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Archive for August 5th, 2008

In my last post, Returning to Hometown after Child Abuse: Apprehension Before the Trip, I shared the stress that I endure the week before returning to my hometown where I experienced most of my child abuse. I do not recommend returning to your hometown where your child abuse took place unless you have a very good reason to do so. This series is to discuss the things that I go through whenever I return to my hometown, even after working through the child abuse healing process.

As I drive my car toward my hometown, I feel the stress intensifying. My head hurts, and I feel like crying. I find myself selecting CDs with melancholy songs to listen to on the drive. As I cross the state line into the state of my hometown, I “see” a gray screen descend upon my vision. I used to think that the gray was from air pollution because my hometown is a suburb of a large U.S. city. I now know that this is an internally generated “gray.” Everything around me looks like I am looking at it through a window screen – it looks darker and dingy.

I now recognize that this is me dissociating for my visit to my hometown. As hard as I have worked to stay present in my day-to-day life, all of my progress goes out the window when I return to my hometown. I am not capable of feeling safe when I am anywhere near the places where the child abuse happened, so I resign myself to feeling “off” and regressed in my state of healing in order to endure the visit.

I bring along melatonin to help me sleep at night because I have no hope of falling asleep otherwise. Even with taking melatonin, I toss and turn for a long time before I can fall asleep. I have terrible nightmares, and I awaken early. There is no rest in my sleep. My muscles are very tense, and my shoulders hunch forward to “protect” my heart.

I am unable to be myself while I am in my hometown. I drive by the streets leading to my first home, where most of the abuse happened, and I cannot help but go down memory lane. Seeing all of my old haunts resurrects my childhood ghosts (demons), and I feel like I am a helpless eight-year-old girl again.

I count down the hours until I can leave. I always plan the trips to arrive on Friday evening and leave early on Sunday morning (by 9:00 a.m.; preferably by 8:00 a.m.). I remind myself that I will not even be there for 48 hours. Considering this is a six hour drive, it really does not make sense to go for such a short visit, but I do it to protect myself.

It is a wonder that I do not get a speeding ticket whenever I leave because I floor it to get out of that state as quickly as possible. I look in the rearview mirror frequently so I can watch that horrible place growing distant. I can feel my muscles relax ever so slightly whenever I do this.

Crossing the state line out of that state feels like removing sunglasses. Suddenly, the world around me begins regaining its color. However, it will take at least a week for true color to return to my vision.

When I get home, I just want to sleep. I collapse into my bed and sleep more soundly than I have in a week.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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