Is this dissociation? I would really like to learn more about my slightly peculiar experience of living life, and what it means, if anything. I've been suspecting some form of dissociation, but I'd love some pointers to books, articles or sites, or informed experiences that might help make things clearer.
posted by lizwykys to Human Relations (12 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
All my life I've been aware that most other people seem to have a distinctly different way of remembering (and possibly even experiencing) their own lives. I've always been amazed by the memories that most people seem to have of their own lives, the details of so many experiences reaching back to young childhood, while I... don't. My childhood memories are terribly sparse -- and, on examination, most of those are really family stories that I've internalized more than actual first-person memories. Even in adulthood, I simply don't remember most of my own experiences clearly or at all.
But before I go further, I need to emphasize that I had an almost ridiculously lucky home life emotionally: very supportive and loving parents whose greatest parenting sin was to probably spoil me just a bit (for the era, anyway), who were always involved, present and encouraging, and who also loved each other and were (and are) very happy together, and kind to each other and other people -- so no trauma on that front. I have one sibling, younger, who I have a great relationship with, and we did not live near other relatives, so I don't think it's any sort of "dark family secret" thing. I'm really, really old enough and smart enough now to discern if there was anything at all "not right," at home, and that's not the problem. The problem is that I don't know what the problem is. Except.
I have one thing stuck in my head on more than reasonable replay that gives me horrible shivers: we lived next to a family with twin brothers who were around 12 when I was about 5, and every time I think of these boys my mind freezes, but I get little flashes of memories... they were terrible bullies and cruelly abusive of their nine-year-old sister, and of their family dog, and of me, I think, though I can't remember much. I get flashes of being held down in the snow, pressed down, pinned. I have memories of hating, loathing, to walk by their house, which I had to do in order to go anywhere, including school. (We all walked to school, and back.) I remember being scared all the time.
I had at least one recorded behavior complaint from school at that time, when I punched a boy who tried to kiss me... in kindergarten. I don't remember it, but it was on my report card. And I was always peeing my pants coming home from school every day for a long time. That, I remember. It was a big problem. I also had some recorded learning problems, which, okay, fine... but I later excelled in the same areas, definitively. Not bragging, but mentioning, because it was out of character, as was the assault on another child. I never had problems with anything like that later.
Many, many years later I learned that one of the next-door twins committed suicide by hanging himself at a very young age (around 16 -17) after we moved from that place. The feeling I had at the point of learning this information much later as an adult was... relief. It was only for a moment... or maybe a bit longer, but that is so very much not like me. Also not very much like me: since then my imagination has supplied an image of this young boy swinging from the rafters of a barn, and it became something of an obssessive ideation, almost like (ironically!) some super distinct memory of actually seeing that, and it makes me continually go back to trying to figure it all out.
The family was freaky and weird in my fragile memory (except for their daughter, gods help her) and who knows what went on there to make these young boys into the monsters of my imagination (or perhaps semi-memory). I guess they were super religious, because I remember the story about their mother harshly scolding my mother for calling me "angel" once, because it was heretical.
Anyway, okay... I maybe had some sort of trauma attached to that, whatever "that" was. But I've been this way all my life. I don't even really care that much any more because it's just how I am, and I'm pretty old now, but my curiosity would like to be assuaged. Can a single experience or a series of terrifying experiences at a young age set the cache memory to mostly "delete" forever, even for good/neutral things? There are so few things that I remember vividly (or at all), and I don't understand why. (I don't remember my husband asking me to marry him; he swears he asked, and I swear he never did, or that I asked him... but I don't really remember that either.) All my life is sort of like a gentle blur with a few stand-out moments. To describe it I would have to say it's like watching a film once, and then recalling/reciting the film years later.
My memory is probably above-average otherwise, and I can spout trivial (or serious) information that I never even knew I had tucked away until a question comes up, so I don't think it's brain damage or other organic problem. I'm also pretty much an autodidact, a big reader (I mention this because it's the excuse I've always given for not remembering stuff: I was too busy reading), and apparently have a really high IQ -- at least the last time I was tested. Which I don't remember at all.
Do I have a problem? And if so, what is it? How can I learn more about that? I'd just really like to understand more about my psychological ecology, if possible. (Despite this fairly weird thing, I have a very happy life, and I don't live in a place where therapy is really an option.)