Wednesday, January 22, 2014

B is for Biography

Here's something I've mentioned a few times that has actually become a very interesting part of my therapy: over on Tumblr, I've been doing what amounts to my own biography. It's over at The Autobiography of a Frog.

I'd wanted to do something like this for some time, because I have a terrible memory. I really do; I've found over the years that I can't remember a lot of details from my own life, except for times when I was really embarrassed or really hurt or really guilty or ashamed or sick or something really, really negative. Why can't I remember more of the times when I was just insanely happy?

I asked my therapist what she thought of this, and she told me that at some point, a long time ago, that schema of worthlessness had taken such a hold in my mind--become so internalized, to the point where it was as second nature as breathing--that it had managed to actively stop me from creating long term memories of positive times because my brain just rejects any evidence that I don't suck.

If that sounds incredibly sad... well, it is.

But, rather than feel sorry for myself, I decided that was the impetus I needed to pull out the family photos and my old school records and all of the mementos I've been carrying around, and then get on Wikipedia and try to retrace, as best as I could, the events of my life.

This is where it helps that I'm such a pop culture kid. I used to get so excited as a kid about movies featuring creatures and outer space, that I've always been able to sort of remember each year by what the big movies were that came out that year. 1981 was the year Raiders of the Lost Ark came out. 1982 was the year I was terrified by E.T. and fascinated by The Dark Crystal and in love with The Secret of NIMH. 1983: Jedi. 1984: Gremlins and Ghostbusters. And so on and so on. I was always into music and cartoons and time has only increased my love of some of those things, so my biography has become a real mash-up of so many things.

See, the depressing thing about the family photos is seeing how many of the photos my Mom--who has had her own problems with anxiety and depression and self-esteem--has gotten rid of over the years. I was recently shocked to see that our summer of 1982 trip to Guam barely exists in the photographic record anymore, because only about six or eight pictures didn't get thrown out. And it's depressing for me, too, because it really does seem like more pictures of my sister exist now; for every six or seven pictures there are of her, there's one of me. I don't even have pictures of myself in my Halloween costume in 1981 and 1982. That's kind of a disappointment. I have no idea what I went as.

So my biography has become more about re-creating the time period and what I remember from it. I post commercials, songs I love, reminders of TV episodes that were favorites, movies that came out, pictures from comic books, from fashion magazines, from adult magazines, art from the time period, historical events, short films, and pictures of myself, all in an attempt to contextualize and recapture the feelings and memories from times I've blocked out of my mind. It's not always successful, but the attempt is worthwhile. It gives me something to focus on and an unconventional way... well, it's not really unconventional, because it's basically scrapbooking, isn't it? I'm scrapbooking a past I want to recapture, because I feel like I don't even know myself sometimes. So I'm trying to remember where I came from.

I've just recently started 1983, which is the year I turned 7 and started second grade. It's been fun spending time with this happy kid who sometimes lets his fears get the better of him--I've already been rest-of-my-life traumatized a couple of times--but who has all of these hopes and fascinations. The hopes too often faded, but the fascinations are often still the same. I like reconnecting with him. I hope that as things get harder for him, I can stay this close and ride it out. It'll be interesting to see. It's surprising how effective and therapeutic this all really is.

ABC Wednesday


Roger Owen Green said...

Do Bee and Don't Bee. Reminds me of Goofus and Gallant (from highlights for Children? I've so forgotten my own childhood...)

SamuraiFrog said...

Yeah, Highlights. I used to read it at my doctor's office when I was a little kid.

Leslie: said...

What a wonderful method to incorporate into your therapy! Mine is to forget all the horrid things that happened in my childhood and try to make my adult life much better and happier! kudos to you for working so hard on yourself.

abcw team

Lisa said...

I can't remember much of my childhood either. But what a great idea to recreate that era through film! That would be so much fun. It might become somewhat of a self-portrait.
My link is:

Ann said...

I find myself trying to recollect memories of when my kids were little and I wish SO much I had kept a journal. There are not too many things I remember of my childhood, but momentos do help bring some back. What agreat thing you are doing, best of luck in the endeavor.

Shailaja V said...

I feel for you and your pain. It must be difficult to face the past and relive some of the painful memories.

But I'm glad that you're making a go at looking on the bright side. Kudos for that.