Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Photographic Memory

I can't remember exactly how old I was when I was given my first camera nor by whom it was given.  I know that my sisters and I each received a camera on the same day as a gift and it wasn't for Christmas.  That's all I remember.

For years since, I have plagued family and friends by taking photos.  I take a lot of photos - even when it was rolls of film that had to be developed.  It's gotten worse with the digital age.  Some photos are posed.  Others are stolen moments.  Other people might delete these photos, seeing them as inferior, but not me, I need them.  I cherish them.  Now I know why. They tell me the stories that my mind can't hold.

I'm in theraphy again.  It's not a big deal really.  I've gone in and out of cycles of thereapy since I was 14.  The more serious work begain after I became pregnant with my first child.  I desperately wanted to be a "good parent" or at the very least not mess the kid up as much as I was.  I knew early on that I didn't function as other people did.  It made it harder to understant why my peers acted a certain way (I understood adults much better, their behavior was fairly predictable).  It made me a serious target for bullies in elementary and middle school.

Therapy cycles help me understand more about myself and my quirks and help me learn how to function a little better each time I go through it.  This time my therapist discussed some possible cognitive distortions.  For homework my therapist had me watch the movie INSIDE OUT.  I had seen it in the theater but this time I was watching closely with my own early development in mind.

What did I learn?  My "core memories" from childhood would have been comprised more form fear and sadness than joy (in the movie Joy was more the main core).  In fact, as I discussed this with my therapist, we realized that one of my survival techniques from early childhood would have been to NOT retain the memories.  To form memories (as my therapist explained) one has to be completely present, in the now.  As a child, it was much safer for me to NOT be mental present at all.  In fact that is the reason that I began telling myself stories, to remove myself from being present from, shall we say, unpleasantness. (Not that I didn't have any joy in my childhood, it's just that there were far more of the other emotions.)

Core memories from puberty would have been compromised more from fear, sadness, disgust, and to some degree anger (although outward displays of anger were not allowed).  There was no joy during this time.  I actually went through a period of flat/no emotions.  A total and complete disconnect from the present, the now.  It wasn't until I was in high school and then in college that I had more core memories of joy.

Having explained all that, the point is, there is a fault in how my memories are processed.  It's more like a series of snap shots than a moving film.  This is why I take so many photos at random times (sometimes of random things); the photos tell me the stories I wasn't present enough to capture correctly.  I haven't trained myself to be present enough to hold that memory completely.  Sometimes it disintegrates before it's even created.

My therapist and I are working on grounding techniques; trying to find ways to teach me to be more present than stuck inside my head.  This has been a challenge.  My mind is still trying to keep me safe even though I'm no longer in a damaging situation.  Instead of helping me, this coping technique is now crippling me.  So until this "being present" thing is more of a norm for me, my family and friends will continue to have to endure my random photography.  Surely they will understand.

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