Que Sera, Sera

As the start of spring unfolds, so too the impending virus, marching across the country like a plague. My mind says, go ahead eat. Because eating numbs anxiety replacing it with an anxiety accustomed to— self-hate. And that doesn’t feel good either.

Face the terror. Yes, death might come to either myself or Samuel. My mind takes off; sick, out of respirators, death, alone, unloved, cold. Or vice versa, Samuel hospitalized without the ability to sit with him due to his quarantine, and death, leaving me alone.

And there is the more real probability of neither of those. Yet the low thrumming terror has been blotted by eating leaving me deadened to fullness or satiety eating things in a way that began at age 8. Eat to numb the pain, terror, and abandonment.

Stop. Face it. Feel it. If the worse happened is living paralyzed until it might come any way to live? Stuck in a chair eating because I’m too scared to move? Or walking the meadow taking in every moment with openness loving what is there.

The sun broke out in the late afternoon calling me. Grabbing hiking shoes that are waterproof to the muddy path, donning coat and hat, the walk, despite so much dull drab browns and greys, was stunning in its earthy splendor. Birds singing, sunshine burst through the puffy clouds.

Movement of my body brought sweat. Off went the coat, lap after lap. My body loved it. Work begins on facing the crisis internally where numbness was achieved by old patterns of eating that make me feel sick not well.

Face the anxiety, sit with it, feel it. Seriousness has been a state of being since age 8. Because survival is a serious business. But other feelings have emerged over time, especially a connection with my central core, or soul, no matter what is happening externally.

That is lost when any form of numbing is initiated. Connection to self. Numbing is rejection of self, even if for decades it saved me. My path now craves wholeness, connection, and peace.

Freedom to Become

Sitting in the living room rather than by the fire, looking out to the snow-capped land because the dining room is in disarray due to Samuel’s painting of the walls and ceiling, leaves me a little discombobulated.  

The winds blew in the cold last night, but the sun will come out turning tomorrow back into spring with temperatures in the 50’s.

That is much how it’s been in upstate New York all winter. The changeable nature accelerates shifting daily. Perhaps that is what caused the tossing and turning when the night before I slept like a zombie. But upon waking memories of the dream stayed with me throughout the day.

The sadness of the dream and what has been lived with ruminated within. That Tom got close trying to cuddle and kiss. Brothers don’t do that, though mine did. No wonder closeness even with my husband never came.

I wonder about reincarnation. Returning to life to live it better until you get it right. No thank you. Pretending to have a family that wasn’t one. The harshness of surviving. Consuming blackness that didn’t begin to be exhumed until writing about what my mother never wanted told.

Freedom unraveled internally as each one died, Tom the last to go. A feeling of safety. Learning about authenticity of self, a process growing and evolving each day, each moment. These years have brought joy, peace, and a wholeness not experienced before. Gratitude fill me.  

 

The Loneliness of Shame

Temperatures dip into the teens and still dropping as snow swirls in mini-tornados off the roof. The fire emits a burst of heat after the fan is tuned on. Even the house temperature dropped overnight.

After the cat ‘hunt’s on the screen porch during my first sips of hot black brew, she comes in to curl up next to me on Samuel’s stuffed rocker complacently watching me write.

The comfort of home cannot be overstated. Home where my depleted nervous system can be pampered, protected, and cared for. Home where creativity can blossom, and working on freeing myself from the internal too harsh critic can be accomplished over time and with much dedication.

There is no freedom being locked in with critical voices of the past yammering in my head ever since age 8 and the first violent attack. When no one comes to help, a child feels to blame. The family unconsciously understands how well this silenced me, and willingly added to it along the way.

Their shame of doing such deeds, or standing by doing nothing, caused an even bigger shame, the shame of silence, dumped on tiny shoulders willing to take it on. Taking the blame was far better than feeling powerless, not a conscious decision, but self-preservation. I’ll take the blame because otherwise the people I depend on are not dependable, then where would I be?

Guilt and blame are easier boulders to carry than powerlessness. So the family’s shame became my shame. I didn’t just do bad, I am bad. 

It took a life to unburden, rock by rock, right down to the empty wheelbarrow where loneliness clawed like finger-nails on a chalk-board, scraping my insides scratching outwards on tender, raw flesh. Only in going there could I be saved, facing the self-hate, staying, exploring, challenging the voices…

Go to my center, be there, hold me, love me, settle in for the ride, because all others will come and go. I am the only one who will stay. My mother once said, “Be your own best friend,” giving me a book with that title. It has taken a life-time to begin that process. Thank you mother, but it would have been better had you kept them off me. 

 

Younger Brother

One week later, a call to my brother as promised, but this time earlier in the day. Surprisingly he pulled over while driving in order to talk to me. In the past calls became unheard of, chatting non-existent, time on the phone or on-line? Nix. 

Exposing myself to his pain is so difficult. Falling asleep took two hours longer even though our conversation was way before bedtime. Coincidence? Not wanting a sleep aid, nor wanting to get up to watch the TV, my inner voice commanded gently, stay.

And sleep did come after my rat brain took a twirl into the past, merging with the present; thoughts painful, memories sad. His son, my nephew, put himself into the psych hospital for a 72 hour commitment.

That is the most he will do for himself. My sister-in-law flew out to release him sooner, give him another credit card because he lost the one they gave him, and will fly back after he is walking the streets where he lives again… until the next episode. The streets are his home, all news to me after my brother shared it just last week .

My brother did not talk about his daughter either, not knowing about her serious drug problem until the day she died 7 years ago. Too late to do anything, to listen at least, to do something to have possibly saved her not that I could have. She was thirty years old, he is 35.

My head whirls into the past when Danny was so spaced out near the end when his last attempt at suicide succeeded. If the person afflicted will take no help is there hope?

Medication, counseling, and a case manager to oversee his mental state week to week once stabilized is crucial. All these necessary interventions won’t occur if he won’t cooperate.

And he won’t, or just enough to keep himself barely going. They bought him a new phone after losing one, and track what he’s doing by the credit card. What else can they do?

Sleep took two hours to come . Checking in with my younger brother is a choice I cannot abandon even if painful and worrisome. 

DISSOCIATION

Such a master of dissociation, there’s little awareness of it when occurring. Milk found in a cupboard days later. A card sent that never arrived so probably mailed without stamp or return address. Though much of my time is now is in the present, the comfort of being elsewhere still happens with a realization of it only afterwards… if at all. Who is in my body at that time?

How can a body move, take action, do anything without a being in it? There are many ways to flee. Fear of feeling what is there causes a run unless deliberate focus to stay evolves. Don’t be afraid, stay.

Starting the day with that mantra, sipping coffee, numbing, feeling the split, but counteracting the impulse with courage- stay. Fear of what’s there, because a deep and devastating sadness seems to be at my core, and fear itself. Who would want to feel that?

But putting on my big girl pants, curiosity to check out feelings really residing in my core called to me. That is the way to start every day, the patience to stay, to work on authenticity even in the face of differentness. To find who I am at that particular moment…to own it, to own me.

That is living, and living in wholeness. Relax the muscles, unbind constraints from the critical boss haunting and inhibiting my true nature. Find her, be her, live her…. You don’t have a moment to lose, as each one is like a snowflake, unique, beautiful, but impermanent.   

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.

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?

 

RESILIENCE

photo by Patricia

Yin and yang. Would there be pleasure without pain? Days are not easy in the best of times, though winter adds to the stress of them. Drudgery, dull days, no sun. When it does appear all feels brighter. But in our area that is rare during the winter months when 5 pm means black darkness.

Push, push, then push some more. No one said it would easy, not for anyone. And pushing to implement goals brings relief in the form of satisfaction. Exercise also helps, along with eating in a way that is healthful, listening to the body’s cues, not the ever present gnawing which craves the comfort of love.

The work to go deeply inward trusting that what’s needed is there, takes time, commitment and faith, a belief that what sustains resides in every living thing.

THANKSGIVING

Since writing Seth via email, expressing what bubbled up needing to be said, thoughts of him encumbered with a vague feeling of wrongness drift about and inside me. Should a friendlier note be sent, or perhaps a Happy Thanksgiving card by snail mail?

Not wanting to focus on him as he has little to do with my life today, thoughts continue to come back to him clouded with feelings of wrongness. Of course feelings would sway that way as that has been the taboo. Families are adept at keeping a survivor shut down.

This time around it isn’t as severe, nowhere as severe, because the last go-around caused me to believe a heart attack was occurring which included an ambulance to a one night hospital stay in the observation wing. 

It is shadows of the past when my voice was locked down tight along with my feelings that were as much as mystery to me as they were to anyone else. A relationship with anyone from that group where my needs are respected and heard is not going to occur. Accepting that fact must be faced once again. 

Reading this from another blog this morning reminded me of the seriousness of remaining firm in my needs. My memories may not be denied outright, but there are countless other ways just as debilitating. 

One of the worst pains suffered by survivors who remember their abuse is exclusion by their family, who deny the truth of their memories.”

~John Backus, Sc.D., and Barbara Una Stannard, Ph.D.

And so the day goes on. Today Shane and his family come to celebrate Thanksgiving with us. A turkey is ready to go in the oven, along with all the fixings including a cold cider punch, and pecan pie.

It is OK, and a part of life, to make room for both joy and pain.

A Voice

Sitting by the fire the day after cataract surgery feeling forlorn, I sent out this email to Seth. One of three non-abusive siblings. He moved here from California recently. He has been a life-long buddy of Tom, one of the abusers.

Not sure what possessed me to reach out. I needed the comfort from a friend after the first email. Her response was that maybe I needed to. So once it began, I kept going. And for the first time expunged my feelings in a way to feel good about without regret.  

And the words kept coming. My emails are italicized, his are not. The feelings left after it all are that you can’t milk blood from a stone. That what I need won’t be found in what others call ‘family.’

He did finally say he was sorry for what I endured. That may have been what I’ve been looking for all along, but most likely too little, too late. 

Got my eyes done yesterday. Due to the traumas in my childhood he did the rare exception of doing both under General Anesthesia. Every time any medical issue is attended to my body reacts as if it is mortal danger. It takes a long time to recover. Though my body lay still, my heart beat as if running a marathon, which concerned them. They got me out fast.

I would wish for a closer relationship with ‘family’ where support can be felt. But family is just a group of people I was born into. (unfortunately) I have created my own.

I know I’m kept at arm’s length out of fear I may talk about the reality of my life, the damage done that cannot be corrected. Though committing energy, years, and money to therapy, some things broken remain broken.

I was thinking of you wishing I could reach out. But you have said everyone had it so hard, which so quickly silences me. The ones who attacked me had it hard, yes, of course I get that. I think had I never been born they wouldn’t have had to carry it all around all their lives. And no one had to. There is a word, I’m sorry.

Not one ever wrote or called to just say “I’m sorry.” Afraid of my rage probably, that’s not a good reason. I was a little girl. What Danny did is blocked out to this day, though I know it was a violent rape. What Tom did was traumatize me further by put-downs and snickers life-long making me look bad and inconsequential whenever possible. If I am looked at as less than others, than what he did wasn’t so bad.

It worked. It worked. I have and still feel ‘less than.’ He sat around my table here at this house when I was in my fifties putting me down. No one said a word. He snickered at my dumbness at buying this house with a realtor who cut corners. Making a point of how little I knew so that you and Stevie had to help. Cutting me down throughout my life didn’t stop, and he excelled at it.

I am happy now, which translates to being at peace. (most of the time) It is not how most of my life was. Most of it was lived in anxiety and rage.

But I have this time where I am at peace, or as much as I’m able to have.

I think of you often. Too bad it can’t be more than that. You chose Tom. I am just an afterthought, someone to treat well so you don’t feel guilty. That’s OK. I have people who really love me, warts and all. And being an only girl in a family that would attack me rather than love me is something that has made me feel like an abomination. Those that did it, and those that knew and kept quiet.

I was forced to keep it all in, not physical force but many other ways. Everyone made sure of that, even now. Unprocessed trauma(s) does a lot of damage to all systems of the body. But I am strong, I am a good, courageous, and very special person. I also got through yesterday’s surgery which is something I have been dreading the last few years as my eyes became worse and worse, with a dread uncommon to most others. It is a special hell for those sexually abused as a child, to have anyone come close to one’s body. I suppose the repression of the rape has something to do with that.

Patricia

I need to add that is was not love to criticize me for writing a book about the horrors I suffered. Love would be cheering me on. If I had the energy and ability, I’d speak across the country about the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse in families. And those that truly cared would applaud my courage and bravery for doing so. It is well past time for this to be talked about. It isn’t just coaches, priests, and scout leaders.

Patricia,

I’m sorry I’ve been negligent in getting back to you and let me say right from the start that I AM sorry for what you went through, a sentiment I believe I have expressed many times in the past (but maybe only in my own mind). I know if hurts you that I did not read your book. We all have our coping mechanisms, and mine is to box things up and store them away. That’s how I’ve always done it, am doing it now and probably will until my dying breath. Writing it was cathartic for you, and that’s great. I wouldn’t be for me and, I don’t want to know the details. I’m not proud of it, but that’s just the way it is. I can’t make you better. I wish I could, but I can’t and you know I can’t. 

It doesn’t hurt me that you didn’t read my book. It hurt me more than you’ll ever know that I was criticized about writing it…. So much so that I thought I was having a heart attack and went by ambulance to the hospital and spent the night.

Your opinion of me meant more than my own. Not your fault. I needed to grow and appreciate just what is inside me, and it is powerful. My opinion matters to me most now, but it took all that to learn and only just a few years ago. We keep growing as long as we are living… : )

I don’t care if you read it. It wasn’t written for you. It was written for me, to scourge out what they had done which had blackened my insides for decades. Women who have suffered what I suffered do need to hear the details so that they don’t feel alone. That’s how I started to face what was done to me, by reading what other women went through feeling for the very first time less alone, less bad, less an abomination.

You don’t need to read the details. But I also won’t be silenced anymore for another’s comfort. I suffered. I still suffer. I don’t need you to make me better. I am beautiful just as I am. And I am learning more and more about the beauty, strength, and courage that lies inside me.

No not once, did you, or anyone else say you were sorry about the traumas I endured. The exception may be Don. Stevie never knew and now has enough grief of his own to deal with. In that flurry of our exchanges about the book there might have been a line about it, but the defensiveness flung at me negated it.

In this note for the very first time I hear you.

In response to your note on Thursday, I can’t tell whether I’m the one who criticized you about your book or someone else. I don’t remember doing such a thing, but I know I’m often guilty of seeing what I want to see from someone else’s words. 

Something which caused me so much upheaval… you don’t remember.

You said in the email when there was a flurry back and forth after sharing the link to the book, that it wasn’t right to put family dysfunction out there. Or something to that effect. It was a blow to me, devastating.

Your embarrassment about what others had done meant I should stay quiet. It is common in families where this happens. The victim is further victimized, further wounded. The second wounding some call it for those attacked as children, then attacked by families to be quiet about it later on in life when they bravely speak out about it.

That was the criticism. After that I couldn’t hear anything else. But that is exactly how and why it keeps happening in families. The victim is made to keep quiet due to the shame of others. It became my shame, though it wasn’t mine at all.

A child holding all that in? Unprocessed PTSD causes life-long damage. If not processed at the time trauma occurs it can damage many bodily systems permanently… and it has.

You knew when it happened the first time because I told you as a child that Danny fucked me.’ The words he must have used while he did it, though I have blacked it out except the time right before and afterwards when screaming in the bathtub because ‘it stung down there.’

Don came running in to see what was wrong. (I must have been 8 or 9 by the way, just a little girl)

That you didn’t do anything at the time, I don’t blame you, though I wish you had. I wish you stayed home to protect me. Impossible I know. You were a teenager.

But you knew more about the others besides Danny in your thirties when I sent out poem like letters to everyone about what they had done, yet it still didn’t matter. You chose to be closest to one of my attackers. As if it didn’t matter what he did. That I do hold you to. You can’t be on the sidelines. You must take a stand for what is right.

Tom must have been home from college when he crept up in the night to attack me while Stevie and I slept on each end of the couch falling asleep watching the Christmas tree. Attacks aren’t always violent. Some are quiet, waking me from a deep sleep.

The brother I loved and trusted became a monster drilling me down for decades afterwards, making me look bad whenever he could.

He may have done the most damage with his constant campaign to cut me down, belittle me, and make me look inconsequential. He tore me up more than all that happened. No one crossed him, or confronted him in his efforts. You have been his closest ally and buddy.  

Coming out of all that I became much like a hostage bowing to her captives, the group of people most call ‘family’.