It is not uncommon for people who’ve experienced trauma to suffer partial memory loss. They’ll remember their entire life up to the point of the accident, or to a few hours or a day before, but have no recollection of the moment of impact, of terror or of pain. This is yet another of those wondrous things our mind does: it protects us from further suffering.
Recently, I realised I kept losing a year of my life. This realisation made me think of trauma patients but no, I was not in an accident you did not hear about. I did not forget the events of that year, but I keep forgetting they happened then.
A few months ago, I was telling my friends about something I had been through half a year prior. Something felt off. It seemed too close, yet further away. It is only the next day that it hit me: it had happened a year and a half before that. I had missed an entire year in my story. Where had it gone?
I guessed its uneventfulness, its repetitive stance of illness, exhaustion, remission, unanswered questions that ended up like the background music of a never-ending elevator ride dissolved it into inconsequentiality. It would also explain why I thought we had moved in our house nearly 3 years ago and had been thinking that for more than a year. It is going to be 4 years… where did that one year go?
And now suddenly I understand: there was no milestone. Every year of my life, something has happened to allow me to reminisce with precision. My superpower, that amazing factual memory, functions through references. I would know I had a party in my tiny house in Brussels in November 2004 because it was the year before I left for Barcelona and I left in 2005. I could tell you I started working in that one company in 2010 because it was the year I came back from Australia. It was the same year I went to New York and moved to Ghent – a good year it was. I moved back to my hometown in 2013; I remember because I was pregnant. I changed job twice, moved in our house the same year my daughter started school, 2016. I got the first flare on the 25th of March of 2017. The second was a year later, almost to the day.
And then… nothing. A year of nothingness for me. No reference. No change. Not even a vacation. Hence no memory and superpower cancellation.
Again, I am not saying I have forgotten a year of my life nor have I forgotten anything about my daughter’s. Only that it all blended somehow, putting everything into soft focus.
But I’m done with the blur. There will be dates I will try and forget but there will be dates I will remember. I will never get that one year back, but I will not lose another one.