Friday, November 4, 2011

Finding My Shadow

In her memoir "Before the World Intruded" Michele Rosenthal writes:

When you survive a life-threatening experience you become another person justlikethat. It happens in an instant. If it's happened to you, you know exactly what I mean. One minute you're minding your own business, aware of who you are and what it means to be you - and then, Wham!, all of a sudden that self is gone.

I spent a lot of time trying to get my old self back. Then a lot of time in mourning when I finally accepted that I could never get her back. And then more time trying to become a new person.  Yet always knowing I was not whole.   It is a very strange life, the life after your soul dies.

When I last met with Daphne’s mother, she had asked me about that day. And she said that all she knew came from the police report. A police report? I had never seen the police report and I asked her, if she still had it, to send me a copy. Which she did. Which again sent me reeling into that void between then and now.

One of the hardest parts of my recent therapy was the trying to remember and process what happened to me. I can vividly remember what happened to Daphne, that plays in my head constantly. But, as the mind will do when it is flooded with more than it can handle, it dissociates from the event. So while my body was suffering, my mind kindly checked out. Most of my therapyy work was centered on trying to get back those memories because although they are not consciously remembered, they constantly reek havoc underneath the surface.  Through the immersion therapy, revisiting the site, and particularly the hypnosis, I was able to recall some of those details.   Yet  I have always seen those memories as if I’m an outside observer watching them happen.  I have yet to be able to place myself back in that body as the attack occurred.  And perhaps that’s for the best. Yet I still have this overwhelming need to reconnect to that body, to that person I left bound and gagged and raped and broken.

Reading the police report was shattering. There is a statement by the officer summarizing the events. Sadly, the emphasis is on us being two lesbians, and the difference in our races, and that unwritten but very clear suggestion that ‘we got what we deserved.’ Unfortunately, I don’t think much has changed in that regard in the intervening years.

Then there is a statement that I made. I have a vague recollection of speaking with an officer at the scene, but oh so freakish to now see my words written there above what is my signature. I barely remember who that person was.  And then there is a statement that Daphne gave, days later in the hospital.  Reading about the attack through her eyes was quite the mind fuck, seeing it all from her point of view.. 
So much I did not remember. Details that sent me to bed for a few days, rocking in my fetal position.  Bruising flashbacks.   So much that happened to me that I struggle to remember on a conscious level but I know I feel on some level.  They lurk in my peripheral vision or just under my skin, waiting.   I am beginning to confront them and make peace with them.   It's a good thing.
For years I have felt like Peter Pan searching for his shadow.  I know that to be healthy and whole again I somehow need to integrate those memories with the feelings associated with them and to reconnect to that person.  Not to go back and be that person. I know that is impossible.  But those memories are like my shadow.  I know that in order for a shadow to exist, light and darkness must both exist. For me to be whole, I have to have my shadow back - it is all a part of me.
I am getting so close. Each puzzle piece that falls into place, each memory that comes back, no matter how disturbing, gets me closer.  I feel like I have now found my shadow.  I just need to catch it and sew it back on.


  1. Thank you for posting this!

    "this overwhelming need to reconnect to that body, to that person I left"

    gave me such an insight to a feeling of guilt I've been living with. I had the same 'out of body' experience during the rape. I realize now that I left my young self lying there by herself to deal with it. Much to think about that. My mind is spinning - DB

  2. DB - Yes. There is something nagging about that sense of leaving your body alone to deal with trauma. Maybe that's the need to go back - to go over it again without deserting yourself. Or something like that. My mind is spinning too. Great to have others to bounce it off of.

    Doxy - wordless? really? you of infinite opinions? That made me smile.

  3. Also wordless, with cyber-hugs.

  4. I don't know whether to laugh or be offended.... ;-)

  5. Was that like reading an eye witness account of your own death? That's what it would feel like to me. I don't think I'd want to that.

  6. Kim - actually it felt like reading the account of a stranger. But a stranger who I knew was me. I think that is my problem - trying to put fuse those two identities back together. Hard stuff but it actually feels good.

  7. To get back part of that younger version of yourself, the innocent and idealistic and hopeful person that you were the moment before your world was shattered, would be monumental. To reconnect with that self, to reintegrate even a small portion of that self into the person you are today will be the most healing, and whole-making thing you will ever do for yourself. And, you will do it. You are doing it.

    No, we can't go back to being the people we were before our worlds changed. But, if we can remember the simplicity, the trust, the confidence we had then, and bring a fraction of that back, then we will have succeeded and even, triumphed.

    all my love,

  8. But please don't ever grow up.

  9. I bawled at my desk when I read this post on Friday. I just sat there and cried.

    I can't imagine this, reading about myself in a report, reading things that happened to me that I can only remember physically. I know you dislike the word brave, but this is what comes to mind when I run this scenario through my mind. Certainly you are the very essence of strength.