FALL

Though feeling greatly improved by day two, it takes the body longer to fully heal after an intestinal bout. Walking one day was work without pleasure. Just do it because joints need oiling, and other systems like fresh oxygenated blood.

But yesterday, the sky azure like a robin’s egg, sun warming my shoulders, walking brought so much pleasure laps were doubled from 5 to ten, each one savored. Some days are like that, you just have to be out in them.

The yellow meadow has dried to softer hues, less interesting. But more hickory nuts crunch under my shoes as squirrels are busy eating and storing. It brings a chuckle in the winter to see them dive into snow looking for their treasures.

The quiet mornings with the loss of migrating songbirds brings a loneliness for what’s passed. My friend who died several years ago is missed more sharply, and my mother which was ten years ago.

Wistful for what was, enough time has passed that neither loss is still fresh with pain. Just a slight ache to once again interact with the rare few whose presence brought comfort and joy.

The beauty of fall seems to come with that longing, of things dying wishing they wouldn’t, wanting to hold on, learning to let go, and accepting what is.

 

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Love of Self

“Spend,” she said. Imagine having a financial adviser after our careful life of spending, and one who says SPEND!

“You have too much cash on hand.” she added, “Statistics say one of you will live to ninety.”

“I’m not connecting the dots.” I said, “If we live that long then we need all the money we can save.”

Legally she is not supposed to let on what we already know. Existing cash can be siphoned into a nursing home if one of us had to go there. So she and our attorney suggested spending some of it, doing things, or giving some to our sons.

Don’t wait and let the state take it, was the inference raised. This goes totally against our life-time of being exceedingly careful about expenditures. I doubt their advice will change our ways.

How did this happen? Spend? Please, I feel guilty adding to my DVD collection, or buying specialty coffee. I reuse plastic baggies until they don’t hold water, and some of them last years.

When Shane was a baby, cloth diapers were hung around the wood stove to dry. Our house had no walls, no real floor, no good water, septic, electric, or a sound roof which needed a complete tear-down. And none of that mattered. I was just glad to out of my mother’s basement, and extraordinarily excited to own our first home, even if it was more like a shell of one.

Most items, from kitchen supplies, to clothes, to toys, were bought at garage sales, even Christmas presents when Shane and Cory were too young to know the difference. And that’s OK. We were, and are, happy.

Our sons know the value of a dollar and how to spend wisely, and do not allow manufacturer’s to take advantage of them. They speak up about poor quality, asking for the manager when necessary.

What is needed, and craved for, can’t be bought— living in the moment without fear. Not fearing death, the future, or now. What I want doesn’t grow on trees like money does, so the old adage says. It isn’t found in stores. It exists in the fields of nature, the mountains of the Adirondacks, in the glens nearby where we camp, in our back yard, and mostly inside myself.

Calm, peace, acceptance, and triumphing over the battle always lost in decades prior, that of loving myself. The childhood attacks inflicted upon me meant a life of self-loathing. But that is changing, if ever so slowly it is.

There lies inside a generous, loving soul with great courage, fortitude and strength. I am learning to love what is found beneath the filth of my brother’s hands, coming up out of 60 years of shame that is not mine and never was.

 

Permanent PTSD

https://healingfromcomplextraumaandptsd.wordpress.com/

When understanding what is happening, more gentleness and compassion can be bestowed upon what first feels like my weaknesses. Preparing for the trip to the cottage tomorrow to meet with my son and two year old grand-daughter had gotten me in a flurry. A 4 AM waking meant staying awake with a head full of a ‘to do’ list.

But the night after, even with being so tired, sleep did not come. Coming out to the couch I said to Samuel, who always stays up later, “I’m wide awake. But it makes no sense, I know I’m tired.”

He nods, then goes off to bed. Samuel is not much of a talker.

Feeling sorry for myself for having to take a sleep aid, adding to the ‘I hate myself list’ comes eating. The bag of pretzels found its way onto my lap, not usually a snack that’s around just for that reason, my tendency to numb out with non-nutritious snack food. Who overeats on baby carrots?

Self-hatred completely full as the Xanax took effect, sleep came solid for 7 hours. The day of reckoning came upon waking. There are many days like that. Feelings of disgust; with myself, with life, with me being haunted with being me. Why do I have to be me?

Why can’t I be like everyone else around me? Picking themselves up and going wherever they please, all over the world. Even a trip to a lake gets me in a frenzy. It was more than that though.

It took all day to figure it out and begin to be gentle with myself; accepting that I can’t snap a finger and be someone else. I can’t snap a finger and be a different girl than the one born to a family who would abuse me over and over again, then spend the rest of their lives, and my life, never talking about it, never validating the traumas sustained, never apologizing. .

The bird. It was the bird again. Abashed to admit it, the bird traumatized me once again. The first nest was in the pine tree by the house. Bad enough. But this was right on top of us. Samuel wanted to hose it out of wisteria when she began to build but I wouldn’t allow it.

If only I had. It was at the back door over the patio where sitting every morning in my sanctuary brings peace, joy, and a contentment of well-being not felt for most of my life.

When sipping coffee, the sun rises while hummingbirds zip by my face towards the feeder close-by. Chipmunks scoot by near my feet playfully making me laugh aloud with their antics. The flowers open still dewy, as the warmth of the first rays massage my legs and feet with their heat. A train often echoes in the distance magnified by the cool, moist air.

Gone. Taken. Unsafe. 

She built her nest peaceably enough. It wasn’t until the eggs hatched that the terrorizing began, ramping up the very last week before they left it. I stayed housebound only using the screened porch. 

My safety was stolen, my haven, my paradise. It is embarrassing to admit it was a bird. Samuel added to my chagrin, and self-contempt by saying, “It’s just a bird. It really can’t hurt you, but it is annoying. Next time I’m going to shoot it.”

At this point killing it sounded good to me too, perhaps even drowning the chicks so that the killer birds would back off. Maybe they could die too. My love of mockingbirds has shifted dramatically.

But Samuel’s usual lack of depth about my body’s reaction, and my inability to have any control over my hyper-arousal, made the pain feel heavier and deeper. No validation does that. 

Once again he doesn’t get it. And I believed him, feeling ashamed at my overreaction even as I try to explain how my broken system works. Even while I think of children in war-torn countries where their everyday life really is threatened without relief. That doesn’t seem to lesson my own body’s reactions, or my feelings of futility about the on-going challenges. 

Once the siren goes off, that’s it, my system’s on alert and stayed that way the entire day, though I was unaware of it. Like two people inhabit my body, a calm one, and one who is frightened for her life all the time. That system is inaccessible. 

Refusing to be a prisoner in my own home, I dared walk to the garden. That set it off. Juggling an armload of squash with a water bottle to squirt my attacker, the attacker won. He chased me to the door, swooping down at my head as I fumbled with the door knob, frightening the hell out of me.

This had happened another day at the back door after a walk in the meadow, staying away from the house on each lap so that the ‘killer bird’ would not get agitated. My escape inside was so frantic my shoe got caught in the door. He was right at me all the way to the door. I had to duck out quickly for an instant in order to retrieve the shoe, afraid to be poked in the head or face with it’s sharp beak. 

My heart was pumping, adrenaline shooting through my veins. Even by nighttime my system couldn’t calm down. It was out of my hands, even though Samuel blamed me, and I agreed as my ever-ready harsh critic battered me black and blue. But by nightfall understanding came, and it all made sense.

Not that I want to accept it. The permanent effects of the early abuse has to be accepted over, and over again. I so want to be like others, but in that intense yearning do not accept myself, taking me farther away from myself, making the chasm wider, colder and so much lonelier. 

It wasn’t my doing. My poor body has done this since childhood, a place where terror reined, especially in my own bed, and what usually is a safe place for a child… her own bedroom. 

Things go along peaceably. Then they don’t. We leave tomorrow, and all is ready. Today can be peaceful. The baby birds have left the nest. Last night’s walk to the meadow was without incident. Feelings of safety are being tested, but it will take a while before full security returns. (and my love of birds) 

To not feel safe at home was a big thing, even if caused by a little one pound pecker. 

 

SHE RISES

And then stillness. The waves subside and calm prevails. But for how long? Is it my mind observing how peaceful things have been stirring it up causing havoc just for variety? Or is it years of suppressing trauma, unprocessed at the time of the events due to the type of trauma; childhood sexual abuse.

Because no family will , (rarely) take that child and hold her in their arms lovingly. Or give her the medical and psychological intervention necessary to heal and have a life. Want a life.

How many times has the wish come for it all to be over? How many more times will I wish it? 

A child sexually abused is cast out. Not out in the middle of the road, naked, alone and cold. But inside, naked alone and cold…still with the monsters, and now the collusive family who wants her kept quiet.

There she shivers, from cold. From terror. From aloneness.

From there she must grow. Her body does even if she wishes not to. She must traverse all the steps of life that others climb, but her journey is always naked, alone and cold. No one to help, because she was trained not to ask, not to talk.

She is mute. Alone. Naked but no one sees. Reactive to every stimulus, because PTSD does that, makes every nerve on edge for what’s to come.

There are too many challenges making one wish not to be here. For it all to be over.

But she is a warrior. Each one a warrior, the ones that don’t make it too. No one knows this, not even her. But someday she does. One day she rises yet again, knocked down over and over, she rises, tries again, and begins to see, feel, and know that inside her resides courage, beauty, and strength.

She blooms into a powerful woman, a beautiful soul that shines from within radiating outward onto a aged face that sparkles with peace, knowledge, and depth.  

 

FEAR

 

 

 

 

 

 

The skin on my hands grows thinner. My face shocking with age lines noticed only on the rare times when glimpsing it in the mirror. My inner world does not match the age of my body. Fear grips in the middle of the night while sitting upright because my digestive system has gone awry. And no wonder, 30 years ago I had it ‘butchered’ as one therapist described.

My fate is unknown. Other species do not have to live with the knowledge of their imminent death. Giving birth to two sons makes me wonder why put them through the torture of living only to die. But then the reminder that each of them and their families live nothing like my life has been. That satisfaction does not alleviate my own fears.

This fear of living hits hard as winter turns to spring. Many nights are spent awake, alone, and terrified in the dark coaxing the warrior to shine.

Where is this strength, the courage that has brought me this far? This too shall pass. But terror flourishes when my poor beaten body acts up. It became especially fearsome after the internal bleed that landed me in the hospital for a 3 night stay due to complications from the stomach stapling so long ago. Since that stay 2 years ago the fear of more bleeding never left.

Hospitals are no place for the sick. Noise, busyness, mistakes, no one to advocate for my needs. Others rush around attending to those with the loudest mouths complaining like out of tune tubas, being outrageously inconsiderate. Me? Meek, quiet, oh so very quiet.

This period of unfolding, grass growing, leaves budding, and flowers erupting… mixes my brain chemicals, mixes my soul, and mixes me up. In the night all the mistakes I think I’ve made, more irrational then true, explode with thought after thought dark and defeating. Mornings bring new hope, new trying, and better coping. But the nights, the nights are so hard.

 

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.

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.