Several months ago Robbie and I watched the 2015 movie Room. The cast included: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen and William H. Macy. A 24-year-old Joy Newsome and her 5-year-old son Jack live in a squalid shed they call Room. They share a bed, toilet, bathtub, television, and rudimentary kitchen; the only window is a skylight. They are captives of a man they call “Old Nick”, Jack’s biological father, who abducted Joy seven years prior and routinely rapes her while Jack sleeps in the closet. She tries to stay optimistic for her son, but suffers from malnutrition and depression. She allows Jack to believe that only Room and its contents are real, and that the rest of the world exists only on television. (Wikipedia)
Initially you watch the movie trying to figure out what is happening. Why does this women live in such a small space? Their daily routine does not ever include going outside. It is as if nothing exists outside their four walls. Little by little clues are given and when “Old Nick” enters the room late one night – you finally grasp their horrific reality. It is completely unnerving and heartbreaking. Joy finally decides to try to escape but needs the help of her son to do it. She wraps Jack in a carpet and has him play dead in the hope that Old Nick will remove him from Room. Falling for the ruse, Old Nick places Jack in the back of his pickup truck and drives through a residential neighborhood. Although stunned by his first exposure to the outside world, Jack jumps from the truck and attracts the attention of a passerby. The police arrive and rescue him. Joy is found and she and Jack are taken to a hospital. Old Nick is captured and imprisoned.
Let me tell you it was excruciating for me to watch it all unfold. Would her plan work? Will “Old Nick” discover Jack isn’t truly dead? If so, what will happen to Jack and also Joy? I couldn’t take it! I was literally pacing and walked out of the room several times until the scene ended. In fact, I seriously thought about going downstairs until it was over. I didn’t think I could handle it if their plan failed. Okay, I know it’s just a movie but something inside me connected to their plight on a deeper level. The movie was entertaining and the acting was superb. Although when the movie ended I felt as if I was going to throw up.
Later I realized that the feelings that this movie brought out in me were too familiar. Once upon a time I had lived it too. Although I wasn’t abducted physically and locked in a room. The connection between myself and my abusers in many ways were the same. I understood the fear and anguish being at the mercy of others. Like Joy I lived it for many years – in fact a lot longer than she did. I knew what it was like to be at their mercy and captive to their desires. I attempted to manage my everyday routines as normal, because it helped me survive. I needed to hold on to parts of my life I believed were safe and normal.
When help never arrived for me I reached a point where I surrendered and stopped trying to fight or escape it. It then becomes a double-edged sword because I later learned I judged and hated myself for doing those things to survive. For many years I could never even watch these types of movies because it was too painful. It triggered past abusive memories that I had buried long ago. Once brought to the surface I no longer had control and would re-live them over and over and over. Immediately my heart would beat wildly and cause stress and depression that was difficult to shake. I am able to watch these types of movies now but I would be lying to say if doesn’t affect me at all. It just doesn’t continue to have the same power over me.
Room was the first movie in years that brought this intense reaction out of me. At first, I feared it would take me back in time and pull me under. I considered turning the movie off but couldn’t bring myself to do it. In the end I remembered the past without re-living it. It helped me see that my abusers still had somewhat of a grip over me. Now I was determined to find a way to sever it. Three of my four sexual abusers are dead so why do they continue to hold any sort of power over me? Just like Joy I still struggled once I left the four walls that kept me captive. This movie was an excellent reminder that even when it’s darkest to never give up. When help never arrives sometimes you just need to rescue yourself.
In sharing this I also must say that my relationship with Christ has made this all possible. Through it I gained strength, courage and determination that previously felt impossible to achieve. There are things happening in my life right now that enables me a new level of freedom. The choking tentacles that have smothered me since childhood are beginning to fade away – and I can now truly begin to breathe. It’s almost like reaching a new level in a video game. Each level usually has an associated objective, which may be as simple as walking from point A to point B. When the objective is completed, the player usually moves on to the next level. If the player fails, they must usually try the same level again or perhaps return to the very start of the game.
If you don’t give up and continue to persevere you can figure out how to get past it. Things will then click into place, you improve and ultimately overcome. Many times in these games as you progress your character will unlock new abilities, skills and access to a new area of the game. It’s taken a lot of work but I’ve entered a new level in my healing. Many times I’ve wanted to quit but I continue fighting. As scary at the battle seems I know what’s waiting on the other side makes the fight worth it. How do I know for sure? Every once in a while I get an invigorating taste of wholeness and freedom. When this happens – I almost can’t believe it’s better than what I hoped for – and revel in a moment that feels really damn good.