I should have known on that summer day In 1950 when my seven-year-old naked body was laid out over a bale of hay that this was not normal. I should have known. But I was the youngest and smallest of four boys in a place where the unspeakable was normal. Even at this very young age, my brain was forced to compartmentalize daily interactions, whether they be good, bad, or indifferent. The horrific ones were hidden for decades as secrets never meant to be revealed.
In 1992, a chance conversation with my mother opened the door to repressed memories. The worst ones left me hugging my bathroom stool while vomiting throughout the night. As my mind began to crumble, a piece here, a piece there, I learned that the trips to the barn were far from normal. But who would believe such a tale? Separating fact from fiction was like finding a gnat in the forest.
Early into therapy, I shared a repressed memory with a friend and told her that I was working with a therapist. I thought I would get a supportive reaction, but instead, I got something I wasn’t expecting.
“I think you should get a different therapist,” my friend said. “Some therapists plant false memories into your head.”
I was stunned by her cold, matter-of-fact response. Unfortunately, her reaction was typical of the time. Public doubt about repressed memories in the 1990s was strong. This doubt and my reluctance to believe the unbelievable added to my anxieties and likely added years to my struggles.
My journey was a long one and not without risk. I was a vagabond wandering in an emotional wilderness. What sort of creatures might I find? Would they suck my soul dry? Would I find my way out?
Not long ago, I had cataract surgery. The next day, I removed my sunglasses and stared at a pear tree full of white blossoms that stood in front of our red- brick house. The shapes and colors appeared as three- dimensional figures, and the intense hues and minute details were unlike anything I had seen before. My emotional healing was no less dramatic. Years of therapy allowed me to feel in the same way that cataract surgery allowed me to see.
It has taken me twenty-five years to tell my story.