How do I write about the pain in my heart?
The ache in my gut?
The thick feeling of tears, stuck in my throat?
I don’t know if I can share what caused it.
I don’t know if I can explain.
Or even if I should.
What I can say is what I have been feeling this past week.
Feeling like there is a weight on me holding, pushing me down.
Feeling like no matter what I do, no matter how much I distract myself, no matter how much I try to clean myself… it’s not good enough to clean away the memories of what happened to me.
I will be honest here. I hope and pray it doesn’t hurt or recall bad memories for anyone else. I will share what caused these feelings, thoughts, emotions. Hoping that it might help someone else, give someone else the courage to face their past, encourage someone else to know they are not alone… hoping that God will redeem this, too, in my life.
One beautiful summer afternoon, at the end of a college year, I drove to my boyfriend’s house, about a half hour away, anticipating a quiet evening of dinner and a movie. And, what I remembered until about 2 years ago, was just that. A quiet evening of dinner and a movie. However, one day, after God had gotten me to the point of being able to deal with at least some of the memories, something else started to surface.
I realized the evening started a different way. It started, not in the kitchen, but in the bedroom. This in and of itself was not out of the ordinary, even in our short 3 weeks or so of dating. However, what took place there, was anything but the ordinary. It wasn’t loving. It didn’t make me feel loved. It was twisted. Violent. Abusive. It left me dazed at the suddenness; shaking from the pain.
I remember him later, acting like I should have enjoyed it. I was so shocked in the midst of it, I couldn’t tell him “no,” much less respond or fight to get away. He left me, going into the kitchen to make dinner. I pulled myself together enough to get past him and into the bathroom. I cleaned myself up, unable to bear looking in the mirror, put on the mask as I came back out into the kitchen, and acted “appropriately affectionate,” eating dinner with him and watching a movie.
There are more details, but they wouldn’t be edifying or needful to understand what I am going through now. Essentially though, I repressed the memories of the terrible things that happened, and never remembered, acknowledged, or even guessed that they existed. I locked them away in a deep, dark room, hoping to leave them there forever.
Now that the locked room has been opened, I can really remember what happened that night.
Before Tricia and I started working through it in counseling, I could see that night in 3rd person. Now, having gone through a couple of sessions, I can see bits and pieces of it in 1st person, where I am actually seeing/feeling it through my own eyes.
As awful as it is, I think this whole process is about getting me to the point where I am actually able to experience it again, at least to the point of feeling the emotions of it, so that I can work through them… or rather, let God heal me through them. So that I am not carrying them around with me anymore.
When I was at counseling this week, I told Tricia that I felt our previous session had not done what normally happens. Up to this point, usually the EMDR therapy helps parts of the memories or all of it fade into the background.
I guess the best way to explain it is when a memory is all charged up with the emotions from it that aren’t resolved, it is in bright living color. Once the emotions from it have been worked through, and I have come to terms with it to a certain extent, the color starts to bleed out of the picture… it goes to black and white. Yes, it happened, and it affected me, but the hold it had on me is gone, the lies that attached to it have been addressed and are starting to be replaced by the Truth.
The previous session almost seemed to enhance the memory of that night. The colors got brighter, I remembered more detail. But the emotions that I know are there… the fear, pain, anger, loathing, self-hate, grief… are buried.
Tricia and I started to get into it, but had to stop due to time constraints. She wanted to make sure that I was in a place where she could help me return to “normal” and be able to get through the next couple of weeks, even leave her office, feeling more emotionally stable.
As we were talking, she asked me how I was feeling. I told her that I could almost physically feel what had happened to me, so she said that we should go there if I was willing. We did, and though I didn’t tell her then, I got so frustrated. I could physically feel some of the pain, could feel the tears welling up, could feel from a distance, the anguish that wanted to surface. But it never came out.
All I could see was darkness, feeling smothered. I remember crying a little bit. I remember gasping, either in pain, or for air, I don’t know which. Tricia stopped the therapy at that point, had me take some deep breaths, and helped remind me that I was still safe in her office, not having it happen to me again.
Looking back now, I see that the dark room I’d locked these memories away in had opened, but all I could see was that darkness, and knowing the emotional pain lurking in there somewhere, I honestly was afraid to explore that room or go more than a few steps from the door, based on the pain I was already feeling.
After Tricia helped me calm down and relax some, she asked me how I was doing. I told her that I didn’t know. I didn’t know how I was going to be able to make it through the two weeks until we saw each other again. I said that I honestly didn’t know if I could get through with all this hanging over me.
It’s like the images of what happened that night are super-imposed over everything I am doing. It doesn’t matter what I’m involved in. I am aware of it almost all the time. And if I am not directly aware of the images, the resulting feelings of shame and worthlessness, guilt and fear are there, and affect how I act in every situation.
We decided to put in an extra session this coming week. Tricia said that it is a safety net for me, if I need it, use it. If I am feeling better, skip it and wait until the next scheduled appointment. I looked at her and said that I felt like I hit such a road block, that putting in an extra session made me feel like I was going backwards, after feeling so good about going out to every other week. She told me that she had many clients who needed to have a bit of extra time to get through something, and then were able to continue on past it.
Tricia related it to road construction. She said that sometimes the planned road ahead is blocked, and even though it takes extra time, there is nothing you can do but follow the detour signs. It might take a bit longer to get to where you are going, but you are still moving forwards, not backwards.
She reminded me that we may just have to come at this from a different angle, a different direction.
So, for now I am trying to hang on.
I am raw. I am hurting. I am scared. I don’t know where else to turn, but to God.
I can’t do much more on my own. I don’t have much more to give. I have no reserves. I need filling. I have started to memorize Psalm 34. I just need some solid truth to cling to right now. There is no better way to cling to the truth, than to already have it in your head, able to meditate on it in the night watches… those lovely times when I am lying awake on my bed, unable to sleep or rest or anything… when disturbing images and thoughts are plaguing me.
Please pray for me as I look at this busy weekend, as I look at the things I want to do, versus the things I need to do, for me and for others. Pray as I look ahead to this week’s counseling, and try to determine if I need it or not. Pray that I would get the chance for some alone time, some time to process and work through things. Pray that God would be my strength. I can’t do this alone, I can’t do this myself.
I want to get through that darkness, have God’s Light flood that room and clear out the shadows. I want God to show me the truth about me and about that night, so that I can finally let go of it. Another thing to lay down and walk away from, never to turn back and dredge up again. I want to get out of the chains that have bound me for so long to that night.