Friday, March 9, 2012

Emotions are Evil (16)

As the four of us sat down and shut the door to the office, I surveyed the room and noted it was comfortably decorated with a tan davenport separated into the shape of a "V" in the far right corner. There were two multicolored cushioned chairs in the room and a small wooden desk pushed against the wall to the left. There was a beautiful Persian rug on the floor. Several household lamps provided soft lighting to the intentionally serene room. My heightened anxiety and vulnerability caused the room to became  acutely smaller and smaller. The purposeful design could not overcome my overwhelming desire to flee and find safety from anywhere but there.

Introductions were first, and despite the reassuring words by the two young men who were facilitating the group that I had met earlier in the day, I felt as if I had made the wrong decision to attend.  We went around saying our names and telling something interesting about ourselves. The other group member introduced himself as "Calvin" who worked in real estate.

"My name is Joel. I just moved here from Colorado Springs," I nervously said. "I've been an at home dad for over five years."  I really couldn't think of anything interesting.  My words seemed foreign as if someone else were speaking them and I was forced to listen.  My mind was swirling and I was finding it hard to focus.  Even the small act of speaking my name was overshadowed by the chorus of  run that my internal jury was screaming.  Hearing my voice meant this was real.

Ground  rules were next which meant that I had to hear my voice again. Each of us took turns reading aloud each point. It sounded as if I had just entered the nether-regions of a psycho-babble underworld or an AA meeting . . . I wasn't sure which.  I wasn't this person.  I shouldn't be here.  Calvin's voice was a mere echo.  Then it was my turn.  "I will not touch or hug you without your permission."  Really?  As if I needed to agree to that.  If anyone were to think about thinking about touching me, I was out.

Next it was time to choose a topic of discussion for the next hour and half. After some silent and uncomfortable contemplation we narrowed the choices to two ideas, "Sharing my story," and "Dealing with Feelings." Both were important topics, however, I wasn't ready to deal with my feelings just yet.  Breathe.  Just breathe.  Where am I?  I am in a safe place.  How old am I?  I am 39 years old.  I am here now.  I am safe.

"Emotions are evil and should be suppressed,"  I said in a matter-of-fact way. "Let's share our stories."

 I was curious about the other person's story and I was anxious to tell mine. Perhaps we could find a common ground to begin etching away at the social awkwardness and emotional vulnerability we both felt.

"My step-father was dying in a hospital in Florida,"  Calvin started.  "As I was driving south on the expressway from the airport to where he and my family were waiting for me, a flood of memories came to me out of nowhere. I could remember both sexual and satanic ritual abuse by my mother's husband starting when I was 6 years old." He then went on to tell how he was able to cope at the funeral after his step-father died, and how he regretted not being able to confront "the sick bastard" before his death. He went on to describe how every member of his family at some point wiped clean any and all evidence of  the step-father's existence--even to the point of cropping family photographs in a way to excise him from ever being seen again.  

"So,  you couldn't remember any of this prior to that day?" I asked.  My body was vibrating with anticipation as I had just found someone else that had amnesia like me.  I was not alone anymore.  Maybe this was going to be worth it.

"I knew I was messed up. I just didn't know why," he said.

It was my turn to tell my story. "If you had asked me just six months ago if I had been a victim of sexual abuse, I would have looked you in the eyes and said no. I've never been abused."

I then began to describe my quest for the Core Issue and how for the last five months I had been tortured and plagued with a new revelation of the atrocity perpetrated against me at least once a week for several months.

"Wow! that's intense,"  Calvin said. "I don't think I could handle that."

I thought the same thing when Calvin was telling his story. "If that happened to me, I would drive off a bridge into the ocean below."

It seemed we had found our common ground. We were able to relate to each other in a way that few others could. Calvin expressed to me that he had never met anyone else that had amnesia like he did though he had been in counseling and other recovery groups years before.  I, too, found this comforting.  Up until this point  I was the only person I knew that had completely blocked out all memories of that period during my youth.

We then went on to talk about other symptoms of our abuse and common behaviors, like our preference for solitude and that we only feel safe when we are alone.  We both hated large groups and found them overwhelming to the point of avoiding them altogether.  We discovered that we both suffer from body memories, and there seemed to be a separation between mental memories and physical memories.  It was the body's way of saying it did not want whatever happened to it to happen again.  (Body memories are physical representations of abuse that you may not connect with a specific mental memory.  It can come in the form of pain, pressure, ghostly touch, and a general physical feeling of unease that may seem unreal or disconnected from reality or your current state of being.  Body memories can be complicated and confusing.  If you are experiencing anything similar to what I have described, you may be having a body memory, and  it is important to seek professional help to assist you in how to properly deal with it or release it.)

The four of us spoke of many things that night, and I left feeling comforted that I was not the only one to have gone through this experience. I was happy that the help I needed was at my fingertips and I decided that I must continue attending each Wednesday.  In just two hours I had changed from frightened and anxious to energized and hopeful.  Both were new sensations to me and I wasn't sure how to process them.

The days following were jumbled with conflicting thoughts of hope and sorrow. I had hope that I had been given the resources to begin to heal from this open, seething, and puss-filled shotgun wound in my chest. I felt sorrow that I had been christened with a new status--victim of childhood sexual abuse.


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