As a child I had a vivid nightmare that haunts me still. In the dream I had fallen into a pit (a sinkhole). My mother was standing at the top of the pit, with my siblings, one a toddler and the other a baby. She looked into the hole puzzled, not knowing what to do. She wanted to help, but didn’t know how. And then she turned and walked away.
Before I entered this alternate universe of grief and pain, back when all my memories were tucked away in that vast expanse we call the unconscious. . .it would have been hard for me to understand how something that happened so long ago could cause someone so much pain now. I likely would have thought something like, “Gee, that is terrible that you were abused as a child, but that was a long time ago. Aren’t you glad that is in the past? What do you mean it is bothering you now? Can’t you just let it go?”
Ah, ignorance IS bliss. It is easier not to know.
However, as I have told you before, the unconscious will not be ignored forever. Forgive me, I know have said some of this before, but I feel a need to restate it.
Childhood is many things. One of the purposes of childhood is learning coping skills. A child falls skins a knee and is comforted by a loving parent. Eventually the child will fall skin his knee, comfort himself and resume playing. However, what happens when a child is confronted with a pain so deep that even an adult would have trouble processing it, and the child is NOT comforted?
It seems the only thing a child can do is put that away in a part of the mind and seal it off to be dealt with at some later time when coping skills and support systems are in place. I suppose it really is the best thing that can be done in such a situation. What happens then though when that child becomes an adult?
The pain, grief, terror, shame, anxiety…all those emotions that were sealed off have been perfectly preserved. When the unconscious is ready to divulge its secrets, unexpected triggers open up the doors of the Haunted Mind, and one finds herself in an Emotional Sinkhole.
People who have not experienced childhood trauma cannot understand the depth and breadth of the pain. I have experienced many painful things in my life: unrequited love, miscarriages (one at 12 weeks that haunts me still), loss of beloved family members (young and old), job lay offs, bankruptcy, foreclosure, life-threatening illness….I have experienced all of these. Yet when one of the doors of the Haunted Mind opens up and I feel the pain I felt as a child: the pain so fresh, so well preserved that it feels like the trauma happened today, no other pain even comes close. And no, I can’t just “let it go”. The trauma caused not just emotional damage, but mental damage as well. I really hate to call it Mental Illness, but I suppose if I were honest I would. I have PTSD, and a Dissociative Disorder….I can no more “let go” of those, than I could let go of cancer.
I am in an Emotional Sinkhole. It’s cold and dark down here, and I can only hope that those who are standing on the edge will not turn and walk away.