Wendy Woolfson

Bury It Dead

It was a day some months after I’d started therapy and I was walking along one of my local roads trying to decompress and get some space in my head. Walking is always good for me, I forget that sometimes, especially now as I can’t walk so much as it tires me out, and I can easily overdo things, so I don’t get that opportunity so much anymore. The most I can do is walk the dogs once round the park and potter in the garden, with an occasional longer wander into the nearby country estate.

Anyway, I was feeling like a total disaster. I stood at the bridge over the river and looked down at the water. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the light was sparkling and reflecting off the water making delicate patterns of the leaves and seeds that had fallen on top of it. It was a day to feel happy. The sun was dappling through the trees onto the river below, and as I stood there I could see my shadow reflected in there. It looked like a lonely figure peering over the edge of the bridge. I took a photograph of it. The shadow looked alone and sad, somehow distant and receding, almost disappearing. It was how I felt and I thought an appropriate metaphor for where I was at inside of myself. The desire to step over the edge of the bridge was there but it wasn’t as strong as it had been before when I’d stood at another bridge after making a phone call to my brother, another story.

I turned away feeling forsaken and utterly desperate and despondent. I continued walking in whatever direction my legs took me. I didn’t care and I guess I was fortunate to have some free time to do that as it was certainly something that was rare at that juncture, to have the chance to just walk, and not need to be at home for parenting responsibilities. I had just come from a therapy session and it had been a tough one. It had been a session that was a turning point, it had cracked me open to some truths and shown me things I never knew that had happened in my past. It had shown me where much of my despair had originated and it was hard to take, hard to see and acknowledge. I felt confused and devastated. I couldn’t understand how I was even surviving at that point.

As I walked away I didn’t know where I was going to go, I just knew I had to walk, and then  I bumped into a friend, a dear friend. Someone who knew me and knew what was going on for me at that time. Someone I could trust. She walked towards me and smiled and I tried a watery smile back that matched the ripples on the river. We did the usual hellos and platitudes but quickly got into what was actually going on and I started to crumble. I began to physically shake and then cry and tell her what had happened in the therapy session. She held me tight in her arms and I cried and wept on her shoulder as she held me in an embrace that told me she understood and felt me. When I’d managed to calm down we began to walk and talk together and she had some wisdom to impart that I’ve never forgotten.

She talked about how all these years my memories had been supressed and buried. How I thought I’d dealt with them in various other therapy sessions with other therapists but now it seems I hadn’t, at least not properly. She said, all these memories and experiences I’d had, they’d all been buried but buried alive, and now I’m digging them back up to look at them but this time, after I’ve looked at them, I’m going to bury them again but I’ll bury them dead. This was a revelation to me; bury them dead! Of course, it made sense, bury them in such a way as they can’t surface again to haunt me, so they can’t return like zombies with their arms outstretched, grabbing at me, trying to take me away into the past with them and drag me down with them. This time, after I’ve looked at them, they will be properly dead and dealt with, and I won’t have to look at them again. I will be free. It was an amazing idea and one that gave me hope because it felt like it made sense.

As I walked away from her to return home, after saying our goodbyes and thanking her for her warmth and friendship and for being there at the right time, I realised there was still some hope to be had, and even though today had been so hard, I could get through it, especially when I know I have friends like her who will show up at just the right moment to help. An earth angel placed in the right spot at the right time with the right words to share. I’ve talked about this before, people showing up like guardian angels to help in any way they can. We are all those people too, and isn’t that a fascinating thing to think that’s possible?

What is also possible is recovery because I did recover and all those memories are dead and buried now. Therapy has been over for a couple of years, and I no longer think about those things or if I do, it doesn’t trigger me and it doesn’t hurt me. I can view them with detachment and without worry. Today, I am finally free.