Don't Forget. . .Forgive

I wonder, perhaps, if the others see this as another prison; that being incarcerated behind a locked door isn't a reminder of that other time.. . .and maybe for them it is.

But they would be wrong.

For me this isn't a prison, it is a refuge.

I am warm, I have a comfortable bed, a window that overlooks a garden and I am as well fed as anyone can be when hospital food is all that is available. There is a television on the wall that I have not bothered to switch on and I am not allowed a laptop or a phone and I am surprised that I have not missed them.

For the first time in months I am at peace.

I have no secrets here and it is such a relief. I thought I was doing the right thing in keeping what I had gone through to myself. I thought that by shielding my family and friends from that knowledge that I was protecting them. I can see now that I was mistaken, even if I was doing it for selfless reasons.

I have to be honest here, they will not allow me to hide behind those barriers of denial. . .and the hardest truth that I have had to face is that my reason wasn't selfless, at least not after that first lie when I assured them that I was OK. Then, we were all concerned about Ziva and getting her away from that desert hell-hole and all getting home. Everyone was so focussed on her that I was able to deflect the unwanted attention, get myself away for medical treatment and take leave until all outward manifestations of abuse were gone.. . .and I needed that week to bury those memories so deep that they could not hurt them. I told myself I was being noble. . .I was wrong.

I was ashamed.

And it was that shame that brought me here to a locked ward in the psych unit. Because, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't keep the memories locked away. I tried to distract myself with work and with my writing. I made it my mission to help ease Ziva back to health and be there to support her through those first difficult months back. She was my inspiration, she was so strong, so resilient and even though she was changed, somehow she held herself together. She even told me what they did to her. She took my hand and towed me down to a bench overlooking the Anacostia and there, in the dark, she told me her tale and she cried, without shame or embarrassment; she trusted me with her pain and we held on to each other through the storm. She wanted me to know that it was safe to share my own secrets, and I realised then that she had read me better than anyone but I was still in denial and I still wanted it not to have happened.

But I wasn't strong enough to keep the nightmares at bay; they invaded my dreams and each time I was back in that stinking cell and they were there, their hands pulling at my clothes, hurting me, taunting me. . .raping me.

Dr Avery comes to see me every day and at each session, at some point she makes me acknowledgement that out loud and each time it gets a little easier. She is so very calm and collected, she doesn't flinch if I shout or yell or scream or if I cry. . and that in itself is such a relief. I can get angry now and it is a revelation to me just how cathartic a process it can be. . .even when it scares me to be so out of control. I feel like a child throwing a tantrum, letting rip amidst the maelstrom as all the hate and fear and disgust and anger spew forth, leaving me limp and exhausted and cleansed.

I have had no visitors since they transferred me here from the ICU, at my own request. They were all there when I woke up in the hospital. . .and they were all so kind. . .so concerned. . .and I knew then that my terrible secret wasn't mine any longer. No one wanted to speak; Abby hugged me so carefully, Ziva held the fingers of one hand and Tony and Gibbs stood at the end of the bed looking as out of place as I had ever seen them but it was Ducky who spoke, Ducky who broke the ice, who broke me. Such a simple heartfelt admonition as he ruffled my hair 'Oh, Timothy, my dear, silly boy!'. I cried then. . .the first tears I had shed for myself.

I hope I haven't hurt them more by cutting myself off in here; I'm a voluntary patient, I asked them to admit me here. I'm tired of being a victim and I knew how hard it would be to face up to the past and to the mistakes I have made. I couldn't risk any distraction and I didn't want anyone to see what I feared would be a messy and emotional process.

And tomorrow I am being released to begin the next stage of my recovery and that requires forgiveness.

I need to forgive myself for not being strong enough to fight off my attackers. I was helpless and overpowered and it was not my fault.

I need to forgive my friends for not seeing through my defences; I kept them out and it was not their fault.

I need my family and friends to forgive me for shutting them out and for nearly taking myself away from them permanently; I wasn't trying to kill myself, I just need the pain to stop. . .I was in agony, both physically and mentally and my only fault was in trying to deal with it on my own.

And before I can move on I need to forgive the men who did this to me. I cannot hope to put the whole mess behind me whilst I hold on to the hate. The men who did this to me are dead; we left no survivors in the Somalian camp. I have asked Dr Avery to arrange for the Cleric from the local Mosque to come and visit me. I don't know much about Muslim faith, but despite the prejudice and propaganda we are bombarded with by the media, I believe it to be a religion grounded in respect and compassion. I would like him to offer up a prayer for the men who did this to me and to Ziva.

I have taken the first wobbly steps on the road to recovery and there is a long way to go but now I believe that I can make it. My family and friends will be with me every step of the way, on the good days and the bad. They have seen my tears and I will not fear them seeing more.

I no longer believe that I must forget the past; it is a part of me, a part of my history. But I can and will move forward. I will get healthy and strong.

And, perhaps, I will be a better man because of it.

Shireling. November 2009

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