Memory

Memory is a funny thing. I write from memory mostly, and it is told as fact. Truth. But it isn’t; it’s memory. I remember things in a subjective way; it’s all from my (sometimes insane) point of view. Over the last 17 years I have created a narrative in my head for how and why things happened to me. Part of maintaining control of my mind is to force it all to make as much sense as possible. A little science, a little faith, and a lot of crafted memory.

I have trouble remembering certain things when I am ill. I have trouble remembering other things when I am well. My brain has two modes–sick and well. I have trouble connecting to both at the same time. When I am sick a flood of memories come back from other times I have been sick–specifically from 2001. I wonder if I have some post traumatic stress from my suicide attempt sometimes. It’s like the lynchpin of my life. Like everything hinges on that one event. I know life doesn’t work that way, but it feels like that.

When I am well, I have trouble empathizing with my sick self. I find it pathetic even though I know it’s an illness. Crafted memories help me more gently see myself. I recognize that the craziest stuff I do is when I am unwell. I’m not pathetic, I’m sick. Sometimes I live in limbo between sick and well. It’s a strange place to be full of tension and struggle. I have trouble sorting my thoughts. Some of my thoughts are good. Others are false. It’s a constant battle to suss through them in order to make decisions on how to act.

For many years I had a very clear story of what happened to me. It had to be tightly put together to send the right message. I still stick to that story, but in reality it is much messier-not wrapped up tight with a bow. There are loose ends that don’t fit into my story. Characters who were very important but I fear telling their part in order to protect their privacy. But when I think of these people and events–the memories that linger on the outskirts of my story–I question my own story as truth. What happened happened–I wouldn’t lie. But even I sometimes forget the truths that I don’t tell. I fear discovering something about myself or my neatly packaged story that I have tried to forget.

I have mentioned several times the collage in my living room. In early 2005 I began work on it, and it took roughly 2-3 months. From ages 17-19 I wrote obsessively. Everyday as I got more and more ill I wrote things down. I saved them as a record of my life and my heartbreak. I used many, many of these writings on my collage. Then I got rid of them. I purged. If it wasn’t on the collage it was gone. This was probably a fine idea. It would have been nice to use for blog posts now, I guess, but it freed me then from reliving that time.

But over the last 6 months or so I have been reading what I can from the collage. I have been reading the stuff I wrote in the 6 months leading up to my suicide attempt. It makes me think more deeply about that time. And the memories! The memories that flood back to me. Things I had forgotten but that I have had hanging in my living room for 10 years. And it makes me think differently about 2001. Like I had forgotten why my heart and mind were so broken. I give a lot of due credit to my depression. My fall was inevitable, I say. No one could have saved me. I still believe that. But I also wonder more about what exactly drove me to try and kill myself (on Valentines Day of all days). I remember many specific things from the days leading up to my attempt. Things that I won’t speak of on the blog. Fights, rejections, misunderstandings. I felt like everyone was leaving me or hated me. I needed to be saved, rescued, and I felt that none of the people I loved loved me back enough to help.

It’s weird. Memory is weird and mine has been changing–missing details are coming together making me think about not only 2001 but also all the years since. It’s like I’ve been carrying around a time capsule and I finally opened it and it tells a different version of the same story. But the nice thing about being a writer is that I do get to craft the truth into the story I choose to tell. I write honestly from my memory, but memory is a funny thing.

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