Memories are interesting. When our son was 16 we convinced to go see a counselor. His best friend was the one who sexually molested our daughter and he was dealing with guilt and shame and had started vaping to cope. My husband and I went with him for the first session. The counselor started with normal counseling jargon, to be honest I checked out pretty quick. I was currently taking our daughter, Faith, to a different counselor and sitting with her every session as she went through EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy. I’ll get into that more in a minute. The counselor started talking about how trauma imprints on the brain differently than normal memories. I thought he was trying to make up excuses for why we can’t deal with our issues. I’ve always thought that if you can’t deal with your stuff from the past then it was a sign of weakness and everything the counselors say are just excuses to make you feel better. When he asked my husband and I where we were on August 12th of 2000, I decided to humor him and admitted I had no idea. He followed it up with “What about 9/11/01?” We both very quickly shared exactly where we were, what we experienced, and what we felt. He then asked if we were personally in any of the attacks, or knew friends or family who were directly affected? We both shook our heads, very confused with where he was heading. I’ll never forget his next statement. ”Neither one of you were directly affected by the attacks on 9/11, you don’t even know anyone who was hurt from them but yet you both remember with absolute clarity exactly where you were, what you were doing, and how you felt. How much more so when the trauma happens directly to you or your loved one?”
The question hung heavy in the air. For the first time I started to realize that maybe not being able to deal with your stuff wasn’t a sign of weakness but maybe the way the brain processes. I mentioned that I watched Faith go through EMDR, for those of you who aren’t familiar with that processes I’ll explain the best way I can. When God created our brains he built in an automatic defrag that happens every night called REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. When you’re in REM your brain is actually processing and filing the events from the day. Traumas that are too hard to process get shoved in a dark closet. EMDR replicates REM and engages your brain in this same state, then the counselor walks you through the traumatic events. As you walk through this process they help you access these memories that are burned into your brain and deal with them in a healthy fashion. A brutal and painful process but I’ve seen it work first hand. There was a night and day difference with my daughter after she completed it. It was a lot of work but thank God for the healing. There’s still scars but she’s so much better.
This fall as her first homecoming approached I started to see signs of a relapse. She’s had a few over the years so I’m getting better at seeing the signs. I thought at first that it was due to all the boy’s asking her to homecoming and walking through that new experience. I waited for a few weeks to make sure I was reading things correctly before I mentioned to her that possibly all the attention she was getting from boys was causing a relapse. As we talked she asked me why I hadn’t mentioned anything sooner. I told her it’s the same reason I don’t call my dad on May 17th (the day my brother died) and ask him if he remembers what day it is. All of a sudden it hit me like a ton of bricks, September is the month she was molested. There was a lot more going into her relapse than just boys drooling over her. I realized that this was why I had been out of sorts the last few weeks, the reason behind the worst fight my daughter and I had had, and the reason behind her current struggle. Over the last eight years there’s been a few times that I told her that she was struggling because it was the anniversary but only as a last resort. I’ve tried really hard to not give her the date, hoping that it wouldn’t become an annual reminder. Each time in the past when I’ve told her there’s been such a visible relief, yet I still hesitated this time. I waited a few more days and saw the anxiety and fear building as homecoming came closer. Then the night before homecoming I went to her room to tell her goodnight and give her a hug. As I hugged her she fell apart. She stated she didn’t feel like herself and she couldn’t shake it, ”Mom, what is wrong with me?” She went and sat on her bed, I looked at her and my heart broke. I knew if I told her what was wrong that this time she wouldn’t forget, now it would be forever tied to the homecoming time of year.
When storms roll through my pain levels get significantly worse. The barometric pressure changes and with it my body complains at a whole new level. Knowing that it’s temporary and when the storm passes I’ll be back to normal gives me hope and helps me endure the storms. I hoped that this would be the case with Faith as I told her that this was the time of year she was molested. I saw the sadness, pain, and hurt in her eyes as it sunk in. Then the tears stopped and she said, ”Thank you. Now I know what’s wrong.” Had I told her as soon as I had realized it maybe I could have saved her some frustration and pain, but I thought I could ”protect” her. I knew better, I just didn’t want to walk through it again. I didn’t want her to walk through it again. I didn’t want to look at the scars and re-open old wounds. I wanted to pretend that it would just all go away, and in the process I caused more pain.
In the Bible it never tells us to burry our pain, fear or worries. It tells us time and time again to take them to Him, yet I keep thinking that if I just pretend like it doesn’t hurt, that I’m not worried that somehow it will all just magically disappear. That if I try to find different reasons for Faith’s pain that maybe she won’t have to re-live it another time. But it never works. Maybe for a short time I can pretend it away but eventually I always have to face it. It says, ”cast your cares on Him.” When you fish you cast, it’s a constant action, not a one and done. We have to constantly cast our cares on Him. I’ve never met a fisherman that said, ”I cast my line once, nothing bit so I’m heading home.” That’s not the way it works with fishing or with our cares. It’s a minute by minute, taking every thought captive and brining it before Christ, so that He can control, guide, and heal us.
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