Back of the Mind
March 22, 2006

Well, after that last post, I hardly know where to start this one. I suppose I should start with the concept that I left with last time.

    These were the things on the surface. These were the things that I told other kids, other adults about.
    There were other things that I didn't talk about ... in fact, that I pretty much physically could not utter aloud. Or write, when I finally learned to do that.
    There were those things out in my room ... the stuffed animals incident.
    And then, there were things that I sequestered away in my closet, with the door firmly shut.
    So, much later when I found the whole Cub Scouts story funny and an early indicator that I might need to be coming "out of the closet," I laughed. As far as I was concerned, that had been so obvious from such an early age, there was nothing that had ever been hidden.
    A harder closet to come out of was to admit just how bad the abuse had been.

So, I had things happen that even as a kid I thought were probably not good parenting choices, but which weren't technically abuse as far as the books in the library could tell me. If you look at the bare facts, getting rid of a major allergen is good parenting, right? The problem was always in the way things were done. The devil's in the details, I guess.

The things that happened which were truly terrifying, not just to a kid, but to adults as well, those things were harder for me to hold onto. Here's what happens:
When we have a truly stressful and fearful situation, our brain floods with a variety of chemicals. In that mix is cortisol which, to our best scientific knowledge at this time, has the ability to effectively erase details from the brain. Think about a highly stressful and fearful -- a highly traumatic -- event as a type of brain virus which wipes portions of a memory out of our internal hard drives. (This information comes from Dr. Colin Ross' website.) However, it only wipes the details, not the event itself.

What this tends to mean is that we have no concrete details to help prove that something happened, but we're still affected and traumatized by the bits of memory and emotional memory that we do still retain. Think about a Viet Nam veteran who can remember pieces of a particular firefight, but not really remember exactly what happened. Or, think about a victim of a bad car wreck ... sometimes they remember the whole thing, but often they remember very little in terms of concrete details (if, in fact, they recall the wreck at all).

Example, I know someone who drives a truck for a living. A few years ago, he was driving on a country highway and a local decided not to stop at a stop sign ... having the right of way on the highway, my friend was doing 55 or 65. Tried to stop, but of course, it was far far too late. He plowed into the driver's side door on the station wagon and carried the vehicle quite a ways, naturally killing the driver of the other vehicle. Sometimes, he can remember the panic he felt at seeing the other car in the way and knowing there was nothing he could effectivley do to stop the wreck. Most of the time he remembers nothing except being in the ambulance later on.

He knows, both from his own memory banks and from other people what happened. He does not have any clear recollection. He does not have any details.

He, to a certain extent, is lucky. There were witnesses to what happened. It's clear the wreck was not his fault. And, those witnesses and the police investigators can all tell him exactly what happened (if he wants to know those details).

A child who is traumatized sometimes remembers the emotional experience. Sometimes remembers bits and pieces of details. Sometimes they are able to remember the whole thing. Rarely, it seems, do they remember enough concrete detail suitable for prosecution. "Beyond a shadow of a doubt."

Which, of course, lends creedence to the whole false memory syndrome counter-argument to abuse allegations. And that is a very real catch-22 situation. Kids make things up sometimes. Sometimes adults convince kids of things that aren't true. Sometimes no one wants to believe that Mr. and Mrs. GoodCitizen could be that depraved without wearing a neon sign that all the other adults can see.

Why am I going on about that? Because for me, this is the biggest impediment to my believing and accepting those things which happened to me which I never spoke about as a child or a teenager. I have spent my entire adult life and most of my childhood looking to remember "that one detail" which would, finally, concretely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, convince me that "these things" had really happened.

So, I recall those things "left out in my room." I can talk about the stuffed animals. I can talk about the time Dad set the backyard on fire ... on purpose ... to cure me of my fear of fire. Mom telling me that I couldn't run track because of my asthma, but that I should dust the entire house instead. And a slew of other things, some of which were technically abusive, most of which simply rode that line of bad choices.

The things that did more damage are the things that the chemicals have attempted to wipe to the back of my mind where I can't find them.

I started out these posts by talking about the Cub Scout bit for another reason.

I enjoyed trucks, GI Joes, action figures, Star Wars stuff, Matchbox and Hot Wheels, LEGOs, playing in the mud, building forts and playing with the garter snakes and lizards in the backyard from the time I first saw those things. I thought fighter planes were the coolest things ever the first time I saw one.

So, I just want to clear up one very common misconception ... and I'm gonna be real real blunt about it.
I'm not gay because my dad raped me at age 4.
My "gender" was more stereotypically masculine than stereotypically feminine from the very very beginning. Now, even that didn't mean that I would automatically turn out queer. Like I said earlier, there are men who love cooking and shopping and are straight ... there are women who like working with their hands and like wearing make-up and are straight.

I don't know why I'm gay and I don't particuarly care why. It seems like it was a genetic thing to me, but I'm not a scientist, I haven't analyzed my DNA. I do know something about psychology and find my particular case quite difficult to attribute to environment alone.

And, really, I don't want to get into the nature/nurture debate over this anyway. Call it a pre-emptive strike since I've heard it discussed so fervently and so often.

What I really want to talk about ... next time ... is just what it's like to live with memories blurred by trauma, knowing there's no way you'll ever know the "exact truth."

Posted by Red Monkey at March 22, 2006 10:15 AM | Struggles | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


zoe said:

Just clicked over here from Life According to Carrie. I was currious, is your screen name from Ender's Game?

I am enjoying your blog. Brutal honesty, there's nothong like it.

March 22, 2006 10:03 PM


Skittles said:

I like your site too. I know I have been here a few times before. Your layout is good. The content is even better.

Actually no one will probally ever know why we are how we are. If you are happy, then live life to the fullest how you want. ;)

Oh and I was in the BM shoutbox yesterday. Nice meeting you! :)

March 23, 2006 6:18 AM


candoor said:

your posts burn with curiosity, a quest for truth, for answers within yourself... I'm cheering you on for you are doing the best thing you can do, digging, exploring, and getting as much out of your memory as you can...

eventually, I hope you get enough out so you can let it go and move on confortable and happy with yourself and your whole life... happy you survived to remember and face it and learn from it and build a better you from it all...

until then, keep letting it out and being proud you can :)

March 23, 2006 6:54 PM


thordora said:

I was molested as a child, by a neighbour and my grandfather. I've struggled for years with the dreamlike feeling my memories caused, and then settled to deal with it knowing that even if I can't remember certain things, it sure as fuck happened, and go from there.

Still doesn't help on the doubting days though.

March 24, 2006 10:17 AM


Wombell said:

urhaie ixcald

November 7, 2006 1:48 PM
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