Mother's Denial of Sexual Abuse

In The River of Forgetting, you talk about how your mom, "Myra", basically told you to forget about what your dad did to you as a child. How did that make you feel then and now? And how did you move on from it?
It made me feel crazy. What was I supposed to do with this huge betrayal? My feelings were not seen or heard and my reality was denied.

My mother’s pushing me away was intensely isolating. It meant that I was all alone, unprotected, and vulnerable. As a child, I coped with it by forgetting, just as she told me to, and becoming a good, obedient child who got the best of what the family offered in many ways. I developed a very competent fa├žade.

If only one adult had said, “That is wrong. You were hurt and I will protect you. Here, come cry on my shoulder. I will make sure it does not happen again.” If I had had one ally, my world would have been different.

How I moved on was, in a way, by going back and reliving it, but now there was a caring adult, my therapist, to hear me and to say the things no one had said in the past. I learned to love that child who had been violated, to listen for her voice, and to admire her strengths. As I learned to care for that inner child and for myself, the lighter, more creative parts of me came out to play, as well.

I also came to understand how very frightened my mother had been. I remember one role play where my therapist asked me to play my mother’s part and speak to the child. As Myra, I said, “That’s all I can do. I’m helpless. You have to forget it.” I felt her despair inside my body at that moment. I am grateful that my life is so much bigger and I have more power than she did.

This is an excerpt from an interview with Adam Adamson, on his site Zentactics, where he's asking about my book, The River of Forgetting: A Memoir of Healing from Sexual Abuse.

Getting to Know the Wounded Inner Child

After my father died, recovered memories took me over and I began to know that I had been abused. With my therapist’s help, I learned to listen to the little girl inside me who had been molested and who was confused, incoherent, and very needy.

It felt impossible to find enough time for all the feelings that inhabited my soul and body. To relieve some of the pressure, I set aside twenty minutes every morning before work. I sat in my favorite rocking chair in the spacious light of my living room, closed my eyes, and turned my attention inward.

Sometimes a wave of feeling—neediness or grief or wrongness—washed over me. I stayed inside the emotion, letting it shower me, and some understanding might come. As I sat with a sudden feeling of wrongness, I might recall an incident at work and see how a student’s plea to see me right away triggered old feelings that I must please everyone.

If no feeling pounced on me, I would try to ask my inner child what was happening with her. In these early months, she was like an adopted real child, shy and untrusting. The adult part of me tried to be patient and reassuring, learning how to become trustworthy. Sometimes there were mere glimpses of a girl running by or hiding from me. Most of the time I knew she arrived when I felt a rush of sadness and tears. As I wrote in my journal:

I’ve been so busy, suddenly I feel so sad. Ancient sadness. No end. It feels like a raisin shriveled up in my chest where my heart should be. I want the red hot pain of opening and living, loving people and things, loving the world as it is. Instead I have this shriveled little triangle.

I want to cry but I can’t. The tears swim at the edge of my eyes. Little girl, I want to hold you and let you cry.

This is an excerpt from chapter 2 of The River of Forgetting – A Memoir of Healing from Sexual Abuse.