The first time I disclosed my own history of child sexual abuse publicly, I was presenting a workshop on trauma to a conference of colleagues. This was early in the North American therapeutic community’s awareness of the brain’s role in trauma. The setting was a resort near Boston. The conference was the annual International Focusing Conference.
In my presentation I mentioned my own history of childhood trauma mainly as a point of interest, merely stating the fact without any of the details.
A number of my colleagues came up to me afterwards and offered their condolences and surprise that something like this had happened to me. I felt pleased with the knowledge I had brought to the conference and with my courage in presenting it.
I went upstairs to my room, intending to get ready for the evening’s socializing. That was as far as I got. I was hit by an inexplicable black hole of depression. Suddenly I felt horrible. Any liveliness I had felt earlier in the day was smothered in grey ashes.
There were several colleagues who would have been very willing to use their therapeutic skills to help me through this mysterious bog of despair. But I was too frozen to ask someone to help me.
It wasn’t until weeks later when I met with Dr. Ralph Bierman that he led me to realize I was living out my father’s threat – you tell, you die. I had told and now I was dying.
Our bodies seem loaded with persecutory triggers, ready to paralyze us with anxiety or depression when we tell our terrible secrets.