The thing about repression is it is a blessing and then a blessed curse later in life.
I was chatting with a friend today and thinking about how different my life was before I found out that I was sexually abused as a child. I felt very grounded, secure, and proud of who I had grown to be (thanks to amazing parents!) Thankfully, my brain helped protect me from the abuse until I was ready to deal with it. It's pretty common for this type of thing to surface around age 40. And that's exactly when it happened to me.
What I wasn't prepared for was just how little I knew about what I was carrying all these years. Let's take shame, for instance. You find out you endured what you did. Your adult self says, "Ok, I've got this. Let me think my way through this healing. First stop, therapy. That's what you're supposed to do, right?"
Talk therapy has never touched my shame. People in my life who behaved a certain way, did. Their actions triggered a response in me I would never have expected.
For example, one time I was being my open, smiley self in a very congenial, innocent way with a man I was not involved with romantically and was told in a disapproving way by a loved one, "Way to make him feel good, Kiersten." It was as if a knife was thrown at my heart and unbeknownst to me, my shame. Upon hearing those words, I began to shake uncontrollably all over and cried so hard for hours. Why was I reacting so violently to that statement? Ahhhhh, because I carry shame—inner child shame—that went to the core of me. It wasn't something I ever thought I carried. Of course, that's because for 40 years, I didn't even know it happened to me.
These moments are torturous gifts. Your rational adult brain KNOWS you did nothing wrong as a child. You were the one who was abused by a sick individual. But your inner child still feels responsible.
I've told friends and family it's like wearing 20 blinders at one time. One by one, they come off. Circumstances, scenarios, and specific people in your life serve to show you what you're really dealing with and show you where healing is needed. And sometimes it hurts more than you can ever imagine.
I'm still learning what I'm carrying and how to truly heal the little girl in me. It's a daily process. Some days are good, some are really bad, and more often than not, many are WAIT??? WHAT? kinda days where a blinder will fall off. And while it may be painful, I'm glad to finally be able to truly see. One blinder at a time.