Sleep?

The 2 AM dance in my head occurs. If only the use of the bathroom wasn’t needed, because returning to sleep afterwards is often hard work. No, you will not get up. Stay. And a long time later sleep did come, but not till my brain calmed down and went over every painful experience it ever had.

I don’t think of this shit in the daytime, why does it feast on my brain at night? Hushing the harsh voice that blames me for not disciplining my mind, the knowledge that parts of my brain are broken from the unprocessed repeated traumas of my youth, brings some balm to at least that aspect of my nightly troubles, but the thoughts continue to swirl. 

That included thinking about abusive siblings who feel as close now as they ever did. In the thick of darkness these thoughts invade, even though for a good portion of my adult life another ‘family’ was built from ground up that had nothing to do with blood.

To love those that hurt me so much? To hate those that hurt me so much? But the hate is gone. The rage is gone. In its place is sadness. Sadness that each of them lived with what they did, and grew in a family that drove them to it.

The love and closeness of blood family does not dissipate like a poof of air at the end of a wand. Family is family. This was mine… sadly. And yet while these rabid thoughts played out, a hint of something else flickered… the awareness of the light of my own soul. In the dark, while trying to sleep, a spark of truth.

My tired brain, awake like an hot wire frantically whipping wildly in the road during a storm, won’t stop and move onto other mundane matters until it had its ride. Eventually fitful sleep comes.  But this new awakening of what lies beneath holds promise of growth, light, and ever-lasting life.  

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The Price of Abuse

photo by Patricia

Price tag? One life.

Thinking back on my life, and looking at it now,  the wonder is how this place was achieved with so much trauma and anxiety ruling each day.  The power of one individual makes me take stock, but with a sense of sadness at what was stolen.

My life is worth admiration. Yet I’m not in it enough to appreciate that fact. There it is beside me as if I’m living that life apart from the real body and being. Retreating to my safe place is where I still go.

Though work occurs now to be present in the moment, it is work. At least now there is awareness that I go elsewhere.

A therapist once said, “Just show up.”

What did that mean? Years later, after the book, and delving into the community of women survivors of childhood sexual abuse blogging on-line, I learned there was a real clinical word to describe being apart from the body during trauma, and for some, long after. What I refer to as ‘zoning out’ is called dissociation.

It happened without my conscious knowledge. No therapist ever told me, or mentioned the word. This unconscious survival tool buffered me from any more taken from me because precious little was left; an ember burning for life, one spec of fire buried under rubble, a kernel of hope almost extinguished by the hands of brothers.

They didn’t mean it. They were messed up. I was an easy target. It was never about me. It was all about me. Rage and dissociation took my life. Yet the work was diligent to have a life, forging on to fight for one, pushing through no matter what. That takes lives too, draining the already over-taxed adrenals so much it could kill you.

At the least it has gobbled up energy stores, unlike most others around me who go, go, go. The body takes many hits for psychological pain, pointedly traumatic pain where the family requires silence. Unprocessed traumatic pain inflames all body systems damaging them permanently, alone with the psyche, and spirit. Emotional growth becomes stalled requiring much work and many years to catch up.

There are many outlets to this unconscionable  pain running deep in the bones of little girls growing to womanhood…  those take lives too.

You did not mean to take my life. Yet you did. And the guilt ate you dead. Though I envisioned ways to chop you up, I did not really wish you dead. I wanted to love you. I wanted you to love me. I wanted a loving family, with loving brothers. I wanted warmth. Connection. A body to be in. You took that. You didn’t mean to, but you did.

 

Come Home

You get to have your feelings, space, body and mind. You get to inhabit all of that, still a reminder because for too much of the time my mind is squirreling away in its trenches of self-doubt and self-recriminations. Or buzzing off in some way due to anxiety that ebbs and flows, but is always there below baseline no matter how hard the work has been to soothe it.

You own it, it’s yours. Yet it has never seemed that way. My body was used, taken by those I loved and trusted most. Then when I fought or said ‘No,’ more force was used, either physically or psychologically. I was shut off and shut down. The box of my body was intolerable, and I escaped leaving my body and all else behind.

I have never come back and been able to stay. Moments stretch into minutes, and sometimes hours; when focused on my work in the studio, riding my horse of long ago, or hosing the foamy sweat off her after a summer ride, the stillness by the creek when parts dare to come in- join hands, and become one. There are periods of time feeling whole and content.

Waking in the morning is not one of them. Fears press down; being alone without Samuel, relationships that need improvement because of all my faults, and, and, and… then the voice of calm, reason and compassion, “It’s OK, you’re OK. You get to be in your body because you are OK, and as equal to others as anyone else. You get to have your space with boundaries.”

The soothing voice relaxes the ever present take off flight that signals leaving… going somewhere else to escape the pain of being me, and all that was learned in childhood that said I was bad. Come home. Come home again and again. You are OK, at home, and safe.

Dungeons and Dragons

photo by Patricia

The human body amazes. Mine has taken severe abuse, not by others, though that is true, but by me.

“Punishment,” I said to Samuel.

There was no other explanation. The eating machine had taken control. Things went down my poor stomach that weren’t wanted, and didn’t taste good. My head says that Sunday’s inability to sleep after a happy afternoon with friends, then calls from both sons, was part of the PTSD package due to what happened so long ago.

My personality says it is something different, that I’m different, an oddity, a belief ingrained along with the permanent damage from the sexual attacks endured from age 8-11, ongoing attacks on all facets of my being. 

Living with the effects of PTSD from the childhood attacks of sexual abuse will not go away. The craving continues to forget those facts. Going along day after day, quietly and happily, these realities intrude with little warning or fanfare. Turning to food, stuffing it down automatically, kicks in. More damage is done. 

I don’t want to be weird, a misfit, different. Perhaps a bugle ought to play alerting me to the whys of not sleeping then I could be better prepared to handle it healthfully instead of the knee jerk reaction of food stuffing. 

The next day the bad eating continued even more severely, making me sick then unable to sleep… just like when I was eight and went to my mother tapping her lightly on the shoulder while she slept.

“I’m going to be sick,” I said.

She murmured back, “What do you want me to do, spit straw?” I went to the bathroom and threw up. The eating continued. She fed me, overfed me really in her zest to do something. But she didn’t stop the terrible nightly attacks. Nor did she do anything to relieve the belief that it was all my fault. That would be contrary to her need for a happy family to be on show.

That was her unconscious way of keeping me silent. That self-blame will keep the family secret in, and the shame. Her daughter’s weight bloomed along with the shame hidden in the thick folds of  my skin.

She also wanted me to love myself, giving me the book, “How to Be Your Own Best Friend.” Mother, you split me, broke me in two. I have failed at that too. 

You’d think I hate my mother. I love her. I also needed her desperately all the way into my fifties when she died at 91…desperately searching for the love that felt just out of reach.   

Sometimes I take up where my mother left off, casting myself away like so much garbage. My poor heart pounded with the extra effort of trying to digest the food, while also trying to sleep. Giving up, moving to the couch, it slowed and sleep eventually came.

A great appreciation comes for my body and its tenacity for life even after so damage has occurred to it; some by my hands, some by others. My psyche also has taken a disturbing hit that is also permanent. My unwillingness to accept that has to be readjusted over and over.

Accepting what occurred and how that destroyed many aspects of my body and mind is a fact faced repeatedly because the urge is be like everyone else. Accepting these realities time and again is an ongoing job needing focused diligence. Acceptance, like patience, does not come easily.   

The aspect of feeling abnormal and bad will always be there, ingrained into my psyche just as my wiring has been damaged by the feeling of constant danger lurking behind every corner.

Fighting the dragons and demons, and coming out of the dungeon to the light, is my work, and a daily challenge. So is learning to be kind and gentle to myself. As winter approaches the dungeon grows deeper, and darker, and the work becomes harder. It needs to be recognized, appreciated, and accepted.

No amount of denial helps. Acceptance and self-love does. 

 

A Simple Life

photo by Patricia

The fog hidden in that most call dissociation, surrounds with comfort. Tucked away from the world, my own life opens. Yet the outer workings of the world invade because tuning in to its happenings is ongoing, and crucial to feeling a part of it.

Peace can be easily interrupted, which makes the times when having it so gratifying. The tendency to invert inside myself like a turtle is what makes keeping relationships difficult. People like to interact.

That takes a significant amount of energy, energy that is stored for those who mean the most, a special few. And energy for things that need doing, or are high on the list of wanting to do.

Repressing trauma from decades ago takes energy. A life living with unprocessed trauma sapped adrenals, and the stores of it are depleted. Protecting what is left means a quiet life where tasks are paced.

Simple things bring pleasure; the colors in the leaf that gently dances down from the branch- wafting side to side on its way, the otter by the creek bank chewing on grass unperturbed by my presence, the gentle rain falling as thunder claps in the distance.

It’s OK to choose the life you lead, even a quiet one with simple pleasures.

 

KAVANAUGH

The theme that no one seems to care what happens to women when they are teens or children is a theme in my life erupting as if yesterday. Night after night lying there awake.

His hand over her mouth, his hand over her mouth, his hand over her mouth.

The Senate’s republicans still wanted to vote.

She could have died.

The Senate republicans still wanted to vote.

One man stood up and said, “No.”

INJUSTICE

3 AM, no sleep, no wonder. The present hearings in the senate have extinguished all hope, but more so brought up events from over fifty years ago. Smothered by Chet’s weight. That poor girl that was me. And Chet’s attacks were after Danny’s rape in the black of night. A rape repressed, but in there lurking.

It is in the dark of early morning, when daytime events have stirred up trauma burned into my psyche from childhood, that sleep won’t return after waking. It is not my fault. There is nothing that can be done differently to avoid the activation which sets off alarms that my world is unsafe.

How can it feel safe when politicians push ahead ignoring such monstrous acts, then reward the one who committed them? Only one did the right thing, Flake, who did so because he didn’t look forward to any more intrusions like the one at the elevator before the vote. Two heroic women confronted him with their own stories of being sexually attacked while he stood speechless with his head down.  

When my alarm system is activated there is not much to do except take something that calms my entire nervous system. TV was too blaring, so returning to bed was comforting, snuggling under the covers till the medication took effect, lulling me to sleep until long after the sun rose.

Talking to David about how the present brought up the past caused tears to spill out over morning coffee. Oh, how I wish it  weren’t so. Tears come hard and are exhausting, adding tired upon tired. These reactions out of my control are unwanted. My wish is to be like Samuel … oblivious to the treachery and scourge of others. 

Every time seeing Cosby’s face reminds me of the other liar I’ve lived in a hostage-like bondage with all my life, Tom. Mr. Kavanaugh’s face mimicked both.  I could not look at him while he pontificated during his testimony, nor listen to him. When a person lives a lie it shows in their face, the expressions and nuances. I would rather not be privy to such depth of knowing.

There is no reason to have been born into the mayhem that was my family of origin. There is no shining light about what was.

Shit happens. Injustice is lived with in quiet resignation. The goal it is to get on with the things that bring light and happiness, and in my world that means internal peace— very hard to hold onto when PTSD symptoms intrude. Yet it is accepted as a part of my life since the age of 8, along with a myriad of other challenges stemming from childhood sexual abuse. 

No one said I’m sorry. No one asked Tom, “Why did you do that to my sister?”

No one said “I’m sorry I didn’t stay around to protect you, and make sure nothing else happened.”

They pretend to care, just like now. My brothers put on a show of nice, then are more loyal to abuser(s). The senators put on a show of nice, then push the vote through anyway.