, the past can never be rewritten, but let us hope beyond hope, that in time they can at least begin to edit those already written pages, enabling them to at last pick up that tarnished book unaided, and start to rewrite their future within recovery for the first time in their life. Choices that were never theirs before are now in full view, and on their arrival, it will take some getting used to. In its entirety, choices will need to be made, and oddly, for the first time, they may feel that they are completely alone. That is quite easy to understand when abuse has always been an integral part of who they were. They now have the real challenge of acceptance of the past, which will never really forget. They will need to look deep inside to find the answer to so many of their questions, but at least they now have some idea of where to look.
Change brings with it so many obstacles in which to encounter, and the view from their standpoint of all on its own can bring chaos. It's not surprising, because the work required at times will be extremely painful. Getting to know who they really are is an odious task, when the trauma of abuse is unearthed and encountered in a way in which they have never needed to hold their abuse before. When face to face with that abuse, the image can be less than pretty; but now, at least it's honest. Looking in the mirror for all of us is not always pretty.
For a child abuse recovering adult, the image they are faced with is something that they have never seen, and for it to be overcome, it will always take immense strength of character, without self-judgement. Honesty, at times, for all of us is not always favourable; but to ourselves, we can never lie. For a child abuse recovering adult, honesty has never been theirs, so just how can they judge? The answer for that now recovering adult is within time and practise. For that child who is within every one of them, embroiled in so much pain and deceit, have they not yet earned that privilege? The answer to that question should be on the tip of your tongue, without the need of adding my own.
There is a book inside of us all, just waiting to be written and each and every one of us are more than able...
I don't normally add or share more here, other than where each of my pieces take me whilst writing. But I shall do so today. I was requested to be a guest last night on live radio as the expected guest was unwell. In this situation, you are never armed with any answers to the questions; neither do you know the questions you may be presented with. It's a case of holding on to your seat.
A lady caller rang into the show to ask me how she could outrun her past abuse and be able to feel being whole and good. She continued trying to outrun her abusive past, which was just too difficult for her and she would never be able to find any acceptance.
That question really wasn't very long but sometimes they hit a nerve and this time was one of them. I took a moment to digest her words because they really touched me. My reply could only ever be given from my own child abuse experience, whilst moving into the position of a recovering adult myself. The answer may seem to be a simple one but on reflection, it felt huge and so extremely personal. I had to re-enter that place within me and seek an honest answer, and when it came, it was met by silence but hopefully it was still heard.
Today, it's so very clear to me that I was never able to outrun my abuse. I was always trying to outrun myself, which is an impossible task. I can only hope that, by sharing a part of me, the light had been shone upon her, but I'll never really know.