Tag Archives: memories
Your body remembers everything that you’ve experienced, whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, & stores such memories on a cellular level. Your brain may or may not remember things, but your body does. This is why certain smells, sounds, tastes, feelings or sights bring specific feelings to mind.
Body memories are especially common with victims of sexual assault. Even if the assault happened when the victim was too young to recall details, smelling the same cologne the attacker wore, or hearing music that was playing in the background during the assault can trigger incredible anxiety in the victim, even a panic attack. The victim’s mind may not recall the assault, but the body remembers every detail.
Body memories aren’t only linked to sexual assault, however. They also happen with victims of other types of abuse, including narcissistic abuse.
Often, narcissistic abuse is a series of constant traumatic events. I think of it much like a machine gun of abuse- one trauma immediately follows another then another & yet another in rapid succession. You don’t have time to heal from one trauma when another five are thrown your way. It may be too much to cope with, so your mind forgets some of the abuse as you try to survive the constant trauma. However, your body remembers it all. That is why certain things trigger anxiety, fear, anger, etc. in you for no obvious reason. It is your body’s way of trying to protect you from things like that happening again.
A couple of years ago, I went to my old high school with a friend. They were having a craft show & we thought it’d be fun to check it out since we both love crafts & both attended that school. From the moment we set foot on the campus, I became anxious & even panicky. I had trouble holding back the tears until we left. It turned into a miserable experience for me. I had no idea exactly why I was in such a state then. Since, I have remembered a few instances of abuse at the hands of my mother on the property of that school though, which apparently my body remembered even though my mind didn’t at the time.
When things like this happens, you need to remember you aren’t crazy! Your body is remembering something pretty terrible. There is pain that you need to acknowledge. Some people suggest talking out loud to yourself. Remind your body that what happened won’t happen again, & that you survived. You’re OK now.
I think prayer is a better idea, however. Asking God to help you to cope. Or, maybe a combination of prayer & talking to your body. Whatever works for you is what matters. Body memories can be a very unpleasant thing to deal with, but at least they can help offer some insight into areas where you need healing.
I’m going to take a wild guess that I’m not the only victim of narcissistic abuse who has experienced this kind of situation. I’m hoping sharing it will help those of you who have similar experiences.
When I was in either seventh or eighth grade, I experienced the scare of my young life at that time. My parents & I went to the grocery store one night. While there, we ran into my friend, her parents & brother. She & I went off to check out the makeup while our families shopped for groceries. Shortly after we were separated, a very creepy guy started following us & trying to talk to us. He scared us both badly. Thankfully, we found my friend’s parents as we were trying to get away from the creepy guy, & she told her parents what happened. Her father was a very big, imposing man, which worked nicely in our favor. As Creepy Guy approached, her father put his arms around us both & told the guy to leave his daughters alone or else! Creepy Guy left us alone. My friends father told me to stay with them until we found my parents. Upon finding my parents a few minutes later, he told my parents what happened. I don’t remember if they even thanked him for protecting me. We went to one cash register, my friend & her parents another. Creepy Guy was outside the store at this point. He was looking in the window at me, waving & smiling. My father said & did nothing. My mother continued putting groceries on the conveyor belt & said to just ignore the guy. By the time we left the store, Creepy Guy was gone. That was the end of the situation. Neither of my parents asked if I was OK or showed any concern for how scared I had been. I never thought about the incident again until I was around 40 years old.
When it came to mind one day, I was suddenly very shaken up. This guy was just very creepy, I don’t know how else to describe him. It was painfully obvious his motivations with my friend & I weren’t good. Yet, my parents didn’t show an ounce of concern, not even after my friend’s parents told them what happened. These were good, Christian people- they didn’t lie or even exaggerate! Why wasn’t what they said taken seriously?! If I had a child & this happened to her, I would’ve called the police & spoken with the store manager, not to mention, tried to comfort my child.
In considering this situation, I also realized that not only do my parents still shop at this same grocery store, my mother sent me there to do her shopping a few times before I moved out. I didn’t feel any anxiety in that store during those times I visited it. It’s only been as a middle aged woman that I feel horrible anxiety if I’m near that store. Thankfully I don’t shop at that store or have any reason to go near it very often.
I was wondering recently why this is. Why as a child, was I ok, but now, 30 years after the fact, even a quick trip through the parking lot sends me into a panic attack. God showed me the answer.
As narcissists, these parents demand to be treated as gods, basically. There is no room for anything except for their reality. You aren’t allowed to have feelings, needs, etc. with a narcissistic parent because that makes you a “bother.” All that exists with narcissistic parents is their reality, period, & anything to do with you isn’t important. If you experience a trauma, they won’t care. It’s not a big deal to them because it doesn’t affect them. As a child, you accept their reality as your own. When something traumatic or even simply painful happens, & your narcissistic parent(s) acts like it’s no big deal, you internalize that. You accept it wasn’t a big deal & ignore your feelings.
Years later as an adult, you see things differently. If you’ve learned about narcissistic abuse, you definitely see things differently than you did as a child. You realize how messed up your narcissistic parent(s) is. You see things differently than you once did. You no longer blindly accept your parents’ reality but instead accept the real, reality only. You may even have a child, & see things as a parent rather than only seeing them as an abused child. You see things through more mature eyes plus with the influence of things you have learned & things you have healed from. That is why if you look back at something from your childhood you hadn’t thought of in a long time at this point, you realize how messed up it was! You see your parents lack of protection or concern, & instead of taking it in stride, you get angry or hurt.
When this happens, it can be hard at first. When I first thought about Creepy Guy after all those years, I was angry & very hurt that my parents showed so little concern about a potentially very serious situation. (I also wished I’d had the chance to thank my friend’s father for protecting me before he died, but that’s another issue). I was also less than thrilled- yet one more thing to deal with from childhood. UGH. I realized something though that helped me. I realized how far I’ve come. I was so dysfunctional back then, I accepted that this possible rapist or murder being interested in my friend & I was no big deal. Now, I see how sick it is my parents ignored the situation. I realized that my view now is normal & that showed me how much healing I’ve done. Definitely a good thing!! So please keep that in mind if you go through this experience, Dear Reader. Seeing things in a healthy way like I did is proof that you are healing, & that is a huge blessing!
I realized something this morning. When I know I’m going to have some sort of interaction with at least one of my parents, the same thing happens almost every time. I have either a nightmare about my childhood or a repressed memory come back to the forefront of my mind.
For the longest time, I assumed this was simply because I was thinking & worrying about what was coming. I believe this is wrong though. I believe God allows these things to happen as a way of enabling me to deal with my parents.
As I mentioned before, I want to go no contact with my parents, but God isn’t allowing me to tell them this. Instead, He wants them to be the ones to pull away. He has told me that by me getting healthier & tolerating less of their abuse, this will happen naturally. So far, it really has. Keeping that in mind..
My father plans to visit me on Friday (I’m writing this post on Thursday to publish Friday), & last night I had a horrible nightmare that reminded me of exactly how miserable I was growing up. I was utterly depressed, even suicidal, yet had to pretend to be happy to appease my mother. She would get mad at me if I looked depressed, so I had to hide it rather than have her yell at me & shame me. Remembering this has made me angry. Angry that my mother would shame me for my feelings, angry that my father never even noticed anything was wrong with me, angry that there was absolutely no concern that I was suicidal.
This anger I feel will help to strengthen me around my father during his visit tomorrow. As hard as I try, sometimes I still tend to fall into bad, old habits around my parents. But, when I am angry with them, the chances of that are much slimmer. I have a better focus on just how dysfunctional & abusive they really are, which helps me not to fall into their traps or for their manipulations. Once the visit is done, I will deal with my anger about the situation & heal a bit more.
Remembering traumatic things isn’t easy, I know. But, God isn’t into waste. He doesn’t allow things like this to happen for no reason. There is always a purpose. I have learned to use such things not only to help me heal by coping with the trauma I remember, but also to help me when I must deal with my parents. It’s turned out to be a good thing, albeit not an easy one.
Does this happen to you too, Dear Reader? Does something happen to make you angry before you deal with the narcissist in your life? If so, you’re not alone! It actually can be a good thing, although it doesn’t feel that way at the time. It certainly has been for me, & if it can be for me, it can be for you as well. Use that anger to help strengthen you against her manipulations. Use it as a reminder of exactly how dysfunctional the narcissist is.
The past week or so, my lower back has been achy. I haven’t strained it or injured it in any way. It’s just been achy. I’ve also been down in the dumps. I chalked it up to my dislike of holidays, but something else clicked…
November 28, 1990, I came home from work to my parents’ home. I was tired & had a very busy day. I also had been trying to find somewhere to move to asap during my lunch break with no success. I wasn’t in the best mood. As soon as I walked in my parents’ home, my mother started nitpicking at me. I could tell she wanted a fight & I really didn’t want to give it to her. Eventually, though I snapped. I started yelling back at her. My father got involved briefly, then walked out, leaving me to face 100% of her wrath. I went to grab some things & leave, & my mother followed me, screaming at me the entire time. As I was getting my shoes on by the front door, I saw her eyes turn jet black as they did when something awful was about to happen. Looking back, I believe she wanted to kill me that night. She slammed me into the wall with such force, not only did about every vertebra in my back pop from my tailbone into my neck, I blacked out from pain. There was also a huge hole in the wall. When I came to, I was biting her arm- my head was the only body part I could move, & I guess survival instincts kicked in. She was stunned (as was I), & I took advantage of this opportunity to run out of the house.
For 10 years after this, I suffered with back pain. Also I suffered with my mother telling me & others how I was faking it so I wouldn’t have to work, I was lazy, seeking attention, etc. It was so bad, I wondered many times if she was right. After all, the doctors couldn’t find any physical cause for my pain so maybe she was right.
Thank God for healing the pain in 2000 & showing me that many people who have been through traumatic events suffer with lower back pain with no known physical cause.
So here we are, 26 years after the horrible event & I’m sitting here with an achy back. This is what is known as a body memory.
Body memories exist because our body never forgets things. Our mind may not be able to handle trauma so it “forgets” it for a while (repressed memories), but the body remembers it all.
Body memories can be triggered by many things. For me, it’s usually a date, like this time. But, many other things can cause them as well, such as the way a person touches you reminding you of someone who sexually abused you. The smell of a certain perfume or cologne causes anxiety or depression because it smells like what your abusive parent used to wear.
It can be tempting to ignore body memories. After all, who wants to remember awful events? I sure don’t like thinking about that night my mother threw me into the wall. However, I think they are showing us areas we need further healing in. In a way, this is a good thing. It doesn’t feel like it, but it’s good because we need to know this information so we can heal further & be that much closer to being whole.
When they happen, ask God how to help you to heal. If you don’t remember what caused this particular body memory, then ask Him to reveal it to you when & only when you are able to cope with it. If you do remember, tell Him how it makes you feel. (I find writing in my journal easier than speaking out loud about especially difficult things sometimes). Ask Him to tell you His truth about the event & show you what you need to do for your part to heal. He truly will help you.
I know sometimes body memories can make you feel like you’re crazy, but you truly are NOT crazy, Dear Reader! You are simply someone who has experienced trauma & abuse. It’s only natural there are lasting effects from such things.
Lately, I’ve been having a hard time writing. Even these brief blog entries are an issue most days. It kinda stinks, because I love writing so much. Having C-PTSD contributes to my difficulties with focus sometimes, but it isn’t always why I have trouble focusing.
I’ve been feeling very burned out lately, & I realized why. Focusing on one’s healing & mental & emotional health is a very good thing. It enables you to work through issues, to forgive, to heal. However, it really is possible to focus too much on such things. The mind needs breaks from hard work, just as the body does, & focusing on healing is certainly hard work! The mind also needs a break from negative things as well. (Please know that I’m not saying be positive about the truly negative things in life, as that isn’t healthy either.) If you too have C-PTSD I believe these breaks become even more important to your mental health.
When you grew up with a narcissistic mother, it can be hard to be a balanced adult. Early on, once you first realize that your mother is abusive, you’re angry. Very angry. All this time you thought what she did to you was your fault, & you finally learned she lied- it wasn’t you, it was her. That is a tough pill to swallow! Then you learn more & more about narcissism, & so many things finally make sense, things about you & about your mother. It’s very easy to become consumed & focus constantly on your mother’s abuse, on NPD, on the problems you have as an adult that stem from that abuse & more. However, this is not healthy to do at all! Like I said, the mind needs breaks sometimes, & it needs balance.
How do you achieve balance? You make a conscience effort to do these things. I know it can be hard, especially with the obsessive thoughts that often happen with C-PTSD, but it can be done! Force yourself to focus on something fun. Watch a movie. Play with your kids, furry or human. Go for a walk in the woods. Visit a local park. Go for a drive. Buy a coloring book & crayons. There are many things you can do to bring a little joy into your life & those things needn’t be expensive or require a lot of planning. Be creative, & I’m sure you’ll come up with some fun things to do.
Spend time in God’s presence. Spending time in nature, admiring the beautiful creations He has made is not only good for drawing you closer to the Father, but it’s also very restorative to the soul. Many people are affected by the weather such as in cases of those with Seasonal Affective Disorder. If that describes you, I would suggest holding off on the nature time until the weather has a more positive effect on your mood. Fall is my favorite time to do this, so if you catch me wandering around during the summertime instead when the heat & bright sunlight depress me, something is very wrong with me! lol
Another thing I have found that helps me is to collect some things that you enjoyed as a child. I’m a child of the 70’s-80’s, & I think we had some pretty cool toys! I have Spirograph, Magic 8 Ball & Lite Brite apps on my tablet. I have an atari with quite a few games. I have a few stuffed animals, my old Merlin handheld game, Rubix cube, Snake & Bowlatronic. I just saw a hot pink Tonka jeep that I had (& loved!) as a child on ebay, & am considering ordering it. I also ordered a set of the Crystalite animals- I collected them in first grade. I’ve also purchased a few board games over the years that my husband & I both remember from our childhoods & we enjoy playing. Although my childhood was less than stellar, some of my fun old toys do make me smile to this day. Having them helps me to remember some positive memories for a change, & it feels good.
Also a nostalgic thing I enjoy is collecting old pictures. There are a couple of facebook groups I belong to- one is for the area where I grew up & the other is for the area where my family is from in Virginia. Both are history groups, & share many old pictures of both areas. I save the more interesting pictures of places I enjoyed growing up. It’s so much fun looking back over the pictures of how those towns were when I was a kid. It does make me a bit sad how much they’ve changed, but even so, it’s fun remembering how things used to be.
Music is another wonderful way to break away & feel good. I still love the music I grew up with, & listen to it often. Some songs take me back to a happy place. Journey always reminds me of going to dinner with my wonderful paternal grandparents at a tiny local Italian place when I was a kid. My grandmom gave me change for the jukebox- something my mother always refused to do. “Who’s Cryin’ Now” was one of the Journey songs played, so yes, their music takes me back to a fun evening. Listening to good music that transports you back to a happy time can be very good for your mood & very relaxing.
Pamper yourself. Also hard to do when you grew up with a narcissistic mother who undoubtedly told you how selfish you were for showing yourself any kindness, but remember- narcissists project their flaws onto other people so they can then get angry about those flaws. Your mother was wrong- you aren’t selfish! Doing nice, pampering gestures for yourself aren’t selfish either- they are healthy, & they show you that you care about yourself. Nothing wrong with that!
I think distractions like these are also very helpful because they empower you. If you think about what you’ve gone through constantly, it’s as if your mother still has power over you. She’s still controlling you, by being in your thoughts so much. If you purposely kick her out of your mind sometimes, you are taking back control of your life, & your thoughts.
Also, distracting yourself sometimes is good for your anxiety & depression levels. The more you focus on the abuse you endured, the more anxious & depressed it can make you. Focus on healing- get angry, cry, do what you have to do- but take at least the same amount of time to relax & have some fun! It’s good for you!