Are we doomed to remember the past?

I find that as I get older, there are fragments of my life coming back, and I’m beginning to dread the fact that I will relive past events over and over, especially those that I don’t want to remember.

When we’re younger, it seems difficult to get past certain events that occurred in your life, but with the passing of time, it’s possible to send them to a corner of your mind, not completely gone, but far enough away that you can get on with your life.

These are emotional, and sometimes physical events that happened to you.

And it’s possible that in living those events, it has made me a much better person, because I never treated my children or anyone else for that matter, the way I was treated.  I won’t say life was brutal, all of the time, but there was a period where I and my both my elder brother and mother constantly lived in fear.

It stopped eventually, but those memories haunted me for many years.

Then, when a new set of circumstances enters your life, it tends to force these out, in a sense I wanted to think there’s only so much hard disk space in my head, and I would have to erase all those bad memories so there was room for the new.

Apparently, it doesn’t work like that.

Now that I’ve gotten older, and retired, I’ve found that those old memories are resurfacing, and to be honest, it’s annoying.  I put it down to the fact, if you are no longer working full time, you are no longer actively using your brain as much, so there’s some sort of compensation going on, and the brain fills in the gaps with past memories.

In my case, it’s all the wrong ones.

I don’t want to remember my years in secondary school, my life with an abusive father, the fact that I used to hide under the bed to escape a beating, and those nightmarish screams of my bother and our mother trying to get my father to stop.  Usually, he would turn his anger on her.

Yes, and after an indeterminate number of years it stopped, but in my mind, it went on for so long those moments have been seared into my brain, and it’s no wonder they come back.  Why couldn’t the later days of holidays at Lakes Entrance, and Wilson’s Promontory, or the school holidays when we used to get a pile of box sides to build a cubby house come back?

Is this one of the problems of old age?

I know my father, who served in the second world war came back scarred, mentally and physically.  Given the brutality of war and the fear most of the men must have held in in the face of the enemy, it would be hard not to have some problems when you come back and try to fit back into normal society.  I suspect there was no such thing as PTSD back then, and no counselling, so perhaps the reason why he turned on us.

He only spoke of it very rarely, but those glimpses were enough.

He too is very old now, and I suspect he lives with these memories, ones I’m sure he’d rather not.  I’m also fairly certain that not all of my father’s issues came from the war, but he had issues with his father, and it perpetuated through him.

The thing is, still in this day and age we do not have the capacity to understand why this happens and the means we should use to try and send those memories back to the dark recesses.  We are willing to admit that there is such a thing as mental illness, and a lot of people have it, but only a small percentage of people will admit to it.

Why?  The stigma of admitting there is something wrong prevents us from doing so.  And admitting what caused it, well, people then start to avoid you because they think that you might be like that or turn out like that.

I am not like my father.  I saw what happened, I was on the receiving end, and I knew it was wrong.  It could quite easily go the other way, accept that what happened to me was the norm, and perpetuate the problem.

I did not.  I wanted everyone to have the sort of life I did not, and over the last forty-five years, and for as long as I live, they have been able to, and will.

And probably the best thing to come out of it, my children’s children had lived the same fear-free life.

I suppose seeing a psychiatrist might help, but it means dredging it all up so that you can talk about it, and then it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle.

Is there an answer to the problem?

If I find one I’ll let you know.

 

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