I have just had the most utterly surreal and somehow moving experience; one of those moments where my head is/was attempting to wake me up and bring me back to planet “I can do this” I think… which is always handy.
The last few weeks or so have been an utter *mess* – or it’s felt that way anyway. Due to events, anniversaries and just general stress and mental health, I felt like I fell off the edge a long time ago and I’m now just trying to drop a few cushions so I land at least half-comfortably. Who knows. Sometimes I seemed to pick myself up, but then I was plagued with either “I can’t do this”, “I’m too tired”, “I don’t deserve to feel better”, “what’s the point? If I feel better then something awful will happen later. I might as well remain feeling hideous and wanting to die,” or “it’d be better for everyone if I were dead. I deserve to be.” Ultimately a very depressing and lonely place to be.
It felt like I was treading water but eventually energy ran out and I started drowning, and actually felt the “drown fast” option was a far better idea than “try to swim.” A few realisations and jolts in the last few days have somehow kicked my head above surface for just enough time to breathe, and with that ability to breathe has come a quiet and feeble – but nonetheless present – sense of “maybe I can do this.”
And with that my unconscious has taken it as permission to try and do things to wake me up.
I was in the bathroom at uni. I generally use the disabled toilets due to fears of people waiting to rape me in normal toilets (more places to hide for them). Whilst washing my hands, I was overcome with tears and ended up standing there for a few minutes, head down…just crying. I have no idea what I was crying about. I’ve been in meetings all afternoon so I don’t know if it was just the mask coming off now that I wasn’t needed to be able to function like a normal human being. I felt incredibly sad and weary, and suddenly overcome with the urge to overdose right there…locked in the disabled toilets where nobody would think to look, and nobody could find me and get me to hospital in time. Where this feeling came from I have *no* idea. I have been very suicidal for the last few weeks but I usually feel the total blackness descending, even if just a half hour warning. This came from nowhere. As with every moment of genuine suicidal-ness, I found every justifiable reason as to why I should die, and why it would be better, and why this was the only option. I felt overcome with emotional pain and just wanted to swallow all the pain away, swallow it and black out and never have to feel again.
However, one of the realisations of the week is something which is now going to be a constant safety net, I think, and it worked. I felt the sudden feeling of “I need to die” but remembered this particular fact and took a deep breath, and then lifted my head.
That’s when the bizarre thing happened. It wasn’t me in the mirror. Or, more accurately, it was…but it was my younger self – me aged somewhere between 10 and 12. I had shrunk in size, my hair was longer and natural-coloured. My face was bruised, there were cuts on my neck and the faded yellow-ness of what had been a black eye. I looked thin and pale; ill somehow, which is hardly surprising. Even my clothes had changed. I was having some kind of random flashback of me looking in a mirror, I think. (In hindsight it was a reflection of me not too dissimilar from the memory in this post – https://fightingtheabuse.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/my-experience-of-being-kidnapped/).
I could have focussed on how little and clearly abused I looked. I could have just fallen to pieces at the fact there was a child standing in front of me who had evidently very recently gone through *hell*, and the child was in fact me – it had happened to me. I could have totally drowned in it at that point and swallowed the tablets which were waiting for me to fall.
But I didn’t. Because I struck stunned by her/my eyes. I had not seen those eyes in years…
Eyes of pain, of terror, and filled with fear. But also eyes full of determination, conviction, the knowledge that I was hurt BUT that it was not my fault, but rather this hurt was something I must escape from. The courage and belief in my eyes that I could escape. The hope, although tainted with bitter sadness, was there. They were eyes far too old for any child, but not focussed on the extreme trauma and pain she/I had just experienced, or the fact that she/I was trapped in a ritual ring and surrounded by death, torture, rape and terror on a regular basis. Those facts were evident in her/my eyes, and there was no denying her/my pain and sorrow. But they weren’t the most dominant. Her/my most dominant emotions showing through the eyes were only ones of fighting, hope, determination and a strong sense of self-belief. Because of that, I didn’t drown in pain of the reflection, but instead stared with stunned silence.
Then the reflection smiled. I hadn’t moved a muscle, so I was now very sure this was some memory. Her smile stunned me even more. It was entirely genuine, and warm, and although tainted with pain and blood…the smile was true. For the first time in days, I heard the sound of the children’s laughter rather than their screams…remembered that light did exist. It really did. I could smile then, and I believed then. I was determined then, despite living in the worst kind of hell. Somewhere in the memory, a sound to her right must have distracted her/me. I watched my younger self look away, her smile falter and sadness crease her forehead. But then her/my expression shifted and didn’t hold onto that sadness for more than a fraction of a second. The expression physically turned into an image of strength – everything tensed up but not, it would seem, out of fear…but some form of compassion and determination to overcome whatever piece of hell she had just heard and seen. Despite being in evidently *so* much pain…she/I wasn’t focussed on the pain. She/I was focussed on making it through the next bit. I marvelled at her determination, then remembered it was me. That was once me. Really?!
Suddenly my normal reflection was back, and I had to burst out laughing at the stark contrast. Physically I looked a lot better. No bruises or cuts and not quite so thin and ill-looking. No evidence at face-value that I was feeling deeply pained, traumatised and hurt beyond imagination. There were no pieces of hell happening in the room next to me; no hurdle that needed surviving in the immediate future. I was in a university toilets; safe, dressed well, and having not just gone through some form of torture. And yet my eyes showed very little level of determination or hope, and entirely seemed to lack any self-belief which I had just witnessed in my younger, and more hurt, self. My eyes instead looked very tired, and lost in pain…seeing only pain. They looked defeated.
I shook my head, stunned even more. How did this happen? How did I go from being a child actually in a ritual ring, witnessing such horror so regularly, being tortured brutally often and raped at least once a day, to being a student who, although is by no means 100% safe, is certainly a damnsite safer, is not living in such hell, and is surrounded by friends? How did that happen? And most importantly, how have I grown less determined, and less sure I can make it, and less strong? How?
Wake up Jade…wake the hell up. Okay so the memories are just awful and okay so things are a mess, but you are in a better place than you were then…you *cannot* be finished now, for crying out loud.
Head, I think you’re right. How can I let the pain my younger self fought to survive have been in vain? Irrespective of letting the other children’s pain be in vain…how can I actually let myself have fought so hard when it DEFINITELY would have been far easier to die, to just give up now? My younger self was fighting for a better future, not just for myself but for others. My younger self fought even when Death was staring at her and showing her no other option…still she fought. She screamed so that if she did die whilst being tortured, her screams would haunt her abusers for ever. She laughed with the children to keep herself strong. She argued with the abusers, despite knowing the consequences, just so she did not allow herself to be utterly defeated. She lost so much… and had no reason to keep going except for the children, and for the hope of a future in which she could be free, and could fight to free others. Despite pain of the most extreme kind…she kept fighting, for the hope of a future which she didn’t even know could ever be achievable.
How can I let that be in vain? How can I let my younger self down now? She hoped bitterly for this point where I could even consider myself being in a place where I’m surrounded mostly by people who care. This was her dream…and even though it felt impossible she fought for it. How can I give up now? Would that not be the worst thing for my younger self….to have fought to survive, to have fought to live through such pain…and for it to be me who allowed it all to have been pointless?
I must commit as much energy to recovery as I did to surviving.
I saw my eyes flicker, the weariness lifting a little and the absolute heartbreak and defeat starting to show some signs of light. “I can do this…” I said. “I must.” I flushed the tablets down the toilet, without hesitating, and thanked my younger self for showing herself somehow. For reminding me of what I’ve already overcome, and that frankly to give up now would just be ridiculous, and I could never let a child go through that much pain which I couldn’t prevent, and then prevent the pain from ever turning into a good use. I couldn’t stop the pain I went through as a child but I kept dreaming. I can prevent further harm from coming to my younger self by actively fighting now to make her dreams come true, and her pain less bitterly senseless.
Saved by a random flashback. Who’d have thought it…