It is often said that you cannot go back home. Although, some people try to challenge that ideology by eventually returning to their hometowns, to former lovers, or moving back in with their parents. Therefore, one is left to question, does it really work out in the end? I have myself had the occasion to return to my childhood home to live with my mother for a time, following the bitter ending of a broken relationship. At first, it was very awkward for me. But I just assumed it was the whole “I’m not supposed to be moving back into my parents’ house” pride thing. However, as the time lingered on, I began to realize that it was so much more. I found that the demons who haunted me in my past were still dwelling in that house. I found it to be a cold and unwelcoming place.
I had been in therapy several years ago and was under the impression that I had already dealt with all of the haunts of my past life, in particular my childhood. As I stood within the wall of this darkened paneled house, I figured out fairly quickly that I had not. I was taken aback by the torrential flood of emotion that befell me just being there. It did not make any sense to me. I mean, I had stopped by there to visit my mother numerous times. I had spent many a holiday with my family at her house. We had shared laughter and joy, and hugs abound there in the past few years. So, I could not understand what was happening to me. For the most part, during the evening hours, when I would arrive home from work and we would have dinner together and then sit in the living room watching various programs on the television set, I was fine being there. Even she and I had laughed and had some relatively good talks between ourselves. But, at night, when I was shut in behind the door of the bedroom, all alone, that is when every emotion I had ever felt in that house would come to pay me a visit. I could not shake that resurgence of sorrow and pain and utter heartbreak no matter how hard I tried. I began to watch television in the room until I would fall asleep at night, or I would read myself to slumber. Still, the darkness shrouded me like a heavy cloak.
My mother and I was working so hard on repairing a long-time damaged relationship, and I did not have the heart to tell her that being in her house was absolutely driving me insane and slowly crippling my soul. But I knew I could not stay there for much longer. The feelings and the memories proved to be far too hard to deal with alone in the night.
After a few months, I made the decision to move out, and got a place for myself and my daughter. It was probably, of all the choices that were available to me, not the most sensible or ideal place for us. But it was a quick move, and, at the time, I felt like anywhere had to be better than reliving my nightmare childhood night after night.
Ironically, shortly after my daughter and I had moved into our new place and were getting more settled in, I had started new classes at the college I was attending. During the semester, I had an internship placement. The internship was volunteering at an agency that did community counseling. Part of the process to be allowed to volunteer for the agency was to sit in and participate in two of the counseling classes offered. With the time frame that I had available between my full-time job and full-time course load at the college, I had one class that was on effective parenting, and one that was about making peace with the past. I believed those to be simple enough. I had, after all, already had therapy several years ago and dealt with many things from my past. Although, I had not given any particular thought to the experience that I had recently had while staying in my childhood home with my mother. Being that I had since moved out and into my little hipster cottage on the mountain, I had not given that a second thought. As it turns out, however, I should have considered it more significant that I had thought.
At first, I thought it was going to be interesting, and a little bit fun, to get an inside view of how group therapy worked. I was given my workbook to follow along. I also originally thought I would just be sitting idly by as a quiet observer, since, after all, this was my internship I had not signed up for this group therapy class. I could not have been more wrong. In order to get cleared to begin volunteering and complete my subsequent internship, I had to take an active role in the therapy sessions, and was expected to complete the exercises and journal entries in my workbook just the same as anyone else in the class. Initially I was a little shaken up about the idea of having to take group therapy. But later decided it would be the best way to learn how a group therapy session works. Plus, I would have the added benefit of free therapy for myself. With that, I was ready to embark on my path to making peace with my past.
The first two group sessions, I was reluctant to speak up for the most part. I immediately began to feel emotions stirring deep within my core. But again, this was an internship setting, and I was still unsure of just how involved I was expected to be with the actual counseling of this class. The leader of the class was very good at her job, and after the second session had called me aside to let me know she could tell I was holding back and let me know matter of factly that she fully expected me to participate as much as anyone else in the group beginning the next week. I was called out. I was expected to address the emotions that I had begun feeling from the first session we had. I was still unsure about how I felt sharing anything personal with a group of strangers. Yet, at the same time, I was feeling all of these emotions coming to the surface during the first two sessions and I felt like I wanted to talk about them, to get them out, and understand what they were and why they were there, haunting me. I was beginning to get scared. If I had already felt this much emotion surfacing in only two sessions, how would I ever make it for the following ten weeks if I did not deal with what was happening to me?
For the following ten weeks, I cried, I felt, and I hugged my fellow group participants. We all learned so much about each other, and subsequently, ourselves during our twelve weeks together. A lot of what had happened to me while staying at my mother’s house began to make a tremendous amount of sense to me. I learned that while I had been in therapy in the past, I dealt with a lot of things, but I had only touched on the subject of my relationship with my parents. I had dealt more with the relationship with my mother, because she was still alive, and I still had to maintain a relationship with her. But I had not ever fully processed or dealt with the relationship with my father completely. And, while I was staying in that house, all of those repressed and unresolved feelings came flooding back, because they needed to be met head on and processed, so that I could officially and finally move forward with my life in a more healthy and happy way. During those twelve weeks of my free therapy internship, I met every single one of those feelings head on and dealt with them. But I did not have to deal with them alone. I had one- an amazing counselor, and two- a group of five other incredible women who were at the ready to hug me, cry with me, and encourage me at any given moment. And I was ready and willing to do the same for each and every one of them.
I have often said that I believe everything happens for a reason. Often times, we may not know the reason or the how or why behind things that take place in our lives. Regardless, sometimes, things just happened that we later realize we really needed. That internship that year was actually an accident. I had originally signed up for a different internship for the semester. Somehow, the paperwork had gotten messed up, but this was not realized until the semester was beginning and the placement at the counseling office was the only placement left available. I had planned to be a silent observer and just learn how to conduct a group therapy session. Yet, I was prompted and encouraged to speak up and take an active role as a genuine participant of the class. And, something amazing had happened. Over the weeks of the class, I learned that I still had a lot of unresolved things in my past that I have never dealt with, let alone made peace with. With the help of the counselor and the other ladies in the group, I was able to put so many things to rest, to move past a lot of hurtful things that had held me captive and crippled for so much of my life. I made peace with my past, and I was able to free myself in ways that I had not realized was possible previously. I have since moved forward, and have a close relationship with my mother, and have buried the heaviness and dark feelings that had once consumed me just being in her house. I have been able to develop a close and loving romantic relationship, which I also came to realize was near to impossible in the past because of the many things that I had left unresolved kept me from allowing myself to get too close to others, or allow anyone to get too close to me. I am grateful for the opportunity that I had in getting put in the wrong internship placement and the ability to make peace with my past.