Compassion and Self-Respect

“You did the best you could,” Samuel says in response to my tears over mistakes made at mothering.

“That’s what I heard all my life from my mother!” I retort angrily, “She didn’t do her best, she did nothing,” referring to her leaving me alone with her sons and not protecting me.

I did do the best that I could, and no way do I ever want to go back to those dark years somehow making a home for my boys who have grown up much more capable and stable than I’ll ever be.

But the guilt of mistakes wears me down when it comes to saying no to Shane, not wanting to hurt him, only to help. As years pass the toll of childhood abuse shows up in ways that must be attended to, needing more and more self-care, not less.

My younger body could take the slams of PTSD, hypervigilance, and anxiety buzzing through me like constant electric shocks. But the immune system and nervous system busted like frayed ended cords tangled in a blob. Care is needed to gently roll them out to make a life that works in peace.

No sense is made of having my grand-daughter overnight without problems sleeping, then a few nights later all three with a wicked sleep problem after they leave.

My heart fell at the door when Shane said, “It might be 8:30 or later when we return,” knowing that was too late for a toddler who just turned three.

And too late for my own needs which call for quiet in the evening so that my wild psyche and all bodily systems can calm down from the day’s efforts. It is uncommon to need this, yet a sad reality

But my mouth was silent. I want them to go out, double-date, and have fun. Shane works so hard, and going out together without the kids is a rare thing for them, and so important for a couple.

“Maybe next time I should tell Shane the cut-off time has to be 7:30,” I said to Samuel. Best for me, and best for the little toddler. “Remember, we used to hire a babysitter when we went out nights. Our moms didn’t watch the kids, especially at night.”

“Oh, maybe you just had a bad night,” Samuel replied, not one who usually backs my efforts at self-assertion.

So no help there. And how would I feel knowing someone else was watching them? Not good. I want to do it. It doesn’t happen that often, and these years pass so quickly.

But not sleeping, then needing medication that makes me unproductive and sleepy all the next day was not coincidental or worth it. Linking my guilt with saying no is hard. My guilt ripped into me after my head hit the pillow spinning out of control, beyond my control. I should not have guilt, so many sacrifices were made, along with mistakes.

All my income as a nurse went to Shane’s tuition each month. The pressures and stresses of work took a substantial, and permanent toll on my health. I made sure he had things I never did, or would have been able to handle if offered anyway;  a year in Spain as a student, and returning again with his girlfriend, now wife, after graduating from college, financially supporting the trip as a graduation gift…. and so much more that matters but so easily forgotten, choosing instead to beat myself up. 

How do I care for my own needs, which include spending time with grand-children, and keep my sanity? Like the Nike slogan, JUST DO IT. Even without Samuel’s support, just do it, just say no nicely, but firmly.

Suggest a babysitter that can come to their own house so that the little one is put to bed when he should be, temper and all. But then… what if after saying no, sleep evades me for saying no? It takes very little to upset my equilibrium, sometimes never knowing why, a grievous and permanent brokenness due to the assaults from childhood. 

 

WARRIOR

Feeling sorry for myself for so easily being pulled into the past where fear, powerlessness, and hopelessness swirled like a constant tornado, and because the day called for something lovely baking in the house, cinnamon rolls were made from dough using the bread machine.

The problem with sugary treats is that it rings a bell in my brain saying, MORE. And the day is lost not counting calories, which also means losing self-respect. And that does not make me happy.

So a new day with more resolve about what really matters; renewed dreams, goals, and the excitement of living. Always it was food my mother used to help me fill the holes left ragged by rape and abuse. It is a habit taught to me, but not restraining me. I have free will. It is mine to own.

It is a battle not going away started at age 8 after Danny’s attack, and will forever be there haunting me like drooling, starving, rabid dogs. The abyss of self-love always yawning wide open for filling.

The beastly hole is daunting needing loving comfort, not hate. Filling it with food when the soft words won’t come, because soft words for myself are not my forte’, ends up causing more pain instead of the comfort sought.

Daydreams of cookies, ice cream, cake, or pie dance like sugar plums of happiness in my head. The feelings are temporary turning in on themselves like the savage dogs of need after the numbness of satisfaction wears off.

Left in its wake are the same deprecating sneers Tommy enjoyed making towards me throughout life. He knew no boundaries when it came to putting me down. I seem to have readily taken up where he left off. 

It will stay this way, but how to handle it can evolve, and is evolving. Softer words, kindness to self, opening my arms to accept myself, all going against what I was taught. All things not learned through life and are yet to achieve. Steps forward then backwards. The way to get even is to give myself the opposite of what I learned—- love, safety and acceptance.

And though challenging, ongoing, and taking persistent work, it is doable, possible, and a war worth winning— slaying the ghosts one by one, over and over again.

 

TRIGGER

It is not the first time Samuel has set off alarm bells so deep within me they are unconscious, but electrify in the night after waking to use the bathroom. No way was sleep returning as the haunts of the pasts, the attacking siblings, have re-visited. His actions replicated theirs in a way my psyche perceives a threat.

After ten years of our bedroom carpet losing its color turning streaked, and oh so ugly, we had a new one put down. Away at my women’s monthly gathering, he took off both doors to saw off some so they would close. The new carpet is that plush! A few specks of dust on the carpet after he re-placed the doors caused him to bring out the vacuum.

It angered me but it was let it go after he said there was dust from the doors. But internally it still bothered me as if something new had been ruined, just like my past when so much was torn away. My body was not mine, nor was anything precious such as my horse or pony. Two of the four attacking siblings stole my animals trying to ride them. One was bucked off, while my mother laughed telling me about it.

The rage from those thefts was palpable. The rage from taking my body had to be repressed due to my mother’s insistence that we were all a happy family. Rage could only be expressed about other things that might seem mundane.

My belief is that rage has fizzled out. Not true. Lying there at 2 AM after walking on carpet that for two days had delighted us with the soft cloud of texture, now felt flat, crushed, and hard. Samuel had ruined it, I wanted to hurt him, to wake him, to make him suffer as I suffered at 2 AM.

Vacuuming, like the dishes, cooking, and laundry are my chores except the rare times he vacuums, once vacuuming the cord on my new vacuum only learning about it when finding it wrapped with tape the next time I used it.

Why does he always have to get in on things where he doesn’t belong? Why does he have to ruin things? Why can’t he know me after all these years, and know this bothers me? While carpet shopping we learned that vacuuming is what bleaches out carpet if done too low, something I’ve done because it seemed to pick up more.

But with the new carpet, when, and it would be a long time until I did vacuum, I would put the lever on high to vacuum just the tops. Some carpet is dyed through, others are only sprayed with color on the top which allows for color loss from vacuuming and high traffic use over time. Unfortunately this new one is the later, but it is the prettiest green and plushiest for the price so we bought it.

But vacuuming? That is the culprit not only for sucking up color, but we were told it crushes the fibers so that only professional cleaning can bring back their springiness. And Samuel runs the vacuum after only two days. Why does he take away everything precious, just like they did? It is no longer new, and no longer brings pleasure, only hurt. 

Laying there in the middle of the night I wanted to hurt him. To push him out bed making his face hit the floor right into the carpet he had ruined. To turn on the lights and have a hissy fit over the carpet in the middle of the night. What insanity.

Staying there trying hard to sleep by feeding my mind with more sane truths; he did not do this purposely to hurt me. He does so many nice things. He cut the doors down to fit, blah, blah, blah… did not work. Something internal had ignited that words could not soothe or control. I got up, took a pill, turned on the TV, drank decaf, and stewed trying to chase away bitter resentments and a smoldering, ghostly rage from the past.

The next morning in tears while talking to Cory on the phone, Samuel was next to me.  I told the ludicrous story of the carpet. Even as silly as it sounded, it also correlated to siblings and all that was taken. My body, my horse, my pony, anything precious.

Talking to Samuel wouldn’t help. He would just argue, shake his head at my lunacy, and defend himself, never learning even after all these years how much his thoughtless actions wound me. (is vacuuming thoughtless or caring?)

And there it is, a wound that has not yet healed. Will it ever?

 

Come On Spring!

It is hard to describe, this vaporous hole inside searching for a mooring, finding none, so it whirls ungrounded craving connection without landing.

It spins in the night, waking me.

Thoughts keep the comet sparking sending me to the cabinet for antacids, then TV, then bed again till 5 AM rolls around. How to hold all that goes on outside of myself inside, and still remain balanced.

In winter it is struggle. So when the blues of Cory’s leaving passes, there is still the depression less daylight brings. As days grow longer by seconds, then minutes, the wait for spring begins.

The SCHISM

There is a fear of being in my body and staying there. Others seem to check in with their body unconsciously knowing when there is hunger, fullness, cold, pain, and the list goes. Often I’ve checked out.

My fear is internal, also unconscious, yet the terror is there laying wait. Perhaps the rape, repressed, causes this schism between body and mind. Perhaps it is the next couple of years after that when the others took what they wanted.

Coming ‘home’ and staying is fleeting. Zoning in a place other than the here and now still is comforting at times. It takes energy to breath, notice my hand as it washes the dishes, and be among the living.

After time, it becomes easier to be present, yet that far off place still calls, still offers comfort, and still owns me some of the time. And the disconnect, the fissure from the body that others don’t have to deal with yet take for granted, it still a force to be reckoned with.

Wholeness is fleeting, but necessary to take good care of body, mind, spirit, and soul. I may be different, alone in many ways, but still shine. We all offer a specialness no one else can; the tree in the forest set apart from others but still beautiful. 

 

Finding the Light

What do you really feel, rather than should feel, be, or act? So much of the time the effort is overcoming what really is. That is not freedom. To feel what is there despite anyone else’s objection means my time, thoughts, and bodily workings are my own, as it should be.

Since childhood my lips were muzzled, even as others took from my body what they wanted. And I was expected to love them. The split does not come back together. Acting vs real. I am an actor.

Even later in my sixties this is so. Once gagged while crimes against me were committed, the silence, the pleasing, remains. There are times with great grit where that is overcome momentarily, but more times not.

These dark thoughts during the dark days of winter, pull me under. Add a drippy, sneezy, coughing head that interrupts sleep and a zombie is born. What of the days where scattered pieces scampered back unto me in the mornings on the porch and sunny patio?

When the sound of critters grounded me in centeredness? A wholeness was felt. The warmth inviting me out to fields of buttercups and daisies. How does one find inner light in winter when really the wish is to sleep it away?

 

ESSENCE

Remember why you do this. It is not to garner ‘likes.’ But to go inside myself, a place often run from.  A time all mine, delectable. See what’s there, feel what’s there, stretch around into all the dark corners and own them.  Each morning, a new day, new ideas, new feelings, as if all the cells died overnight growing new ones. 

A day to hold in my hand like a wilting blossom. Use it wisely, fully, and become all that is. That doesn’t mean saving the world, it means saving myself.

A person almost gone, often still drowning in past habits of pacifying, pleasing, and twisting myself into a person who hardly resembles who really resides inside me.

Authenticity isn’t going along. It is touching my core where truth rings clear, which can mean disagreement with another. Not a nod of the head accompanied by a fake smile to keep things smooth.

It is finding me, being me. Not an easy job after 60 years of fakeness to fit into a world where I don’t want to be anyway.

My world. The trees, wind, and mother, who guides me with her seasons.

Finding the Light

The repeated traumas as a child of 8, 9, 10, 11, caused a severe ripping inside me, though one sexual attack by an older sibling was enough to cause the life-long rift. And by attack, physical force was not always necessary. There are many ways to ‘attack’ a child that are just as destructive as force.

All that was precious was shattered, and there was no going back to the whole that was. A life has been spent trying to find it from others, a connection to my insides, and a belief in myself. The dependence on others was like hand candy, once dissolving more is needed.

It is only by finding myself in myself that long-lasting comfort becomes permanent, fleeting but a place to return to with self-talk because the ever present bully is there berating, beating down, and smack talking loudly.  

That happens to a child sexually abused by loved ones. Who is bad? I am. Because if it isn’t me, then it is the family I love and trust, and most importantly needed to survive.

So life goes on, dimmed, feeling hunted, and hiding inside. The outer shell lives life, the inner self muzzled and contained, so much so, that touching the place where I really was became inaccessible.

Buzzing through life on the carpet of anxiety, fear, and will, feeding off the light of others, was hardly enough at all. It is only in this later stage of years gone by, only after facing, and telling my real story, that appreciation of just how hard it has been begins to let up my own light, and to feel it warm me.

 

SILENCE

The silence. It kills, destroys, implodes, shatters. What was done to the body can be processed. Painfully, yes, and still some parts of a child destroyed irrevocably. But it is the silence imposed upon a child that will most likely cause a life-time of struggles unfounded. And no one knows.

What is seen may seem odd, or normal-like. Tornadoes whirling inside are invisible to onlookers. Even now grown, it feels impossible to tell, to break the silence once imposed, the taboo of childhood sexual abuse.

Is it the abuse that is taboo, or the telling? Or perhaps we are too ashamed as a society to pull our heads out of the sand to save our children. The prevalence is as it always was. Isn’t it time to break the silence? Forget your shame that one of your own has done this, save the child. 

To reach out for help takes so much courage. Yet to survive, one must. I needed to. It took decades to reach where I am now. If I were to be out among others, I would say what was needed.

Now it is mostly said in a medical intervention where I plainly state why a special kind of anesthesia is needed. I’m not around others too much anymore, and that is one loss taken permanently, the ability to go fast, move fast, and do a lot. Friends do, my sons, my husband. Others aren’t a threat to them.

For a child grown to woman, the skill of setting boundaries doesn’t happen without great will. It takes copious amounts of practice beforehand, often delivered via letter or on the phone. When as a child, a brother forced himself upon me, the memories of what others are capable never leaves. PEOPLE ARE DANGEROUS. My body never forgets. and lives with muscles taught even here in the safety of my home. 

When no intervention was provided to heal my torn body and mind, the message learned was silence. My mother reinforced it with skill time after time. “That’s not nice,” or, “You should be ashamed of yourself,” a few of her favorites. 

PTSD erupts even now without invite, though periods of peace make it livable. That wasn’t always true. Anxiety was ever present. But now, even during a lull when thinking things are going smoothly, the body is tense without knowing it. And with no reason why, it just is. Being awake means being on alert.

Had my mother sought the things needed when her little girl was raped, medical examination, therapy, the things provided for any physical catastrophe, healing could occur. But it is more common for silence, distance, and nothing to occur for the child sexually abused by a loved one. She becomes a piranha within the family, the memory of what was done. Shun her. Silence her, dig her grave.

I will not be silenced. I will have my life, and because of these determinations have the best life I ever imagined.

My Best Life

My best life is now. How could something have been found to latch onto earlier? Life was a constant of anxiety darkened with depressions, one after another. Lifting the first foot out of the muck took so much courage, the fear palpable, yet unwarranted.

Stepping out for therapy, seeking help from a non-family objective person once coming of age, caused unfounded terror. What if they too concluded I was as bad as I felt? Yet in my core the truth be known. Stopping me was not going to happen.

A child sexually abused by someone known to her, trusted and loved, shatters her, her world, and too often her life for decades to come. No one comes to help, to lift her from the wreckage, and tell her, “It’s not your fault.”

Oh how I needed to hear that, and hear it over and over again, backed with love and support. It is uncommon for that to happen within a family where one of their own has attacked a child in that family. Their shame is so great the burden lay upon the child to keep their secret quiet.

The muzzle of silence can kill. Returning to the years when my sons were growing is not something yearned for. The pain of dealing with the monsters within was too great. The yearning that sometimes comes is to go back and be a more settled person, more open, happier, and freer.

Yet that is not even how I am now. Seriousness often hardens me appearing on my face deepening the lines. Staying alive is a serious business. Happy equates to peace. Peace means living with less crippling feelings of inadequacy that were compounded by the legacy learned in those years of always being bad, wrong… not normal.

To come to a time where much of that has lifted is peace, and it is freeing.

That moments can be lived not feared. PTSD interrupts these peaceful periods, and sometimes it takes a week, even more, to settle back into the core of my being that has finally been found. A place to connect to, depend on, and grow to love. A place where comfort is waiting when all the parts blown into orbit come back home.