When I showed up to my mom’s house for thanksgiving dinner, he was there. No one informed me that he would be coming. When he attempted to hug me, I pulled back and then proceeded to tell him to never touch me again. Confused looks were on the faces of everyone, with my mom’s face standing out the most. ‘Tell the truth!” I screamed.
I had this recurring dream several times a year for perhaps what may have been close to a decade. Sometimes the place would change, but it always ended the same. I showed up. He was there. I became enraged and the dream would end with me screaming at him to tell the truth. Each time I woke up feeling shaken by the dream; my subconscious relentlessly processing in my sleep that which I was incapable of doing in my wake.
I made every effort to avoid him. I wouldn’t come around if he came in town, even if it meant not showing up to the holiday dinner. Once, when living with my sister, I had to retreat to a friends house. I avoided and changed any conversation where his presence could be found. Sometimes the mere mention of his name yielded cataclysmic emotional shifts. I did not offer any explanations; simultaneously no inquiries regarding my absence or conduct were rendered.
I kept my secret.
I kept his secret.
I kept our secret.
I believed keeping this secret ensured a sense of safety. Safety is crucial to surviving. I couldn’t risk more rejection, shame or hurt. The path to this conclusion is somewhat unclear. I believe it was planted during childhood and continued to grow until its roots were embedded into my subconscious. How do I eradicate something so strong, so entrenched, so intertwined with my being?
The dreams became increasingly intense. I would awake unsettled. They became too pervasive to ignore. This secret was not keeping me from harm. It offered no protection. It was a growing tumor: malignant, threatening, wild and unmanageable.
After talking with my therapist, I decided it was time. I wrote a letter to my mom telling her that her brother had sexually abused me during my childhood. I explained to her that I had kept it to myself for so long out of fear, I did not place any blame on her and I was not ready or may not ever be ready to have an actual conversation around it.
My mom cut off contact with him. For the first time in my life, I felt that my mom honored my inner child. I don’t believe this was solely about me; she has her own story. But while other family members did not stop communication with him, my mom did. I believe anything less would have felt like a betrayal, because this is what I have felt as others have continued to have him in their lives. I don’t believe an adult can bring harm to the body and soul of an innocent and vulnerable child and ‘change’ without doing extensive therapeutic work. I don’t know where he is in his life or if he would even admit to the harm he caused. What I do know is that I am moving forward in healing the damage done to my body and soul.
Do secrets keep you safe?
Perhaps, secrets keep you sick.
It has been months since I have told my mom about the abuse. Normally in the same time frame, I would have had another one of the recurring dreams. I haven’t had that dream since being honest. I did have a dream with him in it. In that dream, I looked at him and said I was no longer angry about what had happened. I did not wake up unsettled. I woke up with peace.
#Love and be loved