Recently I read that looking at photos of our childhoods can help us heal. It can hurt to see how lost we looked or watch the real body language of yourself and other family members in reaction to you, but it can also shed light on the truth and prove to us that we really weren’t crazy.
I don’t have more than 8 photos of myself as a child and almost all of them are of me by myself. A large pastel portrait of me at about age 6 my father proudly used to hang over the mantel has been lost for years (I suspect it was thrown away). I remember sitting for it in Old Town, Chicago, wearing a yellow summer dress, and how proud I was to sit in front of that bohemian street artist. It was one of my few happy childhood memories and was a special moment with my father. I remember looking slightly sad in the portrait though, and remember my dad saying he rather liked the sad look in my eyes, even though I don’t recall being sad as I sat for that portrait and emotions that weren’t “positive” were always dismissed or scolded anyway. I would really love to have that portrait now. In fact, I long for it. I’ve even been trying to figure out how one would go about placing an ad asking if anyone had seen that painting (I don’t think that would be possible or that anyone would have seen it anyway).
No one seems to know where any of the old family albums that had me in them are, and I doubt they would want to hang onto them, so my guess is they were tossed at some point as trash (my mother always hated clutter). I guess any memory of me is just clutter as well. My emotions were not acceptable; I was not acceptable. Why keep any reminders that I existed?
I have no family, no continuity to any kind of past or any roots. I feel like an orphan and have felt that way for years. Sure, some could say that I threw them away (moving far away from them, No Contact, etc.) but I was pushed away emotionally and every other way for years before I decided that any further contact with them, especially my mother, was just too triggering and painful.
Evidently I’m not alone. There’s a whole thread on Reddit about just this.
Scapegoated adult children find themselves in this position a lot, without even any pictures or tangible objects to help them better remember their childhoods. This is another way narcissistic parents hobble us — by not even allowing us to access photos and mementos that could bring us clarity into the role we served within our families and the reactions of other family members to us. Tangible things that give us a sense of having come from somewhere, of having belonged to something, even if it wasn’t a very good something. Tools to help us heal were denied to us, just like everything else. It’s as bad as having your face ripped out of every picture your family ever had of you. As if they were trying to erase you.