I am afraid of the Dark
New World Mom Darla Halyk speaks out about her repressed memory syndrome
I am afraid of the Dark
My vision plays with the shadows in my darkened bedroom, gazing in all directions, my eyes wide open taking in as much light as possible. Imagining a shirt hanging off my exercise bike as a deranged monster, creeks in the floor boards to be predators, ready to attack.
I am afraid of the dark.
My imagination is wild, unruly at times. I play stories in my head, made up scenarios as I watch two people sit in a coffee shop. I decide where they are from, picture clearly in my mind the home they live in, and decide whether they have two or four children. I even go as far as to contemplate the argument they may have had that morning over breakfast.
But it’s the equivalent for darker more ominous moments in my life. I am not one to walk down a shady street, without at some moment playing a death trap of a synopsis in my mind. Easily picturing a knife-wielding man about to jump straight from a car and stab me, around forty-seven times.
Up until a year ago and a wonderful counselor, I believed my fear of the dark, and lush creativity was something I was born with, natural. It’s more than that; there is a child in me, refusing to grow up. A child that used anecdotes and wild stories to distract herself from reality.
A child that didn’t have all of her memory until she was an adult.
A child that wasn’t let out, until her predator, decided to tell her what he had done.
October 31, 1995
Standing at the cash register, I did every day for years, I started my work day. A day like every other. Life-changing days aren’t placed on a calendar; they befall on you with no inclination, no warning. This day could have just been another Halloween; another day passed, barely remembered. Instead, the events of this day sent a young adult into a world unknown.
A family friend showed up to see me that day. He was the neighbor of my parents when I was just a toddler, the father of three young boys who felt like brothers to me. He had always given me an uneasy feeling, just someone I didn’t entirely trust. No other thoughts, one of those people you find yourself not wanting to be around.
When he arrived he asked me to come outside, he wanted to ask me a question.
Looking back, I notice the warning signs, my body was telling me more than my mind could. Each step away from the cash register, further from people, alone with this man, made my body vibrate, my mouth sweat. Yet, my mind, it told me to suck it up, your family trusts him so should you.
As the two of us came closer to a private spot on the lot, he began to tell me the story of a mutual neighbor. She was in the hospital, dying. My heart sank. I remembered playing with her as a child. Running from my back yard to hers, playing childhood games. He went on to explain he had seen her in the hospital earlier that day, that she was angry at him, and he needed to see me, to tell me what he had done. Every part of my body became weak, white noise rushing through my ears as if I was standing under a waterfall.
His muffled words, began to come clear as he plainly stated, “Did I ever touch you? Do you remember if I ever touched you?”
No words came from my mouth; hatred seeped from my pores, disgust steamed from my ears, but no words.
He began to speak again; I wanted him to shut-up, just shut-up! “She told me she knew what I did to her for years, and that I needed to confess to the others, to you.”
The words seemed so simple for him to say, yet my hands became fists, my throat grew constricted, just to say the only words I could muster. “I don’t know.” I wanted to say yes, yes you did! I wanted to take my clenched fists and beat him, but I didn’t. I couldn’t tell him for certain; my mind didn’t know, not for certain, but it seemed my heart did.
I barely remember walking away from him or the rest of the conversation.
As I walked, in a cloud of emotion, towards the cash register, my entire consciousness became flooded, flashes, as if a black and white movie was playing memories I had never seen before, in my head, right in front of my eyes.
Entering the building, my manager observed the state I was in and called me back to her office. I don’t know what I said to her, but I distinctly remember slamming my head into the cement wall, over and over, until she grasped my hand and sat me down.
In those few moments, I didn’t feel, to say I was numb is an understatement. I remember very little, other than my Mother being called to pick me up and get me home.
As the news traveled throughout both our family’s, it seemed one dramatic event after another. I became overwhelmed with questions by members of my family and his. This man was a long time family friend; we spent boxing day together every year. His sons were my friends; we talked often, met for coffee and drinks as adults. Our world was in upheaval, and my world, it was one I had never known.
Two weeks after this man had met me at my place of work, I finally told my Dad. Within minutes of me letting the words slip off my tongue, he was in his car and on his way to confront my molester. The fear of my father ripping this man into shreds felt genuine for me, hence why I took so long to tell him in the first place.
What I learned from the conversation between my Father and this man, denoted my Dad was given a complete confession. That I had been molested for some years, starting at the age of three. That he was sorry, he drank too much, and it was because he had been abused as a child.
As the world around me grew angry, I instead stood confused. How could I forget something so terrible? Why didn’t I know?
October 31, 1995, changed my life forever, and the following year or so claimed itself on my family. The events that followed that day were not only taxing on everyone around me, but I was left to pick up the rubble. The walls that came crashing down around the little girl I had hidden, buried deep within my soul, I wanted desperately to put back up. Hide her in there again, her wounds were too fresh, and the sting of the air burned.
I am afraid of the dark; my imagination runs wild. I play stories of others in my head to stop the sparks and clips of memories from consuming my mind. This, a part of repressed memory syndrome. The constant worry that your memories aren’t accurate, real. Or that they are, and your psyche does not have the capability to deal with them. And the wondrous ability to restrict what can hurt you, or has.
I have spent the last twenty years remembering things I tried to forget for twenty years.
In the beginning, they were little clips, moments that I couldn’t believe I could repress. There is a lot of guilt associated with repressed memory; it’s hard to know what is true. Constantly second guessing yourself, can put influence on each memory. Wondering whether I remember or I’m playing a story in my mind. Using that incredulous imagination has been my solace and my destruction. Pretending that little girl didn’t exist for so many years, has proven hard to get her back.
It has taken me years to let her out, to become one with the memory of her and her pain. She doesn’t deserve to be hidden, and I will not let her feel shame anymore. The little girl inside me, is me, and her imagination is beautiful. Her memories are mine, and we are one. That brave little girl protected me from my monsters, and it’s okay if we are still afraid of the dark.