The Upside Down

Stranger Things is one of my favorite shows. The story follows a rag tag group of kids who happen to live in a town where sci-fi meets supernatural, and who take it upon themselves not only to save Hawkins, but also maybe the world. In the show the supernatural manifests as a place called Upside Down, which is a sort of dark, terrifying parallel universe with portals popping up left and right.

I have been Right Side Up for a long time. I have done tremendous work to heal, and so much about my life is a testament to the reality that the work has worked. I came off medication after almost two decades, have maintained a marriage for twenty-years, shuffled my kids to teenagerhood without any major catastrophes, written a book, and am currently an intern about to complete my master’s in clinical mental health. That’s hardly half of it. My point is, I am not the person I was prior to doing the work. I am regulated, intentional, and stable. I do not think about my trauma on anywhere near a regular basis, nor am I constantly initiating coping mechanisms to manage it.

Then I took this job. It’s a contract to create content for survivors by survivors. I love the idea of content for people who are struggling by people who have lived experience. As an almost therapist, I know there is so much value in talking to a professional. As a survivor I know there is so much value in talking to someone who has had similar experiences. There are so few spaces like this available, and I am honored to be sharing in its inception and growth. However, as I have begun to think through, write, and plan to talk about my story, I have felt a little on the edge of a portal to the Upside Down.

I am not totally sure yet why working through my story has been much more difficult than I anticipated. The last time I was in therapy to specifically work on overcoming abuse was twelve or so years ago. I disclosed the abuse to my parents at that time, and my abuser, who was essentially family, was finally (mostly) completely out of my life. I suppose part of the difficulty is looking back at the disclosure, what I said and did or didn’t. What my parents said or did or didn’t. What I accepted as reasonable information and minimized at the time, felt absurd yesterday talking to my mom on the phone trying to put some pieces together.

I didn’t press charges. Should I have pressed charges? What is the statute of limitations in Georgia? Where is he now? Are there any arrest records? How dangerous is he with full internet access? Is my memory correct? Are my parents’ memories correct? How did this happen? Are there more secrets? This is all so fucked. And then I cry over a grocery list and have an IBS attack.

I educate people in session ALL THE TIME about trauma. How it lives in your body, manifests in the strangest ways, is not something that cannot be shaken off, forgotten. How even when you heal, your past is still alive inside you. How to be aware of it’s creeping out, even when you can’t name it. How important it is to be gracious with yourself when it happens. How to accept reality, ride its wave, breathe. How none of us are forever free and clear of haunting. Yet here I am, wondering what in the world is going on in my mind and body as I work to look back and retell my own story in a cohesive, pointed way.

“I don’t get triggered! Not me! I am good! I am over it! I am healed!” I say as I notice myself ankle deep in a portal, staring into Upside Down.

Original artwork by Brooks Decker

Published by SurvivorSpace, an initiative of Zero Abuse Project.