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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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…

ALONE

photos by Patricia

The road is long, hard and lonely. All that one knows needs discarding, most painful those loved, the people making up the herd one is born into. Playing a part as if one of them, once touched in evil ways a child is alone.

Even those that were innocent of wrong touch became complicit in the silence adding to the restrictions placed on the child. The embarrassment of anyone knowing becomes paramount to the child’s survival.

This does not change with time but rather locks down securely. Freedom it is not found within family, not mine. Stepping out into the world asking for help is terrifying and there are “lions, tigers, and bears” along the way. It takes courage unparalleled. How does she keep going?

The crimes of childhood sexual abuse are many layered, the depth of fractures reaching one’s core. And the core closes in defense. No more can be risked because what is left needs preservation. So how to negotiate the outside world if one cannot navigate one’s own soul?

COCOONING

photo by Patricia

Cocooning myself against the threats in the world was crucial to survival. Every living being posed a threat. This type of cocooning lead to decay, not growth, but I knew no other way.

Reaching out for help from the black hole took great courage and persistence. One starts where one can. The local Mental Health Clinic took on clients based on income so my fee was very low. With only Samuel working at minimum wage we scraped by each week. My babysitting, crafts and frugal spending habits kept us afloat.

Those steps outward were so terrifying. What will they think about me? The urge to blurt forth what brothers had done had become too much to contain, yet along with it was great fear of how badly I’d look. The dirt by others dirtied me and in my mind must be my fault.

Yet there remained one glittering speck of instinct knowing all that was not true. And that speck grew and grew with the help of therapists throughout the years, even ones that behaved badly. Perhaps those spurred me on even more.

Reaching out for friends and outside activities brought anxiety and was scary yet the need for connection grew greater. Always a part of school chorale my love of singing drew me to the local chorale. That became a healthy opportunity for growth in many ways for years. With shaking knees at concerts, friends held me up with their kind support. Each concert became easier and rehearsals less scary and fun.

Friends have remained and due to taking risks and asking others, a group was formed that has met monthly for over 15 years. We rotate at each other’s houses for crafts, cards,  snacks then a dessert. The comfort and camaraderie of other women became a base like earth to grow from.

The need to cocoon myself from too much stimulation remains. Many should’s arise in my mind, yet one rational voice whispers my truth, It’ OK, do what you need to for you…

 

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.   

Coming Home

photo by Patricia

When floundering the answers come from others because their lives look so calm and together. For a soul shattered this symbiotic interaction became necessary. To lean on Samuel feels like defeat. With head in hands, feeling as if there is no other recourse, my grief is expressed.

Feelings floating out there, out of me, brings lightness to my being as if a cloud of foul vapors has been exhaled. He offers a few words of support and that is all that is needed. I know my way ‘home’ even if veering from the path for a while.

In times of confusion reaching out feels like the only way to regain balance, and that’s OK.  To live on my path means finding my own way back.

A life lived with pieces spinning is no life. It is robotic, all parts separated from each other and each working as single entities. Once moments of wholeness are experienced, the cracking and spinning that occurs with various life events are more poignantly painful and uncomfortable because the sweetness of feeling whole has spun away.

Come home to yourself… as many times as needed, you can find your way back.

 

The Empty Places

photo by Patricia

Feeling lost I wander the house. Out on the path the usual interest in the day is overridden by feelings hard to name. Calling to her, the only god that can be trusted, the request is, “Help me find my way?”

She is ethereal and always loving especially when the love for self is absent. She is in the friends that love me even when I don’t, and my sons and husband too. She is the warmth, joy and goodness that brings light where there is darkness and brings hope.

Just do the things that help your body and mind and groundedness will eventually return. Meditation after walking helps to bring the scattered pieces home. And answers may not come.

Perhaps the lost feeling is the yearning for the family of origin pulling deeper at Christmas time. Knowing those interactions hurt rather than help does not ease the wish that there was one.

Hold on to what you have, it so much and is enough. The other crevasse can be filled by continuing to learn about loving yourself. Only you can fill yourself in the empty places.