Sometimes I feel as if I showed up late for my own life. Clearly I was present in my life for my birth and childhood. All through middle school, high school, college, and grad school. I was there for my wedding and the births of my children.
Somewhere in my mid-30s I began to recognize the disconnect that had flowed through my life. That feeling of waiting for real life to begin. I knew it was supposed to be different than it was, especially what was going on in my head -- my interior life -- but I couldn't articulate it, and even when I tried all I seemed to get were blank stares and platitudes.
At 38 I went into counseling and it soon became clear that I had repressed an abundance of horrific memories of abuse from childhood. Repression can be a wonderful thing, not unlike dissociation, but the problem is you lose the good along with the bad. I felt that I had lost my sense of self, but that sounded terribly pretentious even in my own head.
As the memories came flooding back, and panic attacks and flashbacks became the norm in my life, I sometimes wished for the repression and dissociation to return. It wasn't particularly fulfilling walking around feeling only half present, but this constant barrage of pain and questioning didn't seem any better.
"They" kept telling me it would get better. Things would stabilize as the flashbacks and panic decreased. They told me it took 5-7 years to process abuse. I held on to that number -- the magic number for when I'd be all better. Somewhere in the midst of that time I realized what they had really said was 5-7 years for each episode of abuse. When I passed the seven year mark, I had to have a long talk with myself. I had made a lot of progress and it was okay that everything wasn't perfect. I had multiple abusers and multiple episodes with each one. Maybe there wasn't a definitive time frame.
It's been nearly 14 years since I started this path toward recovering from the past. I consistently see things differently now than I did back then. I'm nicer to myself. Less demanding and more accepting. I understand that better doesn't mean it didn't happen. Better doesn't mean no more panic attacks or flashbacks. Better means I recognize them for what they are and have developed coping skills for dealing with the tough patches.
I'm 52 now and I'm just now figuring out who I am. The way I see it, I'd rather be late to this party called life than never to have arrived at all.
linking up with Writer's Workshop