Peace and Panic

photo by Patricia

Are these the templates I’m built from? Is there no release from it other than dreaming of being someone else?

Like layers of phyllo dough compressed within my personality, they are there for life. You must accept it, deal with it, and have some compassion.

Some changes have softened the edges, but the core is solid unwilling to be undone. Those hands on me when so young, those eyes of others when trying to tell what was done, being so alone since age 8 with an aloneness indescribable, cements into a life constantly challenging.

1:30 AM, up, no sleep. During the following day, what is that at the periphery of my consciousness? A sliver of panic. But why? Another night, awake at 3 AM. Unsure of the why of this, day three sleep returns to normal.

Maybe I have to describe myself as having a disease. Is PTSD a disease? I think of it as an after-effect of trauma, not a disease. Whatever it’s called, I have it. And panic can find me even at home in the safety of my nest. Even if the trauma is over 50 years past. Even if no longer having to be a part of the work force where daily stress ground me down because others felt so dangerous to be around. Even when I cannot figure out why.

Panic and sleeplessness come. A few days of peace, a few days of panic. 

 

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ONE

photo by Patricia

Connectedness to my inner being so elusive grounds me like a deep rooted tree when it finds me. Adequate sleep is essential, also elusive. Having guests, my son, his wife, and our precious grand-daughter, would usually mean so much anxiety that sleep wouldn’t come. Except for one night, the night after my other son and family also spent the day, blessed sleep has given me adequate energy to enjoy their visit.

Deep rooted anxiety from the unprocessed PTSD in childhood from the sexual attacks by beloved brothers has stolen much of life. Parts of me, like busy electrons, spin around never connecting. It is only the past several years where being in my body while feeling safe has occurred— first only moments, then longer.

The gratefulness felt for having what most others take for granted fills me with blessedness and peace; wholeness, connectedness and feeling rooted in my being where the filigree of electrons intertwine into one is a quiet internal joy unparalleled. 

Freedom

How to really concentrate on my goals, what will work for me, what will be healthy, and what behaviors matter so that when I wake in the night it is not to worry about the bad decisions that have been made.

Moving my body after a few weeks of illness makes all systems run more smoothly including my mental workings. Exercise is a great boost in all ways. When the most reluctance is there due to inclement weather, or a very low mood, that is when the uplift gained is most needed. Everything looks and feels much brighter. I feel stronger.

There is a way to resist turning to food to numb my feelings. I know this, yet the pattern is of a life-time, since the age of 8 when I’d eat to the point of waking in the night to vomit.

Feel the feelings? Not so easy when traumatized as a child, and forced in other ways besides the sexual abuse by brothers; forced to keep such terrific trauma inside my little body and psyche because the family needed to maintain their reputation. Unprocessed trauma changed me adding burdens that may never reverse. Who I was is not who I became.

The freedom, lightness, and gaiety of childhood innocence was taken in an instant. Seriousness took its place. Life is a serious business where danger is in every moment. 

The life-long repercussions are many. I took it upon myself to be the bad one. To put it on family would mean giving up the only home and family I knew. These messages of self-hate solidified as the years went by.

The family, whether consciously or not, found my silence and meekness preferable because their need for a good reputation grew with me. Others feared my voice as I matured. Manipulations to silence me became more seedy and fierce, yet never anything I could name or discern.

Feelings of always being on the outside intensified as years passed. I craved deeply to be part of something that really never was… a family safe, with real closeness and connections. That craving never truly leaves, it is compartmentalized, put in a little room somewhere deep inside. I learn to live as an only child. This fantasy soothes.

Being a part of this group is not helpful or healthy. It is my choice not to play a demure, pleasing, good sister who is brainless with no mouth. It is my path to walk free without hindrance— without your shackles which tie me down. The guilty feelings of following my own path recede with time. 

 

 

 

GENTLENESS

photo by Patricia

The feeling of differentness so acute as a child suffering sexual attacks by my siblings arises sharply at times. Many feelings from then still linger, stabbing into my present life. Unprocessed traumas and all the feelings with them didn’t dissipate but grew with me.

Yet no gentleness exists. It is a habit to beat myself up when today’s issues erupt emotion from childhood wounds. There is no conscious link to them. That is changing. There are reasons sleep is interrupted. Wounds untended in childhood along with a stolen voice caused an inseparable rift within; deep wounds and no way to them. I am mute to the world and mute to my soul.

Wounds fester and when touched with present hurts the pain expands exponentially. It is like placing an already burnt arm on a hot stove. The present slides away as the psyche escapes elsewhere. If a person is talking, what is said is not heard.

Self-loathing because the feeling of differentness is so acute is not what the wounded child needs. And she exists within me and will always be there. She needs what you did not receive then. Since there was only one urgent unspoken rule to not speak of it, there is no one to emulate a pattern of how to be gentle with myself.

It is a new road with little to go on except the times my mother extended gentleness in adulthood. There were moments when she tried, maybe to make up for the past. 

 

FORGIVE, FORGIVE, FORGIVE

photo by Patricia

Some relationships spin the same old way no matter how much effort is put into change. Haunts from the past infect today. Little hurts inflame old unprocessed trauma. Sleep will not come, or upon waking in the night will not return.

A small infraction causing hurt by a loved one sets off the alarms yet it is ringing unaware until nighttime when tiredness setting in meets adrenaline.

You loser, you weirdo, you bad mother, wife, friend, and the bashing goes on. Feelings have overridden behaving in a way to feel proud of. Or shadows of them because the behavior has improved but no credit is given for the strides made. The mind goes off far down the painful road of self-loathing, and I feel lost. Help me, in the night the prayer is murmured.

This has been a usual occurrence for years but the last months a healthy sleep pattern has developed. My belief is that has much to do maturing hence feeling more at peace with myself. To lose it and not know why upsets all routines and body systems, but also most painful, must somehow be my fault. Is it? Or is it unprocessed trauma which goes beyond my conscious choice or control?  

Wake and start again. May your first thought be, “Forgive. Be gentle. How gentle, loving and accepting can you be toward yourself today after the sins you think you committed yesterday?”  And are they such sins? Or is your humanness still not allowed in your own mind.

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…