Around this time of year back in 1999 I went through an event that would later land me with the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And each year since, around this time, the memories would come flooding back. Since my leaving the jw's though, the memories have had less and less a hold on me. Why? Because they've lost their context. The story that got weaved around the original event no longer holds true. Sure, the events still happened but what I tell myself about them has changed.
In March of 1999 I committed what was considered a serious "sin" in the jw community. While I came forward and confessed to the group elders, the "judicial" process still proceeded. It was a closed door hearing with me, the offended party and three elders, all men. The questioning process went on for hours. I think it was six hours but I'm not sure anymore of the details. They asked some very intimate questions of a sexual nature, questions that I can only describe now as feeling as though I'd been raped.
The event was unpleasant to say the least, but what damaged me the most was that these were men I respected, men who I thought represented the will of God, men I believed were in a more privileged position with the divine than my lowly sinful self. And therein was the most traumatizing aspect of all. How was I to reconcile what these men of God did to me? It was not the way it should have been. Men of God shouldn't have treated me that way. I shouldn't have let them. My parents shouldn't have let them. God shouldn't have let them. My subsequent anxiety attacks on remembering this event were based on a story of what should and shouldn't have been.
Since leaving the jws in 2005, I no longer need to question what should and shouldn't have been. There is no God. Those elders are just men. And that closed door judicial meeting was just an event. It happened. It was what it was. There is no way it should have been.
I read once that forgiveness is giving up hope for a better past. I look at how much hurt I have experienced in my life, how many stories I've created around people, places and things. There are facts of what happened. He said this. She did that. I felt this. I felt that. But it is the story we create around what happened, it is the stance that it should have happened differently, that she should have said this instead of that, that he should have handled it this way, not that---that is what causes us the most pain. And it is insanity. It is pure insanity. How can the past possibly be any different than it was?
Granted, there are residuals of events in our lives. For me, there is a bodily reaction when I'm in a closed room with an authority figure. There is something in my body that remembers what happened nine years ago. And the story still plays out in my mind. I see the players. I watch their dance. And sometimes, it still makes me cry. But I see it for what it is. And I know it can't be any different. Forgiveness? Not sure. All I know is that I'm so much more than I remember.