Remembering is in bits in pieces — my mind is wise, and has protected me all these years. It begins when I have children of my own and the nightmares begin.
I am no fool, I know what it means. I always remembered the physical and emotional abuse, and have gone to therapy to deal with it but this … this I refuse to remember. Is there no part of me this man has not twisted?
When I sleep with David, the guy who’s had a crush on me for ages, it all comes to a head. I like David, a lot. He has liked me since we met three or four years ago. At first I didn’t pay any attention — I’m not in the habit of seducing 14 or 15 year olds. But now he is 18, or close enough to the birthday that I’m comfortable, and by a weird coincidence we are working at the same place. And David is built just like my dad.
He is sweet and gentle, but has to leave before the morning. When I wake up alone, I feel just terrible. I feel like I have done something very, very bad, even though my logic tells me otherwise. We were, after all, two consenting adults, and he was the one pursuing me rather than the other way around. We used appropriate protections, and everything went fine. So why do I feel so awful? David is built just like my dad.
Over the next few days, the nightmares return worse than ever. I know what this means. I know what I have to do.
I buy a book on incest and make an appointment with a female therapist. Looking back now, it must have been comical. I was so angry! “I have spent years in therapy over the way my dad abused me, and now I think there’s more! This book I read says that it will probably take 5 years more of therapy to deal with this! I don’t want to spend another 5 years of my life paying for the crap this man put me through!”
The therapist is gentle. “I don’t blame you one bit”, she says. “You have every right to be angry. It isn’t fair.” And so the healing begins.
The memories that emerge over the next few months are mine alone. The therapist never hypnotizes me or tries to lead me. The flashbacks are the worst, when I re-experience the actual abuse. Somehow I manage to remain functional, caring for my kids and going to work as if nothing is wrong. I cannot bring myself to see David again, and after a while I hear he has gone into the Army.
My mother and sister refuse to believe. They make a zillion excuses. At one point, arguing with my mother, she informs me that it couldn’t have happened because she “was always home and never went anywhere.”
Of course, she wasn’t counting the 40 plus hours she put into her job before the term working mother became a buzz word. My sister “talks it over” with a “psychiatrist friend” and is satisfied it didn’t happen. I tell her “I’ll match your psychiatrist and raise you two therapists.” She sort of laughs and drops the subject. Finally I decide it is easier to keep contact at a minimum.
The weeks stretch into months, the months to years. I change from individual therapy to a group, back to individual therapy, then switch from a female therapist to a male therapist. It all helps, and my life slowly improves. I am able to see David and tell him what happened. He hugs me tight, and we part friends, comfortable with one another again.
I think this is what convinces me the most, despite accusations of false memories and my mother’s and sister’s determined effort to deny it ever happened. I have spent close to half my life in therapy of one kind or another, but my life did not significantly improve until I began to address the fact that my dad molested me.
What’s scary is that I don’t think I was the only one. I remember chatting with his second wife, who mentioned that her 5 year old niece had stayed with them for a while “but it didn’t work out”. Her mouth is tight and her eyes are angry and fearful at the same time. My intuition starts going off like a fire alarm. Unfortunately, at the time of the conversation, I have not yet begun my therapy and I let the matter drop. By the time I know enough to question her further, I have permanently and totally severed all contact with either of them.
It’s been 11 years since I began to address what happened to me. I wish I could tell you that therapy has cured everything. But that would be a lie.
Like someone who has lost a limb, something was taken from me. While I can work without it, and live a fulfilling life, there is no replacing what was lost. I can not “fix” it, no matter how much I might like to try.
While this may sound depressing, it isn’t intended to be. Part of the healing process for me has been to accept my limitations and live my life to the fullest possible extent, instead of remaining focused on what was lost and wasting what I have. But I want you to know that the abuse will always be with me, and that I will never be who I might have been had I not been molested. I want you to know that even now, years after it happened, the things my dad did to me affect me still. And that’s why we must NEVER let it happen again.