Do you have any secrets? I have a few. Some are so secret they’re a secret even to me. No, seriously, I mean it. There are large chunks of missing memory in the first eight years or so of my life. There could be all kinds of reasons for this. I suppose I could just have a terrible memory. But I don’t. My memory, when it works, is acute. I can remember many things with crystal clarity. It’s just the first eight years of my life that are swiss cheese.
Some history. I am the child of two alcoholic parents. My parents, who had all kinds of issues beyond alcohol, divorced when I was eight. I know there was physical abuse in my very early years because my mom told me there was. I remember none of it. To this day, though, if you move suddenly near my face, I jerk. Conditioning runs deep, I guess. My dad occasionally abused my mom. There was one occasion where he smashed her head into a table. I’m not sure if I remember this or if I was told and now remember someone else’s memory of the event.
When I was 16, I was in therapy, again. I had a session with my mother and she told the therapist I was a very happy child until I was three, then my whole personality changed. I remember being stunned; whatever I expected her to say, that wasn’t it. What can possibly happen to change someone’s personality at three? Chemical imbalance, or something else? It’s the “something else” that scares me. Sometimes I am grateful my memory isn’t clearer.
I have a piece of memory that comes up from time to time. I am four, I think. Maybe five. It’s night, and I am in my bedroom. I go to sleep in my bed, but wake up abruptly on the floor. Orange shag carpet… I can still see it. I can also see the reflections on the walls from the lights of the El as it passes a few houses down. I don’t know why I’m on the floor. I don’t like it. I’m scared, and I know something has happened. I don’t know what. I still have dreams of that carpet, and the reflections on the wall. Sometimes they turn into animals… swimming fish are a frequent choice.
So what happened? Nothing good, that much is clear. I once went to a meeting for survivors of sexual abuse, kind of randomly. I felt like an idiot because I couldn’t remember anything… I couldn’t be sure I belonged there. There was a list they gave me, though, of classic characteristics of someone who has experienced childhood sexual abuse. I don’t remember how many items on that list fit me, but I remember it was enough to be hugely disturbing. I never went back.
I don’t like to kiss very much. I like light, sweet kisses, but the minute it gets to the making out stage, I’m not comfortable. I feel like I’m drowning, or suffocating. I try not to feel that way. I try to talk myself through it. Sometimes I even succeed. It has nothing to do with my husband. I adore him, and wish I didn’t feel this way. I go in excited, thinking this time might be different. Then I end up feeling like I’m being overpowered. I hate it. It makes me feel terrible, and hugely inadequate as a romantic partner. I would like to get over it, to be able to fully enjoy it and not have it be something I have to talk myself through. I’ve had little success.
Secrets. I don’t like them. I try to be as honest as I can in as many areas of my life as possible. The secrets I do keep bother me enough.