my life is a *trigger warning* – forgetting
notes on surviving ritual abuse
forgetting was a necessity. it was an act of survival. i hated the cult so intensely that i needed programmed amnesia to live through my childhood.
otherwise I would have:
– killed myself, and/or one or more of the adult cult members
– been killed or disappeared by the cult
– succeeded in telling a trustworthy non cult member who would have believed me and taken action to save me and to stop the cult
forgetting made it much less likely that any of this would happen. it meant that i would have an identity with no memory of abuse. this is the identity that i have “always” remembered – even though my memories were edited and altered. this identity was the person i was used to thinking of as myself in my everyday life.
“i” was created some time around age 3, i think, as this is when i started preschool at hopewell elementary school. before preschool i was always, or almost always, with cult members, both adults and children. around cult members, i didn’t really require an identity who wasn’t aware that i was being tortured and abused, and of how scared i was and how much i was suffering, as all of the adults i met were actively abusing me, while the other children were all also being raped and tortured.
the purpose, for the cult, of creating a personality that did not remember the ritual abuse, was to prevent me from telling, to keep me ignorant, as well as pacified. Its purpose for me, as I grew older and made my secret plans, was to escape.
forgetting was a compromise. although it was essential to my continued survival, it wounded me badly. it damaged my ability to be honest with myself and my trust in myself, and, equally important, the visceral need I had to tell the truth. in the cult, in an atmosphere that was a thick net of lies tying people to one another with lies layered on lies through lies layered with lies, the act of speaking the truth was a way of staying sane.
forgetting, and the internal and external silence that ensued, resulted both in a psychological and a living situation that was not tenable. this played a central role in the three serious mental breakdowns i have lived through, as well as the fragility of my mental health.
my single most desire was to heal, but this was impossible without remembering the ritual abuse. remembering would mean that my entire family, and many of my “friends” were not people who loved and cared about me, but a group of viciously abusive, brutal, and potentially dangerous persons whose only real interest in me was ensuring that i never spoke out about them and the cult.
and so, from the age of 18, when i ran away from home, until 34, when i remembered the ritual abuse, i spun in a slow spiral, moving year by year further and further out of the cult.
psychologically, i lived for 2 decades with the haunting feeling that i had secrets, and that something was wrong. i spent these years trying, time and again, to heal my damaged psyche, without ever being conscious that this is what i was doing. i did not know why i was in such pain. in some ways, i didn’t even know i was in pain, or that this suffering was unusual, that it was something that other people didn’t experience regularly. i did not know why i hurt so badly, and without understanding its origins, i was stuck, could not heal and could only endlessly circle my wounds.