By M.J. Payne, Author, The Remembered Self: A Journey into the Heart of the Beast
THE REMEMBERED SELF is the story of my mysterious amnesia regarding big chunks of my childhood. I was the bookworm with no friends and no lunch who wandered the playground in isolation. I had recurrent nightmares of the same gorilla chasing me up a rickety structure and I always fell and never landed. This was the divided self I lived with. It was not until I graduated from college and had a year of graduate school that I didn’t recognize the face in the mirror. A slow leak of intrusive memories began. The floodgate opened after a brief ugly marriage and I almost drowned. Forbidden memories of graphic terror engulfed me and I recalled things I feared I could never tell anyone.
Telling is important. It is a bridge out of isolation. I remember sitting in a hospital waiting room across from another woman. I looked at her and smiled and she burst out suddenly saying she had something to tell me. I raised my eyebrows. We sat in the cramped MRI waiting area almost knee to knee. I asked her what she wanted to tell me. I watched her fidget with her curly hair that fell in silky tendrils to her shoulders. She looked down at her fingers knotted together in her lap and back up at me. Her huge eyes glistened with a film of tears. A painting of the indigo sea around a tropical island graced the wall behind her in the small alcove and her blue eyes seemed an extension of the deep, fathomless ocean.
“I was assaulted constantly when I was a kid. Sexually. I am so ashamed.” She lowered her head into fingers spread like a claw and her shoulders heaved. I leaned over and put my hand on her arm. She looked up. I got a pack of Kleenex from my purse and handed her one.
“You aren’t alone. Did you know that about one out of six boys and one out of four girls are abused before the age of eighteen?”
“No. I avoid the subject.” She dabbed her eyes and looked at me suspiciously. “How do you know that’s true?”
“Because I’m one of them and I look things up. Are you scared about your test?”
“Yes. I’m afraid I’m sick because it’s my fault. He said if I told he would kill my puppy. So I didn’t tell for a long, long time.”
I guess she told me because I was the only one there and if I rebuffed her no one would hear. Her fear of being alone was greater than that of telling. We talked for some time and I mentioned abuse could lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the signs of it: depression, panic attacks, and flashbacks; feeling like you aren’t in your own body, nightmares, headaches and body pain that comes sometimes without a cause. I told her that 60% of abusers are non-relative close family members. She nodded and said it was a friend who had dinner often with her family and watched her when they went out. When they came out to get her for her test we squeezed hands because we had made a connection. She carried my words into the fearsome test area. Never underestimate the comfort you can give.
In preparation for writing this post I looked at some statistics from PTSD United and discovered 70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced a traumatic event which equates to about 223.4 million people. Up to 20% of them go on to develop PTSD – about 44.7 million have it at any period of time. That is equal to the population of Texas. Women are twice as likely to get it, and combat veterans are notorious sufferers of the disorder. I think it is time for abuse and PTSD to come out of the closet so people can get some help. THE REMEMBERED SELF: A Journey into the Heart of the Beast was hard to write. I did it because I could, and for the silent ones.
M.J. Payne is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Kentucky with a degree in Literature and Creative Writing. She has a business background, is interested in human rights, psychology, history and laughing a lot. She loves dogs and race horses.
Find MJ at:
Twitter — https://twitter.com/MJPayneAuthor
Based on a true story that begins in rural Northern California, a young girl grapples with a psychopathic father who abuses her himself and traffics her to a pedophile ring centered in a mansion riddled with secret rooms. The father participates in punishment rituals for nonpaying clients, and lives on the funds generated from this and trafficking his daughter. The child’s mother works at night and is unaware of what horrors are befalling her daughter, but knows her husband is dangerous. The mother and daughter flee from the father, chased by him and by a huge truck. As the girl matures into adulthood, she is overcome with ghastly buried memories as they emerge scene by scene, and she fights for her life while being pursued by demonic creatures in her dreams.