Break On Through
“Madness need not be all breakdown. It may also be break-through.” ~R.D. Laing, The Politics of Experience
This has been an epic week for us. I was talking with my mother a few days ago about my memory loss, attempting to give her a satisfactory reason as to why I can’t remember things very well. I explained to her that some of it was caused by childhood trauma. She asked me if I couldn’t “just put all that stuff behind me” and I let out a sigh at her lack of understanding. Under my breath, I said, “It doesn’t matter, he’s dead now anyway” and she immediately looked up from her newspaper and said aloud the name of my abuser. I hesitated, and then, because of the fact that he is dead, I confirmed it. She told me then that she’d had suspicions about him at times. I can’t help but wonder, if she had suspicions, then why did she allow me to be around the man? But I said nothing to her, and she went back to her paper, and that was the end of the conversation. But I was thrilled-her guessing my abuser’s name was the beginning of the validation I need. I think I’ve needed my whole life to hear my mother admit I was molested. While she didn’t use those words, she did, in a way, go along with some of what I’ve said simply by naming the pervert who hurt me. It’s a start. An important one.
I was on an emotional high after that, and excitedly called my sister to tell her what had happened. I told her that Mom had finally, after all these years, said aloud that she thought I’d been molested by a relative. Or something along those lines. My sister immediately began asking questions about my abuser. She told me that she’s always had a bad feeling about that same guy, and that at one point in her life, he’d said some inappropriate things to her of a sexual nature. But she was an adult at that time and was able to tell him off and walk away. I didn’t have that ability as a little girl. After that we talked about different things that had happened to me which seemed to be indicators of sexual abuse. For example, I told her how my abuser had always treated me like a princess and told me I was “very special”, and he’d always bought me gifts such as candy or toys or jewelry. She said he’d been grooming me all that time, and I agreed. Then she told me a story…
My sister is 20 years older than I am, and got married when I was 6 months old; obviously she wasn’t around all the time when I was growing up. She told me that she came to visit one day when I was about 4 years old. When she walked into the house she could hear me screaming. She found me with my mother, who was trying to get me to use the bathroom. Sis said I was crying and kept saying “It hurts! It hurts!” Mom told my sister that she thought perhaps I was getting a urinary tract infection, but she never took me to a doctor. My sister didn’t think anything more about it. Until now. Ever since I opened up to her about the abuse, she’s been trying to remember anything that might help confirm my suspicions, and this information is exactly the sort of thing I need to help me piece together my past and unearth the truth which my mind has worked so hard to block out. She told me that I should ask Mom about this incident and see if she could remember it.
So I did. I asked her if she remembered that day, so long ago, and unfortunately she did not recall it. BUT–she told me about something even more suspicious and important. Mom said that one day, when I was a little girl, I came home from my great aunt’s house and told her that my (much older) cousin had shown me dirty magazines. I nearly fell out of my chair when she said that, because that is one of the memories I’ve only recently recovered. I remember being at his house, and my cousin bringing me magazines and spreading them out on the floor. He opened one up and showed me that there were cartoons inside on some of the pages. The other pages had pictures of people without their clothes on. I didn’t understand what was happening in the pictures, but I didn’t care because I just wanted to read all the cartoons. So I flipped through all the dirty magazines, looking for cartoons, all the while my cousin is trying to show me the pictures of the naked people. I was about 5 years old. He was in his mid-late 20’s. Hearing my mother say that I’d told her that story as a little girl means it really happened. I worry about false memories, but I know now that these things I’m remembering are actually true.
This is the validation I have been desperately needing. I’ve struggled with guilt and fear and doubt-doubt that any of what I’m remembering is true-and this proves that I am NOT imagining things or making up stories. It’s true. It’s all true. If the incident with the magazines is true, then chances are that my memory of him leading me downstairs into the basement is true as well. I can remember the way the basement looked (dark and spooky), the musty way it smelled, and I could hear noises…but I can’t remember anything beyond him leading me down the stairs by the hand. So that’s where we are now. I’ve got proof my cousin showed me pornography when I was a little girl, and I have partial memories of other suspicious (potentially traumatic) events. This is good. Memory recollection takes time, and I’m hoping to continue to remember things in small doses as we’ve done thus far. This means I’m facing my past. This means we’re on the pathway to healing. What a scary road this is…