And so it rose from the deep, a great bubble of pain, anguish and exhaustion.
I always had to be the strong one. There was never anyone else to turn to. There was no one to protect me, no one who knew what to do. No one who was able to listen. So I carried it all inside, like a pregnancy of sorrow.
A few nights ago, maybe Wednesday night I had a pair of dreams.
I’ll discuss the first:
I am at a support group for women survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I have been waiting (in waking life too) a long time to join this group. I am both relived and nervous. The building is busy, the room in which the group held just barely private. It is sectioned off by partitions and book shelves, one wall is all windows that look into the building. I sit at a table with 3 other women. One to my left and two to my right. I am there to support and listen to my fellow survivors; I am there to be supported and heard. The woman two to my right is the facilitator and she invites the woman to my left to speak. She informs us that there are certain things we are not going to be talking about; we don’t want to hear about what actually happened, just how you feel. I nod feeling a slight mix of confusion and acceptance. The woman to my left begins in a cool and disconnected manner. She is nonchalant with her feelings but beneath I can tell there is pain. I listen to her pain, I hold the space for her and feel deeply her sorrow. Then the woman to my right speaks and she is much more emotional. I listen attentively sharing with her the same compassion I held for the first woman. Finally it is my turn. I begin to speak saying “well I’m not sure where to begin, I was very young-” and I am cut off by the facilitator. She says, “we aren’t talking about what happened to you. Start with what you are feeling now.” I nod, feeling a bit afraid. I begin to speak again, and 3 more people enter the room, 2 of them men. They all sit and look directly at me; one o the men is setting up a notebook to write, the other just stares at me. I continue speaking, feeling very concerned that there are men present, confused that they were allowed to enter this space in the midst of the group. One of the men interrupts me and asks me something, “what was rehab like?” his question comes at me like a spear. It is not only inappropriate to interrupt me while I try to tell my story, but it doesn’t pertain to anything. Gently, I say, “no, I was never in rehab. I was molested.” He says “oh’ disappointedly and pulls out some yarn and begins to busy himself with a weaving project of some kind. I feel insulted and wounded by is lack of interest or care. I resume telling my story and am interrupted again, by the woman who arrived with the men. She is writing in a notebook and says “this is getting kind of wordy and it’s hard to take notes. Can you wrap this up?” She speaks with an air of needing to go, like she doesn’t have the time for me, and I am devastated. I give up and then wake up.
Upon waking, I am over come with intense emotion. Feelings I don’t know the names of. I get out of bed and move to the living room, which has become my solution to difficult sleeping. Shortly after my partner wakes and comes out to see if I am ok. His concern helps me, I feel a bit better. In the dark a single tear slides down my cheek as I assure him I’m ok, just need to sleep out here.
After last night I have a better grasp of what this dream was expressing. It was obvious at the time I had it that it was expressing issues around being heard and supported when discussing the sexual abuse I lived through. What I did not realize immediately is that I’ve not had this kind of support before. The pain I felt last night was due to having to carry this story for so long, buried inside me, festering away like some sort of tissue eating disease. As a child, there was no one for me to talk to; no family member was able to hear what I needed to talk about. No one was able to validate me and the feelings I had, the confusion and terror and pain I lived with, even after it was over. I’m sure I still loved my father and couldn’t comprehend why he had hurt me, nor why he was gone. My mother was a wreck after leaving my dad, her own pain threatening to express itself through the experience of her daughter and she could not afford to face it having had even less support than me. I was often silenced. I was often told to keep my story to myself, to keep my words simple and colourless. No details, don’t tell me what happened to you. I’m only concerned with how you are feeling right now.
The message in the dream is clear; I feel, and have felt, silenced. Over-full with words of anguish, horror, pain and suffering. The sound of my tiny screaming voice fills my ears, the only ears to hear it that care to do anything about it.
Last night, I sobbed in my partners arms. He held me, stroked my face, brought me a cold cloth, a glass of water and tissues. He told me to let it out. Don’t hold it in, let it out. He held me against his chest, unflinching, as I wailed and sobbed. He has been able to hear me, to hold my words when i can say them, without needing to say anything back or fix anything, simply listen and hold my words. Last night all I had to say was he was supposed to protect me. I always had to be the strong one. I had to carry this inside because no one could listen or hear it. He listened. He heard it.
This morning I am exhausted, raw, light headed. I am under slept. I have not slept well in weeks. My hope is that this purge will allow me to return to sleeping again.