I just listened to a podcast on doubt and certainty and it had me thinking about my own life. I have mentioned on my blog the memory issues I have and that I think they have to do with a combination of trauma and Electro Convulsive Therapy (“shock therapy” here on out referred to as ECT). I have also mentioned that I feel like I have no evidence for my beliefs of the past and the uncertainty I feel about being exposed as my interpretation of things is wrong or based entirely on falsehood. This post should explain where some of those fears came from. Warning this post will probably be long.
I feel like I constantly having to end each phrase or statement I make with the words, “that I remember.” My memory issues, especially long term, are so strange I am not entirely sure when they originated or why which just makes me doubt things even more. A quick run down of my memory: 0-7 no memories at all, lived at old house; 7-12 few memories, big life events (episodic) and small odd things, I rely on my sisters for much of what this time of my life was like; 12-15 scattered memories, more of a general feel of how I felt and what was going on at the time, very few episodic memories; 15-18 back to few memories, not really big events or small stuff either, sometimes someone will say something and a memory will click and come back; 18-22 probably the least amount of memories other than the 0-7 age range, when I was having ECT and also the relationship with PK, sexual assault and that relationship, seemingly big events can’t be remembered but I occasionally have flashbacks; 22-current I have memories but think I should be able to recall more considering there was nothing traumatic or ECT going on at this time, it also hasn’t been that long ago.
Reasons I know of for the memory issues and doubt:
- I have been told repeatedly for as long as I can remember (age 7ish) that I am oversensitive, over think things, and do not have an accurate interpretation or perception of what happens around me. Most of this has been said by family members and I know some of it is true because of my mental illness.
- Trauma- having Ulcerative Colitis and Depression (psych issues) as a child; family conflict and mother drinking; being told my sexual attraction to PK was based on my dad sexually abusing me (which unsure if it ever happened) and all the fall out from that; sexual assault and relationship that I started to get my life back on track and forcing myself for the feelings to come to like guys.
- ECT- Not even sure when I had the treatments, sometime in my early 20’s, 82 treatments over a couple years time period, two separate time periods or “rounds”
- Being over medicated
The two biggest and hardest issue of the memories are my childhood 0-12 and my relationship with PK and the other stuff that happened from 18-22.
Starting with childhood, there was trauma in childhood I just do not think it is proportionate to the level of psych issues I have and the memory issues I have. I was sick a lot and never really told what was wrong with me, my parents were constantly verbally attacking each other and sometimes us kids, my mom would leave with various threats often, my dad would leave and when he was gone my mom would drink. I have a number of identifiers that mark me as a possible childhood sexual abuse survivor, but I honestly don’t know if that ever happened. I cannot say conclusively one way or another, yay or nay. The typical culprit blamed is my dad which makes it even harder. I still live with both my parents and have a strained and odd relationship with both. I am afraid if it went either way and maybe that is why my brain cannot know at this time, they say your brain will protect you from what you can’t handle.
Evidence for: I have been convinced at times that things have happened, but then can’t remember exactly what convinced me or what I was even convinced of. I dissociate which has been suggested because of traumatic events, I have sexual issues see post here (password protected must ask for password if not already given) and other identifiers that I don’t even want to go into. Also many people, especially females, diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are said to have had childhood sexual abuse. My homosexuality has been blamed on being abused as a child, although people don’t mention the sexual assault having anything to do with it. Family members have even blamed or implied certain people could have been the perpetrator as well as mental health professionals
Evidence against: I live with both my parents and feel safe in the house. Everyone thinks my dad is a great guy and there is no way he could have done something like that. I have no physical evidence and if it had happened either no one knows or no one has stepped forward with any information. I’ve lived with my family all my life, CPS was never called, and to those who look in we have a happy family. Even if it was someone outside the family, no one knows anything concrete. My flashbacks are unclear and could be related to the sexual assault and relationship in my early 20’s. My sexuality has nothing to do with abuse in my opinion or the assault even. Not all people with BPD were sexually abused. ECT just knocked out a lot of memories including childhood ones.
My relationship with PK and the other stuff that happened from 18-22 including the ECT treatments and the sexual assault within the relationship.
It infuriates me at times that I don’t remember much of me and PK’s relationship, every now and then I will have a memory come back or be triggered by something. I am talking about mostly positive memories here, all type of memories can be triggered by pictures, phrases, objects, and more. While I was still dealing with mental illness no doubt, that first love was a very positive impact on my life and something I would like to have a recollection of. In addition after PK’s mom found out about our relationship, she started doing pastoral counseling to explain the feelings were from my dad sexually abusing me as a child. As you can see above there is conflicting evidence but the fact that there is stuff “for” and that at that time in my like PK was so important to me that I would be willing to do anything if I had a chance to still be around her. We did try to salvage a friendship and part of that (I believe) was contingent on the abuse idea being true.
There is overlap I think between the ending of me and PK’s relationship and the ECT treatments. The number one side effect of ECT is memory loss. It is no surprise that I can’t remember aspects around the time I was having the treatments. However, it is rarer to have retrograde amnesia or to forget prior events and even rarer to not be able to remember events after the ECT treatments have stopped and it has been years, kind of like short term memory loss that becomes a constant side effect. Also, me and PK began our relationship before the ECT began and attempted to continue the friendship after. I was also on a lot of medication at the time.
I am mostly okay with not having a lot of memories of the sexual assault, as one might imagine. The thing was that we were in a relationship and even engaged. It wasn’t a one time event with a stranger I didn’t know, and true fact 3 out of 4 sexual assaults are done by someone the person kNOws. But I do not remember the relationship at all. There are a couple small episodic events and then actual flashbacks from the assault. However, I don’t know how we got engaged; I am not sure how the relationship ended up ending; I don’t remember very much about the man other than a brief physical description and name; and again we were together at least a couple years and I don’t even have a general feel how that went. I also may have been getting ECT treatments still while we were together. (As you can tell ECT is an overlapping factor and no way I got 82 treatments in a short time frame.)
There are many other things that happened during this time period that I should be able to remember like: transferring to the private Christian university, my involvement at various different churches, a trip to Australia and a lot of other vacations, an engagement and at least couple year long relationship, a job as a preschool assistant I never knew I had until recently, a medical emergency that landed me in the ER, a missions trip to Hawaii with private Christian university, all the events and milestones of me and PK’s relationship…. and the list could go on. This is stuff I have physical evidence for or believe someone who told me.
And because of 18 of my 31 years of life, which is over half is very sketchy I feel like I doubt myself all the time. I can’t be certain of things and my paranoia definitely doesn’t help. And it isn’t like everything is crystal clear except those two time periods, there is a lot of blurriness all throughout. Maybe that means I don’t have a good memory and never have. Maybe it means I just can’t cope with various trauma and day to day life. Maybe it means the ECT screwed me up more than I thought it ever would. I can’t imagine this is how most people live their lives.