A huge part of my adult life had been dominated by disturbing and frightening nightmares and terrifying flashbacks and I am not adverse to admitting that I sometimes struggled to cope with all of the bad and horrific memories of my childhood on several occasions.
Journeying back I can of course see how my night dreams reflected my inner turmoil and my desperation to try and get past all of those horrifying and painful memories. At times the nightmares would awaken me in a cold sweat, crying out in terror and physically fighting off demons that were not really there in physical form, but had felt so real and dangerously close, all the same.
To this day there are still a few elements that will ‘trigger’ a flashback or a nightmare, but I have those under much more control these days.
During those very intensive weeks of therapy – and having made a concerted effort to ‘work on myself’ also – I had learnt many things: least of all that I was far stronger than I had ever given myself credit for.
I finally recognised, accepted and believed that I was worthy of happiness, peace of mind, being loved and just doing all that I could to be ME, with no apologies or doubts. I had reached that point where I was truly daring to hope and believe again, something I had neglected to take on board during those desolate and desperate years of darkness and bleakness.
I mean, fuck destiny, what did it know? I was here and ready to take on life by the bucket load! Bring it on! I wasn’t so afraid any more and nothing and nobody was gonna stand in my way of having a worthy and fulfilling life ever again! I was learning that I could stand in my own personal moments of life and know that ‘better was coming’ just around the corner.
In time I also acknowledged to myself that I actually had the right to feel and show my anger in regards to what had happened to me and for the childhood I had lived through.
Sometimes it would appear that it takes a stranger to open your eyes to certain things. My Counselor’s genuine, non-judgemental empathy, understanding and concerns and her respect of and for me, assisted me in going back to face my ‘demons’, my fears and the child that was me in those times and circumstances.
At the beginning of this journey, I had begun with my rage and indignation at not understanding how my parents and siblings could not have known about the abuse I was suffering from. Of course I had known all along that they had not known. That was my rage and deep-rooted feelings of feeling as if I had been abandoned and neglected that had been speaking. It had been my way of validating my often felt resentments and disbelief throughout the years that they could not recognise their own daughter’s or their own sister’s pain and anguish. A huge part of me had felt over the years, that in enduring so much in order to protect them – my mother and my brother and sister, in particular, that they had somehow betrayed me by not recognising the signs of the abuse and subsequently all that I had suffered for them.
Irrational thinking I know: but when you are so entrenched in hurting so much your brain tends to play tricks on you.
Those therapy sessions, I can never deny, were easily some of the hardest and most emotionally draining experiences of my life: but, it has to be said, at the end of the day, it had literally saved my life.
….. in this session the Counselor is reading my letter that she had insisted that I write to my abuser …. ….
She had seemed to take forever to read the blasted letter and I was eventually caught off guard as I realised that her voice was tremulous with emotion and that she had actually started to cry, as tears were flowing down her cheeks, unchecked. Given her strong emotional reactions to the words on the pages that she was reading out aloud, I had actually been quite impressed that she had read it all right to the end.
As I looked up into her face, I recall thinking how surprised and shocked I was at her reaction.
I don’t know if that was partly due to the fact that I thought as a professional she would be used to or be able to handle whatever we, as her clients, brought to the sessions. I had realised in that moment also, that part of my surprise and shock at her reaction, had been due to that damaged part of me that still felt that what I had gone through was no worse than say, another victim or survivor of sexual abuse. You know, that damaged part of you that says to just bloody get over it and move on?
Even then, faced with and forced to face head on, all of the rawness and the tragedy of having been abused and simultaneously caught up in the middle of domestic violence whilst growing up, I had still felt that I was not worthy of any understanding, sympathy, empathy or of being HEARD!
That, I think, had been the biggest revelation to me.
It would appear that I was worthy of being HEARD.
It may sound odd to some, but that realisation had knocked me for six, I can tell you. For the very first time in years – and I do mean years – I had gradually begun to feel – peace! It had been like a huge burden had been lifted from my weary and sagging shoulders and I had felt such a wondrous and warm sense of inner calm and peace.
It is the only true way that I can describe that specific moment.
By the time the Counselor had finished reading the entire letter, we had both had silent tears rolling down our faces.
We had sat there in mutual silence for a minute or two, quietly thinking our own thoughts ….
That afternoon I had driven home with the radio blaring loudly, windows down, and singing at the top of my voice, as if I was one of Gregory Issac’s backing singers!
My euphoric sense of self and peace that day had had nothing to do with the Counselor wanting to publish my letter, but more to do with the fact that I had written it at last, of her having read it and her reaction to it and lastly because I had finally experienced a sample of that inner peace I had been seeking for almost my entire life.
As soon as I had arrived home that day, I remember I had sat at my dining table, opened my diary and had written in it: ‘Set peace of mind as your goal and work towards that’ …. ….