Of Memories and Cow Tipping
Today I spoke to my supervisor about false vs. real memories. I was asking in reference to the patients I have who are victims of childhood sexual abuse. It is very common for these victims to question their memory of the actual abuse, for fear that they are making it up, or they only remember parts of it. I hear the questions all the time, "is it real? How do I know it really happened? Am I making it up?" It got me thinking about my own memories, and how I know what is real or not? Here are a couple random things I remember and know are real: 1. I remember playing in the mud of the houses being built on our street in Cloverhill with Angie Shewbridge. I remember loving the feeling of the warm summer mud between my toes. 2. I remember having a dog named Buffy who used to bark alot at night. 3. I remember seeing my Aunt in her open casket at her funeral and wishing she would sit up and yell, "Surprise!" 4. I remember a couple of dates with guys I'd like to forget!!! 5. I remember watching my soap opera, The Guiding Light, while in induced labor with DB. 6. I remember tripping on a rock while out power walking the week before we moved out of our house in Boston. There are lots of random memories I know are real. Just because I remember them and trust that I know they are real. People ask me all the time whether I remember living in Thailand? My usual answer is that most of my memories are from photographs. I couldn't prove I lived in Thailand based on my own memories, except I have pictures to prove I was there. And so the memories of my house and my dog and the trees and the fence around our house and my stepping on my bunny rabbit help to validate my memories. Or create them. I tried to think of a memory that I can't prove. How it feels to question my memory? I thought of my lifelong story of going cow tipping as a teenager living in Frederick. I have told people for years that I went cow tipping when I was a kid. I say that I remember at least going once, maybe twice. But when I thought about it today, I realized I'm not really sure if I ever did go cow tipping?! I have a memory of the field on Yellow Springs Road, and I have a memory of climbing over a fence, and I have a memory of seeing cows standing up sleeping in the field. But I do not have a single memory of ever REALLY touching or pushing over a cow! I can't tell you who I was with? And I can't tell you what the weather was like that night? (I guess I remember that it was night?) But I remember going cow tipping. But did I REALLY?! Have I been making it up based on my imagination all these years? This is fascinating and frustrating me. And I feel I need to figure it out for myself. Especially if I want to help to understand my patients better. How do we know what we remember is true? What do you think?