SEXUAL CHILDHOOD VIOLENCE

Childhood sexual abuse? That term makes the crime seem mild. Sexual assault gives more truth to the violence. And it is violent even though using a child for one’s sexual gratification is easy because there is love and trust. An attacker fucks with the body and the mind.

What’s broken can’t be mended, ever. Trust. Gone. The ability to love? My cat, yes. My kids when little, yes. Other little kids, yes. No one else really, or a moment at times when the guard walls come down.

It is always a violent act, though no discernible violence is used. As a child I felt ashamed, and bad. My brother used that to his advantage. I pretended sleep after the first attack which suffocated due to lack of air and breath. 

I had no one. I was alone. And have felt on my own ever since.

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When I Die

photo by Patricia

If writing helps just one other person, that is enough. If it helps only me, that is also enough. Even now, in this age, childhood sexual abuse isn’t talked about much except that much more has been exposed in the news. Still, that person, once a child, holds it in because others don’t want to hear, and certainly families don’t.

So she is there alone in her pain. Pain so great she often wants to die. To hear another speak the unspoken gives hope. Just as the little books only found in the city’s tiny women’s bookstore helped me thirty years ago when I dared to begin to look at what was done. In those books women spoke the truth of what was done, every word, every vicious transgression that a little child suffered, and held in.

I wasn’t alone with that tar inside me that threatened taking my life. What my brothers had done. But it wouldn’t be until thirty years later, after my mother died, when I didn’t have to protect her delusions of a happy of family, that I too spoke my truth, and the tar slowly regurgitated out; the details of what had been done. One chapter roiled up after another, what happened as a child held in. Interspersed with the treacherous pain was joy. Joy, that had been imprisoned in the thick, black tar. 

Until the day my mother died ten years ago, we had a happy family. One where I spun in circles with anxiety like a whirling dervish, or fell into depressions so bottomless that climbing out wasn’t possible without therapy. Dark days, one after the other, and a wish for death every day. Oh, I had spoken some of what happened, but everyone ignored it and went on as if I had never spoken of the traumas within.

And factions broke off here and there. Yet we all continued to pretend. But after her death, after my swooning over her grave time and again mourning her loss, the words began to come. The words of truth over what had been done. The words no one still wants to hear. 

Some days even now death doesn’t sound so bad. It is that hard, and when the time comes I hope I’m in that frame of mind. Not really wishing for it, though maybe I might, but realizing I’ve done all I can to overcome the abysmal obstacles put in my path. Die at peace. When it’s time, I want that feeling of satisfaction when I let go.

I want to live every day ready. Ready is wholeness, a connectedness to my being. And liking being there. For much of my life I did not have this, what many others take for granted. For me it is a miracle and a blessing.

 

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.  

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.

 

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…