Four months ago, I unpacked the final box of secrets hidden deep in my mind. They were secrets, that weren’t necessarily repressed, they just were going to sit in storage, never to see the light of day. I had a choice to make, call my processing of memories done and know that I had only gone 90% of the way, or tell my therapist and unpack the final details of my past. I worked so hard to get to where I was, and I felt I owed it to myself to go all the way. So I did, I revealed the last puzzle piece. It had no real surprise impact on my therapist because he had figured it out a long time ago, but for me, it put together the big picture. The who, why, and the extent to which people went to control those first 20 years of my life, topping it off with an additional 17 years of threats to stay silent. This last part was by far one of the hardest things to reveal to my therapist, hear myself say the words out loud, and then once again, begin to process what that all meant.
Once it began to metabolize a little bit, I notice I began to think differently. I believe it made room for my own mind to begin to discern the bigger picture. It was frightening to realize the extent, the sinister intentionality of what went on with my life. The more I began to think logically about it, the clearer the reality that I had handlers from the time I was a little girl. When I silently realized that truth in all its fuckedupedness, I began to understand the even bigger picture.
In the midst of unraveling all of this, I drew. First, I drew an umbrella picture, the umbrella was the big picture (the who’s) with T’s, representing traumas raining down on me. And myself chained to that umbrella wearing a t-shirt with the words Ages 0-20 on it. Then I drew an exploding volcano and mountain range. Those drawing had a profound effect on me. Even though they were simple and not very artistic, to me they are my two Van Gogh’s. They both represent everything that I saw in my mind. In therapy one day, my therapist held up the mountain range picture and when I looked at it…That moment (that session) changed me, my trajectory forever. I didn’t realize it at the time because all I felt was intense disbelief, belief, grief, fear, and deep sadness, but at the same time, my mind was starting to knit together and solidify the truth of my past. Except something was missing, I was looking at that picture and in my head knew I couldn’t turn around and walk away from that mountain range yet.
This all leads me to last Friday. I began telling my therapist a story of when I bought a blue bottle, and the reason I bought it. I thought it was still in my save-box. I had no recollection that I had given the bottle to my therapist for safe keeping. Throughout these seven years, I had given him many, many things that I had saved from my childhood. I thought they were my smoking guns, he always told me they were my breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs that helped lead me back to a repressed past, that I knew someday I would be able to untangle. When I would bring my “breadcrumbs” to my therapist we never talked in detail about them at the time. I just needed them out of my house, and I was too triggered with recalling and processing memories for us to talk about where, and why I had these many objects. I just knew he would keep them safe for me.
I forgot I gave him this bottle, which was great because I began to tell him the backstory of it. How at 13 yrs old, I thought I was being so brave by buying it, bringing it home and waving it front of the face of a very dangerous person. Telling my therapist this part, lead me to tell him about the shirt I was wearing at the time. I knew I had saved that shirt and asked him if I had given him that too. He told me he didn’t have it and I knew it was on the top shelf of my closet. I knew I would look for it first thing the next morning.
And, there it was…not the shirt, but a picture of me wearing that shirt the day before I moved to a new state. The day before I turned 17. Wearing a cute little peach shirt, earrings, long painted nails; all a veneer covering what lay right beneath the surface. The abused, neglected, abandoned, dehumanized object of many people who had already experienced a trail of unimaginable circumstances. Along with that picture, were pictures of my last four perpetrators. I had no memory of keeping these pictures, together, tucked in the back corner of my closet. I thought I would never see these faces again, and I know I wouldn’t have been able to describe their faces to anyone if asked.
There they were. The last piece of my puzzle. I had no idea Saturday morning I would find those pictures. Shocked and looking at them I felt a palpable fear coursing through my body, the look of uncomfortable fear (something I have never seen) on my husbands face, and the inkling of a voice, my voice knowing that this is it. It’s done. I have completed my story; I have the people to prove it. At the same time, I let myself feel proud of the smart girl who squirreled away those pictures. I felt proud of my other objects, my breadcrumbs, but this was the coup d’état. When I brought them to my therapist on Monday to dispose of I said to him, “I know, I know, more breadcrumbs.” But he said the words, I longed to hear. He said, “these, are your smoking guns.” It felt great to dispose of those pictures. All traces of them are gone.
Now, I am ready to turn away from that Himalayan-esque mountain range my therapist helped me traverse the last seven years.
I have sore legs and a heavy body from that arduous expedition that included full of top of the world summits, terrible depression-laden crevasse’s, waiting out blizzards and slogging through the deep snow and other treacherous terrains. A deceptive mountain range that sometimes caught me unaware that there was yet another peak to be summited, a peak that was well hidden behind the clouds or valleys. I thought when we got to the crumbled city that we had made it out. Sitting on a curb, I thought we were done. But there was one more horrific, spiky, nasty bugger of a summit to ascend and descend before we reached the bottom, the other side of the range.
But I made it! I had to stay and look at that range for as long as it took. I had to! I already mentioned that I knew something was missing (It was those long ago forgotten pictures) but I also had to honor my climb, to honor my truth. To honor the mountains, the terrible explosive volcanic mountains that are the truth of my life.
The past week, I turned away and began hiking along the next path of health. I’m slow, I’m tired, I’m just really spent! The feelings and emotions that are most prevalent right now are the intense fear of the people who planned it all and the memory of my perpetrators. I feel victimized, mind-fucked, hurt, scared, unsteady, disturbed, very disturbed, and also a profound sense of peace.
My therapist sent me a text a while ago, to save and read when I felt I needed some words of encouragement. It says, “You are safe. You may not feel safe, and that is to be expected. Eventually, you will. Until that time, trust me that you are.” I read that text a lot these days as I venture away from the processing memories of the past and cope with the effects of all that trauma and my PTSD. I read it, and it lands deeper and deeper each time until eventually I won’t have to read it any longer.
With leaden feeling legs, a weary mind, a sense of accomplishment and a heart full of hope, I find myself ready to walk towards the warmth.