“How do I know the memories and flashbacks are real?” one man said. “I’ve always had a good imagination.”
My answer: You know the difference. The question isn’t “Are they real?” but “Can I accept them?” When the memories first started pouring into my heart and mind, like many others, I didn’t want to believe them as being authentic. But I knew.
No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t convince myself that I had made them up. I knew.
I didn’t have a lot of flashbacks—where childhood memories forced themselves into my head. What I had most were dreams—nightmares—and I awakened in a sweat and sometimes shaking. Those dreams were quite literal, as opposed to what I call the hamburger-and-onion type—the kind that troubles me over something I ate.
In the dreams, I was a child again and I relived most of the tormenting, painful abuse.
Particularly, I remember the old man who rented a room from us. In the nightmares, he was ugly and I was afraid, but I went up to him anyway. When I was awake, I thought of him as having a kind face and he smiled often.
In my dreams I especially remembered his male-pattern baldness with no hair except on the sides of his face. Unless he went outside, he wore sleeveless undershirts and tufts of white, curly hair showed over the top of the shirt.
I mention the hair because he knelt down (or in some dreams he put me on his lap) and had me feel this hirsute chest. My dreams never went beyond that, but I knew—I knew it was real because I couldn’t face what followed.
Dream after dream came to me over a period of months. Each time I awakened abruptly, feeling frightened, and sometimes couldn’t go back to sleep.
Once I learned to accept the reality of those scenes, they went away. I don’t need them because I faced the pain and betrayal, and mourned the loss of my childhood.
Through the help of God and my friends, I’ve stayed on the healing path. I’m closer to the end of the recovery road. Until then, I have to say, “I’m not quite healed. But close.”