The Frozen Adult

The Frozen Adult.

During the initial interview, her voice trembled as Lean recalled her past traumas, and suddenly she blanked out in the middle of her story. She turned to me and seemed to stare right through me; her mind elsewhere. She sat there in a trance state, fully engaged in her historic traumatic encounter – her eyes filled with fear and helplessness. Lean’s whole frame shook as though she had been locked in a freezer. I waited a few seconds for her to resurface from her dissociated state. When she did not, in a very low voice, I gently called her back. In a few seconds, she came out of her trance. She could not recall what had happened, but was sensing a shock to her physiological system. I allowed her time to recover, by slowly assisting her to ground herself in regaining her mental equilibrium back to our counselling room environment. Having recouped her perspective, she said that her immediate reaction was to run away and hide for an hour or so, but “I feel that I can’t even get up and walk. I can’t concentrate. Feel that I am immobilised with great anxiety,” Lean commented. That was not unusual, I explained, as “you were simply re-enacting an abusive aftermath – as though it was happening just then.”

Whenever Lean was triggered in the past, she would very quickly walk away from the situation without a word, and could not explain why she had done it later on. Sometimes, this happened when she was watching a television drama at home with her family – triggered by a sexual assault scene. At other times, a colleague would be talking about a similar issue, and she would get up and walk away. They all commented on her odd behaviour, but it remained a mystery to her, as she struggled to cope with those disparate memories. At times, she would question whether her own abuses actually took place. Furthermore, Lean had a host of ‘imaginary companions,’ who were a constant source of distraction to her. Lean vaguely recalled that these different ‘characters’ surfaced soon after her abuses. She would talk to them on-and-off, sometimes verbally aloud, but on other occasions, silently in her head. For many years, she had blamed her parents for not looking after her, but never disclosed to them the nature of her traumas, till after her marriage. One day, in a fit of anger over an unconnected issue, she blurted out the earlier abuses, which shocked them into silence. Lean was 35 years old when she saw me, and the mother of two young children. She confessed that her over-protectiveness of them bothered her, as she realised she was over-compensating for her own distresses.

When she was 6 years old, a group of teenage schoolboys took her to an empty house and made her take off her clothes, fondled her, and exposed themselves to her. A few weeks later, she was raped by a schoolboy. She blanked out during the incident, and after she came around, she found herself in a daze, wandering around a deserted part of her village. Re-victimization by different strangers followed in the next few years. Lean’s husband was very supportive of her recovery programme.