This was written in the summer of 2008. It’s not really about kangaroos, but it does jump all over the place.
I visited Australia this summer. It was a dream of mine since third grade. Everything I saw lived up to or exceeded my expectations, which is a rare occasion in life. And I got a chance to feed and pet kangaroos and hold a baby joey. I fell totally in love and am obsessed by them. They are wonderful gentle animals and really beautiful in their own peculiar way.
Now this is a really pleasant change from twenty years of obsession with ritual abuse. I think it is a milestone and I would like to celebrate it. How? Well, by getting a pet kangaroo, of course, but barring that …. I’ll have to think about it.
When my memories first crossed the consciousness barrier, it seemed totally natural to be obsessed twenty-four seven. All day long it was: “Oh my God! Me! They did what??? I think I will die of a heart attack remembering this horror.” Night and day, it was unrelenting. I was working as a therapist at the time, and I was amazed and grateful that it let up briefly when I was with a client. I couldn’t understand how I could put all that aside and think of somebody else, other pain, other problems. I still don’t understand, but that’s the way it was.
Little by little I got a bit of distance. Reading voraciously helped. I think it was because the information was coming from the printed page, rather than from my own mind. It gave me a bit of badly needed perspective. I was less intensely obsessed with ritual abuse, but I made up for it by becoming preoccupied with finding books. I must have read close to a thousand books during that period, many of them more than once.
I realize that not everybody reacts this way. Some people are able to compartmentalize and turn their full attention to other things even in the first stages of remembering.
I have a funny story about that. Before the web existed, I was in a Usenet group for sexual abuse survivors. I became friends with another RA survivor and we were talking one evening by phone. She asked, “Don’t you ever turn it off?” And I, thinking she was talking about my computer, said, “No, I understand it lasts longer that way.” She meant turning my mind away from ritual abuse!
Gradually I became able to think of two separate things at once. Part of me was aware of ritual abuse; part was wondering what to have for dinner. (In the beginning those things were tightly linked: “Here is the ritual abuse survivor thinking about what to have for dinner. What is not too triggering?”) Over time, when I thought of something else, ritual abuse traveled further and further back in my mind, becoming fainter. But I was fully involved, passionate, only when I was dealing with RA.
When I first saw those kangaroos, I had no idea I had processed my abuse enough to become obsessed with something else. Maybe my mind and heart grew in those years: I don’t know. All I know is that it took me totally by surprise. It’s not that I care less about ritual abuse, or that it has become less important, it’s that there is room for more in my life. I never thought that day would come, and now I wonder if there is room to become passionately involved with politics, or to fall in love again, or to train for competitive swimming meets. Or to move to Australia and become a zookeeper.
So the answer to the question every survivor has when they first start remembering is, “ Yes. It does get easier. Not nearly fast enough, but it does get easier.”
Adapted from Survivorship Notes Vol 10. No 7/8