Losing Memories and Finding Memories, a Trip to Kerry

 I have been thinking a lot about memories lately.  How they shape who we are as people and define much of what makes us human.  I went on a trip to Killarney recently, the second in a short space of time.   I love travelling around Ireland but I think I picked Kerry again because it reminded me of my Dad, who was born in Ballyheigue; and of summer holidays as kids where we were free to roam wild on the beach.

River with flowing water and mossy stones. O'Sullivans Cascades Kerry

My brother lives in Killarney also and it was lovely to be able to meet up with him for coffee.  Coincidentally, he brought up the topic of memory as we were talking and described how he has no memories of childhood.  This has always been the same for me, yet we had never really talked about this before - in fact I'm pretty sure it was the first time I had heard him say it aloud.  Maybe not so much of a coincidence, but it felt like one, as I had been thinking so much about memory - the good and bad, and also the lack of memory I have had of so much of my own life.

I have spoken about my own late diagnosis of autism and I've had the somewhat strange experience over the last couple of years of little snippets of my past popping into my head.  Not like a properly articulated memory but more just like an instant visual, or scent, or something that evoked some kind of feeling in me.

Mossy remains of old stone wall in Killarney National Park

I've known for some time that the lack of memory is likely due to childhood trauma and I've felt that maybe those random little pictures were part of a healing process that has come about due to me understanding better now who I am, and how my brain works.

It has felt for much of my life that not having a clear sense of who I was as a child was a loss that I couldn't quite explain.  I think I understand it a bit better now.  It's like I was untethered and didn't have a fixed personality - my impression of most of my childhood is like a grey shadowy blur.  I couldn't tell you what I liked or disliked, what made me happy, what excited me or what made me sad.

It was almost like I had just made myself up as a fully fledged adult.  This connects so much to autistic masking and how we imitate others and hide our true selves because we don't understand social dynamics, but also connected, I imagine, to childhood neglect and not having needs met.  Which is why, I suppose, it was so good to learn that my brother experienced the same lack of recall.  Not the fact that he experienced it, of course, but rather the validation that comes when someone instantly understands you on a deep shared level.  I can't quite put into words what that means, but it has been another little building block in undoing years of damage.  And it's impossible to describe our unique experience to outsiders.  We were fed and clothed and went to school, but the neglect of basic emotional needs, the unpredictability and the pyschologically abusive behaviour that our mother demonstrated much of the time took a massive toll.  And one of her tactics was always to pit people against each other.  For years I just assumed that I was the problem, that it was just me she disliked. When myself and my brother eventually talked about our childhood and how strange it was, we were fully fledged middle aged adults.

View of Gap of Dunloe Killarney, mountains and road with a gap between two mountains

I had an extremely traumatic experience last October and this too has been interwoven through my memory musings.  Because I learnt that my body held memories of what had happened, even now, long after the event, and when my mind feels more back to normal.  When I was in Kerry, something small jolted me, something that would have been just an incidental shortlived experience normally, but my body went into full on panic mode and I felt like I had been hit by a sledgehammer.  I felt faint and this continued through the day, triggered again by trying to walk down a slippy slope.  My dyspraxia means that my coordination is not the best and I don't have a great sense of where my body is in physical space so this, combined with a fear of even small heights, was enough to make me feel a sense of shock again.

I suppose, in a weird way, so much that has happened in the last year has given me a greater sense of understanding of my ability to disconnect from things and dismiss or doubt my own feelings.  And sometimes I feel deeply frustrated and angry with myself that I have not been better at looking after myself throughout my life.  But now somehow, it's like a veil has been lifted and I'm learning slowly to give myself the care I always deserved.  And part of that is trying to find good memories, the 'me' memories.  And creating new memories, building on who I am.  Another layer to our Kerry trip was trying to reimagine the little girl version of me, who would have walked in the same places and looked at the same views in the Killarney National Park.  I don't know what she felt or thought, but I felt like holding her hand and drawing her through to the future me, and letting her know that things would be ok.

I've interspersed this post with pictures I took in Killarney - perhaps I love photography so much because it captures those elusive memories for me.

Silky smooth waterfall with branch on left. O'Sullivans Cascades Kerry

Lake in Killarney with stones to the foreground and Mountain on the opposite side

Killarney lake with still water and mountains on either side

Lake with smooth water and mountain in distance. Lough Leane

Previous Post
No Comment
Add Comment
comment url