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.

 

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ANGUISH

At times the feeling that the holidays would be over are present. The nostalgia and old wounds bubble up simmering like a slow cooker that never was turned off. If there is an up-side, it is in looking deeper into the anguish that has caused tears leaking out even after a few days of longer cries.

Hurts now open them up. Feeling left out because in a family of ten, an attorney working hard under great stress because babies keep popping out, and a mother who loves babies but can’t really handle so many, the emotional needs of each child was neglected. Feelings of being left out and uncared for becomes a theme for each child.

And if you look at that feeling of being left out, it really is a feeling of being unwanted. No wonder the anguish. No wonder the wounds.

They drank and loved to party. He died at 45 from the stress and the drinking. Then she drank. I was only eight. I already had loneliness issues… then…the sexual attacks began. The family’s turmoil tore us apart and never did there be a family again.

 

MEMORIES

“We’re going to play house. You’re the Mommy, I’m the Daddy,” he whispers softly in the child’s ear. His breath is warm, and she loves him, trusting her brother.

Blank time, then while bathing the water hitting the tender labia sears with pain. No one intervenes. No one stops more of it. Somehow the child grows and now entering the winter stages of her life those memories are as if yesterday.

How does she take the beauty of today and balance those with the memories of yesterday?

SUICIDE

photo by Patricia

Waking in the night the tendency is to think of the most negative or uncomfortable thought then blaming myself immediately and without forethought. It is my natural tendency to blame myself for everything going wrong. This solidified at the age of 8 when this sibling attacked me. His attack was so violent and severe my psyche won’t allow memory of so it festers below the surface like a shark about to attack. My 65th birthday comes in a few months, and it is likely this repressed memory will vibrate in my depths for life.  

It is the first attack that started a lengthy period of continuing traumas that cemented permanent and chronic PTSD. The challenges due to no intervention, hence no processing of the repeated assaults to my body and psyche, remain very much alive today confining my life in a multitude of ways that limit what I can do.

Talking myself down from these thoughts coming unbidden in the dark, trying to take the self-blame out of it which always becomes a component in the middle of night when feeling so vulnerable, helps sleep to return. Sometimes it takes a long while but with persistence and turning over re-trying each position repeatedly, sleep might finally come. But not tonight.

He died at 28, seven years older than me. Lagging like a ghostly shadow are thoughts that my question had something to do with his last suicide attempt being successful.

“What did you do to me?” I asked of my older brother Danny, one of twins. It was the next time he attempted to end his life that did end it.

Why forty years later does it seem so recent, the memory of asking so fresh along with the guilt? Lying there in the queerly soundless night the self- talk starts. If that didn’t make his last attempt reliably earnest, something else would have.

It took an entire family of dysfunction to cause this sibling to fail in life and everything he tried. It was his mother and father, not you. You were just a little girl grown into a confused, lost, and violently injured young woman also unable to find her way. You were looking for answers and instinct guided you to ask. It’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK.

There are things that can only be put to rest by forgiving myself, even now over forty years later, things that block the road to self-love and acceptance, things only I can do and that only I can give myself. There is always work to do…

ONE VOICE

photo by Patricia

My mother died almost 9 years ago. After her death the book erupted from deep within. Protecting her vision of a happy family was no longer needed. Freedom to grow and become complete occurred. It took that long. I was 56.

As the words gurgled up about what they had done it was committed to paper then strewn to the universe where it belonged. It did not belong deep down in me, or kept on that little girl’s shoulders anymore. I felt lighter.

Along with the details no child should live with, came events that brought joy. The tears falling down my cheeks each week were capsules of joy with the pain. I looked forward to mornings writing while sipping coffee, and the hours ticked by satisfyingly.

A book emerged without much planning. Each chapter fell into place as if written before writing and just waiting. Once committed to book form and available to the world a need existed for further voice. A blog, start a blog. The voice blotted for decades began to sing.

The one rule is, be honest. Be who you are, or who you know yourself to be at the time of writing. Going deep beneath the layers of who should I be, the pleaser, the sweet person, and all the other personas worn and learned over time to ride the waves without hitting a rock, dissolved. What was left?…the journey inside, no longer fearful to learn about who was there, discovering her, and speaking for her for the very first time.  

The Core

Two fears faced daily, death and that of being unlovable. Despite much evidence to the contrary, the fear of not being loved, or worthy of it, are what rattle around in my belly causing an anxiety that needs calming each morning upon arising. Usually it is not a conscious need, but there like a low growling monster needing feeding.

The monster hasn’t changed much since childhood. Drowning it with whatever would silence it only works temporarily; food, shopping, alcohol, super busyness, excess caffeine, sugar… What would it take to quiet the beast and reduce her roars to a manageable way of being?

That is the work and the goal… What do you need to love yourself? Others love you. Why can’t you feel it, why can’t you love you? The core so hidden to preserve what’s left is heavily vaulted. You can’t access it either. Go there. Be brave. Only then will you discover the treasures awaiting.

 

AMAZING GRACE

photos by Patricia

The grace of peace envelopes my being. A life of battles make this miracle sweet, battles within myself that were never won for long because another quickly took its place.

Living on the edge with a nervous system smashed by early childhood sexual abuse made life an anxiety ridden existence. There is no wish to do it again. Contemplation over the hurdles it took to find these moments of fulfillment takes me back to my mother’s death eight years ago.

It was only then that the truth came up in explicit detail, every nuance, every trauma. It was only then that instinct allowed for release of all that been hidden in order to protect her need for a view of ‘family’ that eased her conscious.

As each chapter arose it came with sorrows but also joy because locked down trauma locks down joy too. Blackness carried from the crimes of others vanished from my core.  

Finally the enormous load of feeling dirty and bad lifted. There is space to explore what really is there without clouds of filth from the hands of others. The journey continues…