The Different Shades of Memory

Part I

There are some memories so terrible that they wreak havoc on the mind (and body) when recalled, consciously or otherwise.

Memories of the childhood sexual abuse I endured used to fill me with an awful, powerful fear. A fear that hitched my breathing, and caused a kind of mental and physical paralysis. In addition, they brought about night terrors so great that I’d wake in an unbridled rage; one that was powerful enough that I could knock my considerably large husband clean off the bed with one good shove (and sometimes a punch to the jaw).

Now — after decades upon decades of therapy, and a host of medications to control my anger and night terrors — they fill me with different emotions: fury, regret, sorrow, and mourning.

Mourning for the person I might have been without having endured so much trauma; but the flip side of that is what my husband calls an “unbelievable strength”. He often describes me as “the strongest person [he] knows”, though I have trouble seeing it. And in all honesty, I would trade that strength for a history free of sexual assault and abuse.

As I mentioned, I am on medication — mirtazapine — to control my night terrors. “Control” does not mean that they have been eradicated; it simply means that they have been mitigated to prevent the worst of my reactions to them. I no longer wake up swinging, but I still have recollection nightmares. Dreams that I wake from shaking, with tears streaming from my eyes. And last night, I had one that could only be described as a doozy. (In fact, even now my hands are still shaking uncontrollably.)

There is Always Another Victim

The first experience I had with sexual abuse happened when I was ten-years-old. My grandmother married a man that I would later find out (as an adult) everyone suspected of having abused (sexual, and otherwise) his own children, especially his daughter. And yet, no one seemed to anticipate that it could happen again.

Perhaps they disbelieved that anyone would abuse another’s man’s child — as a grown woman, I still don’t know how to feel about the apathy my family took towards their suspicions, suspicions that would irrevocably change the lives of this man’s step-grandchildren.

I would later find out, through letters written between my cousin and myself, that she too experienced sexual abuse at the hands of my step-grandfather. It was a revelation that broke my heart, and added a tremendous amount of guilt to the emotions I experienced when these terrible memories pounced from the dark corners of my subconscious. Had I said something to my parents — to any of the adults in my large, Italian-Irish family — could I have prevented the abuse that she suffered at his hands?

Why didn’t I say anything? My mother raised us with warnings of strangers and familiars — she constantly reminded us that no secret was too great to share with her, and that there would be no judgement regarding what we disclosed. So what went wrong?

Don Enquist — my step-grandfather (and I feel no obligation to protect the name of this son-of-a-bitch) — threatened to kill my grandmother and my younger brothers, should I ever be bold and/or brave enough to share our terrible secret with anyone. He pulled a hunting knife from the drawer in his den, and told me that they would not die easy deaths, but would leave this world screaming in terror and agony.

I now understand that a ten-year-old child does not posses the mental capability to understand that such threats are usually empty, made only to invoke the inherent fear children have of losing their families — and that their loyalty to their loved ones, and a fierce desire to protect them, will ensure their silence… and fuel the cycle of recurring abuse.

And thus, I would never breathe a word of the terrible things that happened to me to my mother, or anyone else. Not until Don was dead and burned into ash.

Ironically, when I did share what had happened to me — with my mother and my aunt — I would be met with disbelief. To this day, I still know not whether they truly believe me. I know that they have their deep suspicions that it may be true, but suspicion and belief are two very different animals.

There are three people in this world that I know believe me — my cousin Kristi, my husband, and my brother Nicky. But sadly, two of those people have passed through the veil to what I hope is heaven. Kristi was killed in a car accident, and my brother Nicky died at his own hand. And in this last, I fear to this day that I may have played my own horribly, regretable part.

To Be Continued…

And this will lead to my next post, Dear Reader, as I fear I have taken up too much of your valuable time with too much sadness. My hands are no longer shaking, and I am mentally and physically exhausted — a consequence of dark reminiscence and healing.

I hope that you will find the strength to stay tuned. Until next time, may you all experience peace and a semblance of joy today.

7 thoughts on “The Different Shades of Memory

    • This is so very true; although, I often wonder if it’s because (in my case) they cannot handle the thought of being blind to what was happening. I love them, and would not want them to feel responsible for Don’s actions… but yes, it would be monumentally comforting to know I was believed. Thankfully, I still have Mitchell. My rock. 💜

      Liked by 1 person

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