Emotional Sinkholes


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.


  1. I know what you mean about the pain of childhood trauma not comparing to present day adult pain. It's really true. I've had bad things happen to me as an adult, and that pales compared to tapping into the unprocessed child pain. Emotional sinkholes for sure. I'm sorry you're in one Leslie and hope you find a way out in time. take care

  2. I won't walk away, I promise. If you need anything…just let me know. My heart hurts for you my friend because you did not ask to be or put yourself in the tough situations you have had to experience, however you are a much stronger person then you realize because of the trials you have lived through. You are definitely one of the most compassionate people I know too. and as always look at the darling, loving, caring hilarious cute kids you have! Great testament as to what type of person you are. 🙂 I have never been in the situations you have especially as a child, so I cannot say I relate to your pain but I will say that I am here. 😉 xoxo

  3. I resonate with what you write. I think that's how it works. You tuck it away because you don't have the skills. And even if we don't learn the necessary skills when we were meant to, we can learn them later. There is another way to think about this: that when we learn them much later than we are supposed to, we have a huge appreciation for those skills and the healing capability that comes with them.

  4. Leslie, I just wanted to tell you that I spent the last two hours reading your entire blog. OK, I only made it back to somewhere in 2009, but have to get back to my poor kids. Just want to give you a virtual hug and let you know that I've always admired you and now even more. The "lies" you talked about, I've told myself those lies a million and one times. I feel paralyzed sometimes by the "lies" because I'm not good with words and I'm afraid I'll do more harm than good or seem insincere. I'm going to try and stop hiding behind them because often my heart aches for you and others who are having a hard time. I need to let people know that I care. Thanks for sharing your experiences and emotions. I have learned today. ❤

  5. You have a great was of describing the pain that comes from unprocessed childhood memories. Thank you for sharing. I know the sinkholes can be so deep, but if you keep persevering through them, you will find the way out.

  6. Thank you everyone! I was really in a bad space when I wrote this post. I am feeling a lot better now.Ellen, thank you so much for reading and for your comment. I really appreciate having another "witness" about the intensity of unprocessed child pain!Jenna, you are a sweetheart, thank you! I really appreciate you and your friendship. Of course, I love that you love my kids! We love you and your family too!Paul, thanks! I love your optomistic point of view. You are right, of course! We can learn those skills, and be extra grateful for them. Thanks for reading and commenting!StraightA's…oh my stars two hours?! I don't know if you deserve a medal or a hug, LOL! Seriously, thank you! I think that is a wonderful compliment. I am basking in it! Thank you so much for what you said, it means a lot to me!

  7. Charlene, thank you! I really appreciate your kind and encouraging words. I will keep working at it…one day, sometimes one hour, or one step…at a time. Thanks again!

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