Please to Survive

Life hones down to myself and Samuel. Yet even just one person pushes my ‘please you’ buttons. My tendency is to move around his needs neglecting my own at great consequence. He  seems unaware of me, and exists as if we are in two houses. At other times he hovers so closely, and is so in my stuff I can’t breathe. How can the gap be so great?

Rushing to go visit my son and grand-kids down the road for coffee because Samuel said he was ready, meant forgoing lunch. And that means returning very hungry finding it hard to feel satiated because care hadn’t been extended to my needs. It is up to me to do that, no one else.

This pleasing aspect so seemingly permanently embedded? It arose from pure survival. Stuffing tragedy after tragedy with the food Mother pushed my way pleased her, but not me. There was no me. Me didn’t exist except when and if it pleased others.

Becoming mindful of my body and its needs takes great and constant focus. The natural instinct of hunger and satiety along with all other body related functions was driven out at age eight when survival became desperate. Survival meant please others always. And eat. Eat to drown out the pain of non-existence, and the terrifying agony of living.

To take a stand for my needs feels so foreign, selfish, and even aggressive. As if I am doing something so very wrong and must stop. Yet in doing so, being demure, submissive, and pleasing, my body takes the hit.

Eating last night too close to bedtime hurt my stomach causing it to be sore this morning. Skipping lunch ignited the eating hunger machine. What was eaten was only a bowl of high fiber cereal, larger than usual, and after the 3 to 4 pm shut off time. But eating past then, except for cheese or an apple, causes digestive problems when lying down. It wasn’t eaten out of hunger, but out of the ongoing ever-present need to feel loved.

My mind believes that Samuel loves me but doesn’t see me, though that sounds contradicting. Maybe it’s because I don’t take a stand and stay stood. I give in to very little pressure. When he said, “I’ll go drop off the present,” my reply?

I wanted to go too? Didn’t you just hear me talking to Shane about us going over for coffee?

“I heard coffee and thought that you asked if he’d give me a cup,” Samuel replied.

My head shook in disbelief. Samuel was sitting not five feet away, his nose in the newspaper during my conversation with Shane on the phone. And yet when Samuel said he thought he’d go over now to deliver our grand-daughter’s get well gift my response was ‘I’m ready?’

My hair was soaking wet from the bath and I hadn’t eaten, but if Samuel was ready I had better be too. That pressure comes from within, not him, though it would be a great comfort to feel heard, seen, and known.

How does one lose sight of her own needs so quickly, and why? Fear of abandonment or rejection? What of abandoning oneself?.

 

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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. 

 

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. 

 

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…

Moment to Moment

photos by Patricia

Calm one moment, the next feeling sped up and uncomfortable. Each moment the feelings catapult like a see saw. PTSD becomes more than just words the mind separated from the body spews out. Though accustomed to the split, there are moments when sadness erupts for having such challenges.

My broken brain won’t mend. It won’t. I am stuck with me, and my tendency to move ahead in haste and fear, a fear always there as if to strike like a shark out of water.

Drawn to movies where that same ebb of low drumming foreboding courses through it, that is the stuff pumped through my veins; waiting for the crack of lightening in the most quiet moments. Waiting, on edge, at the ready…

The Blizzard

photo by Patricia

Reproaching constantly when failing to meeting goals, expectations or plans fortifies the harsh force living inside that leaps to the forefront more quickly than the warm, soft one. The latter is newly cultivated and without nurturance wilts quickly needing continual moistening with tender attention.

You know winters are hard. Yet you expect to perform as if it is not. Reminders of its challenges and how difficult they are will soften expectations, heighten your ability to see successes over failures, and make the path more enjoyable.

It is work to repair so many years of engrained self-flogging that started at age eight and only flourished as decades passed. As a child touched in such criminal ways, and silenced to meet others needs of normalcy, it is common to take the crimes on as if they were your own.

Hating oneself solidifies. Self-love, what is that? That is the work, softness, warmness, and acceptance towards oneself. Is there a part of the brain that  never softens from the blizzard of self-reproach?

The windows yesterday were closed when temperatures began to drop from 60. Rain melted the snow filling the creek into a pond. Wind raged through the night. Upon waking it is 16 degrees and snow swirls to over a foot.

Kitten curls up on my lap as the word gratitude wraps around me like snow.   

WINTER RAINS

photo by Patricia

Waking to the last tolling of the siren, the fire departments must be responding to calls about flooded basements. The unusual weather almost tipping 60 with constant rains have melted the snow. My breathing eases and hopes rise from the crumbly dark pit where winter has tamped me.

As if an ancestor to Poe, winter beats a drum of hollow desolation. Each day is faced with resignation but valiantly focusing on the up side to down. Every nuance of discord within the body is frightening. My connection is overly sensitive to its working or numbly cut off.

Longing for birds, sun, flowers and Spring, at least this lapse provides hope of getting there. Rain beats down and a window is opened to let in the sweet air and the delectable steady music of pattering drops. My spirit awakens by the break in frigid air and my body feels more pliable and willing to move.

Grateful for a taste of Spring it fortifies the courage needed to live each day fully.