They say that time is a healer, and maybe just maybe that will prove to be true, but I have realised this week that sometimes that to heal from the past means hurting too. For years now I have been plagued with memories and flashbacks from my childhood and I’ve spent decades blocking out the past. Whilst my mind is allowing me to slowly break down this amnesic wall I erected as a child it also means confronting the emotions I have blocked out.
As a child I dissociated when things were too overwhelming, it was my sane reaction to the insane circumstances that were my life. But I also switched off my feelings of that time too, they weren’t forgotten but stored away deep inside far enough away that I could cope with the nightmare that was my reality.
It’s hard to face the past, it’s hard to process the painful memories that I can no longer deny, that I can no longer block out. Because to face the past, to process the trauma I need to feel the emotions of the past, that means dealing today with the anguish I should have faced as a child but wasn’t able to.
Today I have spent the majority of time feeling awful, feeling such turmoil and anguish because I am dealing with the feelings that I carry from an event that happened some 34 years ago. 34 years ago the trauma that happened I couldn’t cope with so I dissociated, I disappeared and another part of me took the trauma, the pain and the memory. 34 years ago that part of me dealt with the horror but I didn’t and I have never faced up to the horror of that incident. In fact it’s only in recent years I have been aware of the whole incident, of what happened to me as a child. I was a vulnerable child who couldn’t prevent what happened to her, who sadly was abused by someone far older, far stronger and intent on hurting me.
Over the past years I have been plagued by the recurring flashbacks of that time, it’s one of many incidents from my chaotic childhood. Those flashbacks render me frozen in terror, it has felt at times like it’s all happening to me all over again. The first time I had the flashback it felt like I was being raped by this particular man for the very first time. I had no memory of the event at the start, another part of me held that memory. As the flashbacks came and went I would struggle to accept, to believe and I felt shame and guilt on a scale you never think humanly possible. I have felt guilty and I felt angry too, but not at him, but at me for not stopping it.
I’ve learnt recently that in order to prevent these memories, this flashback from gripping me in fear every time I relive the nightmare that I need to process my emotions from the past. That means today I have grieved, I’ve cried, I’ve screamed and shouted just as perhaps I ought to have done 34 years ago. I am processing my feelings from this time, I’m slowly learning that it wasn’t my fault, there was nothing I could have done to prevent it happening to me. I’m feeling the emptiness and sorrow that comes I guess from knowing I was violated, I was abused. I’m grieving for what I never had, I only ever wanted to be safe, to be like all the other kids in my class. I wasn’t after an idyllic childhood but one where I was safe, loved and respected.
At times today I have just wanted to hide, to bounce off into the wilderness and never return, today I have wanted to escape this pain and I have had thoughts of self harming. Harming in order to express the pain I feel inside in an outward way, because at points today that internal pain has overwhelmed me. Yet I so desperately do not want to resort back to old habits, I know I am stronger than that even when it all feels too much to bear.
I’m also coming to terms with the fact this happened to me, I can’t deny the truth anymore nor can I pretend it was an alter he abused, because my alters are still parts of me. 34 years ago I should have felt bereft instead I feel like that tonight, 34 years ago I should have felt anguish and in turmoil instead I have felt like that today. Yet all the while I know this isn’t a current threat or risk, I am processing a memory from the past.
My psychologist tells me that over time I will lessen the hold these memories have on me, that time will heal. Other survivors tell me that too and their words of support and understanding have been a lifeline today, knowing others comprehend these feelings I have really does help. Healing hurts I can’t deny that fact, it simply does and I need to slowly learn to accept that. In time I can only hope that I will process enough of the past to stop it having the hold over me it currently does. In time I can only hope that I will gain strength and move forwards on this journey that I find myself currently on.
I’ve spent a lifetime blocking out the horrors of my past, I’m not prepared to let it destroy me anymore, I’m not prepared to let it rule me or my life. I want the future I deserve, to be able to fulfil my potential in life, I don’t, I won’t let the legacy of my past control me, control my future. That’s something I can achieve, to have control of the future.
Someone posted today on social media that ‘ there is healing in tears and strength In facing anger, there is so much hope no matter how confusing or chaotic it maybe right now’. I can only hope that I find my tears healing, for I know I deserve a future, a chance at life beyond the memories, beyond the legacy of my past.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2014