In the last month or so, I have received a handful of messages and emails from people from my childhood: old friends, neighbors and classmates I haven’t spoken to since I was a teenager almost twenty five years ago. They had seen my t.v. interview, read my book and my blog and all felt the desire to reach out to me.
I haven’t been able to bring myself to reply to any of them yet. It isn’t that I doubted their sincerity or that I didn’t appreciate their compassion or empathy. Truthfully, each letter brought me to tears and meant more than any of them could imagine. It’s that honestly I do not yet possess the words to respond.
For almost twenty five years now, I’ve been running from my past. When I was a child, I was trapped in a hell I never thought I would never escape. When my mother shot my father and my world turned upside down, I saw it as an opening, my one chance to get away and free myself from my past. I began to run, pushing everything behind me, hoping if I ran long enough, fast enough, far enough, I might one day finally be free.
I still carry with me an odd mixture of unresolved feelings from those years. Beyond the hurt and the anger that others might feel is only logical, there resides other emotions that are not as easily explained and even harder to process and move beyond.
I carry with me shame for some of the things that happened, because I allowed them to happen, though I know deep down that I was just a child who had her will crushed and had lost her ability to say no.
I carry with me guilt for not being stronger, not being able to fight harder, to be braver, to make it through more intact instead of the crumbling mess I often feel I become when I allow myself to return to that time and place.
I carry with me regret that I distanced myself over the years from so many people, due to no fault of their own, simply because their place in my life existed in close proximity to traumas I was trying to escape.
I carry with me an irrational fear of reopening doors from my past because my past is where all the most terrifying monsters I’ve known reside and part of me worries that reopening one door might open the floodgates, allowing everything to rush back at once.
Beneath it all resides a jumble of other feelings I have yet to even unearth or decipher. Just when the waters surrounding me appear to calm, they wash over me unexpectedly like waves in a storm, threatening to throw me overboard again. For years now, I’ve been fighting to stay afloat while I work my way through each wave as it appears.
I’m slowly letting down walls, reaching out and trying to let people back in but it is not easy. It is a painfully slow process, untangling those threads of my past from the jumble of razor wires that had cut me so deeply all those years ago. I am truly grateful beyond the words I currently possess for every kind and gentle word they have extended my way and do not intend to leave their letters unanswered. I just need to first find the strength to delve back into my past, the courage to face my fears and find the words to help rebuild bridges I burned long ago in my haste to flee from the nightmares I feared I would never escape.