When I left home to go to college, I forgot everything that my family did to me. I knew that my family was a bit quirky but had no idea about the abuse I endured. I laughed, played, and made friends in ways I never had before. I didn’t want to be around my family, but I didn’t know why. I felt free for the first time in my life, but the freedom scared me. I became afraid that I would make someone angry and I could not bear the thought of that. I had no idea how to make healthy friendships, so I clung to people often overwhelming them and pushing them away. I wanted so desperately to be loved, but I had no clue how to make that happen. For that matter, I did not know what love was.
My first two years of college seemed magical, but I didn’t feel completely safe or comfortable. My thoughts sometimes drifted to desires and behaviors that I did not understand. In my mind, I was a virgin, because the memories of the abuse I experienced were gone. However, the emotions, desires and physical components created by the years of sexual, physical and emotional abuse remained.
A major component of Post Traumatic Stress is how our body responds to triggering events. Even without a conscious memory of the physical intimacy that my family forced on me, my body remembered exactly what to do when a boy touched me. The body remembers what the mind does not. My response to physical intimacy was automatic, much like muscle memory that allows me to complete repetitive motor tasks without conscious thought.
The Sonnet, “The Forgotten Fire” describes my experience as I navigate between the incomplete conscious memories of my childhood and the unconscious emotional and physical memories of the abuse I endured, which were triggered when I met a boy who wanted physical intimacy. The sonnet provides a glimpse into my struggle to understand the emotions and my reaction to something I thought was a totally new experience.
I thought I had to play the game or die.
At eighteen I could not recall what made
Me think that men would only make me cry.
I forgot the lies and the price I paid.
No more in his grasp, can my heart take flight?
Free to be a new and beautiful me.
No longer the child made for his delight,
I laughed and played for all the world to see.
Then I met a boy that made my heart burn.
His touch ignites a forgotten fire.
I fear the flame but don’t know where to turn.
When have I felt such fear and such desire?
I wonder how do I know what to say?
Lord, who am I? Why do I act this way?