Family of Origin

It was this time last year when a brother, Seth, reacted very negatively to my writing a memoir. He ignored my emails for months after sending a link to the Amazon site selling it. I confronted his withdrawal and was met head-on with his rage at my writing it. 

That sent me by ambulance for a one night stay in the hospital due to a fast heart-beat.

Since then I have accepted the pretense of being ‘Sis,’ the little sister he pretends I am, not the woman who struggles still with the early childhood traumas of sexual attacks by his brothers.

He writes the other day, “I love you too, sis. I’m reading Paul Theroux’s new book “Mother Land” and don’t know where it’s going, but it does have many parallels, seven kids with the oldest an attorney and the mom … I’m not sure yet, so I can’t recommend it. Might be a good read for you, but, like I said, I don’t know where it’s going.”

That stymied me and it went with no reply until today. 

Where once he was on a pedestal, I see now I am stronger, wiser and a better person in every way. I pity him and his relationship with Tom who he is closest to. I do not care to bicker again but did write back .

Depending on his reply I will keep the surface emails we have about critters on our property and other light things. I need that much. But I do not look to him anymore for much else though am grateful for what came before when I was so in need. Sometimes people just move on.

My reply to Seth:

Been there, done that. I wrote one, remember, the one you won’t read.

That we both kept ‘love’ in the equation is a good thing. It may a love of the time when we were young and has nothing to do with who we really are now. And the love then? You did not know me then either as the traumas were kept tight inside just as mom expected and trained me to keep them.

Did you know that last spring when you reacted so incensed at my sharing a link to my book at Amazon that I went by ambulance and stayed a night at the hospital due to a fast heart beat? A heart can be broken by others and your reaction affected me and body greatly.

By the way, though my book does detail all the trauma I suffered…finally, it also contains great joy. True healing began when the traumas were processed as each chapter came up.

No child should have to keep trauma within herself. Trauma needs to be processed to pass through, and repeatedly until it is completely processed. Since mine was not, I live with chronic issues because of the silence I was expected to keep. The same silence you require of me.

For every chapter of terror and pain, there is a chapter of great joy. Because when a child, or any person, has to suppress trauma, joys are suppressed too. When it comes up, it all comes up.

You go ahead and read stories about those you don’t know, but I’m not interested.

And I want to add, I have always respected your connection with Tom. Respect mine. He is not safe for me.

Love,

Patricia

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PEACE

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Waking, remembering the work of easing anxiety, my breathing slows evenly and deeper. It is almost 5 am, time to rise. My work is calming anxiety that comes each spring. The wiry brain which had plummeted to a lower mood over winter, now sprints into more daylight and an awakening. Anxiety is also an issue dealt with throughout the year as my equilibrium is easily upset.

Spring tends to bring noise in the brain and eccentric behavior, inviting situations that greatly increase the anxiety beast, not tame it. This year the journey is different because I’m feeling more aware of the dilemma, and more aware that this body and mind is not like those around me. I need special care, care I do not know how to provide or feel worthy of.

That feeling is more that a feeling. It is part of my personality that’s staying, formed deep in my core during childhood due to my brothers’ ongoing abuses, other brothers looking away, and my mother’s collusion in the conspiracy of silence; we are a happy, normal family, you will love your brothers, as they continued to creep in my room and attack me.

I don’t like the fact that at my core is a feeling that I am bad, and unworthy, or that whatever is happening is my fault. I run from this fact of what I believe, embedded permanently like a crack in rock. In accepting this flaw, and accepting where it came from, compassion, self-love and a more lenient judge takes the helm. 

I try so hard to function at the fast speed others seem to function at so easily. Then fail, compounding issues of poor self-esteem. My tired body and mind can’t do it. This whirlwind called life has always moved too fast for me. 

There is no one else to provide proper care for myself but myself, as it is for each of us. We can lean on others, help others, but we are each responsible for handling the inner workings of ourselves. And for those like me with chronic, pervasive, and permanent Complex PTSD, it is a daily endeavor that often leads to despair.

What comes as second nature to others and is taken for granted, is elusive for those who have suffered traumas that extended over time. I have to work at it, sometimes every minute of every day, and even then without success. Hence the despair.  

Breathe deep. Keep breathing. The tight chest, is it medical or emotional? Later as the conscious deeper breathing continues, the tightness abates. Anxiety can harm all facets of the body, mind and spirit. And it can cause one to seek out more without being conscious of the urge, adding to the internal chaos.

Be quiet, be still. Bored? That’s not boring, that is called peace…
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GROUNDING

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Each morning I awake and try hard to calm the anxiety. No, I don’t want to get up at 4:30 so lay in bed half sleeping till after 6. Sometimes I just have to get up, but I was still so tired from the egg dying get together yesterday I lay quietly. 

A few times these past weeks I’ve had to take Xanax in the AM, a very unusual occurrence for me unless I have a medical appointment. Just a half and it helps. But more times I use meditation to get below the buzz. Most of it is irrational like believing my breathing was a problem, but it was only congestion in the back of my throat.

I ponder why this spring I’m affected with fear and anxiety when other years it just felt like big highs then some lows till leveling out by May. I think it is because for the most part I’m not using food to quell it. That’s hard.

I need other ways. Going below it works, by staying with it, in it, and working to go beneath into other rooms. Deciding not to allow fear to run my day helps. Deeper breathing helps. This too shall pass, helps.

Take things easy, try not to get excited over flights of thoughts. Samuel helps to ground me. Try to remember just what base you have. I think of Chet and the damage. I think of him more now that I ever did while he was alive. And Mom sitting across from me telling me if it ever happens again to tell her.

I took it as blame, as if I had some control of it. She could have saved a life-time of feeling ‘bad’ and crippling self- blame had she handled it with love; holding me, telling me she was sorry, stroking my head. But I sat across from her, tears of shame burning my cheeks as they fell.

And it did keep happening, Chet kept attacking. It took the bugs on my body and that terror making me go to her. It stopped only then because she finally hired a babysitter instead of expecting me to keep him off me.

So much damage. But think of it. Think of who I am really am. To have that much zip to keep going, trying and living. There is a strong base in me. Go there. That is where I can be held, and loved, and calmed.

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The Courage to Live

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FEAR

I have lived a life-time of fear since age 8 invading every moment in one way or another. Forced to grow up within a male population called brothers who attacked in the night, or even during the broad light of day, made fear a constant companion. Even though Chet, Dan, and Pete are dead, and the most evil, Tom, still lives spreading his poison, I live in fear at the easiest upset. 

It is hard not to resent what they did. Living with low esteem added to continual fear of people, and the inability to speak up for myself, eroded my natural abilities and has been debilitating.

Yet I persevere. I can get over what they did to my body. But what they did to my trust, shattered beyond repair, what they took from ever feeling safe with touch and loving sex with my husband, the betrayals of each attack, and this list goes on… these I can heal from or after time have learned to live and accept as the damage done.

But fear? Anxiety? Jumping at every loud sound, or medical people working on my body in any way sending me in panic for days, even months after? These are just some of the life-long effects I resent living with that were caused by these tormentors.

These challenges erode my courage, weakening me, and in the wee hours of the morning tend to make me wonder how I can continue to cope; especially since an aging body needs many more medical interventions to keep functioning.

It pisses me off. I’d like to put my real name on my blog and use real names for who did what when. Not to get even, but to stand up and say NO. No this is not alright. NO, it is not alright to silence me out of your own shame and fear of how it will make you look.

Yet the anonymity of the freedom to talk openly without hurting anyone offers a resource I cherish, as if this outlet is a replacement for therapy. Expression of honest feelings, which aren’t right or wrong but just there, is a freeing experience. Dumping it all and feeling heard and acknowledged is a human need as crucial as air.

I do not want to give that up. So even though I could put my name on my blog, I chose not to. Not out of fear, (I don’t think so) but out of my own need to talk freely when and how I like; and for the first time ever in my life.

Taught to be pleasing, to live with and love the criminals who attacked me masked as ‘brothers,’ makes it a challenge to discover who I really am even now. I continue to search for ‘her’ going below the surface of the ‘nice’ girl my mother manipulated and trained me to be.

Mom’s need reined, that of ensuring the fallacy of an upstanding family was on show, but at the expense of her daughter. I acquiesced because I craved her love to the very end unable to provide a moments warmth for myself and needing what little she had to give.

The book erupted out of me after her death 8 years ago. It was finally safe to speak of her sons. All that had been suppressed arose; the joys, the traumas, the black tarry secrets of others, and the wonders that sustained me. 

Yet I am left with challenges I resent. It makes me turn resentment into fortitude, grasping courage like an old tree rooting it deeper, transforming the bitter truths into beauty. This I will do, or try to day after day. 

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STEADY

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You are an inferior citizen, person, child. That was the message given when expected to contain such vile, unwanted, and confusing sexual attacks on my body. Do not speak of it. And since I was born a child to speak up with strength, silencing me took a good deal of shaming.

“You should be ashamed of yourself,” she would say if I spoke up about anything. I am Mom, I am. But not anymore. 

“Stupid,” she’d admonish. It took till middle age before relinquishing the idea that I was stupid.  Raymond, my psychiatrist at the time, mentioned the A’s earned in preparation for nursing school which begrudgingly awakened awareness of my intelligence. That was undeniable proof.

Whatever tactic needed was used to keep the shameful secret. Those manipulations were also readily employed by siblings whether they were the perpetrator or not. Families do not speak of such things.

My wish is that they would and doing so is the first and most monumental step in providing the desperate help needed for all within the family system. So many issues have come out of closet and so should this. Intervention at the time childhood sexual abuse occurs helps greatly reduce a hellish life for both child and perpetrator.

Being an older model means much tuning up. Taking care of myself takes time and it also takes being in my body to notice what it needs. I work throughout the day reminding myself, it is OK to take care of yourself. It’s perplexing to need that much affirmation over and over, having to repeatedly give myself permission and believe it. Yet the basis of how my personality was formed is explanation enough.

You are bad, unworthy, unlovable, and not capable. These are the messages which cement a child’s personality when no one comes to her aide after she has been sexually abused and attacked by those she once loved and trusted. The negatives embed themselves like granite.

Others give themselves love and self-care automatically. Others who have not been broken into many pieces strewn about. I gather the parts like fireflies but one escapes here, another there.

Progress is made. Meditation brings a feeling of wholeness and groundedness. Sticking with it day after day, week after week, and year after year brings results. Less anxiety. I can be around others in peace. Not always, or with everyone, or for too long a period depending on who it is, but a great relief than for most of my life.

Do your meditation. Ingest the foods that make your body work right. Drink 64 oz. of water. Do the pelvic exercises three times a day that tighten appropriate muscles. (Kegel’s) And though these can be done anywhere and anytime by most, I need quietness to concentrate on the right muscles. Walk the 20 minutes, more if you can. Rest. A life of living constantly on edge has worn out the adrenals and a lot of rest is needed. Keep thoughts steady trying not to allow them to go to the negative as they tend to do. If you feel down or bored don’t try to change it, just be with it. Keep sleep routines and stick to them.

This is my work, satisfying work because the results help form a person healthy, happy and whole.

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CHRISTMAS

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I don’t celebrate Christmas from a religious sense but for Santa, decorations, gifts and the feeling of cheer and good will that it brings. It illuminates the time of year that tends to be dark, dreary and dull. I am more like the ancient peoples who celebrated the solstices.

The gifts are bought and wrapped, the lights are up, but winter’s short days make me drag feeling tired, blue and slow. Yet I am happy. I am at peace most of the time which is ‘happy’ to me. It is how winters go  because shorter days lower my mood dramatically.

I miss Mom and my friend Sue. Loved ones gone seem especially missed during this time of year. But I also realize how precious now is. Samuel and I have quietness and time together. Our health is stable. I have much to be grateful for.

I have concentrated on making family interactions with my sons and daughters-in-law the best they can be and with progress. That is uppermost in my goals to achieve and maintain. I also concentrate on being the best Nana I can be. That takes concentrating on being present…as simple as that. They notice that I notice and it always beings smiles—smiles of feeling loved, noticed and cared for.

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