Crashing Out of Repression

by Christi

Memories of our abuse are often hidden from our awareness for many years. The triggers to unlocking the depths of repression can be anything ' a song, a dream, or a child's conversation. Once the memories start to surface, you begin a new journey in your life and nothing will ever be the same. That journey includes watching, waiting, and wishing for the pain to go away. In my case, it took twenty plus years of locking the horrible memories so deep in my soul that I had convinced myself they would never again resurface. The reason I kept them hidden from my awareness was the terror ' 'What would people think if they really knew me?'

My abuse came crashing out of repression about a year ago. It was a trip planned for fun, relaxation and togetherness for my family. Our destination was Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada. After a fun day at the park, riding the train, seeing the animals and visiting the aquarium, we began our journey home. As we drove through the city and turned onto a bridge, the sight that met my eyes made a major change in my life. Never again would my world be so ripped apart and shattered as it was in those few moments!

A human life was being destroyed before my eyes and everyone was helpless to save this man. He had apparently taken the corner onto the bridge too fast. His car flipped onto the right hand passenger side and became wedged between the outside of the bridge and the concrete barrier used to protect pedestrians. The car immediately burst into flames and the man was hanging out of the driver's side screaming for someone to help him. Many people stopped and tried to help this man who was also engulfed in flames, but the inferno was so intense that no one could get close enough. When emergency help arrived, they immediately took over but the man's screams had subsided before they even arrived. Never have I felt so helpless in my life.

By now you are probably asking what does this have to do with my abuse? A great deal! You see, my abuser died the very same way. It wasn't until a few days after I returned home that the full impact of what had happened to me when I was younger came bubbling and spewing forth to the surface. I felt as if my life was unraveling, and suddenly I relearned the meaning of the word terror. Me ' the person who had always been so organized, had accomplished so much, had always been so in control of my life. My life shattered into a million tiny pieces and fell at my feet. My immediate thought was, 'Is there enough of anything left in me to put this person back together?' For once in my life I did not know where to go or who to turn to, but I did have the ability to realize it was something I could not do on my own.

The first person I reached out to was my therapist who had been helping my spouse and me with marital problems. It took all the courage I could summon to call him and spill my guts. At that point I could not face him one on one, but even with all the tears and anguish in my voice, he treated me with respect and dignity and compassion. He was, after all, the only person in my life at that time that I could trust. I felt that I had 'abuse' written all over my face, that I was worthless and ugly, and wondered how anybody could possibly care about a person like me! Fortunately, my therapist's specialty is abuse, and he is caring, understanding, and very supportive.

The past year has been filled with many painful memories and revelations. The emotional ups and downs were sometimes too heavy to bear. I became involved in group therapy with other survivors, and this has definitely helped the recovery process along. Learning in group that I really can make it, that the feelings I had were very normal given the circumstances, and hearing someone's else's method of coping and sharing my own has all been instrumental in my journey toward becoming a healthy person.

Here I am a year later' I made the same trip back to Canada with my three children and we had a wonderful time. It was an important goal for me to turn a horrible memory into something healthy and good.

For me, recovery means trying to obtain some balance in my life. I have to unlock and let go of my past abuse so that it will not continue to rule my life. With help from God, my therapist, my support group, family and friends, I am becoming a healthier adult. I'm glad I had the courage to reach out and take that first step!

  • Reprinted from Survivors & Friends Newsletter