Psychology

Expressing Emotion over Past Events



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It all came to a head in spring of 2006. At least five major life challenges came together to send me into a panicky tailspin and a major depression. It was the culmination of a two-year period of weirdness when I knew things were not right, but did not know what to expect. I had no idea what was about to happen to me.

Suddenly after two major surgeries close together, it hit. I was blindsided by irrational fears and knocked to my knees by memories left over from the past. Doctors are unable to tell me if it had anything to do with the combination of anesthesia and previous medications, or if it was just life's cruel way of taking me down a peg. I think it was some of each.

Childhood and my teenage years had not been especially happy. Though our family presented itself in a very refined and dignified manner, nobody knew what was going on behind closed doors. Without going into too much detail about this, I can say that at least one of my siblings and I suffered untold damage to our self-esteem at the hands of an older male relative. I acted out as a child and nobody, not even I, knew why. I lived a great many of my earliest years in a fantasy world, escaping the realities of my young life.

As a teenager, I was rebellious at home and painfully shy at school. I was well liked and got decent grades, but I had no encouragement or desire to achieve. The grades I got came accidentally, because I put forth little or no effort. When I was at home, I wanted to be at school. When I was at school, I wanted to be at home. It seemed I was very confused and I just stumbled through, feeling swept along by the tide of passing from one grade to the next and jumping at the opportunity to get married as soon as school was over.

That was the plan. Get married and have children. I had three, raised them on our never-ending shoestring, and saw them leave one by one. Then there were grandchildren. We helped out our kids and their kids, giving them a place to live and everyday necessities. Then there were divorces and grandchildren living too far away to see. And we were still going on that same shoestring. It was an ever-present struggle.

There were other problems along the way, and obstacles in life that would have put some people away. I pushed through them, sweeping what I could under the rug, and dealing with the rest of it as well as I could. Life was not easy, and time was running out to get it right. Then my health failed and I took a nosedive right into depression. Every unkind word and cruel injustice in my life came back to haunt me. My mother died and two of my best friends were diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Another couple of friends died young. It just all overlapped, along with a few other major concerns, and I caved in emotionally.

Early spring of 2006 found me in therapy, telling all of what had ever happened to a total stranger. It was difficult at first, and I often found myself unable to speak through my sobs. I slept very little and could not eat. The weirdness in my mind caused an inability to drive or do much of anything else. My husband missed work to stay with me, the neighbor checked in if my husband was had to be away, and others came to spend time with me. I was embarrassed on some level, and oblivious on others. I had never been one to need outside help, but this was different. I had no choice but to accept help.

Therapy was good, and in a month or two I was beginning to come around. My therapist was a God-send, and the best listener I could have hoped for. He was patient and empathetic, and an inspiration for me. He got me to see where my thinking was wrong and how and why it was happening. He encouraged me to write, to study, to paint, and to be even stronger than I had ever been. Having never been one to talk much about myself, and certainly not about the painful events of my past, it could have been so much more difficult. Only his patience and understanding got me through the worst of it.

I am not yet fully the person I hope to be; there is reason to think I will be. I am not panicking like I used to, although sometimes I'm on the verge when life throws its notorious curve balls my way. I can see where some of my thinking can get off-track, but now I have coping methods. Expressing the raw emotion that was so deeply buried for so many years has been enormously helpful in letting go of painful memories and accepting them as part of life. There was no way to get past them other than by expressing them, and thank goodness there was someone who could help me do that.

If you have been a victim of child abuse and have lived with the past haunting you, take my words to heart. Find a good listener - a trusted friend or a professional with whom you feel comfortable. Talk. Get the memories out. Instead of fighting them, express them and deal with them so they are less threatening and harmful. It is a truly liberating method of getting your life back and making it better.

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