Note: This piece was written without scaling back the intensity of my life with PTSD. I wrote it as a time capsule of Now, because all too soon I won’t remember much of Now. Anyone is welcome to read, but if only other survivors find anything comprehensible, that’s okay.
Amnesia ensures I can’t always remember the date of my wedding eight years ago, much less the events or emotions.
One of the hardest parts of living with amnesia is accepting a life I can’t remember into my familiar world. Events as foreign as Peru’s economy assemble like puzzle pieces with no place in my picture of life—of me. But I’m in the video clip. I wrote that detailed email.
And my family couldn’t make this stuff up.
Picture memory like plastic balls floating on the ocean, and I wander the beach retrieving ones within reach. Memories I frequently reference have less chance to drift away, but balls I rarely look for tend to float out of reach. If a focused search fails to locate them, I accept that some pieces of my history are inaccessible.
I rarely search for the memory balls labeled My Wedding. When life spontaneously combusted eight years ago the violence blazed until most memories were melted and warped. An accidental touch burns me with the grief: a lifetime of hopes incinerated in hours, my future burned to bedrock in weeks. It took me years of fighting to control the damage. By then the scars ran too deep to hide. Something inside decided this train wreck of a girl couldn’t bear the memories, and mental fireproof doors shut to prevent total destruction. Enter amnesia, dissociation, and nightmares.
October of 2007 feels like both yesterday and never. Waves rearrange the memory balls near the beach; sometimes the past becomes my present. As if mental doors were slamming open and closed, I unconsciously shift through my safe landing points from 2002 through—whatever year we’re in. Nowhere feels like home. No reality offers vision free from black holes.
Inhale. I’m still twenty-one with all the beauty of life ahead.
Exhale. I can’t remember life before the divorce, the death.
Inhale. Yesterday I painted my nails because my boyfriend is about to propose.
Exhale. Life before 2012 must belong to someone else—like events in a novel or newspaper. Haven’t I always been raising a little one, PTSD a fire in my brain? Nothing else feels real.
Our culture elevates the wedding day into a bride’s chance to live out her fairy tale or romance movie. Close-ups of hair, flowers, and diamonds often receive more attention than the ceremony, both in planning and social media recaps. I admire beauty (especially rings), but eight years ago my view of wedding glamour twisted. Before my mom finished lacing me into the gown I’d designed, I felt the heavy reality: getting married is the easiest (though not easy) part. Choosing who to marry and then staying married? Much harder (and impossible in cases of abuse, etc.).
If you reach a wedding anniversary, elevate it as the rare triumph it is. My paternal grandparents celebrated their 65th anniversary this year. Such a magnificent example of love deserves to be elevated. As they live through their eighties together, their memories of the wedding day in 1950—Grandma only seventeen years old—are sharper than my recall of my wedding in 2007.
I’m not celebrating my anniversary today. The past eight years brought divorce, a second marriage, a second divorce, and now nearly five years of singleness. I knew my life course was changing on October 6, but I didn’t know it would be so painful. The once-effortless act of remembering is a constant struggle. I can’t get into the head of that girl on her wedding day for more than a few seconds, but I’ve come to prefer not knowing.
The death—of marriage, dreams, a life free from stigma—begins as early as the wedding day. But we seal our covenants because no matter what marks our past tattoos across our bodies, the identity of a survivor pulses with relentless hope. If another death comes, we keep carving new paths. Even if it takes years for the hope to return life to every part of the one-time bride.