For many years now I have wanted to share my story.
The thought that I may be able to help others by sharing my own experiences has been an important factor in my own recovery and healing process. It has given my suffering meaning and with this I am able to rise each morning, count my blessings and, in the words of Henry David Thoreau, ‘live deliberately’.
Unfortunately this week I have also been plagued with nightmares. It has been exhausting.
Last night I had some particularly disturbing nightmares about the abuse I suffered whilst living at Denver House. After waking for a third time I called for my dog. She knows this routine well now. She dived under the covers, turned herself around and then settled down next to me with her head resting on the opposite pillow.
Having her next to me and listening to her breathing (snoring) helped me to ground myself in the present and go back to sleep.
This time I had a wonderful dream that I would like to share with you.
I dreamt that I was cycling along a winding, cobbled road that climbed a steep hill. I was tired and it was dark. The bike I had was not suited to the road I was riding along which made the journey difficult but I would not allow myself to stop. I had a sense that I was almost where I needed to be although I had no idea where I was or where I was going.
I kept on cycling until I reached a flat surface on the hill. I stopped just as the sun began to rise. As it rose it spilled light over everything below it, revealing a beautiful town just on the other side of the hill. Beyond the town I could see the ocean glistening.
I like the way the light of the sun takes the place of the night’s darkness each morning.
I am grateful that I am enveloped by this light every day no matter how long the night before it.
The sunrise reminds me that light finds it’s way into all places in the same way that our inner light will shine through an open heart and wash over all of the darkness we have known.
I had a dream that I went to visit Denver House. Some of the lads that I lived with were there but we were all adults now. There were new staff on shift and the office window with the bars had gone, with just a hole in the wall where the window had been. As I looked out I noticed there were over a hundred sunflowers outside of the office. I climbed through the hole in the wall and went over to them, upset because they were all dead. I slumped amongst them and started to cry. Softly at first and then I was sobbing and running my hands over all of the dead flowers thinking of all that had happened to me in that place when I was 13 and how much it had taken from my 13 year old self. I sobbed for her, for my adult self and for all of us who were unable to follow the sun in that place.
As part of the counselling degree I am studying for, we were asked to write about grief and loss, either what it felt like or what it sounded like, according to us. I chose to write about how it sounded.
A piercing sound that shatters the core of me as if I were made of glass. I no longer recognise myself. I am fragmented.
I search through the shards for my reflection. I am desperate, flailing. Physical pain isn’t registering but God, the emotional pain is slicing into me like the glass slicing through my fingers.
The piercing sound has stopped but its echo lingers in my mind tormenting me. I can’t find my way back.
There is no way back.
Upon reflection, it is clear to me that I have written about the grief and loss I experienced as a result of rape.
And there is no way back. No way of restoring the sense of self I had identified with before I was raped. Like the echo of the sound that lingered, I will never not know the pain of that experience, the sound of it, but in the shattering of who I was I was awakened to the knowledge of that which cannot shatter, and with that knowledge I continued and continue on.