Part of the continuing story by Thriving On the Other Side of one woman’s quest to overcome a childhood of abuse.
It took me a few weeks of EMDR therapy to realize that I had almost no memories of my childhood between the ages of five and 14. Sure, I had images, snapshots of happy moments, moments when I was safe, when I knew I was loved by my mommy. A special Christmas pageant, a trip to buy new school clothes, horseback rides across our farm. I had lots of little standalone images. But I had almost no memory of my father.
My memories of my father start before I was five, then disappear until I reach 14. Those were the years of the abuse and torture. After I turned 14, everything changed. I believe now that’s the time when my mother learned the truth, and she stopped the abuse. From that point in time, my father and I raged at each other. He’d pick on me in ways that he knew would hurt me deeply. I’d explode. Everyone chalked it up to my teenage years, including me. We were all so wrong.
My father and I argued and fought just as his mother and he raged. I remember my mother telling me I didn’t want to be the same way with my father as he was with his mother. So I tried really hard, in my late teens and through college, fighting to keep control in the face of his taunting. But then he’d push a button, intentionally hurting me on an emotional level, and I’d react, big time.
By the time I was in my early 20s, I deeply hated my father, even as I adored my mother. I had no memories of what really happened in my childhood, but the rage was still so strong. I realize now all that anger was due to so much more than just his picking on me. I may have forgotten what really happened, but my rage was still speaking my truth. I just wasn’t able to listen.
I spent years in therapy focused on healing my anger with my father. He wasn’t about to change — he just kept getting more angry and aggressive with me. But deep inside I knew I had to heal that relationship to heal myself.
But no matter what I tried, no matter how much of an adult I tried to be, my father could always trigger my anger with a single comment. Always. He’d punch a button, I’d explode. And he would win, again.
I understand now that my rage was My Truth, shouting to be heard. Yet no one suspected that truth. I spent time with four different therapists, one for over 10 years, and no one suspected. That’s a testament to the power of our subconscious. We are wired to do everything we must to survive, including burying horrors that are so overwhelming we have no way to cope. Creating stories as camouflage, hiding the truth even as our inner voice rages to be heard.
My dad died before I knew the truth about my childhood. By the time I took care of him for two years before his death of cancer, I was in control of my temper. I took care of him, ignoring his ugliness. But after he died, the anger began to show itself in new places, again. The voice of my truths still needed to be heard.
Only now, with my little girl’s truth out in the open, have the rages subsided. During the three years of my healing, the rages were my guidance system. When an old threatening memory was triggered by something in my reality today, the rage would come front and center. It was my signal that there was another facet of my subconscious that needed to heal.
Today, anger is a rare thing in my life. When I do feel a bit of a spike, it’s almost always triggered by a voice crying out that needs to be heard. I work with Sue, my therapist, and we listen to the voice — and I take yet another step forward into my true life.
I’m looking forward to the day when all of those voices are heard and freed, forever.
“Chaos Inside” by h.koppdelaney @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.