My Journey Through Purgatory: Haunted By My Memories

Ready. Set. Sail!

How do you deal with the present when the past still haunts you?

As I’m hiking along the Trail of Stability, I’m immersed in this light misty fog. It’s not the same Fog that torments me when I’m in my depressive state. This mist is more of a shadow. It’s hazy and silent. There in the mist are short snippets of past memories floating by like smoke. You can see the transparent stories playing in a loop like an old record player; replaying the same moments over and over again. Every once in awhile I’ll reach out and grab one of them and relive the memory. I did some of that this morning.

Last night was fun. Dressing up in my dirndl I bought from Munich a few weeks ago for Oktoberfest was great. I made my husband buy a cheap knockoff  lederhosen from Amazon and made him wear it. It looked kinda silly but he looked so handsome it was hard to tell. Partying in downtown San Diego is always fun but I’m noticing as I get older the hangovers are lasting longer. I really need to not drink so much but my 28th birthday is coming up and wine may be on the horizon!

The best part about last night was accidentally bumping into my youngest brother and his girlfriend. They wore Aladdin and Jasmine costumes and looked amazingly adorable together. It’s so nice when I get the chance to hang out with him because he is always so busy. Having just recently graduated from college, he has been working two jobs to support him and his girlfriend while she works and studies at his alma mater. It feels weird that my baby brother is doing so well for himself. Even though he is 24 years old, I can’t help but think of him as the little boy who used to watch Power Rangers and Pokemon with me. We have always been close and I hope it stays that way.

As the night grew late, and I grew more tipsy, we were waiting in line for his girlfriend to finish in the restroom when he all of a sudden asks me, “You still hang out with [blank]?” For the sake of anonymity, I’ll not use a name at all because I don’t think it’s important but he was talking about our mom. He used her first name which is highly unusual for him to do. My sudden response was along the lines of, “Yeah. I still do. Why don’t you? What happened with you guys?”

His immediate response came with a shrug and “she is just worthless.” Worthless. That’s a little extreme even for me. I talk vaguely about my parents because there is a lot of pain and hurt and deception with them. A LOT. The memories of my childhood are mostly tainted with bitterness.

I nodded my head in agreement and said, “Well dad has been cheating on her for like three years. Both of our parents are messed up.” He gave a sort of look akin to, “Huh? I didn’t know that but I guess it makes sense.” With that he agreed with me and the conversation died as far as I can remember. I immediately became irritable. My husband was eavesdropping and caught a few words here and there but he knew by the look on my face that it’d struck a cord. After about an hour I seemed to calm down and we ended the night, said goodbye to my brother, and were taken home by a DD program shuttle.

Now I’m heading back down memory lane. I’m still walking along the Trail so I’m still doing fine but there is a low hum of depression resonating in my heart. Worthless. That’s such a strong word. I know my little brother and he has never been that angry at my mom. I wanna say about a year ago my little brother stopped talking  to my mom entirely. From what I know, he stopped by her place one day to grab some last minute stuff that he had left when he moved out a couple years ago. Some fight went down. Now they don’t speak. She doesn’t even know he graduated back in June because she explicitly wasn’t invited to his graduation party. I’ve always wondered why but with my family it’s better not to open Pandora’s boxes. It never ends well and it just tears us further apart.

Growing up was always such a hassle. I hated my childhood and high school years. The only peace I ever got was when I was at college living on campus. There are so very many ugly memories that float around in my head. Memories of when I used to cry all the time in elementary school. How they called me a cry baby and yelled at me and told me to just “grow up”. I was an overly sensitive kid and they would do this all the time. Even when something bad happened. It got to a point where any hint of a sniffle would send them into a tirade of “Oh. The baby is going to cry now?”, “You’re too old for this! Grow up!”, “Stop being such so sensitive!” After a while, I’d have to hold it in and run to my room and cry silently into my pillow, scared to death they would find out and make fun of me.

I remember times when I’d be shopping with my mom at the mall and she let me wander off to the Tilt arcade with a bag of quarters. She told me to make sure to meet her back at a store at  a certain time. When I’d arrive late, around the order of a few minutes, she would yell and scream at me for it. She told me I was stupid and an idiot and asked how I could do something like that. When I retorted back and said I wasn’t an idiot, she would basically tell me I was and that was that.

I remember a time when I was in my room studying for a Calculus test for high school and forgot to close the windows after the sunset. Angry to the point of blowing up, my dad would storm into my room and scold me for it. He would give me a lecture on how girls like me who leave their windows open would have rapists climb into their bedrooms. As a cop, he would tell me ways they could hold me down and beat me while doing it. All the while my mom would be standing in the background nodding her head in agreement.

I remember a time when we were watching the movie Ray and a huge fight broke out between my parents. My dad would throw things and yell at the top of his lungs. I remember when he dragged her into the bedroom and they would continue fighting. I remember my mom trying to tell my dad to stop because he was “hurting” her. It’s because of that I can’t watch that movie anymore. We never finished it and I probably never will at this point.

I remember the times they would ask me for favors (favors = money). Throughout my entire working life, I’ve never truly had money in savings for long. When I got to the point of having something substantial, my parents would ask for a favor and I’d have to hand them over whatever amount they wanted. It was never a choice. The favors would be so much money: $200, $500. $2000. They asked me to give them money when I was broke in college and needed money for food. They needed new tires and asked me for $500. All I had was $500. I gave it to them and lived off of veggie patties for dinner for a month because that’s all I could afford.

God there are so many more. It’s sad when we remember the bad times so much more than the good times. Maybe that’s just me. I had a lot of good moments but it’s just hard to let go of the bad moments. To make matters worse, my parents would do the same thing every time I was done being scolded for something I did; my dad would come into the room and say he was sorry he yelled at/spanked me, remind me of how much he loved me, and said we were OK. My mom would do absolutely nothing. She rarely ever apologizes even if it’s her fault.

So remember I said my dad is stable now? He is and he is so happy. I’m happy for him in a way. It wasn’t more than a few years ago when I said that if my dad died I could care less. It’s good to know that subconsciously I still care about him. What I’m starting to find out though is I really resent his happiness. I hate the fact that his PTSD is under control. I hate the fact that his mental disorder isn’t plaguing him anymore. I want him to suffer for the way he used to treat me and I resent the fact that I feel this way.

On the one hand, my dad was such a loose cannon. On the other, he was so much fun. He was the kind of guy who would take me to museums and art galleries. He taught me how to ride a bike and how to build sand castles. He organized board game nights every Sunday and we would all have fun and laugh (except if it was Monopoly then we would be at each other’s throats. That game kills friendships and ruins families and should be banned!). He encouraged me to pursue science and helped me fall in love with it.

Polar opposite was my mom. I didn’t have memories like that with my mom. We never spent time together. She rarely ever hugged me or kissed me. It was usually a “good night” and and she would just leave. She was never emotional and I’ve only ever seen her cry once when her mom died. Maybe twice but that’s it. I have never had a deep conversation with my mom. Ever. About anything.

Purgatory is my time for self-reflection. The holidays are coming up and I’m trying to decide if I want to see my parents this year. Last year was the only time I’ve never spent Thanksgiving or Christmas with them. My little brother called me around this time last year and said he “has had it with our dysfunctional family”. He said he doesn’t have any issues with me but he couldn’t stand it anymore and didn’t even want to be around our dad or our mom. So both of us blew them off last year despite their begging and pleading. I needed a break and my Depression was very severe around that time so I honestly believed it was a good idea.

Now, I’ll ask again: How do you deal with the present when the past still haunts you?

This is an open question and I’d like for honest feedback. Please give me some tips on how you deal with people who have hurt you in the past in the comments section below. I’d really appreciate it.

I think I’ll leave these memories alone for now and keep wandering through the mist.

3 thoughts on “My Journey Through Purgatory: Haunted By My Memories

  1. That’s a tough one… I remember my mother being a bit like your mom, but we’re much closer now. She’s still VERY controlling and she triggers me a lot, but she’s my mother… Know what I mean?

    I don’t really have an answer to your question though. The simple answer would be to not allow the past to haunt you anymore, but that is easier said than done isn’t it! I find though, that the past seems to haunt only when we’re feeling down, or downright depressed, right? That’s called rumination, and its the not-so-secret weapon of depression to keep us in the hole.

    Learning strategies to help you jump these hurdles is probably the only way to fix it, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Its all trial and error sadly, but what has (to some extent) worked for me is to consciously refuse to ruminate, and try to occupy my mind with something else – I’m still studying, so that’s quite easy for me 😉

    Again, easier said than done, but you have to just accept that all that shit happened and there is nothing you can do or say to change it. At the end of the day, that was how YOU experienced it – that’s not to say your parents experienced it in the same way, so talking to them about it and pointing out the things they did that hurt you, is not going to help any of you really. Its really hard hey, because you WANT them to take some fucking responsibility for fucking you up – but the fact is, they won’t. Well, they might, but are you willing to take that chance and end up feuding with them for the rest of your life? I just want peace in my heart you know… So I just don’t bring up the past with my family.

    Present day stuff is fair game though. If you feel strongly enough about something they’re doing that is fucked up, then tackle it right there and then. If its something you can ignore, then ignore it. Move on.

    At the end of the day, you have to do what is going to bring peace to YOUR heart (and brain). Its a lifelong struggle, and I’m not sure anyone ever gets it 100% sussed, but we can give it a try. My advice is: Leave your behind in the past (Lion King reference 😉 ) Seriously though, leave the past behind you. Focus on yourself. Focus on building a more positive relationship with your parents, and try to forgive them – they just don’t get it hun. They. Just. Don’t. GET. it.

    Oh! And forgive yourself too, because even though you are not in control of how you react to stuff, your memories of how you reacted stay with you. That’s bipolar not listening to its Miranda rights, and that shit being used against you in the court of your brain…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh my God. I wish I had words to tell you how much I appreciate this. Your comment is EXACTLY what I needed to hear. Thank you. Thank you so so much. I’m trying my best and I want a great relationship with my parents. I always did. I know things are never one sided and they had it hard too but you’re right about the rumination. I’m going to practice that. All my friends and mental health professionals tell me to focus on ME. That’s what I did last year because their lives were getting to be too much with the divorce and my dad’s mental illness that I couldn’t handle the drama. Thanks again. I really appreciate this. You have no idea.

      And The Lion King is an amazing movie and perfect reference for this situation!!

      Liked by 2 people

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