‘The Awakening Begins.’
Change did come, in the most unexpected avenue. It wasn't the least bit subtle, didn't nudge its way around the edges of life nor did it come marching in with fan fare or drama or a major traumatic event that would catapult one into entirely different life circumstances. Change wanted my attention... it emblazoned itself like a flashing neon sign that forced me to wake up to a reality that was slowly, insidiously killing me. It was the reality of neglect. Long ago I had ceased to really see myself if I looked in the mirror... to dress... and the combination of time and neglect for my physical being, the neglect of myself as a woman, had made me thick and stodgy and shapeless... the heaviest and drabbest I had ever been. I just hadn't noticed myself for so long. I had simply ceased to exist as an individual as each passing year required I be the devoted mother. Dreams that extended beyond the healing of my daughter and the happiness of my family, had simply been discarded.
It wasn't just my physical shape, and health, not just the feeling of discarding an image, but the reflection of my worth to Brian as a caretaker and housekeeper and bill payer as opposed to a woman to love, and a wife to cherish that all of a sudden terrified me. Life lacked any joy, as I'd worked so diligently to guard and foster the sense of self in Harry and Mathilda, I had simply let my own slip away. I had become one of those women who’s only identity revolved around being mommy.
Change continued to flash it's warning lights attracting my constant attention and causing the narrative of my life to be questioned. I tired to ignore it’s insistence. One winter morning in the wee hours, change demanded initiation. Change refused to wait any longer so it presented a scenario so perfect in illustration, so poignant in delivery that it could not be mistaken for just a nightmare.
Change initially took the shape of a minor physical illness. Yet it unleashed the contradictions of wrestling invisible demons from my memories and refused to accept acknowledgement as enough. It would no longer accept I live my life on the periphery of Miranda’s world, living solely for the children.
Apparently it was time, my time, to embrace change and learn a self worth that had always eluded me. Miranda's seizures had been stable for almost ten months.. perhaps this was God's way of forcing me to let go the constant anxiety over her long enough to consider who I had become and what I was going to do about it.
I would have preferred a less emotionally demanding avenue than the nightmares and memories that change used as facilitators. I could have done without Pandora's box opening... or was it a necessary evil?
Change knew there was grief hidden inside me as a coveted secret. The kind of grief that if conquered brings empowerment but is revisited only by being rubbed raw by truths you pretended never happened. And so change took me back in the darkness of night to the darkness of my darkest days where one gets easily, frighteningly lost…Change sent me an abhorrent nightmare…
* * *
Her hips joints were screaming in agony, pulled apart so wide she felt her bones would snap.Trying to lower her legs resulted in an instantaneous restriction about her throat. Desperate to release the painful pressure on her neck, her mind sent the command to her fingers to pull the rope lose. But her hands had been secured tightly above her head. She was shivering uncontrollably from the frigid temperature of the room, her fear, but most of all ....the malicious intent of her captors.
Panic and disbelief flooded every cell in her naked body as she lay stretched, indecently exposed, and tightly bound on a wooden table. Her heart previously taken for granted beat so loudly and fast she assumed it would explode as it grasped desperately desperately at life with every beat. She couldn't get enough air, was suffocating…. her eyes wide in terror seeing only blackness beneath a stifling black hood. Her sense of hearing heightened, but was useless in providing warning. It served only to frighten her with knowledge and anticipation of proposed unthinkable acts she overheard.
Was that a shuffle she heard? Loud breathing? Footsteps, heavy, stomping along a carpeted corridor? A door opening, foreign words, laughter….then…A sudden malicious force between her legs induced a scream that rose from the depths of her soul.
Originating from the very core of her being the scream was silenced only by the excruciating pain that bore right up through her. Her face, contorted in torture, elicited perverse jeers as the hood was yanked from her head. And then she heard the strike of a match, heard the pop of bottle caps releasing trapped beer, smelled the cigarette smoke, and daring to open her eyes, she began begging for her life.
* * *
I couldn't breath!…My eyes flew open in a state of alarm to see the soft incandescent glow of dying embers in the ﬁreplace. Moon light illuminating the room spread across my feet as I perched on the edge of the sofa, drenched in feverish sweat, initially confused, completely disoriented and terifﬁed as vomit arose in my throat.
My heart was thundering painfully in my chest as I struggled to ﬁll my lungs with enough air from each deficient breath. “Christ! What the fuck was that about?” I exclaimed to myself. What a bloody horrendous nightmare! Where the hell did THAT come from?” It wasn't real. I was safe at my home in the mountains, I could see the snow weighing the bows of the pines beyond the glass doors as if covering them in the thick marzipan frosting of a wedding cake. I knew the children and Brian were sleeping upstairs.
Iʼd padded downstairs earlier to lay propped up by the ﬁre. My chest cold had suddenly taken a sudden downward turn and I couldn't seem to suck in a comfortable amount of air if I lay down. But that nightmare! It was seriously disturbing and I couldn't discount that there was something hauntingly familiar about it. Like a movie I had seen so long ago it had been forgotten. Yet it had the power to make my senses completely raw! I tried to dismiss it instantaneously.
Tenuously making my way to the sink in the dark, I filled a glass with water...but as I held it an immediate image overcame my consciousness. A glass of water was being held up to me by scared grotesquely chubby fingers, his face inches from mine... An overwhelming aura of terror coursed through every vein, slowly filling me like an insidious poisonous fluid.
A whole history of debasement following behind the image wanting to infuse the present. I tipped the water down the drain. I remembered something about the water in that glass as it had been harshly pushed against my lips, a coarse strong hand simultaneously pushing at the back of my neck.
My chest was heavy and I was so very, very tired. It felt like trying to suck air through a wet sponge. My heart continued to beat so fast my chest stung despite the terrifying dream disintegrating. I took some ibuprofen and decided to make tea, hesitant to close my eyes lest the imagined horror of the nightmare return. Turning a lamp on, I retreated beneath the furry covers, a steaming mug warming my hands whilst the rest of me shivered.
I concentrated on my breathing, trying to ease the simple function of breathing in, breathing out. I spent the remainder of the night focusing on my breath, and admiring the picturesque mountains beneath the moon. I waited for day break when I could get to a doctors pronto, convinced that I now needed antibiotics and probably had pneumonia.
The residual emotional distress of my nightmare still lingered threateningly around the edges of my conscious thought, tugging at my attention as if attempting to raise something sinister attached to a rope far below the surface of a bottomless well. For now it hidden in the black depths of the unconscious, contained behind wakefulness.
Morning could not have come sooner. Brian emerged from upstairs, showered and dressed for a day instructing at the slopes. I expressed my need to get to a doctor, that I was having chest pain and couldn't breathe well.... his response was typical, inconsiderate,... “Well Iʼm not calling in sick.” Meaning I was on my own to drive the two and a half hours home, taking the children with me since I was the only care giver, and then try to arrange our only sitter once home before getting to a doctor.
So Brian went to the ski slopes to instruct, to earn his seven dollars an hour token money and put in the hours to qualify for the real compensation of cheap season passes for himself and the children. It was immediately, apparent that he was more concerned about his reputation with the ski community than the health of his wife. My sensitive son offered to drive me home. He gave up his snowboarding weekend without hesitation to return with me to watch the girls in the event the sitter was unavailable. As it so happened, Harry’s willingness to be by my side was a God send.
I returned home from the ER late that night after intravenous antibiotics and with more than a diagnosis of double pneumonia. The presage of something inherently terrifying was overwhelming my consciousness with so much intensity that my heart continued to beat heavy in my chest and felt weighted down by an anvil.
The adrenaline coursing my veins caused a constant heightened state of anxiety, a constant foreboding of an iniquitous experience was poised to overtake me. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't eat. I wondered if this was it.. was I finally having a nervous breakdown? Had the stress of holding things together without any
authentic or practical support finally be bringing me down?
Every interaction with the children was one of forced agreeability. I didn’t understand. Was the shortness of breath from pneumonia messing with the levels of oxygen in my brain? My parasympathetic nervous responses were entirely overcoming me. I was an emotional wreck, constantly stuck in the fright and flee mode.
As the feelings of raw terror intensified over the proceeding days I waited until the house was my own, the children at school, Brian at the office. Laying on the earthing mat on Mirandaʼs bed, I adopted my yogic ʻShavasanaʼ pose determined to get a grip on what was going on, to settle my mind and regroup. Evidently I needed serious grounding. Straining to take deep breaths I attempted to mediate, reaching for a state of calm that for the past few days had been elusive.
The process begun like a storm ravaged ocean. Waves of intense energy advanced menacingly, imposingly, dragging a layer of the shore back out to sea with each reach. “Breathe”, I repeated every every 10 seconds, counting and focusing only on the life-giving force of the air entering me. My extremities began to get cold, my heart rate slowing. The mediation was working. Gradually, painstakingly the ferocity eased and a sense of peace began to edge itʼs way in to reside on smooth wet sands and the smooth level peace of the horizon was imagined.
Delving deeper and deeper to the source of the anxiety was like trying to unwrap the surprise ‘gift’ beneath news print in a child’s game of ‘pass the parcel’. At least a sense of control was re-established, and even though my breaths were tight and shallow still, I no longer felt trapped in an airless bubble.
In my meditative mindʼs eye I saw a box half immersed in the sand next to my bare feet. Tentatively I reached down and slowly opened the lid. Instantaneously the sense of peace dispersed, I spun out of control again as my body tensed and the lid flung open to reveal anything but a ʻgiftʼ. This was indeed Pandoraʼs box.
Inside exposed such heinous acts of sexual violence that I sat up with a start, a massive lump immediately ﬁling my throat amidst a feeling that there was no way to escape or to ignore....what was, what had been, what still existed as a ʻknowingʼ.
I had unwillingly accepted the knowledge that the experience, the nightmare I’d had in the mountains, had been......... real. It occurred decades ago. But it had....been...real. Subconsciously I fingered the uneven knot of skin near my breast that was the only physical scar that remained after 25 years. It was my nightmare.
My experience. My deeply buried days in hell. Vertigo gripped me even long after Iʼd opened my eyes.That unnerving sense of sinking and spinning simultaneously like being tossed and tumbled in the surf. And always that restriction in my chest, the constant desperation for air. What ghastly facet of my subconsciousness had become uncovered?
What I needed validation of though was the unsavory notion that it had been a part of my past....a part of me. Were these ʻmemoriesʼ truly memories, 'flashbacks' to a horrifically traumatic event that had actually occurred or was I losing my mind? If all of it was real why couldn't I remember it in itʼs entirety? Fragments of truth floated by my consciousness.
There were pieces missing, so much I couldn't remember, so much didn't connect in this half remembered half forgotten nightmare, this fractured awakening. It as like trying to see a path through dense fog where only shapes and the ‘feeling’ there is more exists.
What stayed with me after a return to the ʻnowʼ however, was the feeling associated with astral travel or ʻout of body experienceʼ which I chose not to believe in, yet had no other way of interpreting my experiences. I recalled definite experiences of witnessing, detached from my body, the torment as it played out in the same room on the crude wooden table below whilst my consciousness circled above.
The days passed amidst this haze, I tended to everyone elseʼs needs whilst surfing the precipice of what felt like an emotional breakdown. Outwardly I functioned so my family was oblivious to the internal struggle and adrenaline that coursed through my veins preventing sleep or the simple act of eating. An overwhelming fear of food or sustenance had gripped me. I just couldn't swallow.... Anything!
The mere idea filled me with disgust and evoked images so unspeakable and wretchedly disturbing that they made me want to die. I had stopped sleeping entirely and would lay on the sofa downstairs mesmerized by the moon and planning the day ahead, but try as I might I couldn't escape the thoughts that infiltrated my consciousness, like the lyrics and tune of an addictive song.
Eventually I slipped into an overwhelming sense that I was broken, shattered into a million pieces like an irreparable mirror. My very essence had been stolen.... I was an empty vessel. Spiritually dead. The very strength of this feeling marched in the sickening revelation....it had been REAL! All of it! Real! These were my memories....MINE! Memories buried so deeply by a subconscious intent on
deliberately protecting me from complete emotional destruction. I wasn’t crazy, I was remembering.
More than two decades had passed since those devastating days when I had wanted to die. There was absolutely NO logical reason as to why the whole tragic event need be recalled...but there it was... All of a sudden...a wound so deep it had been covered over by an entire charade of a life played out over twenty five years.
Three weeks passed and I dropped a dress size. I totally lacked the arsenal in my psyche to combat such a destructive onslaught from my past. If I closed my eyes the faces of my tormentors were as clear as if present day. I felt instinctively and intellectually that the trauma from the past held the power to overcome me, destroy me all over again. I couldn't let that happen, I had responsibilities now to others, not just myself. I was the keystone of my family.
Intentionally at one point, I allowed myself to glimpse further back to those heinous few days, to their end... I wanted to remember how I had coped with the assault and how I was able to seemingly ‘forget’ it all those years ago. How had I assimilated it into my life so that I could function despite it? It was all too evident that my psychological coping mechanism back then was not plausible now. I had among other things sought to regain my sexuality and personal power erroneously through promiscuity and domination. Now I was slipping precariously down that slope of denying myself sustenance. Was I inadvertently trying to starve the experience from me again..purge it through starvation?
Far more damaging and intrusive however was the constant, uncontrollable craving for the perversion of sexual domination executed as ʻMadame Genevieveʼ. Thank God I didn't have the outlet to satisfy them...but the frenetic destructive sexual energy was so incredibly intense, the anger so fierce, the desire for release that was never satisﬁed, I felt helplessly emotionally paralytic.
Blatantly evident was the need to find professional help...something I had never considered all those years ago, because of cultural stigma to being in ʻtherapyʼ but most of all because of ignorance and fear. Fear of the wounds remaining open, fear that someone would be prodding them. Fear that I would be made to relive the pain. Fear that I would have to talk about it. 'It' that disgusted me so. ‘It’ that had nearly taken my life, ‘It’ that had cloaked me with shame.
I hadn't considered any aspect of ʻhealingʼ as being necessary. I had shifted instinctively into the survival mode of, ʻforget about it and move on…’It’ never happened…right?’
Yet this had not been your typical date rape scenario that so many women chalk up to experience as a result of naivety. I had endured captivity as a ʻtoyʼ for the sexual, sadistic satisfaction of a grotesque Yugoslav soldier and his comrades. Locked and bound in a dismal brick house on the wrong side of town, no one knowing where I was, no chance of rescue, with hope disappearing as swiftly and silently as a ship sinking at sea during the night, without witness.
During this wretched experience my soul would be torn from me and I would morosely slip beneath the surface of light and life like the sailors aboard that very ship. There were countless reasons why my subconscious had wisely elected to protect me from recounting it via memory all these years. But why had it been bought to the surface now? Was there a purpose in reliving this incredible horror?
Is this how change would be forced upon me? It was crucial to my very emotional
survival that I find a way to make it end...to be a survivor...again. How do I rebury it? Forget that sordid part of my life ...again?..How do I dispel the incongruous thoughts of degradation, of self hate, of ugliness and contempt for myself that have resurfaced so destructively? How do I prevent the memories from possessing the power to affect me viscerally and render me emotionally absent from the reality of my daily life? I didn't have the luxury of focusing solely on my own emotional healing. I didn't have the time to 'process' anything. I was always on call for the demands of the family.
How do I not feel utterly subjugated by the trauma all over again and where do I have to go......... to retrieve my soul? There was someone I knew I could turn to....