As a young adult, I used to have only a handful of childhood memories. It was like there was a huge void between age six and age twelve. Even the basic things that most kids remember like learning to ride a bike, or going on holidays, or what it was like at school…gone! A therapist explained to me that this was my brain's way of protecting me because the majority of my childhood memories were traumatic but I've realised I have no reason to be afraid of childhood memories anymore.
As time went on I would go through phases where memories would come back. These were usually challenging and unsettling times because they would first show up as nightmares. I would wake up in the middle of the night stressed out, upset and emotionally exhausted but still my memories of the nightmare would be blank. Then over the following weeks, the memories would come back during daylight hours.
The good, bad, but ultimately all good
The good news is that along with the traumatic memories, there were some good ones that would come through too. Like spending hours laying in the grass with my pet goats watching the clouds pass above me. Visiting my Aunty and Uncle who lived in a big house, encouraged me to dance, and would take me to the ballet. Climbing trees, boulders, and mountains.
Each time these memories would surface I would be effected differently and I would learn more about myself. It was like peeling away different layers of an onion and even though it was uncomfortable going through the process I would always come out the other side, wiser, more confident, driven and on purpose.
Worth the discomfort
Was it worth it? That depends on the way you look at it. I love learning and growing, it’s one of our six human needs. So that’s a good thing. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that I do wish there was an easier and less traumatic way. Does it scare me? Up until recently, it did. Not knowing what was going to come up, whether I could handle it, or how much it would effect my life made me afraid of my memories. That was until recently.
How I knew I needed help
A couple of months ago I was having difficulty sleeping again. I was fine once I fell asleep but falling asleep was the problem. It felt like I was afraid to go to sleep and I was anxious about waking up the next day too. I thought it was just part of me self-sabotaging as I had a lot of good things that were happening at the time. Business was taking off, we were enjoying our traveling lifestyle, and I was planning our wedding. So I applied some of my anti self-sabotage tools and thought it would be solved.
But then I noticed I was getting triggered a lot more than usual by environments, words, and actions that hadn’t bothered me previously. I was becoming increasingly anxious, my confidence was deteriorating and it was effecting my health, relationships, and businesses. Then I became aware that I was getting flashbacks during the day too and I knew I needed some help.
Why we all need a therapist
This is why I love having a therapist. For those times when I don’t understand what is going on in my mind and I have applied what I already know and it isn’t working. So I called and booked in for a session. Unfortunately, I had to wait a month to get in (she is good!) and by that time I was struggling to deal with all the fragmented flashbacks that seemed to be coming up randomly and always at the worst times.
After listening intently she helped me to understand that previously I would remember one specific incident at a time but now I am getting fragmented memories because my mind is trying to piece together all the different traumatic experiences into proper and organised memories.
There's nothing I can't handle
She reminded me that there is nothing that will come up that I can’t handle. Then she took me through another process to support me to deal with anything that does come up where I get to be the good parent to myself that I never had.
By allowing the memories to surface, without being afraid of my memories, and then providing my inner child with the love and support that wasn’t there at the time, it dissipates the trauma attached to that memory.
This should not be attempted without a professional therapist to guide you through the process correctly as there are many more elements than those I have listed here. But what you can take from this is two things that can help you if you are like me and afraid of childhood memories.
Have faith in yourself
One is to have the faith that whatever comes up from your past you can handle. You have already lived through it once and survived so remembering it is going to be easier than that. Create a safe and supportive environment for yourself and don’t be afraid to hire a professional. You can’t be fearless alone!
Be your own parent
Two is that you can always be the good parent to yourself that you never had as a child. Parenting doesn’t come with the perfect manual (no matter how much reading and preparing you do) and so if your parents didn’t provide what you needed then, ask yourself how you can provide that to yourself now as an adult to your inner child.
Knowledge is power
Armed with this new knowledge and wonderful tools added to my ever-growing toolbox I know that I can handle whatever comes up for me as my mind does its best to compartmentalise my memories. Knowing how always combats fear and I am pleased to say that I am no longer afraid of childhood memories. Instead, I am excited for them to show up so that I can deal with them and be the best parent I can be…to me.
If you have found this article helpful and would like to know more about how to combat your fears then click here.