One year 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 the work of processing memories done, or tell my therapist and unpack the final details of my past. I worked hard to get to where I was, and I felt I owed it to myself to go all the way. So I revealed the last puzzle piece. It had no real 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 secret was by far one of the hardest things to reveal, and then begin to process what it all meant.
Once it began to metabolize a little bit, I noticed I began to think differently. I believe it made room for my mind 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 about it logically, I understood the even bigger picture of my past. Even with the intense disbelief, belief, grief, fear, and deep sadness, my mind was starting to knit together and solidify the truth.
One day, I was telling my therapist a story of the time 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 eight 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 that to him 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.
Looking at those pictures, feeling shocked, I felt a palpable fear coursing through my body and the look of uncomfortable fear (something I have never seen) on my husbands’ face. In the far distant part of my mind, I heard the inkling of a voice, my voice telling me, this is it. It’s done. I have completed my story; I have the people to prove it. I also, 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 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.
But still, I wasn’t quite ready to turn away from that Himalayan-esque mountain range my therapist helped me traverse the last eight years. I had to stay and look at that range for as long as it took. I had to! I had to honor my truth. To honor the mountains, the terrible explosive volcanic mountains that are the truth of my life. Then I was ready, and a year ago, I turned away and began hiking away from the mountain range, towards 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 fear of the people who planned it all and the memory of my perpetrators. Sometimes, I feel victimized, hurt, scared, unsteady, disturbed, very disturbed, but I also feel a profound sense of peace.
My therapist sent me a text, to save and read when 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 the past year as I ventured away from processing memories of the past and learned to cope with the effects of all the trauma and my PTSD. When I read it, it lands deeper and deeper. Eventually, I won’t have to read it any longer.
Last week, I wrote a goodbye letter to a group of people who were greatly responsible for putting me in harm’s way. I woke up, with the first snow, which had broken the cycle of the Fall triggers ready to say goodbye to them. I’m ready to let them go, so I can heal without them constantly in the forefront of my mind.
With leaden feeling legs, a weary mind, a sense of accomplishment and a heart full of hope, this afternoon I burnt the letter and let the ashes fly into the universe, a symbol of freedom from my perpetrators. A walk towards the warmth, an incredible freeing release from my past. The breadcrumbs are swept away, the “smoking guns” revealed and let go of, the ashes have dispersed in the wind and today the sun is shining on my face!
Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph