I wish we could choose the memories we remember.
I have butterflies in my tummy as my Sister in Law and I arrive at the safe house for my next Police Interview. They are not the nice kind of butterflies you get when excited but bad butterflies that make me feel like something awful is going to happen. They make me feel sick.
I am more nervous today, more than I have ever been before. I feel much more emotional than usual and that scares me. I know I have to push myself today to try and talk in more detail and I have asked my Liaison Officer to push me too, but I am frightened. I feel very fragile and I am worried how I am going to cope.
As we go inside I tell myself not to make too much general conversation, that way I can try to stay focussed on getting started as soon as possible.
As I sit on the floor in the corner of the room, my Liaison Officer sat on the floor opposite me, I use my notebook to try to decide which incident I am going to talk about today. I know it can’t be the flashback that I tried to talk about before as that is too scary and I cannot handle that today. Finally I agree an incident with my Liaison Officer and we get ready to begin.
The lights on the wall come on to show us that the recording has started, so I begin to tell her; the place, a car, the seats. I struggle to describe the car so she gets me to draw her a picture. Then I continue; how I felt, he hurt me.
How did he hurt me? she asks. Detail. She needs detail. I know this but I am scared.
I have never said those bad words out loud. I don’t want to; bad words make it real. I hesitate, usually she will say the words for me, but today she hesitates too. I know it is because she is pushing me like I asked her to and that she is waiting for me to say the words.
I am trying so hard to talk but the words won’t come out. I start to panic. “Take your time” she says as she repeats the question. “How did he hurt you?”
I take a deep breath as I finally, quietly utter the words; “He put his penis in me” I feel sick. I have never said that out loud before, not even to my therapist. “Well done” my Liaison Officer says, knowing just how difficult that was for me.
Understanding how hard this is for me but also knowing she has to get the details from me she asks her next question “Where did he put his penis?” I can feel the tears in my eyes as I shake my head and whisper “I can’t”.
She sees me struggle and I am grateful when she decides to say the words for me and just asks me to confirm whether she is right. “Yes” I reply shakily as she says the words “in your vagina?”
Panic; I can’t breathe! Fear; Tears in my eyes! “I feel sick” I whimper huddling up like a child.
She pauses the interview and calms me down, reassuring me that I am safe whilst taking me to get some fresh air. I take a deep breath as we step outside, suddenly my legs feel like jelly and I stumble into the railings. My sister in law is with me now and calms me down. As she reminds me I am safe, I am thankful that she took the time to come with me and support me. I take a breath and tell my Liaison Officer that I am ready to continue. I have to try.
Sat on the floor, cameras recording, I gradually manage to make it to the end of the incident. However, it has triggered a new memory, well, bits of a memory. A memory I haven’t had before.
I begin to tell her what I am remembering a little at a time. Then, suddenly, I feel confused, upset; the details I am remembering are scaring me. I was little. I can’t remember how old I was but I think I was younger than 11. How can that be? I thought I was 11 when the abuse started! I must remember. Think!! Why can’t I remember how old I was?!!
She sees me becoming agitated and ends the interview for today. I sit with my knees pulled up to my chest and take the pin out of my sleeve. I want to cut. I want to cut so badly.
She sees me fidgeting and knows the signs. I am honest with her as she moves towards me, “I want to cut” I say. She moves closer, tells me I am safe here, that I don’t need to cut. She says she does not want to see me hurt. I am grateful that she is considerate enough not to get angry with me. She knows self-harm is a struggle for me and as she calms me I put the pin down.
She wants to hug me; I let her, only just managing not to give in to the tears. I have done really well today, she says as she tells me we are done for the day.
My head feels heavy and my eyes are sore. I am so unbelievably tired that I am struggling to concentrate.
Did the abuse start before I thought it did? I must try to remember but I cannot think straight.
What if it did start earlier? This is too hard for me to even try to comprehend right now. I don’t know how to begin processing it but the memory is there, the details are there, just not my age. I have to try to process it; I have to try to remember, but not right now. I can’t. It is too much. I suddenly feel like that frightened little girl again and squeeze my eyes shut, trying to bring myself back to adulthood, to the here and now.
Memories can destroy us. They can create a loop taking us back to where we don’t want to go. I have spent my lifetime trying to forget my childhood but now I need to remember it. I have to go back to that place one memory at a time.
One by one my memories are coming back to haunt me. I can’t remember everything yet but I cannot forget the things I want to forget either.
I am scared. Right now, my worst enemy is my memory. It frightens me.
My memory is creating my loop, taking me back to that horrible place called childhood.
I just hope that instead of destroying me, the memories will finally lead me to freedom.
Thanks for reading.