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Welcome Aboard!

--"Izzy, how did you start dancing?"

--"What got you into martial arts?"

--"What kind of dancer/martial artist/writer are you?

--"How do you deal with brain damage, bodily injury and 

     C-PTSD, yet still dance, write, train, live the way you do?"

--"How do you still find joy and beauty amidst pain and loss?"

--"Wow, you should write your memoirs!" 

    This Is My Story

NSFW, 18+

  • Writer's pictureBella Dancer

TRAPPED INDOORS WITH MY SKELETONS: Getting Repressed Memories Back Amidst Isolation

February 26, 2001, 7:32 a.m. 28 years old

My eyes pop open as I claw for a ragged gasp.

I stare at the canopy above my bed. Unblinking. Chest rising and falling in hard, steady breaths through my nose. In and out. In and out.

Eventually I get up. Go pee. Ghost into my office. Slide down on the chair and flip the computer on. Open up a Word document.

I stare at the cursor flashing on the page. Flashing. Flashing. Black on white.

I stare at it for a good half-hour.

Jittery. Disturbed. The morning light comes in gray today, filtered further by the lacy sheers covering the windows. Pretty much how I feel right now. I can see what's out there but there is a filmy layer between it and me. Anybody trying to look inside might catch some moving shadows, but only if the angle of the light is right. They would have no clue about the storm brewing inside this apartment because I am motionless. Silent. Still barely blinking.

It looks like home out there.

Not the state where I've lived for the past four years. Colorful Colorado with one of its many brags: three-hundred days of sunshine a year!

Nope. Today it looks like Minnesota. Day after week after month of gray. Half a year of dreary skies and brief sunlight, everything made more bitter by the bite of the wind off Lake Superior and the damp from more than 10,000 lakes.

I always cite the weather as my loudest reason for why I moved away.

This is not remotely confined to meteorological phenomena.

One of those reasons is wafting the sheers behind me in the breeze of my growing storm. Pull it back. If you squint hard, you can almost see through it. Go on. Pull it back and take a look at what’s really behind the curtain.

I'd really rather not.

Not after the last time I got back repressed memories. That night punctured a hole in my hull and sank me so hard I had to shove the whole Titanic back in the Tupperware container in the back of the freezer, rather than admit, “That was me. That’s a memory, not a dream. That is me.”

This one is me, too, even though it crept up on me and politely tapped my forehead while I slept. I guess we're making nice with each other, my subconscious and I. At least it didn't catapult me off the bed this time, buck-nekkid and covered in sweat while my guard was down from too much alcohol and the the most cosmic orgasm of my life.

At least this time I was alone.

As I sit at the computer, I'm not sure if that's a good thing. My eyes drift to the phone. Before I can write about this I have to know. But do I really wanna go dredging around in all of that? If I peek behind those sheers, will it get me? I don’t know if I can take another hit like that right now.

Mom and Dad have been back home for over a month. In all, they stayed about two weeks to help me out after the car wreck. They helped me get everything rolling.

But nothing is rolling. Not really. All I do is go to doctors’ appointments, wrestle with insurance companies and the DA’s office, try to prove that I’m injured, and watch other people live the life I once had. I slump on the cushions at student night, wracked with a migraine, muscle spasms, and the jealously of watching my beautiful friends do moves I can’t. I sit in the crowd at stage shows, feeling things like ecstatic because they collected $20 in donations so I could get some groceries before my first lost wages check came in.

It took almost a month.

I’m only getting half of what I should, because I have to prove all my dance income with notarized statements from my students and restaurant employers. Ah, the joys of self-employment. The insurance company also won’t pay my full office wages because they averaged out the time I had to take off when I had the flu in October. But at least I can eat now. And at least my landlord gave me a grace period after I explained my situation, so I still have a roof over my head.

But I’m still not able to drive. Yet I’m expected to get to work. It takes me over two hours by bus to travel fifteen minutes, and we all know how I feel about the bus. Doesn’t do my brain any good either, or leave me much stamina to actually do my job.

Finding out anything about this mess takes for-friggin’-ever. I sit on hold with automated phone systems for hours, only to get disconnected.

To top it all off, I’m trapped in this apartment above the Trollz. It’s been over a month straight of listening to that poor baby bawling and bawling and bawling. And then when the Boyfriend arrives, it’s thump-crash-swear-scream! My favorite is listening to a distraught mother screeching at the top of her lungs, “Shut up! Shut up! Just shut the fuck up! I hate you!” accompanied by more crashes.

She’s not talking to her boyfriend.

She’s talking to her infant.

So all I do is keep a detailed journal, call the cops and DHS, and hope they won’t attack me for snitching. Sometimes multiple times a day. Sometimes in the middle of the night. But they can’t be evicted for this — noooooo. That would be illegal.

To my surprise, it’s actually quiet this morning. It’s been quiet for a few days now. I thought I heard the sounds of furniture being moved and all I can do is pray: pleeeeease…please-please-please let her move out.

It’s driving me insane and I don’t need any more of that. That’s why I don’t want to make this phone call. I don’t want anything else pummeling me with gruesome images. I don’t want another trauma to get over.

But I need to call my mother and ask.

WARNING: This one is rough. We’re in the Underworld now. We’re all the way down here where the dead things dwell. The most rattly of the skeletons. The most festery of the corpses. This is the bank of the Akheron where the Restless Dead mill about, unable to buy passage on Kharon’s skiff. Unable to cross over and be laid to rest. Perhaps we can give them a measure of peace by sitting with them for a little while and letting them tell their tales.

6 years old Winter

Johnny gets to spend the night. He’s my best friend in the whole world! We got to have Mom’s special homemade mac-and-cheese for dinner, and later we watched the slide show with popcorn and everything. Dad takes down the painting over the piano and we watch our family photos on the wall. We do this every winter, and it’s one of my favorite things ever!

Now it’s time for bed. We’ve brushed our teeth and gotten into jammies. Johnny’s big brothers are always mooning him before bedtime. They sit on his face and fart, and that is not very nice. Johnny doesn’t have to fart right now, and neither do I, but we both decide it would be funny to moon each other.

It is!

His butt is soooo white. It really is like a wiggly-wriggly moon shining up from the night sky of his dark blue sleeping bag. Even though it's winter, there’s still a line from his summer suntan, so it's just one big white, round glow when he bumps his butt up in the air and wags. Now I get why they call it "mooning."

He says my butt is super white, too, but not much lighter than my back. Of course. I’m a girl and I don’t run around without a shirt on like he does. Even my swimsuit is a one-piece.

I moon him anyway, and we try to hide our screechy laughter in our pillows. We make a game of who can flash the moon faster. He’s pretty fast. A quick ZWOOP and our burst of giggles. He’s learned from the best. His brothers even moon people on the bus during field trips. I’ll have to work hard to beat him.

I inch down my jammie pants to the top of my buttcrack, glance back, and then ZWOO —

Movement in the hallway.

I freeze.

Dad is on his way to the bathroom. He skids to a halt. His eyes are huge like saucer-sleds. Then the Lightning of Doom Face. I am way faster than Johnny at hiding the moon but it isn’t fast enough. Dad saw it.

He crosses the bedroom in three big stomps and grabs my arm. “You want a reason to pull down your pants, young lady?” His voice is the thunder. “I’ll give you one!” His hand will be lightning, cracking the tree in half.

He pins me face-down on the mattress by the back of the neck and yanks down my pants. His hand draws back but it’s already struck me — not the crack of his palm on my skin. I don’t know what it is. It’s a tornado inside me. It’s Dorothy and Toto and the spinning house and all the trees in Kansas ripped from their roots to whirl and thrash and twist and crash and then it’s coming up out of me!

My arms and legs all lash out. My spine whips but his hand is so big it clamps around my whole neck and I can’t get free! The screeches being ripped out of me sound like that girl being dragged around the water by the huge shark in that movie I wasn’t supposed to watch at Johnny’s house. The screams tear my throat open and the tornado is tearing me apart and I can’t get free and —

He lets go.

I scramble backwards. Trip over my jammie pants. Land hard on my white moony and yank my pants back up. Dad is standing by the door, eyes even huger than the saucers now. They are moony, too. A matched pair of them. Mom is right behind him, wearing the same face. So is Johnny. They’re all staring at me and I don’t know what to say.

I climb up and get under the covers. I think it’s bedtime now.

5 years old Summer

I don’t want to go outside. The big boys are out there. Johnny and Suzie’s big brothers. They’ll tease me. Pull my hair and call me names and poke me until I cry. But Mom hasn’t made me go outside and play yet, so I find my favorite mice.

The Bad Rats.

Well, really, it’s the girl who’s bad. She’s always bad. I grab her by the legs and bash her face against the piano bench over and over and over and over. Harder and harder until I grunt and pant. If I could, I would bash her stupid head off her stupid neck.

The boy mouse comes over to her. His white paw reaches out and pats her on the back. “I know,” he says. “I know you didn’t mean to be bad.” He wipes her tears and hugs her. “I know you’ll be a good girl from now on. It’s okay. There-there. I know…”

5 years old Spring

My girl mouse is wrong. They didn’t make her right. On the bottom of her, between her legs, there is stitching. It’s wrong. It’s not supposed to be stitched up. There’s supposed to be a hole there and it goes deep, deep up.

My pencil is right. Well, almost. Once I get it sharpened, it can break the stitches. It takes some force, but I get it popped. Then I just have to swirl it around. Jam it up in there and make the hole bigger.

There. Now’s she’s right.

Now she’s a real girl, like me.

That’s as far back as the memories went. The morning that I remembered them as I was waking up, I called my mother to ask her how old I was when she gave me those stuffed mice.


That would have been the age I would have guessed. They were Valentine’s Day mice. A pair about fifteen inches high, made to sit up on their haunches and embrace each other. The boy is dark gray and the girl is a softer dove gray. Both have huge, round, floppy ears. They also have white bellies, white gloved little paws, long, skinny tails, and long, skinny arms. The paws have velcro so that when they wrap their arms around each other, they can stay eternally cuddled, cheek-to-cheek with their eyes closed, wearing matched lovey-dovey smiles.

They are darling and, from the moment they were given to me, I loved them more than any other toy in the box.

When I called my mom to ask her if she had put them in the bin with the items from my childhood that she had kept in case I ever had children of my own, she confirmed that she still had the mice.

She also confirmed that the girl had been rendered anatomically correct.

After hearing that, I sat at my desk, lightheaded, breathing shallowly, death-gripping the arms of the computer chair.

I didn’t want to go digging any deeper in those memories. That was enough. But I did have one more question. “How did I possibly have that kind of rage and self-hatred at that age?”

And how did I know that the girl mouse was “not right”?

With the berserker terror I had experienced at the threat of a spanking, I knew it wasn’t from some sort of abuse my parents had wreaked on me. They had never beaten me. In fact, I now know that my father’s bark has always been worse than his bite.

And really, it was less the fear of the spanking itself that had set me off. Rather, it had been the helplessness. The inability to free myself and stop someone doing something to me that I didn’t want them to do.

While being pinned face down and bent over.

With my pants pulled down.

I had such a hysterical, he’s-gonna-kill-me type reaction to it that my parents eventually stopped even using the threat of spanking because I would disintegrate in terror at the mere thought.

Not long after getting those partial memories back, I tried to get some therapy for this and my laundry list of other traumas. The counsellor was obviously ill-equipped for this sort of thing. They’ve all been ill-equipped.

This one wouldn’t even entertain the idea of potential childhood sex trauma or explore the ramifications of how such a thing could have impacted my life. In fact, she seemed quite squirmy talking about it. “You probably just saw a movie you shouldn’t have.”

Logical. There had definitely been some of that.

“Or perhaps you toddled in on a babysitter and her boyfriend who shouldn’t have been there, and were traumatized by the sight of them having intercourse.”

To the point of rabid-raving terror?

No. And anyway, there’s one major flaw in her theory. The coups de grace.

12 years old Spring

Mom explained the whole bird-and-bees thing to me a long time ago. She even got out a pad of paper and drew cartoons. She’s great like that. But now that I’ve come home from the sex ed sessions at school and heard the girls with older siblings talking in the bathroom, I’m really scared.




I don’t want any of that! I certainly don’t want to have to go through it with a boy I like and want to like me back. I don’t want him to see me cry. I’m already ugly and a nerd and I have glasses and cowlicked hair and my jokes are stupid and all the boys call me gross. If one of them finally likes me back, I don’t need to remind him that I’ve always been a crybaby, too.

For sure he would dump me if I did that.

Nobody likes a crybaby. Nobody wants to be friends with somebody like that, and nobody would ever want a crybaby for a girlfriend, so I know exactly what to do. I’ll just break my hymen myself. Then nobody will see me cry and maybe I’ll get to have a boyfriend just like the pretty girls do.

I get a big wad of toilet paper, grab a marker from my desk, make sure the cap is on tight, and lock my bedroom door. I pull down my pants and underwear. Once on the bed, I put the toilet paper under me and take a deep breath.

You can do this. Just shove.


But my hand is shaking and my heart is racing. Maybe if I just sort of…slowly…find it first. I push. And push. And push.

And push.

Most of the marker is in me when it finally stops.

I wiggle it. Jab it around a little.


There is no little membrane at the front of my vagina to break. There’s just…a deep, dark hole. Vagina. I don’t like that word. But it’s better than what some of the older boys say with their sneers and all their jokes I don’t understand. I understand a little more after today. Including the fact that I don’t have a hymen to break.

But I have no idea what that means.

I pull my pants back up, sneak out to the bathroom, throw the paper in the toilet, and wait a little bit. I walk tippy-toes on the design of the linoleum, one tile after another after another, back and forth across the floor until enough time has passed that I could have peed. Hymen... No hymen... After flushing the toilet, I rinse off the marker and stick it in my jeans pocket.

Back in my bedroom, I sit down at my desk. I think it's time to do homework now.

My therapist’s answer to that?

“Well, you look like you’re in good shape. Did you do any sports when you were a child? Oh, gymnastics? Sure. You could have easily broken it with perfectly innocent physical activity.”

True. I had been an extremely active kid.

But deep in my guts I knew how it had been broken. I just didn’t know who had done it, and I didn’t know with what.

I didn’t need to know.

I didn’t need or want the intricate details and visuals and scents and sensations of who had committed one of the most vile acts one person can do to another at an age when my greatest accomplishments were coloring inside the lines and singing my ABC’s with my mommy.

Edit 8/22/22: I have some more of those details now. And yes. I was more correct than I could have imagined. I still don’t have a name for the face, and I still have no clue what he used because I was either upside-down after being yanked off a changing table by my ankles, or I was face down, pinned by the back of the neck, or I was too young to comprehend the sensations with any sort of clarity.

The who and what he used are far less important than what it did to me: it fucked me up. It rewired my hard drive before I even entered kindergarten. It made me hate myself. It poisoned me with shame and disgust any time I looked in the mirror, and it left me with no idea why. Combined with almost drowning around the same age, it made me afraid of the world.

And you know what happens to those kids. Scaredy cats. Crybabies. The ones who slink around with their eyes on the ground and their chests caved in, hoping no one else will hurt them but believing, deep down, that they deserve to be hurt. Those kinds of kids don’t fight back. They enter the shark pool of school and become everybody’s chum.


--UP NEXT: Our deep dive into childhood bullying: HOW I BECAME (silent)

--OR if you'd like to skip to all my other techniques for healing injury and trauma, I've compiled them all in a neat little section here:


I'm not the person to ask for advice about this subject. These people are:

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) - Including the National Sexual Assault Hotline 800-656-HOPE


Something else I didn't have when I originally wrote this post:

—One of the best books I have ever read in my life: The Body Keeps the Score - Brain, Mind & Body in the Healing of Trauma

—Don't want to read the book? Here's the basic premise of what trauma does to the body and why talking about it, even in therapy, so often doesn't solve the problems: Short Version. Or Long Version by the author himself

—A few of the myriad healing techniques discussed in the book: EMDR, Yoga, Mindfulness & Support Network. These are only a few the book covers.

EMDR: The technique that has given me the most success, both for immediate single-incident trauma (my big car wreck) and for C-PTSD.

Complex PTSD - how prolonged and repeated childhood trauma rewires the nervous system and manifests in personality, self-esteem, and behaviors

8 Signs You Might Be Traumatized

How Trauma & Dissociation interrupt the ability to form memories


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