It’s not this sudden, amazing, bizarre story that pops into your head out of the clear blue sky. Not for me at least. The term “repressed memory” has been tossed around like a bad word, a voodoo term by those who do not understand it. Or perhaps they have reason to fear it. Reasons only they know of. It’s a memory that has always been there. It is familiar, as familiar as remembering the old house I grew up in. I just didn’t focus on it.
The manner in which I stored my memories of abuse was complicated, I’ll give it that. I suppose some of them could be termed “repressed” or “recovered memories”, but they are not memories that I did not know existed. I always knew they were there.
Most of them are like this, there is an event that happened years previous, and you have not thought about it in a long while, perhaps not since the day the event took place. You have the images in your mind, you just don’t look at them. There is this street; it has a fuzzy, half-there feeling about it. Then years later you are talking to someone, and something they say reminds you of that memory. Maybe you only recall the street at first. You pause, first the street comes into focus, and then you go on to remember what the houses on the street looked like. Then perhaps as you think about it longer, you remember the smell of the grass along that street. The sounds of the street return in your head. The cars passing in the distance, the kids yelling and playing ball. You begin to feel the bat in your hands, and you see the neighbor kid winding up to throw you the ball. You feel the swing of your arms and the sound of the ball hitting your bat. You begin to run.
But wait, you’re on third base and another kid is up to bat. How did you get to third? You don’t quite remember, it’s a bit fuzzy, but your leg hurts. Next thing you know you’re running to home plate, and another boy is chasing you trying to tag you out. You remember watching him coming up behind you; then the next thing you recall is jumping up and down yelling that you were safe—not out.
Later, perhaps days later, you’re sitting with your family having dinner, and suddenly the fuzzy part of the memory clarifies in your head. You got from first to third on your own hit. You made it to third by sliding in, that’s where you scraped your leg. That’s why your leg hurt. You look down at your knee. Sure enough, there’s the scar. You never paid any attention to it—it was just always part of your leg. Hmm, you wonder if that’s why you’ve been having knee problems all these years?
You always remembered the street in a half-there sort of way. You just never had the opportunity or reason to turn and put your focus on the street, and what events took place around that street.
That’s kind of how “repressed memory” works. That’s how it did for me, at least. There are bits and pieces of events that are always there in a half-fuzzy sort of way. I just never turned to look at them and focus on what happened around those partial memories. Sometimes, I would be driving down the road, and the smell in the air would cause the fuzzy part of my memory to clarify.
If it was a good memory, a good sensation came with it. If it was a memory of trauma a feeling of panic came with it. But it was never a sudden, total story that just appeared out of nowhere. They were pieces of events that I was always aware were there. I just never had the skills or desire to focus on them. Sometimes, the other pieces to those memories would clarify in order. Sometimes, they would come back all mixed up, with my not knowing which part of the event happened first. Like suddenly I was at third base and didn’t remember how I got there till later at dinner.
Kind of like the street. You always had that image in your memory—you just never had the time or reason to concentrate on it and pull the baseball game that went with the street into the forefront of your mind.
Sometimes, my memories never did complete themselves. Sometimes the parts that began to clarify were too traumatic for me to focus on for long. Sometimes, I chose to stop remembering a particular memory. Sometimes, the parts that did clarify were all I could take.
Now granted the baseball analogy is a bit simplistic, but for the most part it explains how “repressed memory” can stay out of the forefront of a traumatized person’s mind. Many of my memories were just like the baseball game; others were a bit more complex.
Some of the most traumatic events I had carefully and deliberately placed somewhere in my mind. As a child I had created “people”. Not multiple personalities, but imaginary people who helped me cope when things got rough. Kind of like a mental circle of friends. You know the ones, the best friends that will never tell your darkest secrets.
Then there was my dresser. A dresser I had visualized in mind. It had numerous drawers in which to place the pieces of memories that were the most traumatic. The ones that kept popping up at the most inopportune times. Like in fourth grade, during math.
There were many skills I taught myself in order to survive what was happening to me. Then, other skills I used to process (or not) the memories of the events. Regardless of the manner in which I stored my memories, they all still had the same familiarity. Like the baseball game. I just had a more detailed and deliberate way of keeping them from the forefront of my mind.
As my therapy progressed, I was able to do most of my memory processing in my therapist’s office. She taught me skills to keep the worst of them at bay till we were together, and I had a safe place to respond to them. However, not all my memories were that cooperative. Sometimes, they would hit me in the most unusual circumstances—like eating dinner or driving to the bank.
The hardest part of choosing to focus on and work through the “repressed memories” was the emotion that came with them. These memories were stored away in different forms and were not focused on for a REASON. They were traumatic, painful and at times crippling. So, when the fuzzy parts of my memories were clarifying, and the events surrounding the fuzzy memories were falling into place, the emotion that went with the trauma came back in full force.
That is why I learned at such a young age how to hide certain events in places in my head, like my People or my Dresser, because the emotion and violation both physical and mental were too much to process at the time the event took place.
Unfortunately, the only way around it was through it. Everything I had not felt at the time of the abuse, I felt in full force during the therapy process. What that meant for me is that a trip to the bank or dinner with my family could suddenly turn into a panic attack or a sudden burst of tears.
June 10, 2023
They used to be my sanctuary. They still are to some extent. My journals kept me safe and sane. Now as I open them for the world to see, there is a freedom that I never knew existed.
It’s not just that I can tell my story to all who care to listen, but that I can do it with such surrender. I guess that is what has been holding me in this place. Paralysis. Being unable to look into my future with nothing but fear and a sense of being totally overwhelmed.
I didn’t realize the hold my childhood still had on me. I didn’t think it was affecting me in such a tremendous way. After all, how many years of therapy can one go through and still not be able to move forward? It’s not even the moving forward, so to speak, that is the main issue for me. I can take class after class, learn, do volunteer work and make a name for myself. It is my soul that is stuck. My spirit that cannot move.
Flinging the doors to my soul open has been like a freedom I didn’t know I needed. I did not realize there was still unfinished business in my healing process. I thought I had taken care of all business that I needed. Yet, here I am realizing that all the work I did was for a purpose greater then myself. It was to throw the blanket of secrecy off of my life and in doing so to show the world what happens to those of us who live through the devastation of sexual and emotional torture.
My wish is to stand in front of an audience of therapist and survivors alike and have them be able to ask me questions, ANY questions about my abuse, my experiences, my coping skills, what I did in my mind to survive. What I still do. To be wide open and fully honest with a freedom that is necessary to educate those who wish to learn.
There must be that freedom for the world to see and move forward. There must be the availability of a window to the soul of people like me. Not an observation of a therapy session or a video of a victim’s regression, but the interaction of question and answers that only full access of dialogue can bring. No hidden faces. No voice changes to protect my privacy. No screens to hide behind to keep anonymity. Full freedom to see, hear, and watch me be who I am, do what I do and survive as I have without the shield of silence.
It is the silence that allows this to continue with our children. It is the thought that those like me are so wounded that we grow to be second-class people. It is the silence that causes the world to think of us as damaged goods with screwed up lives and half functioning psyches. It is the silence that has caused those who wish to help sit in helplessness when a wounded child, young or old, walks through their door in search of guidance. It is the silence that brings on the calls from therapist to therapist in search of what techniques to use with “people like me.”
Where is the source? Where am I in this process? Where is the child who slid into a world of her own creation to survive the transaction of grown men in their trade for her young body? Not just the stories. We have all heard the stories. But where am I? Where am I in the process of explaining who did these things to me, what did they do, when did I learn to cope, where did I go in my universe, how did I get there?
Perhaps there are others like me that I do not know about. People who have already flung open their soul and have the ability and knowledge to teach and explain what they did to survive. I don’t presume to be the first. I do, however, believe that my spirit guides, whomever they may be, have kicked me into a place I was meant to go long before I realized it was my reserved spot in this universe. And so, I will hold on and go wherever this journey will take me.
And I will do it with the doors to my mind and soul fully and completely open for all to see and learn.
June 11, 2023
I will leave someday. I will throw clothes, a phone, a laptop, a pile of notebooks, a friend, a dream, and I will go.
I will write, dance, drive, learn, talk, sing, see, laugh, cry, sleep and live.
I will buy what I love—not what I need. Hear love stories—not demands,
I will go where I want—not where I should. Live free—not in fear.
I will feel, touch, understand and smile.
I will answer to no one, explain nothing, and do only what feels right.
I will swim in the ocean, touch a tree, hear the stars, dance to the moon and breathe.
I will speak my truth with no hesitation, honor my soul with no justification, and tell my story.
I will leave someday. Fill the part of me that is so empty and return, perhaps…Whole.
July 18, 2023
I opened the phone book and looked under Psychologist in the yellow pages. Under the category of sexual abuse, I called two numbers. One was to a clinic and the other was to Betty. I called her because she was a woman. She was the first one to return my call. I told her I was looking for a therapist to help me with some past issues. I told her I had been sexually abused, and I was having difficulty remembering much of the details.
She didn’t miss a beat. She spoke to me as though she received calls like that everyday. I remember how strange it felt to say those things and be treated as if I had said the sky was blue. Normal.
I had never felt normal. Not a moment in my whole life.
We scheduled an appointment, and my therapy began.
I sat in the outer room of Betty’s office and filled out some papers left for me on the desk. There was a small tabletop “Jukebox” radio playing soft music. I finished my paperwork and sat on the couch waiting. Betty came out, shook my hand and took my paperwork. Then she escorted me to her small office.
I looked at my options for seating and decided the small sofa facing away from the window was my best option. I sat in the corner of the sofa, and from that day forward, it was the only place I would ever sit. Betty’s desk was pushed up against the wall so when she sat in her chair and turned to face me there was nothing in between her and the spot where I sat. She shuffled a few piles of paper on her very messy desk and lit up a cigarette.
The things I remember the most from our first meeting are bizarre in retrospect. Betty introduced herself, told me she had one child, age 14, and had been married for about 20 years. She told me how long she’d been in practice. All I could focus on was the soft hum of the portable air purifier on her desk and the whistling sound I heard every time she took a drag off her cigarette.
She explained that she was trying to quit smoking, and the long plastic filters she was using were supposed to cut down on her nicotine intake. I assumed the whistling noise had something to do with that, but I couldn’t be sure. I was still trying to figure out how I’d found a therapist with a desk piled so high with papers you couldn’t see the surface and a nasty smoking habit that was obviously getting the best of her.
But what the hell, if she could smoke in her office that meant I could too. I made a mental note to pick up a pack of cigarettes for our next session.
I don’t recall much about our first session, but I do remember being impressed with Betty’s down to earth attitude. It was as if nothing was strange or bizarre in her world. It was as if anything I said was totally normal. I spent the first year of our sessions doing a touch and go sort of sharing. I would tell a small bit of what I had buried in my head and then go for a few weeks doing what I called “chatting sessions”.
She must have wondered why I continued to come. We spent hours “chatting” about the most inane things. But I wasn’t yet sure if she was “safe”. Her room was. It never changed. The file cabinets had the same postcards stuck to them, and the furniture never shifted. The paintings on her walls never moved from their position, and the ashtray I had grown attached to was always in the same place, on the table between the two chairs. Every week I would move it to the arm of my sofa at the start of our sessions then clean it and move it back when our time was up. The only thing that ever shifted was the floor plant that continued to grow at my right elbow.
The plant and I had a comfortable sort of battle going on. It would grow, invade my space, and week after week Betty and I would shift it, turn it, push it out of my way. That was my spot on the sofa and nothing would make me move. Certainly not a floor plant.
Betty’s office was predictable. I always knew what to expect when I walked in the room. There were never any surprises. No new pictures or plants. No rearranging or shifting of furniture. It was always the same. I grew to understand that just as I could rely on the room being consistent, I could pretty much depend on Betty being just as consistent as well.
An odd analogy I know, comparing the person to the room, but they were all one package for me. Had there been any major changes in Betty’s office in the first year of therapy, I don’t know if I would have continued to come. It was that big of a deal. Trust was a funny thing for me. I’d never had it with people. I always knew that the show my family put on for the outside world was very different than what went on behind closed doors. So, I learned that the only things I could trust were the things I could touch and see. If I couldn’t trust Betty as a person, at least I could trust what I could see and touch around her. And that was her office. Once I could trust that space, I was free to move in closer and see if the person in that space was trustworthy as well.
I would like to say that I had all these fabulous first impressions of the person that would change my life. But truthfully, her office was the focus of my attention for most of the first year. I could see it. I could touch it. And it set the stage for far deeper work to take place. It was a space that for the first time in my life was mine.
And after a time, I would allow Betty to share it with me.
June 12, 2023
I never thought about it—it simply was. She shook my hand the first day I met her and hugged me goodbye the day she left. Apart from that Betty, never touched me, not even a hand on my shoulder, not once for the entire eight years of our weekly sessions.
As I look back on it now, I realize how important that was for me. As a child who was sexually violated and the wife of an abusive man, my body was never my own. Because the abuse began at such an early age, there was never a time in my life that I felt physically safe, never a place where my body was free from anything invasive.
In addition to the physical violations I had suffered, I was taught from an early age that women’s bodies were there for the use of their husbands, a teaching that was reinforced by the religious leaders of our church. The concept that I actually had a say in what happened to my body was foreign for me.
It was not a conscious thing for me, the thought that simple touch was so complex in my life. I had always been a warm, affectionate person, hugging friends, cuddling with my children. I had always believed myself to be open and friendly.
After years into our therapy, I finally realized the safety I felt in Betty’s office was in large part due to the fact that no physical contact of any type had ever taken place. I was amazed. I had never thought of touch, or more precisely lack of touch, as a tool used in my recovery.
A very important one.
June 13, 2023
When I first started counseling with Betty, I believed that I could go through the healing process and then go on to live a “normal” life and my history would be gone. I believed that for years. Even after Betty retired and I switched to another therapist to “finish” my work, I believed it. It has taken me years to understand that all of the therapy in the world does not make what I lived through go away.
It simply allows me to not let it run my life Now.
Most of my days Now are separate from my history. At least in my mind. I feel as if the child I was is some distant story far away, and at moments I can’t believe it was me.
Then there are the days that sneak up on me. The ones where the sounds and smells around me trigger the child I was. Memories bump back up to the surface like a bubble floating to the top of a dark lake. Sometimes I know the bubble is coming, and I am prepared for it when it arrives. Other times the bubble suddenly bursts, and I am stunned by what it releases.
I have learned to pause for those moments. To stop what I am doing and think, if only for a split second, and acknowledge the part of me that still lies deep in the darkness of my soul.
All of the therapy in the world does not make my history go away as I first believed it would. I worked through many things and came out on the other side whole, strong and healing. Therapy taught me how to protect myself Now. How to not trigger my trauma deliberately. To understand it and deal with it when it arises. And it does arise. The bubbles do float to the surface.
Only Now do I realize that they always will.
Betty did many things during our years together. She did not just deal with my memories and walk me through them when they would finally come into our sessions. She gave me information. All of those “chatting” sessions were the times when she would respond to me with examples of how she would handle each issue. Things as simple as conflicts with co-workers. Betty gave me information. Knowledge. And she did it in a way that was non-threatening. I would ask her questions about a behavior one of my children was doing, and she would tell me why they were doing that, and where they were in their development, and approximately how long the transition would take.
Betty taught me. She was my main source of information. My own personal research department. If she didn’t know the answer to something, she would tell me and say she’d get back to me about it. Sure enough. The next week she would have the answer.
Soon she would tell me what books to get. Where to find sources of information. And I would learn how to find answers to life’s questions for myself.
I was in my early 20s when I first began to see Betty. I came into her office as a wounded child—I left as a grown woman. She did what my mother could not do. She raised me.
It was a strange sort of set up if you look at it as childrearing. But it worked.
I Now respect the wounded child in me and understand that she will not ever go away. I suppose you could say that I am not fully “integrated”. Some would say my therapy is not complete because of that fact. They are right. Because of the intensity and complexity of the abuse I suffered, healing is a lifelong journey for me. The difference between Now and years ago is that I Now know how to pause and help heal myself. This is the most important skill that Betty taught me.
I avoid things such as movies and books that I know will re-open my childhood wounds. When the wounds do open, I acknowledge their presence and give them the respect that they deserve.
I understand that when I am overtired or stressed out with normal everyday life that my history rises to the surface far easier than during other times. Often when I am just fading into sleep—that hazy phase between awake and asleep. The time when my coping skills are not up and ready and my subconscious bubbles easily to the surface.
Stories on the news can stir things up as well. Only within the last year or so of this Essay has the media openly shared the dark side of our society. Stories of Internet predators and child abductions. Reverse 911 calls to warn me of a registered sex offender in my neighborhood.
Of all of the things that I dislike about my knowledge that Now, I have the pure and simple understanding of what a sex offender is. My years of living with them taught me how they work. What they look like. How they speak. It’s to my great horror that I can watch a talk show on offenders and pick out the one who is the offender before two minutes have passed.
I know there are profiles of the offender. Betty taught me the words for the behaviors I already knew of. I spent my entire childhood watching to see who was safe and who was not.
Adult children of Alcoholics have told me they can spot an alcoholic a mile away.
I can spot a child molester.
I can spot a victim.
There are days that I hate that skill. Moments when I wish I could be ignorant. Weeks that I wish my background and knowledge base was something so very different then what it is.
The anger still arises on occasion. But for the most part my life is very much like the rest of the world.
I can count on one hand the people in my life that know my history. My childhood traumas are no longer the theme of my life. I have worked hard for this person I have become. It has not been easy. However, it has been worth it. I like who I am Now. With all my faults and failures. I have lived through truly the unthinkable. I’ve gone through things that many people cannot wrap their minds around. I have come out strong and confident.
There is an end to the tumultuous life that many survivors find as the result of their trauma. There is a way out of the spiral of pain and confusion. There is a way to get to the other side and live a relatively normal life. A life that is not controlled by our history.
However, there is no end to the Healing Process. At least not for me. I cannot pretend that my childhood did not happen. I cannot pretend that although my therapy has been successful, my past is no longer an issue.
The Healing Process is continuous and is for life. But it is no longer a bad word to me. “Healing”. It is filled with hope, joy and power.
I know Now how to protect myself. How to live my life with strength and courage.
Most of all with peace.
Betty taught me the greatest lesson of all.
How to Heal Myself.
November 21, 2006
The Sound of a Footstep
I remember the moment I evolved. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting on the sidewalk in front of our big blue house. I was young 6 or 7 maybe. The sidewalk was warm against my thighs. I could feel the cement directly on my skin because I was in a dress, as all little girls are supposed to be. My bottom hurt, it ached and throbbed; my abdomen ached as well. I could barely move the pain was so intense. The trauma of the night before was wearing on my small body. The sun was warm on my long hair and shoulders. There was nothing around me that was distracting even though I was sitting directly next to a busy street. The world around me was blending and fading. All I felt was the cement, the sun and my child soul crying for relief.
I remember most of all the exhaustion. The kind of exhaustion that is only felt after a soul experience, like when each and every part of your being has been drained of its life force. I remember my young child spirit crying. I knew she couldn’t last much longer. I felt my young soul slowly fading away as if to tell me, “I’m done, I can do no more.” I knew it was too much. I knew my He had worn my young soul to exhaustion. I felt in that moment a switch, a movement, a subtle but intense rotation in my body.
“It’s okay”, the new soul said. “It’s okay, you can rest now.” My new soul slipped into place and I evolved. I raised my head and looked at the sky. My eyes cleared, the pain stopped, and I could breathe again. I had in that one moment learned what to do to survive.
I learned how to switch, leave; how to let one part of me rest and another take over. Most importantly, I had learned how to make it through a long, painful night. It was not a new thing for me to do. I had done it many times before. It was, however, the first time I realized I could do it intentionally. I had realized in that moment that I had power. The power to move to another place in my world. A place that no one could touch. And I could do it at will.
I could leave my body at the drop of a hat, the flip of a coin, but most importantly…
…At the Sound of a footstep.
June 14, 2023
I remember the moment I evolved. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting on the sidewalk in front of our big blue house. I was 6 or 7 maybe…
My body hurts, my vagina, my tummy. It was a long night. I am so tired. He came into my room again. I don’t know if I can stand up.
She is moving me. I am not sitting in her anymore. I am curling up in a little ball and shrinking. I can see her. She is sitting where I was. She is awake now. I am next to her. It’s hard to breathe curled up in this ball. My body still hurts. I wonder if I’m bleeding?
She begins to move, to stand. I feel funny. Kind of like a cotton ball stuck to the side of a shirt. She is standing up, but I still get to stay in a little ball. I seem to be riding along with her. At least I don’t have to try and walk. My bottom hurts so bad. I can just ride here I suppose. Just float alongside her as she walks. How can she walk? Doesn’t it hurt her too? Doesn’t her bottom hurt? Don’t her legs and tummy ache? Mine still do.
I don’t feel the wind or the sun. I don’t feel the sidewalk beneath my feet. I don’t feel my hair on my shoulders. I just hurt.
I don’t think she knows I’m here. I don’t think she feels me.
I am just along for the ride. Like a cotton ball stuck to her side. How did I become so small? How did she do that? Why can she move but I can’t? I will just ride here, I suppose. Floating along at her side. I am tired, perhaps I will sleep now.
June 15, 2023
I have a Box. A beautiful, rose covered, heart shaped box, that sits high on top of my dresser mirror. My mother came to visit a few years ago. She brought with her some old boxes I had left in her garage. The boxes had old pictures, some old letters and childhood ornaments I had kept in my room. I had fun going through most of them. Until I came across the Glass Dolphins.
I have always loved Dolphins. They symbolize freedom to me. They are beautiful, graceful, intelligent creatures that smile and swim free. Yet they are strong. They can fend off even the fiercest of sea creatures. The Great White Shark. I read somewhere years ago that Dolphins knew just where to hit these creatures. A small, soft spot on the under belly of the Shark. Dolphins can come straight up underneath the Shark and with their bottle shaped nose slam into the soft spot leaving the Shark paralyzed, wounded or dead.
As a child I believed I had been a Dolphin in a former life. Who knows, maybe that’s true. Or maybe I needed the weightlessness of the water, freedom of the ocean and fierceness of the Dolphin to encompass me in the other world I would visit when things in reality became too traumatic to stick around for. Either way, I have always loved Dolphins.
But these Dolphins are different.
I had bought three, small, beautiful Glass Dolphins when I was about thirteen years old. I placed them in the bookcase headboard of my waterbed. There are only two left and they are chipped and broken. They would break when they fell off my headboard and slipped in between my waterbed mattress and the wood frame that held it in place. They would fall there when He was on top of me, and the waterbed was moving. I could hear them fall, I knew they were breaking. But I couldn’t stop them from slipping off the headboard.
I can feel my waterbed moving to this day. I can feel the pressure holding me down. I can hear my Dolphins slipping by my head. I can hear them break and chip as the pressure from my waterbed mattress crushes them. But I cannot reach them, although they are only inches away.
They distract me, my Dolphins. They make it difficult to Leave my body and go to a place where there is no sensation and no pain. Where there is no confusion and no betrayal. Yet I never move them from their place on my headboard.
When He is gone, I gently pull back my waterbed mattress and retrieve my Glass Dolphins with their chipped tails and broken fins. I put them back on my bookcase headboard, pieces and all. One Glass Dolphin finally became so damaged there was nothing left to keep but a pile of broken glass. I finally admitted there was no hope for it and threw it away one day.
The other two Glass Dolphins with their chipped tails and broken fins sit wrapped in tissue paper in a beautiful, rose covered, heart shaped box that sits high on the top of my dresser mirror. I gently placed them there after I found them in one of the boxes my mother brought me a few years ago. They are safe now. Wounded but safe. Protected in a beautiful box that is high and out of reach from further damage.
I don’t know if I will ever take them out, my Glass Dolphins, and fix their chipped tails and broken fins. Or if I will keep them safe in their beautiful box where a moving bed and a crushing weight can no longer harm them.
…But for now, I have a Box…
June 16, 2023
I never thought it odd that I could leave a room while still sitting in it. I thought everyone did that. The sounds would all blend together and the smells would fade into soft, barely there sensations. My body would become frozen, almost paralyzed. Then it would become numb as if it was not even there.
Only then could I Leave.
Sometimes my mind was simply empty. Sometimes it was in a fantasy world that I was so good at creating in seconds flat. Sometimes I simply turned and watched the activity in the room from another spot. I would be on the ceiling looking down or up in a corner watching from a safe distance. Sometimes I didn’t watch at all.
Sometimes…I simply Left.
I’ve learned over the years that there is a name for what I did. “Dissociation”. There is a clinical diagnosis and neurological function that explains my Leaving.
It doesn’t really matter to me what all the clinical definitions of dissociation are.
I only know that my ability to Leave is what kept me alive.
I can’t tell you when I first Left. I can remember when I realized I could do it on purpose. The time when I wrapped my mind around the sensations and necessary conditions I needed to be able to Leave. But I’ve always been able to Leave when the going got rough.
At first, it was just when the abuse was actually happening. When He was inside of me and the pain was so intense I literally couldn’t stay there. Then there were the times when He took me to others. Other places and other traumas. Pretty soon my Leaving became so normal to me that to this day there are large segments of time that I cannot remember.
The timeline of my life and the circumstances surrounding certain ages tell me that those gaps in my childhood coincide with some of the worst of the abuse. My elementary school years are spotty. There are years I remember completely, and there are years I struggle to even remember the smallest detail of my life. Like who my teacher was.
I hate those gaps. I hate that as I look back into my history, there are pieces that I can’t place. Times that I can’t recall. Years that I am missing. It makes me feel incomplete.
As the victim of sexual abuse, I am always aware that my childhood was taken from me. I have never felt young. I have always been old. The gaps in my memory are just one more reminder of what was stolen from me. The abuse didn’t just affect my body. It didn’t just twist my mind for that one moment or incident. It trained me to Leave. Not just as protection for the time needed but to stay gone for weeks and sometimes months because coming back into awareness was simply too risky. The abuse literally took away my life.
I began to stay present more often as a teenager. He had lost interest in me by then. Puberty had hit. However, another had picked up the slack.
I used my ability to Leave with more of a purpose as a teen. I could travel back and forth at will and when necessary. However, others began to notice something strange about me. What could pass as a child daydreaming didn’t work as an explanation for a teenager. So they gave me a diagnosis. Then handed me a few bottles full of drugs. Perhaps I had what they said, to some extent. Who knows how the brain works. I just knew that the peace that came with an afternoon “gone” was something I couldn’t give up.
Eventually, all “assumed” diagnosis disappeared.
A few years later, I threw all the drugs away.
Undoing the Leaving was not easy. I sat in Betty’s office and tried many times to escape. She would pull me back into reality over and over again. All the time reassuring me that nothing could happen to me while I was there.
There was much progress as I unpeeled the layers of unconsciousness and took a look at what was beneath.
Still, there are gaps in my childhood. Times I now realize I was too successful at Leaving. Times I know now I can never recall.
After all, I wasn’t there during those times.
I had Left.
June 18, 2023
Still Being Her
I sleep a lot. I float here at her side and sleep. Sometimes I can watch what she is doing. I don’t feel her though. She doesn’t know I’m here. I can see that now. She moves through her space in this world a bit vacant. Sometimes she sings to herself. Sometimes she climbs the large tree in our yard and plays make-believe in the branches.
I’m not awake much during the day. She is usually. At night in her bed when it is dark, I can feel her stretch me out. Kind of like uncurling a scrunched up doll. She listens for things. I can feel her fear coming to me.
I stay here at her side, barely connected to her. Tiny threads connect us. Like a spider web. I feel her fear like a little drop of water sliding across the web we share and touching me like a cold needle. It is all I really feel. The fear and the pain.
The sound of a footstep on the hardwood floor scares her. The drops come across our web like a stream when that sound is heard. She usually leaves the bed before he makes it into the room.
I don’t know where she goes, but when she leaves, I am pulled into her place with a tug of our web and a painful thunk as I hit the surface of her mattress. It hurts to suddenly feel after sleeping for so long. I can feel the air in the room. I can hear the sounds of the house and the branches outside the window. I can hear the bedroom door open.
Where did she go?
July 11, 2023
I don’t know when I put my dresser in place. It’s always been there. It’s still there today. It sits in the back of my mind, usually deep in the shadows. Sometimes I still see it in my head with all its drawers full of things stored away. I know what’s in those drawers—after all I put them there—but I can’t tell you off the top of my head what they are. I just know they are bad things. Things that happened to me that I choose to this day not to address.
There are drawers full of pain, some full of dark nights. Some are packed with feelings that have no picture, others contain pictures that have no feelings. Some drawers have entire days in them. Days that I could not make it through. Days when I was so tired, I simply opened a drawer and dropped my soul into it.
My Dresser is tall and made of dark wood. There are knobs on the smaller drawers and silver metal handles on the larger drawers. My Dresser is strong and heavy. It moves on occasion. Sometimes I look over at it and it is closer to me. Sometimes it is too close for comfort. It is never right in front of me. I have not touched it in years. It holds things from early childhood. Things that happened when I was in elementary school and younger.
As I got older, I moved on to other storage methods. I would like to say that it’s because I learned new and better techniques for packing away events I could not handle. Truthfully, it’s because my Dresser is full. I ran out of room.
There have been times in my life that I have opened a drawer or two and taken a look inside. There have been times that I have simply stared at my Dresser as it sat against the back wall of my mind and contemplated its contents. There have been times I have ignored it completely.
I don’t know when I put my dresser in place. It’s always been there.
It is still there…Today.
June 26, 2023
I have waited and cried, struggled and stomped. All trying to find a way to get past the block that keeps me from writing. I am stuck at 6-8 years old. The years when I split. The time I learned to switch, leave and evolve.
I left therapy years ago. Left the weekly sessions of remembering and dealing. Vomiting up my past and trying to lay it to rest so I could go on. I left therapy with the knowledge that the splintering I did to some extent was still in effect. I left with my little girl beside me.
I promised her at the time that I would take care of her. I told the little girl beside me that there would be times when she would need comforting. That when that happened, I would slow my life down and sit with her for a while. I told her that what secrets she still carried for me would be heavy. I promised I would listen to her. Carry her when she was weary, rest with her when she needed to stop for a moment, and tend to her wounds when they suddenly began to bleed again.
I have kept my little girl with me. I have gone on and lived a “normal” life. It has not been easy all the time. But for the most part it has been smooth. My little girl has not bothered me much. On occasion, she has pulled me from a deep sleep with a scream and a nightmare to remind me of what she holds. She has shown me her wounds, maybe once or twice, to let me know she still has them. But for the most part, she has been quiet. Waiting patiently for me to tell her story.
I am stuck at 6-8 years old. The years when my life became too much, and my little girl quietly pulled away from me and took with her the worst of the abuse.
It never occurred to me that she does not talk, my little girl. I have spoken to her, but in all my years, I have never heard her answer back. She will smile or cry or simply gaze at me from the place where she stays at my side. I have always known what it was she was trying to convey. What it was she needed for me to do. But I have never heard her voice.
Perhaps she does not have one. Perhaps she needs mine. Perhaps she has been patiently waiting all this time for me to speak for her.
Perhaps it is time to go back and join her. To sit on the sidewalk next to the busy street and with my aching body and tired soul pull her back into me from the place she went to back then.
Perhaps she is ready for her weariness and open wounds to leave her body. Maybe she has been voiceless for all these years waiting for the day when I would tell her story.
I am stuck at 6-8 years old. The age of my little girl that I have beside me.
The little girl that to this day has no voice.
How long she has waited, so patiently…
For me to tell her story.
June 27, 2023
I am standing at The Bridge. The Bridge that took me from childhood to another place. There is no name for the place I am crossing to. The Bridge that I crossed at a young age changed me from whole—to fractured. From living in my body—to watching myself from afar. When I walked across that Bridge, I shattered and became a shell of a girl who sometimes held the broken pieces of her consciousness in her hands, and sometimes she let them lie on The Bridge in a little pile.
As I write about that time in my life, I now see where the changes in me began to take place. I left my childhood at about age 5. I know chronologically that I was still a child during this time, but something shifted in me between ages 5 to 7. My innocence, or what little I had of it, left me. My body gave out under the abuse of my offenders, and my mind fractured into a million different worlds.
Now, I am standing at the edge of The Bridge that took me from the possibility of a whole child—to the creation of a split and broken soul; that took me from a full living little girl— to a being that, through necessity of survival, began to kill, cut away and alter pieces of herself.
The Bridge is the time in my life when I changed from being a child that was molested—to a psychiatric research team’s dream-come-true.
What I would give to not have crossed this Bridge. It is the path that altered who I was to—who I am. What I could have been—to what I became. It is the All Important time in my life when my world could have been different IF someone would have saved me…right then.
But that was not to be. And as much as I wish I could go back and not cross The Bridge, what is done is done, and I cannot rewrite the past.
I find myself standing once again at the edge of The Bridge that I crossed alone as a child. And now, I will cross it again as an adult, explaining every crack, every split, every loss, and every shift that made me what I was and who I now am. Writing about that transformation is exhausting, draining and painful.
Perhaps when I have crossed over this Bridge, I will be able to breath again.
Right now, I must simply dig deep and find the courage to take this first step, once again, onto The Bridge.
July 7, 2023