I’ve had a lot of memory problems over the years. These worsened during my time in AA and really got severe when I started to openly share about the trauma that I’ve gone through in my life. I’ve wondered a lot about how or why my memory loss worsened. Was it due to trauma? Medications? AA? Dissociation? Or something else? Today I realize that all of those things played a part in my memory issues as did the victim blaming that I have experienced over the years.
All of these things can lead to memory loss and to something called thought inhibition, which also can cause memory loss itself. Thought inhibition occurs when a person tries to push away thoughts that bring about uncomfortable emotions and anxiety. I started using thought inhibition at a young age because I had to for survival. I could not process the fact that my parents were not loving parents to me and were abusive because as a child I needed to think that they loved me in order to function and to live life. This is very common in childhood abuse survivors. And, when thoughts sprung up that conflicted with what I needed to believe, I suppressed them or pushed them away using thought inhibition.
Over time this habit worsened, but not enough for me to have obvious memory loss. But, when I joined AA and was told that there was a problem with my thinking and that emotions like anger and fear would lead me to drink, my tendency to inhibit thoughts grew worse. Plus, I had to inhibit thoughts and memories in order to feel comfortable in AA and with my decision to join it, because it turns out that I do and likely did have a lot of objections to the program from the beginning of my time in it. Soon, though, as I learned to use thought inhibition as pushed onto me by AA, I also began to use it for all kinds of situations that made me uncomfortable, and my memory issues that resulted from this really began to become obvious to me and to those around me. I also inhibited thoughts that had to do with my trauma because they made me uncomfortable and I perceived that they might lead me to drinking (they never did though).
But I couldn’t keep those thoughts down forever, and eventually I started to talk about my misgivings with the program and about the trauma that I went through. Now, I had already heard a lot of victim blaming over the years when I talked about the trauma that I’d gone through, especially in early sobriety, to the point of where I actually forgot that a lot of it happened. This victim blaming especially happened in my family and in AA and pushed me further into denial than I already was. But, I told myself that I had worked through the trauma during step work (which actually only made my denial worse and included victim blaming). So, when I started to recover memories of the trauma, I was shocked because I really believed that I had worked through it in AA.
It was at that point that the victim blaming by those around me really rose to a extreme level. My parents told me that I was hallucinating the flashbacks and memories of trauma that I was having, and blame it and still do on the fact a misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder (they say that it’s my bipolar that’s causing me to experience memories of abuse). People in AA told me to move on, that I wasn’t working my program, that I was full of self pity, and that I was dwelling on the past. My boyfriend’s family also told me to move on and showed their obvious disapproval of the fact that I was and am talking about trauma in many ways. And, even some medical providers accused me of living in the past.
All of this actually resulted in more attempts at thought inhibition for me. This created a lot of chaos in my psyche as parts of myself would not back down in terms of being heard and working through trauma. And, I wasn’t fully aware that I was attempting to use thought inhibition as much as I have been until recently.
The other day I found myself attempting to reminisce about a positive event in my past and noticed that I was using thought inhibition and thought-stopping even while trying to access this positive event. I thought about it and realized that all of these people’s victim blaming about how I shouldn’t look at the past has caused me to feel uncomfortable even thinking about the past at all, including thinking about good memories. I presume that this has resulted in a lot of memory loss as this is one of the side effects of thought inhibition.
I’ve been aware, too, that I haven’t been feeling many feelings of nostalgia since all of the severe victim blaming began in 2015. I’m realizing that this is because of my fear of thinking of the past that all of this victim blaming created. It is very uncomfortable for me not to feel those feelings here and there and is quite a loss. But, I am working on telling myself that it is okay for me to think about the past, whether it be trauma, something fun that I did, a nice holiday, an accomplishment, my cats, or someone that made a difference in my life. It’s funny because I really do think about the past quite often, but at the same time don’t always allow myself to fully think about it in a way that I can truly connect with my emotions when I do so. Also, due to thought inhibition I do not always retrieve the memory that I need or should retrieve at any given moment to help me function or to help me just feel the right emotions. This has made it harder for me to understand how I truly feel about my past and my present, but I still try my best to do this anyways. All of these issues that I’m having just go to show how much other people’s victim blaming and mistreatment of abuse survivors really can have a profound impact on the survivor, even years after the abuse is over.
If you’ve been through abuse and have memory issues, realize that the source of those issues can be pretty complicated. What is happening to you right now in your life can either exacerbate them or lessen them. This is why I feel like it is important for me personally to surround myself with people who are encouraging and validate my efforts at working through trauma and living life.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment below.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment below.