I wake up each morning with a fog in my mind, a haze that never quite lifts. My memories are like Swiss cheese, full of holes and gaps where important moments used to be. It wasn’t always this way. There was a time when my mind was a treasure trove of memories—some joyful, some painful—but all a part of me. Trauma changed that. When everything became too much to bear, I let them go in bulk. Now, my mind is a landscape of missing pieces.

Walking down a familiar street, I struggle to recall the times I’ve been here before. The cobblestone streets that once felt so solid beneath my feet now seem like a path to nowhere. I can’t picture the places I used to frequent. Visual cues often help trigger memories, allowing us to reconnect with our past experiences. A familiar building, the layout of a street, or even the way sunlight filters through the trees can bring back a flood of memories. But here, in this country, nothing is familiar.

The weather is different, the architecture foreign and the people are strangers. There are no familiar landmarks to anchor my thoughts, no well-trodden paths to remind me of where I’ve been. Every step I take feels like I’m walking in a world that isn’t mine. The absence of these visual markers makes it impossible to bring back the memories I’ve lost.

Now and then, there are small reminders of my hometown—like linden trees in bloom. Their delicate scent and the sight of their blossoms should be enough to transport me back to those moments I cherished. But it’s not enough. The fragments of familiarity are too fleeting, too sparse. Pictures that once captured my past now seem like images of a life I never lived. They fail to ignite the spark of recognition, leaving me with a sense of loss that pictures alone cannot fill.

In this unfamiliar place, I am adrift, unable to tether myself to the memories that defined who I was. Without the familiar sights, sounds, and smells of my past, I am left with only the present, a present that feels disconnected from the person I used to be.

“Memory is all we are. Moments and feelings, captured in amber, strung on filaments of reason. Take a man’s memories and you take all of him. Chip away a memory at a time and you destroy him as surely as if you hammered nail after nail through his skull.”
― Mark Lawrence

The food here tastes different, not because the recipes have changed, but because I can’t recall the flavors from my past. Each meal is new and unfamiliar, devoid of the comforting memories that once accompanied every bite. In Romania, food was more than sustenance; it was a tapestry of my life. I remember the delicious Romanian foods I used to savor—the rich sarmale, the savory mămăligă, and the comforting ciorbă. Each dish was a piece of my heritage, a connection to my roots.

But now, even though I remember that the food was so delicious, I realize that I’ve lost more than just the taste. I’ve lost the memories of my family gathered around the table, laughing and sharing stories. Those meals were filled with warmth and love, each bite seasoned with the presence of those I held dear. The joy of breaking bread with my family, the feeling of belonging, is a memory that has slipped away.

I also think about the friends I used to hang out with, and the camaraderie that flourished over shared meals. The street food we relished, the late-night snacks after a long day, and the greasy food we devoured on our way home from the clubs—all these moments are lost to me. Each meal was a social ritual, a way to connect and create lasting bonds. The flavors of those times are now ghostly echoes, leaving me with a profound sense of loss.

Now, when I eat, the food feels alien. It’s not just that the ingredients or cooking styles are different; it’s the absence of the memories that once enriched every meal. The sensory experience of eating has become a reminder of what I’ve lost. The meals that were once filled with laughter, stories, and connections are now solitary and hollow.

Without the familiar tastes to anchor me, I feel adrift, disconnected from the past that shaped me. The flavors of my past were intertwined with my experiences, my relationships, and my identity. Now, as I navigate this new culinary landscape, I am constantly reminded of the memories that have vanished, the moments of joy and connection that food used to bring into my life.

“There are edges around the black and every now and then a flash of color streaks out of the gray. But I can never really grasp any of the slivers of memories that emerge.”
― Katie McGarry

My sense of smell has faded almost entirely. Occasionally, a whiff of something familiar will break through, but it’s never enough to bring the memories rushing back. It’s just a fleeting reminder of what I’ve lost. I can no longer recall the comforting scent of the home I grew up in. I remember it was always clean, a testament to my mother’s care and dedication, but the specific smell that made it uniquely ours is lost to me.

The food my mom used to make, filling the kitchen with rich and inviting aromas, is now a distant memory. I can no longer conjure the scent of her homemade sarmale or the sweet smell of cozonac baking in the oven. The fragrance of her hair when she hugged me, a mix of her favorite shampoo and natural scent, is something I can no longer grasp. Even my favorite perfume, “Little Black Dress,” which used to make me feel elegant and confident, no longer evokes the same feelings.

Other scents that once brought vivid memories now elude me. The smell of sunscreen on my skin, a simple pleasure that used to transport me back to carefree summers spent at the Black Sea, is just another lost fragment. Those summer days, filled with laughter, sun, and the salty breeze, are now unreachable.

These sensory losses are more than just the absence of smell; they represent the erasure of connections to my past. The smell is a powerful trigger for memory, capable of bringing back moments with striking clarity. Without it, I am cut off from a vital part of my history, from the experiences that shaped who I am. Each missed scent is a reminder of the gaps in my memory, the pieces of my life that have slipped away.

“And as the years have passed, the time has grown longer. The sad truth is that what I could recall in five seconds all too needed ten, then thirty, then a full minute – like shadows lengthening at dusk. Someday, I suppose, the shadows will be swallowed up in darkness.”
― Haruki Murakami

My other senses are numb. The gentle touch of another person, once a source of comfort, now feels distant. Nobody traces maps over my body with their fingers anymore. The sense of connection is gone. I have isolated myself, hiding and running away from all the touches that once made me shiver with delight. Those moments that used to bring comfort and warmth now only remind me of pain and repulsion.

In the past, a simple touch could convey love, reassurance, and a deep sense of connection. A hug from a friend, a reassuring hand on my shoulder, or the tender caress of a loved one used to be enough to ground me, to make me feel safe and cherished. But now, I shy away from any physical contact. The thought of being touched fills me with anxiety and dread. What was once a source of joy has become a trigger for discomfort.

The trauma has rewired my responses, turning what should be a pleasant sensation into something I fear and avoid. I no longer seek out the embraces that once brought me solace. Instead, I build walls around myself, keeping others at a distance. I have become a prisoner of my isolation, longing for the comfort of touch but unable to bear the thought of it.

The sense of connection that touch once provided is now a distant memory. I miss the feeling of someone’s hand tracing patterns on my skin, a silent communication of love and care. But those moments are gone, replaced by a void that no amount of longing can fill. The numbness has spread beyond just my sense of touch—it has seeped into my very being, leaving me disconnected and alone.

I yearn to reclaim the comfort of touch, to break free from the isolation I have imposed on myself. But for now, the memories of those gentle touches bring more pain than solace, reminding me of what I have lost and the deep chasm that trauma has carved into my life.

“She would grab whatever she could – a look, a whisper, a moan – to salvage from perishing, to preserve. But time is most unforgiving of fires, and she couldn’t, in the end, save it all .”
― Khaled Hosseini

Even my hearing is overshadowed by my thoughts, a constant reminder of my loss. Sounds that should be familiar and comforting are drowned out by the relentless internal dialogue that reminds me of everything I’ve lost. The present is all I have, a stark reality that what I’ve lost is gone for good. The echoes of my past are faint and distorted, overshadowed by the noise of my mind.

The life I used to have, the person I used to be—they are both lost in the gaps of my memory. Conversations, laughter, and the soothing tones of loved ones’ voices have all but disappeared, leaving behind an unsettling silence. The trauma that caused this memory loss changed me. It stole my past and left me with an uncertain present. I am no longer the person I once was; I am a fragmented version of myself, struggling to piece together an identity from the remnants that remain.

Every sound I hear now is filtered through a haze of forgetfulness. The melody of a favorite song, the chirping of birds in the morning, the rhythmic hum of daily life—all these sounds are distant and unfamiliar. Instead of bringing comfort, they amplify the void within me. My thoughts drown out these everyday noises, filling the silence with a constant reminder of what I’ve lost.

I find myself trapped in the present, unable to reach back and grasp the memories that once defined me. The certainty of my past has been replaced by a fog of uncertainty. I used to be confident, and grounded in the knowledge of who I was and the life I led. Now, I navigate a world where my past is a patchwork of incomplete memories, each fragment a painful reminder of the whole that’s been lost.

This trauma didn’t just take away my memories—it reshaped my entire existence. It has left me with an uncharted present, where every day is a struggle to make sense of who I am now. The familiar landmarks of my life have vanished, and I am left to find my way through a landscape that is both new and daunting. The uncertainty of my present is a constant reminder that the life I once had is irretrievably gone.

In this new reality, I must find a way to move forward. The past is lost, and with it, the person I used to be. But in this uncertainty lies the possibility of creating something new. Though the trauma has taken much from me, it has also given me a chance to rebuild and redefine myself. The present may be uncertain, but it is also a canvas on which I can paint a new future, one that acknowledges the past but is not limited by it.

“Memory loss is one way of coping with damage.”
― Jeanette Winterson

I’ve learned that if I want to have memories, I need to make new ones. My old life is not mine anymore, and I am not the same person I once was. This new world I inhabit doesn’t help me reconnect with my past. It offers no familiar sights, smells, or touches to anchor me. But it also presents an opportunity—a blank slate to create new experiences and new memories.

Understanding memory loss caused by trauma helps me make sense of these changes. Trauma can overwhelm the brain, leading to a defense mechanism where memories are blocked or erased to protect oneself from pain. This process, while a coping mechanism, leaves behind a fragmented sense of self. I must accept this new reality and find ways to move forward.

Creating new memories is my path to healing. I focus on the present, on the new experiences that can shape my future. I may not have the comfort of my old memories, but I have the power to make new ones. My journey is about rebuilding, about finding new joys and connections. Though the past is lost, the future is mine to shape.

In this process, I’ve discovered that making new memories requires an active effort. It means stepping out of my comfort zone and embracing new experiences, even when they feel unfamiliar and daunting. It means finding new places, meeting new people, and allowing myself to be open to the world around me. Each new experience has the potential to become a cherished memory, a building block in the foundation of my new life.

I’ve also learned the importance of being present. Trauma has taught me that the past is unpredictable and the future is uncertain. The only moment I can truly control is the present. By immersing myself in the here and now, I can create meaningful experiences that will become the memories of tomorrow. Whether it’s trying a new hobby, exploring a new part of town, or simply enjoying a quiet moment of reflection, each present moment holds the promise of a new memory.

Understanding the nature of trauma and memory loss has been crucial in this journey. I now know that my brain was trying to protect me from pain, even if it meant losing parts of myself in the process. This knowledge has given me a sense of compassion for myself. Instead of feeling frustrated by the gaps in my memory, I recognize them as a part of my healing journey. They are a testament to my resilience and my ability to move forward despite the challenges.

Rebuilding my life means accepting that I am not the same person I once was. The experiences that once defined me are gone, but that doesn’t mean I am any less whole. I am a work in progress, constantly evolving and adapting. Each new memory I create is a step towards a future where I can feel grounded and connected once again.

Though the past is lost, the future is mine to shape. I have the power to fill the blank slate with new experiences, new connections, and new joys. This journey is about more than just coping with loss; it’s about finding a new sense of self and purpose. It’s about embracing the unknown and allowing myself to be transformed by it. The future is an open field of possibilities, and with each new memory, I am reclaiming my life, one moment at a time.

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