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Date of last update: 8/24/2017.

Forum Name: Psychiatric Topics

Question: Flashbacks to childhood heartbreak

 Bluehouse - Thu Oct 06, 2005 8:30 am

Lately I've had a disturbing recurrence of painful memories from my childhood from an episode that I thought was ancient history, I don't know what has triggered it.

As a child I fell in love at first sight with a girl in class and we were best friends for 2 years, during which we fell deeply in love, but neither had the courage to confess our feelings for each other, until the end of the last day of primary school, when she nervously asked me how I felt about her. Still too shy, I panicked and said something stupid, and quite nasty (still don't know why), she ran away crying and I never saw her again.

So I was left at age 11 with a painful heartbreak, terrible guilt for her feelings, and self-loathing for my cowardice. As you would expect though I got over it and eventually turned the page and got on with my life.

30 years later, I am happily married and my schooldays are a distant memory. Over the last few days though I have been haunted by extremely painful memories of the time metioned above. I find that i can't put these to the back of my mind, i think about it all the time. I'm of course no longer in love with the girl, but the memories are so intense and painful that it's as though it all happened only yesterday. I really wish it would go away.

I was so upset today that I had to leave work. I don't think this is normal. Will it just pass? should I seek help?
 DeLWolcott - Thu Oct 06, 2005 1:04 pm

I was so upset today that I had to leave work.

This statement concerns me as a person would think that a distant memory such as this would not bring on such intense feelings. I have a few questions -

How long have you been married?
Do you have children?

As we get older and mature (some people don't mature, they just age), we start reflecting back on situations that we could have handled differently. We worry about our children going through similar heartbreaks as we did. We don't want to repeat those awkward situations in our adult life.

I have a 10 & 11 year old, and have been warning them before the beginning of this school year that these are the years that kids start saying ugly things. They probably don't mean them, but are saying them so they feel they have power over a person. Whether or not their friends truly mean these things, they (my kids) must have the strength to move away from the hurtful person. Either the person who hurt their feelings will come around and realize what they have done is wrong, OR this person is not a "friend" they want.

You were 11. This is a normal reaction, especially for a male since they tend to mature (pubescently) later than females. Don't beat yourself up over it. If you have children, educate them with your experiences. Let them know that you still feel badly about hurtful things you said many years ago, encouraging them to do their best to not to do something they may regret.

If you do not have children at this point in your life, think about your marriage. Has there been anything that you or your spouse has said to the other that was hurtful? At this point you can use these replay from the past make you think twice before speaking, either deciding against saying anything at all or finding a different way of wording something so it isn't so harsh.

Hopefully this will help. I don't believe this is a situation that warrants medical intervention at this point. If it continues to be debilitating in your everyday life, then seek counseling to help narrow down what has brought this memory back. I wish you the best...and don't we ALL have things we wish we could take back from our pasts?
 Bluehouse - Thu Oct 06, 2005 3:24 pm

I've been married 11 years and have a 9 year old daughter, I'll certainly bear your advice in mind, especially regarding passing on the lessons I learned. Thanks.
I think I said what I said as a defence mechanism against having to show my feelings, but I don't remember well enough. In any case, you're right I was extremely immature even for my age.
Unforunately it was not possible to contact her afterwards to apologise for various logistical reasons, she had moved out but I didn't know where. I could have enlisted the help of my parents but that would have meant raising the problem with them which I was incapable of doing. I always do my best to let my daughter know that she can talk with me and her mum about anything. I'm glad that she's much more confident than I was at her age.
For years afterwards I used to lament this moment in my life as a pivotal point when had I taken a different fork in the road I could have been happy, self-confident, and in a perfect relationship. I also felt horrible about hurting the person I loved so much and not being able to make amends, even today I feel bad that I didn't say sorry, and if I met her in the street it would be the first thing i'd say.
All in all, for a long time I gave this moment in my life a significance that it probably didn't deserve. It was a bit like Judas's betrayal, something unforgivable. I thought that I'd put it in the past though, and I'm certianly happy today in my own family life. I don't understand why this has resurfaced the way it has.
Actually just typing this stuff out is helpful to me, it's the first time I've really discussed it with anyone.
Thanks again.
 DeLWolcott - Thu Oct 06, 2005 8:11 pm

Talking, typing, writing is good during these times. I absolutely hated 4th through 8th grade, and have been reflecting myself on those years since my children hit those ages. (I was on the receiving end.) My husband is reflecting back now on mean things he did to others because he now has a son who is receiving the same treatment that my husband dealt out at that age.

Do your best to help your daughter understand why taking others' feelings into consideration before speaking is so important, and hold yourself to the same standard as an example. That in itself is "repayment" for what you feel you did wrong. I do think the memory will haunt you for a little while longer, but one day something else will take over that spot in your thought process, something positive in reflection or for future possibilities.

Talk and reflect away! It helps all of us get through the rest of our lives. :)

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