Visiting the past

This past weekend, I visited my hometown.  It’s the first time I’ve been back in over five years. Being back there was awful, healing, confusing, and so much more.  I’m still trying to make sense of it all, but need to write something down in order to start the reflective process, and ward off it being lost in the dissociation.

There were some beautiful moments, such as going down to the beach near sunset.  There was humour, with my mother, brother, and I talking about movies we’d seen… it soon became obvious that our respective approaches to movie going is very different!

But, there were also endless triggers…

On Sunday morning, my mother met my sister to go to church.  I had never connected it before, but this reminded me of when my father decided to “find God” when I was a teenager.  This was the final trigger that prompted me to visit places of importance from my past.  The main place I wanted to see was the bar associated with my father… the place where I have different memories that are so disjointed…

As I drove out to the bar, I passed a factory filled with bad memories… or rather, where the factory once stood.  There was a wave of relief to see that it was now totally different, filled with various industries and businesses.  I passed my old high, and middle schools… and again, so much had changed.  They were still recognisable, but it was obvious that 20+ years had passed since I walked across those fields.  Even though the suburb that was my home for so long has changed dramatically… new roads and malls; it still has the same feel.

Then the bar itself… The first thing that threw me, was that the entrance had changed.  I can now see where the extensions were added; but at the time, I was totally disoriented.  As the place was closed, I could walk around and peer through windows undisturbed. I started off by looking through the main entrance windows, and saw the short corridor that had the toilets going off each side…  That was enough to create a sense of panic, and an immediate free-fall into dissociation.

I walked around the building in a depersonalised state… looking at the different parts of the building and clinically ticking them all off on my internal check-list.  When I got around to the changing room entrance, things shifted… it was locked, and I was unable to see down the corridor.  I could tell each room based on the windows outside, but this wasn’t enough… I needed to see down that corridor.  But, it was impossible.

I looked into the main hall, and saw so many changes… some of them were about perspective (the hall looked so much smaller than I remembered); but other things such as the new carpet and different tables, were more tangible… But then, I saw the kitchen area, and it acted as a grounding moment.  I snapped back to some sort of awareness, and started taking pictures… I took pictures of all of the areas that I remembered, then wandered around the streets, trying to ground myself.

During my walk, I found this mural…

At the time, I called it “Don’t Speak”…  There seemed something fitting about the red being painted over the mouth.

After the bar, I visited my old elementary school, the kindergarten, and a couple of significant houses… Again, there were so many changes.  I found one of the houses, only to see that the wood shed was being pulled down.  Another now houses a charity; and while it still looked the same, the entrance was totally different… where there was once an opening in the fence for the driveway, framed mosaics are now hung on a continuous fence.

In so many ways, these changes were disorienting… But, there was still enough of the old elements present, to allow me to see the historical context.

I know that memory is not an exact thing… I know it can be influenced, and change over time… So, in many ways, going back to these places was meaningless.  But, it was also healing, in that many things were confirmed, and I could also see how time had changed the places which once housed so much pain for me.

As for the rest of the trip… well, it had its ups and downs… I had a panic attack in McDonald’s, and had to go for a walk to try to calm down… I did some dissociative shopping, and had to return some rather odd clothing choices…  I had a fun birthday evening with my brother and mother…

But, probably the most important thing happened on my last morning there…  My mother and I went to have a coffee, and started talking about my sister.  It seems she has moved past the idea that I had the best childhood known to mankind, and has instead started seeing things in a different way.  My mother relayed how much sorrow (guilt?) my sister feels for “abandoning” me when she moved out at the age of 16.  This seemingly simple admission stirred so many emotions… a feeling of validation, that I wasn’t imagining how bad it was growing up in that house…  compassion for my sister, who was burdening herself with responsibilities that aren’t hers to hold…  compassion for my mother, who was obviously now looking back on the damage done by the past…

There is nothing simple about a trip down memory lane… but, it can be healing.  It helped me to see that, although I live with the effects of those events every single day; the events were a long time ago.  That doesn’t make what happened right, nor does it allow me to forgive, or forget… but, it does mean that I can help ease those fears when I’m caught in the flashbacks…  If nothing else, that knowledge made the trip worthwhile.

—————-
Now playing: Taylor Swift – Safe & Sound
via FoxyTunes

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4 thoughts on “Visiting the past

  1. Wow, what an amazing, freaky, healing and worthwhile trip!! I can imagine how outrageously stressful the lead up was for you and I can’t tell u how incredibly glad I am that, overall, it seems worth it, and some parts perhaps not as scary as you remembered. I know thats disorienting but i kind of love it when all the power is taken out of things. And your sister – wow, just wow!!

    ((hugs)) and happy birthday CG

    • Thanks Kerro 🙂

      The whole trip, on balance, was worthwhile… but, it was stressful! I struggled so often to remain anywhere near grounded, and would often feel the dissociation take over. Thankfully, most of the time, it was the highly functional “be normal for the family” type of dissociation 🙂

      I was totally blown away by what my mother said about my sisters change in attitude towards me, and our respective pasts. She had always been dismissive that I might have experienced anything bad, because I was the “favourite”… When I heard it, I immediately wanted to take care of her, and ease her worries; but, I’m not sure if that’s possible, or if she would accept that from me… and I know that a part of me doesn’t really want to, but that’s to do with the things she did to me, rather than anything about this other situation.

      Life is complicated!

      (((hugs)))
      CG

  2. I’m going to praise you, so brace yourself. I’m really proud of you. You did something incredibly difficult and brave and of course you dissociated, but you also tried to ground yourself which is amazing!

    I hope that visiting those places ends up being a really good thing for you. It’s good to see that we’re right about certain things but also that, like you said, things have changed.

    I’m amazed by you. Seriously.

    (((mega safe hugs)))

    • Thanks CI 🙂

      I talked about the trip today with Allison, and that brought so many other issues to the foreground… I thought I was “all good” with the trip; but, apparently not. I did get through it though, and learned so much… It really was worthwhile, but I think I’d do it differently, if I was to do it again.

      Take care of yourself,
      CG

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