I was meditating when the repressed memory came forward. I’d always had a knack for pushing painful moments to the most guarded depths of my mind and wiping all traces from my heart. It’s how I could continue functioning, achieving, smiling, loving. But I came to find out that those corners of my mind could only take so much, and that what I thought I had done by “wiping all traces” was actually a temporary bandage that would soon have no choice but to rip off.
And so it did. During meditation. My repressed memory was of sexual abuse I endured as a child. When the vision appeared, I felt as if I’d been dunked underwater and held down. I was drowning in anxiety, sadness, pain, I felt so badly for my younger self and I wanted to tell younger me that I wasn’t to blame. That I’d be OK. That I’d go on to accomplish things and be the kind of person I couldn’t even have dreamed possible. That night, I spiraled as a painful awareness washed over me. So many things began to make sense. The way I approach intimate relationships. The way I feared rape almost pathologically. I’ve done a lot in my life by myself, including healing from tragic moments on my own, but this I needed help with.
A friend recommended I call Alisa.
Something interesting happens when we’re confronted with a possible solution to our woes. We hide. I called Alisa the day after I received her number. I left her a voicemail. She called me back, but I was too intimidated by the thought of confronting my pain to answer. In fact, I was too weak to talk to Alisa on the phone. The day she called, I was barely functioning, curled up in my grieving the terrors endured by a very young, very innocent and very effervescent me.
And then Alisa texted me. That I could handle. We set a time to talk the next day, and soon I was in her office for a consultation.
I’m not sure how we are capable of holding in so much. And because our minds are so tremendously powerful and protective over us, we become incapable of seeing the whole picture. I liken it to trying to judge what you look like without ever having seen a mirror. My consultation with Alisa was initially focused on the sexual abuse, but after summarizing my life’s story—which is riddled with a nonstop barrage of physical, emotional and verbal abuse—the focus of our work took a turn.
When Alisa held up that figurative mirror, a world of repressed anger, pain and anxiety was staring back at me. It was overwhelming, to say the least.
I got home after our consultation and wept. For the first time ever, I saw myself as a victim of abuse. No matter how many times I’d nonchalantly referenced my “difficult past” or “tumultuous upbringing,” I’d never actually looked it in the face. Here I was, finally seeing, realizing and accepting that I survived a life many people aren’t stubbornly strong enough to endure. I felt sad for them. I felt sad for me.
Weighed down by an onslaught of newfound self-awareness, I hung on, barely functioning, until my first full session with Alisa the following week. And that was just the beginning.