Erasing Painful Memories

This blog is repeatedly being searched for what psychiatric
drugs will erase painful memories.

There are none.

What has happened to you has made you the person you
are.  Painful memories cannot be excised from
your mind like a tumor can be removed from your body, nor should you try.

I am sixty-four years old and today I am sobbing
uncontrollably because my parents kicked me out of the house when I was sixteen.  I am crying about it now because I never cried about it then.

Here’s the short version:  I took antidepressants every day for twenty-six years.  You might say that what those drugs did was “erase” my painful memories but, in fact, all they did was bury them deeper.

Antidepressants are happy pills.  They are supposed to make you happy regardless of your circumstances.  That is absolutely crazy thinking.  The only way you can be happy is by actually
fixing your fucked-up life.  You’ve got to fight back.  Why is everybody so afraid of the fight?

As a child, Judy was repeatedly raped by her step-father and
older brothers.  For decades, she was
chronically depressed and then, through the auspices of a wise therapist, she got the chance to bring criminal charges against her rapists.  Instead of stepping up to the plate and
dealing with it, she made excuses.  Her stepfather
was sick; her brothers had families; it was over; it was history.  And to this day Judy continues to be chronically depressed.  Those memories do not ever go away until you stand up and fight what was done to you.  The good news is that it is never too late to
fight the people who hurt you.

All that drugs do is bury your pain so deeply that you can’t
deal with it; you can’t access the memories of the things that hurt you.  After I stopped taking antidepressants ten
years, I also stopped sleeping because of a rare kidney disease.  I had to wake up every two hours every night
to go to the bathroom.  Then I often did not go back to sleep.  Monsters lived in the darkness.  I got by; I managed; I
dealt with the current crap.  But I never
went back and dealt with the old crap.

Two and a half months ago, dying from lack of sleep, I
finally got a doctor to order an indwelling catheter.  (Half the doctors said it wasn’t “medically necessary” to get a full night’s sleep.)  After ten years of wakefulness, it took two months for my sleep cycle to settle down and get used to the idea that I no longer need to get up to go to the bathroom.

Two weeks ago, I started sleeping eight or nine hours every
single night without waking once.  And I
became deeply depressed.  I am finally undrugged
and sleeping, and the monsters of my childhood are rampaging in my sleep.  I wake up in the morning and before my eyes
open I am remembering some cruel part of my childhood.  Decades of drugs didn’t erase my painful memories and they will not erase yours.

Find somebody strong and compassionate to whom you can tell
your stories.  You can take pills or alcohol or bury yourself in work or yell at the kids, but the hurt will still
be there inside you until you decide to turn into it, face it, and talk about it.  You have to.  There is no other way.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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