RAT BRAIN

It is one splendid picture perfect summer day after another. The only difficulty is taming my thoughts which easily run around and around in negative thinking. Breathe. Everything is OK. You are OK. This mantra is used often because ever since age eight my belief solidified that everything I did was either bad or wrong.

That is the damage done when a child suffers horrendous attacks by those she loves. Then is left on her own to hold it all in. And families expect that. My mother ensured it to her death bed literally. There she spewed out a verse from an author she liked then ordered me to write it down.

I kept it. Maybe in the hopes that someday I could see something different than the message she touted. Side-stepping the truth is impossible. She expected me to continue to obey the gag order long after her passing.

She never said it aloud until that day before she died, even then without saying it had to do with keeping quiet about what her sons had done. The dots aren’t far apart. There’s no denying what was demanded. 

It would be hard to miss. What else could it mean? And why, so that her sons wouldn’t suffer because of what they had done? Or the ones who knew and did nothing wouldn’t be shamed by secrets? Secrets which keep me bound and hostage. That meant more to her than coming to my aid even then. It took her death 11 years ago for me to begin to learn to love myself. 

“Do you have a piece of paper and pen,” she asked?

“Yes,” I said, fumbling in my purse for a scrap of paper. 

“Write this down,” she ordered.

And the good girl in me did. 

Talk Faith

Talk faith. The world is better off without
Your uttered ignorance and morbid doubt.
If you have faith in God, or man, or self,
Say so; if not, push back upon the shelf
Of silence, all your thoughts till faith shall come.
No one will grieve because your lips are dumb.

But not long after her passing the book began. Chapter after chapter the truth held in since age 8 bubbled up. With it all the joyous times, because there were those too. But suppressing some feelings suppresses them all.

I needed her even in my fifties. Her love, though tainted with exceptions, was the only love I was capable of feeling other than various pets over the years. I surely didn’t learn to love myself, or that others could really love me. Love became deadly wrought with danger and risk. But her love at times sunk in.

I complied with the requirement to remain mute about what was done, and it didn’t need to be ordered aloud. A child learns what brings love and what brings rejection. Also required was the pretense of love towards my attackers.  Families stick together. Isn’t that what families do? And I did so without recognizing the dark need of love from places that require too much in return. 

Yes they stick together even if it means going after the traumatized child now an adult. Because they make it about themselves not the victim, a doubled up betrayal by the clan. But the attacking siblings must have felt badly because each one died way too early except one. The one most hated survives. 

No one ever approached with a request for forgiveness. Perhaps I blame myself for that too, so enraged I would be too hard to approach. And that is the damage done life-long, that every action is wrong or bad, even that an abuser didn’t apologize. .

The rat brain effect swirling in my head always needs taming. When never learning to trust, interactions towards others are tinged with doubt, coldness, separation, and disdain. My ability to get close, though craving it, was irrevocably damaged.

Any tool to keep others at bay is used. And since swinging a bat is frowned upon, other tactics kick in without conscious thought. Craving friends, a boyfriend, or any human interaction, mistrust forced unconscious acting contrary to my yearnings. Facial expressions, body moments, and sarcasm became highly honed to keep others from getting close. This evolved without planning or insight into what I was actually doing. 

It has worked really well (mostly), though boys fumbled at my body in high-school or college, never a comfortable situation for me even after married. Now more aware, changes have been made. Over time friends have stuck with me. That wasn’t the case for decades, losing them one by one due to my inability to speak up or trust.

My brain still swings the hammer of wrongdoing, it’s an unfortunate knee jerk reaction. Sometimes the energy to fight it is available, but not always. That tendency seems permanent because what was learned in childhood cemented into my personality… I am bad.  

My first thought when another seems upset or I imagine that they are, is–what did I do wrong? It takes daily work to counter this part of me. Medical marijuana oil has helped. I don’t lie awake nights going over a scenario repeatedly wondering what I’d done, or angry at someone else because they have wronged me. 

These years here on the country plot have not always been easy, but peace has moved into unfamiliar places that others take for granted— the core that believes in one’s goodness offering stability, centeredness, and calm. It tends to linger in me now too.  

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