When I was a young child, I was taught from an early age to not talk about what went on at our house. Ever. For years I heard those words over and over.
"You do not talk about what goes on at our house!" said Mom.
So that's what I did. I kept most of those secrets throughout my adult life without even thinking about it. That's just the way it was. Silence!
Sure, I talked some about all of the husbands and boyfriends my mom had, the moves and the number of schools I went to. Even when I did talk about the past, at times I felt some guilt. I was giving away family secrets.
I did not talk about the sexual, physical or verbal abuse. I repressed most of the horrible memories. File the ugliness away in the back recesses of my mind. Just don't think about it.
Until I turned 51. That's when the floodgate of my sickening childhood started spilling out. I will talk about my subsequent nervous breakdown when the memories surfaced. Just not now. Now I want to focus on silence.
When I started recovering my repressed memories, my friends tried to be very helpful.
"Just don't think about it!"
"Don't think about the past. Look to the future!"
"Forget about it!"
"So you're sitting home feeling sorry for yourself?" said an ex-friend.
As in my childhood, my friends were encouraging silence. Ouch.
For years I drank too much. I suffered panic attacks at night. I had severe insomnia. Depression. Anxiety. And the list goes on.
All because I didn't think about it. I couldn't think it. It was just too frightening and painful.
My friends, don't you see? In order to move forward with my future, I have to deal with my past. Facing the grief, the horror and the sadness of my childhood has helped me immensely, as hard as it is. For 18 years I was abused to varying degrees. Now, that's a lot to process. I will be dealing with that for the rest of my life.
Thankfully, I rarely feel a need to drink now. The anxiety and depression that were my constant companions almost on a daily basis for years have significantly decreased. Panic attacks at night are minimal to non-existent.
I still struggle with insomnia some nights. But it's much better.
If you know of someone that is dealing with abuse, whether present, past or both, please do not tell them not to think about it. That is one of the most painful and hurtful things that can be said to a survivor who has suffered in silence most of their life.