Please note some people may find the content of this blog difficult, please exercise self care.
Therapy has given me many different experiences so far, this week I’ve encountered a whole new approach to dealing with the trauma that plagues my mind. I spent time not going into the fine detail of an event but instead processed the emotions that lie behind the flashbacks which disrupt my nights. Whenever I have begun working on these traumatic events before previous therapists have appeared intent on digging and digging into the inner recesses of my mind wanting to know everything about an event. Thus when my current psychologist discussed trauma work I’ve been very nervous and very apprehensive. However time has led me to feel able to take that leap of faith and move along this journey of recovery by stepping into trauma work. I was assured that I would be in a safe environment inside the therapy room and that this was the place to finally be me, to feel and to process the past.
My first encounter at trauma work this week with my current psychologist did feel safe and contained, I felt able to express myself and my feelings honestly. Most of all though I didn’t need to go into the inner depths of regurgitating the memory instead I was able to think about my feelings and my emotions, what a difference such an approach made. Don’t get me wrong we did discuss the memory but only in so far as I felt able and was needed, I didn’t need to recount every single moment of the incident, much to my relief. By the end of the session I wondered why I had been so apprehensive as this approach felt right, it seemed much more contained and far less chaotic than previous experiences.
Today looking back and beginning the work I need to carry on doing of getting to know that part of me who endured this particular nightmare, I can see some key issues that stand out. One of those is my feelings towards that alter as sadly I felt angry at her, I blamed her for not stopping the incident. Yes there is anger at the people involved who caused me such pain and anguish, who betrayed me and belittled me but I also blamed her. It’s hard to realise I blamed a part of me for something they had absolutely no control over, I’m not excusing myself but I am aware I grew up with negative comments that apportioned blame upon me. I lived in an environment where everything that ever went wrong was my fault and my many abusers gave constant reminders to me that the abuse was all I was good for.
But my blaming her is so not helpful to me, because she is a part of me and so I was blaming myself for the incident. I was taking responsibility for the acts of others who were far stronger and far older than I was, people who many would regard has having a duty of care towards me. I’m slowly realising the reality of that time and that when she stopped fighting she was making an intolerable decision to take the abuse in order to protect my life. I’m not sure if today I’d be courageous enough to make such a brave decision to take their punishment, their depraved acts of abuse because to carry on fighting you know would most likely cost you your my life. It’s really a difficult decision for anyone, but even more so for a young teenager who hated the consequences of no longer fighting this particular abuser.
I’m also aware that this abuser was both determined and dangerous, I believe he would truly have carried on hurting me physically, he wouldn’t have stopped until I stopped fighting back. If I’m honest I think I realise now his actions may well have ended my life such was his rage, if I’d fought on, so this parts bravery and her decisions saved me. The sad thing is that I have sensed time and again with each flashback of this incident the absolute terror she felt at that point, when she had to chose. It’s a terror I cannot explain fully in words, but one I wouldn’t wish on any living creature. The other night I sat frozen in this terror unable to even move from my sofa where I’d been sleeping, I knew I was in my house I knew this was a memory of a time long ago and yet the terror I felt gripped me like a vice.
For too long I’ve blamed her, blamed me and that as to change, I can’t keep doing this it’s not right or fair. Instead I need to nurture this part of me, reassure them and offer comfort, I need to give them the love and care they so rightly deserved as a teenager. This maybe the first time this part of me has ever experienced such love and care and so I need to ensure I do this right. I also need to try hard to communicate with her and build a rapport, find out how this part of me feels. But I need to do this slowly and not rush things, I need to be careful and take care of all of me at this time.
This part of me has feelings too and I sensed those this morning for the first time. I know the terror of that incident is the key here, it’s more significant than the abuse itself and I truly think she hated that terror. She has been able to allow me access to that terror as if to show me the reason why she stopped fighting to prevent the abuse. She wanted me to know why, to know she wasn’t to blame and I’m thankful that I now know the truth. I realise that this part of me hated the feelings of helplessness and of knowing there was no way out, I also believe she felt as if she’d failed. Failed when she knew she couldn’t get free that she couldn’t stop what was happening. Today feelings of being belittled, misunderstood and of not having a voice are all issues I struggle with and I’m sure these stem from this particular time as a young teen. They are a legacy of the past and so often my encounters with health, institutions and professionals have evoked the same feelings this part of me feared and hated.
I know there is still more work to be done to really process this incident, to deal with all the feelings and emotions that stem from it. I don’t doubt I will need to talk this over in other sessions, for I realise I still need to unpack the feelings, the pain, the anguish and the grief of this particular time. In the meantime this week I’m going to do lots of looking after me, giving time and space to deal with my feelings and this parts feelings. Trauma work is going to be a learning process, it’s most definitely going to hurt at times and it won’t always be an easy road but I’m certain I am strong enough to come through this. I survived the actual abuse and I will survive the trauma phase of therapy, one day I’ll look back on this time and realise how far all of me have come thanks to the help of a patient and dedicated psychologist. One day I will no longer be plagued by flashbacks, or memories that occupy my every waking moment, one day I will truly be able to say I was abused but now I’m a survivor.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2014