Monsters Don’t Die

Monsters don’t die, they live in my neurons ready to attack. A sudden sound, even Samuel entering a room without hearing the approaching footsteps makes my adrenaline shoot clanging the warning sirens. In the quiet alone, the vast stillness in the house waiting…

Monsters don’t die, they live on. Chet’s kidnapping of my freedom, a toy, a thing, a little captive now grown still trying to untangle the chains of childhood. Shame kept me silent, and he knew it. Though living in a house with seven brothers and a mother, his attacks were as if thousands miles away trapped in a hut with only his disgusting manipulating force.

I want to kill him, though he is already dead. No one to save me, no one would help me. Hostages grow close to their captors. His death did not undo that. They are never gone, the ones who attacked me. They lie waiting to destroy, even as worms eat their rotted flesh in the dirt they are buried in.These are the feelings denied all my life because my mother insisted on niceness— sugar without spice. 

They are never gone. The most violent attack by Dan remains repressed, inside deeply subconscious, yet there in all its horror. Raymond once said, “So what if you don’t remember?”

So what? What is that if it came up all the symptoms of PTSD would magically disappear. And of course that isn’t true. The cure comes in kindness towards self, so hard for a personality shaped by believing my needs don’t matter or even exist. A fake life forced with the silence, the authentic one still rising. 

When a child is sexually attacked by loved ones, the ones that know, and the ones who committed the crimes do not want the child to talk. No one provides attention or care, not even medical care. The shame that one of their own has done this means sacrifice the child, controlled by more manipulations and implied threats of abandonment through shunning. The life meant to be gone.  

I learned what happened didn’t, like painting white over black. Life was dazed by trauma and terror, and still I lived with the monsters who attacked in the night. I was to love them. Love was never to safely come again, not for adults. Rare moments occur with children who have not yet learned deceitfulness, and all pets. Pretending became my reality. 

Progress is made in recognizing my needs with compassion, though numbing also continues  without knowing why. 

 

TRUE NATURE

Planning Christmas kept my sanity in the darkest month, now the wait for spring as each day becomes longer.

“Look,” Samuel says, “It is 5 and still light out!”

Looking outside I reply excitedly, “Wow, you’re right!”

My drudge through the dark months is proceeding with better management and brighter outcomes, though it takes work; disciplined habits including full spectrum lights, meditation, better diet, and daily exercise.

The uplift from exercise is curative, even moderate exercise such as walking or gentle movements on the elliptical. But it takes a push to go do it.

The food thing is harder as food is used to medicate PTSD issues that resulted from childhood sexual attacks by loved ones. Alone, stuck with it, and no one to burst the bubble of excruciating pain, it grew as I grew.

That beast stayed. The beast of self-hate, but compassion is slowly moving in as part of me steps back and notices that my use of food is not born out of laziness, lack of character, or that I don’t love, care, or respect myself.

It is self-care that turned to me food at age eight, bent over the toilet in the middle of the night vomiting up the food my mother pushed towards me in place of what I really needed.

Food was her love. My little body couldn’t take it, but it was all there was to numb the horror of what my brothers did and kept doing… the ones I loved so much and trusted.

Food is still used to medicate. To eat out of hunger is not usual. To eat to numb is. Hating myself for failing to be thin is a societal rule. Yet it also is a survival tool that sustains my life in the only way I know how. 

Turning to food saved me. It saves me now. It squelches PTSD symptoms by focusing my attention to how full it feels to the point of pain. Liking the pain because I’m so used to it. The other hurts too much to feel. 

The hurt of a family turning their backs, going on as if nothing happened. What about that pain? It is easier to go along with them. Sure I love you too. You did so much for me.

Donny did allow me to move in with his family because my mother’s drinking had adverse effects. I got a job, joined the Army, met Samuel. My life began. Don saved me at a time when I really needed saving. 

But what about when I was 8? You came into the bathroom at the sound of my screams while I was in the tub.

I said, “It hurts down there.”

What did you do then? Nothing. No one did anything. Not Seth either who I said to directly at the time, “Danny fucked me.” Just looks of horror in his eyes which to an eight year old meant I was the horror.

I want to ask these questions, but never will, though some was in an email to Seth causing more separation than closeness.  

Each day starts out, listen to my body. It will tell you what you need. By the end of the day the impulse to eat when not hungry for food, but ravenous for love, wins out. It blots out all other needs, and helps me hate myself.

A quiet voice whispers, perhaps it is self-caring, what you have done since the age of 8. A rumbling vibrates deep down in a space that is not bone, blood or tissue… a place that is ethereal, one where my true nature resides. The work is connecting, and staying connected.   

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. 

 

LOVE?

Swallowing Vit C throughout the day has not deterred this cold, probably caught by the grand-children Saturday. Waking at 3 AM, it took work to stay put and go back to sleep till 5.

Thoughts whirled. If you can’t control thoughts, you’re in big trouble, a line, or one similar to it from the Julia Roberts movie, Eat, Love, Pray.

So OK. Flip side to side, then lay flat concentrating on the breath some more. Thoughts quieted, sleep came, albeit interrupted, it came.

With the usual rocking by the fire sipping fresh coffee, thoughts arise. How lucky my life is despite all the struggles. Sons love me, grand-children too, and Samuel, a man unfortunate enough to have a wife almost incapable of love.

Love can be thought of, but rarely felt. There is a glimmer of love deep in the tunnels where it flickers protected. For myself, for others. But it is not accessed easily like most who are trusting, warm, and open.

How could it be out in the open where that kernel of essence could be completely annihilated? When all that was precious shattered, the only whole fragment left  lay in the vault of a vault, so walled in no one gets at it, even safe ones, even me.

It is as it is due to what was done, no fault of my own. It does mean I cannot love or feel love, but do so only in the safety of aloneness where I can think of you without you near me. There love flows.

 

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.

 

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’.

 

Comfort and Joy

As my body recovers from the terror of the cataract removal procedure, my hands need busying. Projects on hold are finished; an old jewelry box found recently at a garage sale, painted golden like the sun to match our bedroom walls, gently gluing felt into the tiny drawers– a string of ornaments hung which will be left up all year, and mason jars with a cloth flounce top to be filled for Christmas goodies for both sons and their families.

It is almost a week later and has taken that long for my body to calm down. Waking in the night causes my body to become vigilant, arousing excessively as if on alert. Going through the procedure gave the message to my body it was in mortal danger, and that message has taken time to dissipate—to feel safe again. 

But each night with discipline, efforts are employed to stay in bed with words mentally said to myself; it’s OK, stay, you are tired, you will sleep. It is very hard to keep an agitated body down, but each night improved. It feels almost as if things are back to what they were.

Temps drop, and while sipping coffee fat, white flakes fall against the black morning. Everything is brighter, clearer, and in focus. So is dirt. While mopping, the floor showed layers of it my eyes hadn’t seen. Using a powder not recommended for floors, but worthy of removing just about any dirt, my mop whirled while a sheen of sweat dampened my shirt. .

Down the drain went bucket after bucket of brown water. The floor whitened dramatically. It took three days to come back to the living and stop laying around like a dead fish. Shane and Samuel encouraged me to venture outside before the winter storm hit.

Year-end gardening of emptying clay pots of their dirt saving the bulbs to replant next year was done robotically. Then as movement warmed the muscles, feelings came back with a joyfulness too.

After that laps in the meadow felt doable, but with the dark glasses provided from the surgery. The brightness even then was a lot. Lap after lap with a rest by the swollen, inky creek. The ability to be productive once again brings comfort and joy. .