If you were stripped of your memory, would recovery become easier?
I can only imagine the pain that will confront a someone who has lost their memories. Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain injury, memory loss due to aging or other conditions is painful and a trial to endure.
In recovery, memories become seared into the mind. Binges, trauma, torment, losses become etched into the caverns and assault us at every turn. Triggers are inside and unpredictable. The IED explosive is internal, mental and will use our memories as a weapon against us.
My grandmother is 104 years old and for the most part, her memory is kind to her. She has her days, like any of us, but her memories are more like a blanket than a hammer.
For some of us, collecting our thoughts is more like collecting bullets.
When my mind collects it’s thoughts, the the Spiny Toothed Madman (otherwise known as anxiety and depression) is gathering ammunition. He assaults me with my own memories.
This made me think the other day: What does it mean to collect one’s thoughts? Is there a way to nurture one’s thoughts in a way that is kind and helpful?
The phrase “Collect our thoughts” can mean many things:
- At church, they collect an offering.
- Some people collect shoes that they like to wear.
- Others collect coins and other treasures.
I think that the last one comes closest for me. Thoughts need to be collected, treasured and reviewed regularly. Otherwise things get lost. Collecting thoughts, like coins, makes for a richer life.
If we spend our days living so fast that we do not stop to collect our thoughts, we lose a little of ourselves and all that is left is the bullets. But the fascinating thing is that all that it takes is for us to stop and we can find the better thoughts again.
All that it takes is time.
One of the gifts that recovery gives is that we slow down and reflect. This is an essential part of reclaiming ourselves. We are not simply recovering our bodies and our minds, but we are also recovering our memory.
Sometimes our reflection is turned so inward that it is sickly unhealthy, warped and cruel. Reflection takes on a dark side and is used like a weapon rather than a resource.
6 Things you can when your memories are cruel
- Remember that a memory is not a permanent thing. Like a craving, like any pain, like indigestion, they will pass. For some of us, they pass just like gas: quickly forgotten. Remind yourself that even painful memories will fade.
- Use a journal to record your good memories. Practice bringing to mind the healthy, good memories and they will become a greater part of your consciousness. I have an app on my phone that gives me a quote every day. I meditate on that quote and use that to inspire my reflection. I find this more productive than letting my mind go anywhere.
- Breathe. Take a breath and anything get’s a little easier. That is because breath gives our minds the energy we need to face something. Our brains thrive on oxygen and better thoughts require more oxygen.
- Meditate. Meditation builds your ability to concentrate. You train yourself to notice, but not hold onto. This works with cravings, just like it works with memories. Notice and let go. Breathe in, breathe out. Wax on, wax off. You are not your thoughts.
- Talk to a professional. Talking gets the memories out of you and you can more objectively think about what is on your mind.
- Exercise hard. When you are sweating, it is nearly impossible to think about anything! Sometimes sweat is the best therapy.
To remember means to bring back to awareness. Memories may threaten, but we have other memories that we can bring to mind. Let today be a day of kindness to yourself.
Some memories are better avoided, redirected, or danced with rather than destroyed. Energy is never destroyed… just like memory, and crabs, it lingers.
Photo by Dieter Weinholt