Anyone who avoids looking back on their childhood because something makes them feel glum may greatly benefit by not ignoring what they feel.
Late in life I learned this.
For years I shrugged off bad memories, thinking what happened couldn’t possibly be consequential. No one’s life was perfect, anyway, right? And what could things that happened so long ago have to do with the person I had become in adulthood?
And so I plodded along. Worked on my career. Eventually managed to maintain a relationship. Still, something inside ate at me. Sometimes there were memories with unsettling emotional ferocity that I pushed back down every time the flashes surged to the surface. I often felt depressed, but that was normal, too, right? Apparently half the country was on Lexapro, Xanax or Wellbutrin.
It was only after I found myself every weekend trapped in a cycle of binge drinking and depression that I started to piece together that something wasn’t right and wasn’t going to magically correct itself. Why was my behavior stuck on infinite loop?
Of course I never shared my worries with my spouse because I had long established that I was the “strong, silent type” so it was perfectly normal to keep my feelings to myself. I’d never even realized that hiding myself from others had been a pattern I’d established in childhood. It was simply who I was.
To my credit, I did muster the courage to share with my spouse my intention to start seeing a psychotherapist. The news was met enthusiastically. I explained I wanted help escaping the bouts of depression and knew my weekend behavior was beyond what I could curb on my own.
I started the sessions. Eventually I opened myself to the psychotherapist and shared things I had never told a soul. We built trust. We began to dig into my past and exposed buried secrets to the light of day. I learned many of the things about myself that I took for granted were rooted in childhood abuse. Low self-esteem. Hiding myself. Constant vigilance against the world outside myself.
I’m still working with the psychotherapist, and making progress. For the first time in my life, I’m opening to others – including my spouse – and learning how to share. Forcing myself upward. I’m finding human connection to be the most helpful, healing prescription of all. But first I have to dare to open.