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In our everyday world, we tend to like our memories neat and tidy.

Friends and family often get into conversations about past events with each person laying claim to what really happened. Although each person experienced the moment from their very personal collection of feelings and through the lens of previous experiences, they assume everyone will remember the same thing.

With ordinary memories, these discussions deepen bonds as shared times are explored. There is a tendency to believe all memories can be outlined and understood this way, but survivors know all memories are not the same.

Memories of our abuse are in a category all by themselves. They were born in trauma. They were colored by our disempowerment during the experience. Betrayal, shame, and secrecy were woven into the fabric of an incident we had to carry forward on our own. And these moments often held another twist; they demanded we make sense of something we were too young to comprehend… and we knew it could happen again.

It can be empowering for survivors to recognize their experience will not come in the same package as an ordinary memory. Pieces might be starkly clear but feel out of context. Some painful aspects could feel like shadows we can only sense. These memories can be visual, emotional, or physical, but they rarely come to us in a way that integrates these into a complete story. Time is often skewed by our distress.

Our abuse memories are very different than ordinary memories, but they still hold insights. They are part of our truth. And when we embrace them so we can heal, we can more easily create a picture of our past if we remember these memories will not look and feel like ordinary memories.