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, than it is the family I love and trust, and most importantly need 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 was 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.

 

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.

COMING HOME

A secure feeling internally is so elusive, but once anchored even if momentarily, it is returned to more and more. Upheavals uproot, then the coming ‘home’ so pleasant; fullness, wholeness, confidence in oneself, and the ability to make decisions that add to well-being.

Be sad for what was, a life ridden with anxiety, rage, buzzing like a bee ready to sting, twirling like a dervish gone mad, no home inside to seek comfort and solace in? Or taking this phase of my life for what it is after a life-time of work…. peace.

Walking in the meadow brings joy, even excitement, enough excitement for me. My home made beautiful by my hands took years to cultivate, not just the external home, but the one in my center. As that flourished so did the ability to adorn the environment around me.

When my insides were a tornado, it wasn’t possible to decorate what was around me. Survival mode does that. Surviving by clawing to stay just above the surface, feeling life waters choking my throat with panic, confusion, and crippling self-doubt.

Clearing out the debris, the blackened tarry scourge lining my internal walls, took decades. Finding what my own feelings were took as long. Expressing those feelings once they are truly found is still a process unfolding that takes gentleness and patience. It was one of many things stolen, a voice.

The elusive voice finds expression on paper, and after the fact. Though my heads nods yes as my internal voice screams NO in many interactions with others even now as a well past grown woman, giving myself permission to say my truth later works better than the kick often bestowed upon myself by myself.

It is OK to speak up even if unpleasing to another. That still takes work. Some things broken remain broken. Maybe the best thing that can be done is learn how to be gentle about this lack that still plagues me.

When someone presses me to do something their way it seems I am all too easily swayed, causing a rift inside of self-hatred for going along. Samuel helps by saying it is OK, that others get caught in this trap too. His words of wisdom comfort. 

 

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. .

SURGERY

The rattling that occurred in every bodily system took such a jarring that even days later after cataract removal exhaustion still overcomes me. Each day brings more strength and clearer vision. Due to the traumas of childhood my doctor agreed to remove both cataracts at once, unheard of in modern day American medical procedures.

Others have one done, then go back two weeks later for the other one. And not under general anesthesia where a breathing pipe is put down the throat. That left a sore throat for a few days, but with it a gratefulness to be fully out with no awareness of anything.

Though my heart began pounding when the mask was put on concerning the anesthesiologist because the mask brought in gas to put me out not wind me up. She underestimated the effects of long term PTSD that was not processed at the time the trauma(s) took place.

But then out, and done. Others surely recover quicker, but each day is a slow process of recovery from the anesthesia, even more so, the terror. Tears down my cheeks told the story to others, and each one provided compassion in their own way, wiping the tears, offering words of comfort.

That was good, but no words calmed the terror of the body which believed itself to be in mortal danger. It’s done. I awoke. I’m not blind, both things worried about beforehand.

There is an adjustment to the new lens and the extensive brightness which the cloudy lens had blocked out. And that will take time for the brain to adjust to. Reminder to self; this was done to improve my quality of life. That when walking the meadow the nausea of not seeing well will lift, and that things wouldn’t continue to become more and more blurry.

I know others recoup faster, with so much more zest. But others also don’t come with frightful memories still locked inside making these events so strenuous and exhausting. Allowing myself to take each day as it is at whatever pace is needed with gentleness is the way through this healing process.

 

Little Things

Waking to anxiety and fear is the norm. Go back to sleep. Everything is alright, you are alright, and the calming process needed daily begins. This is especially true during the darker months which have dug in quite deeply, with a 6 pound weight gain to prove it. Where did that come from?

Doing things like eating unconsciously to provide comfort began at age 8 to cope with upheaval when Danny took safety away forever. But that scares me even more, to eat unwisely not providing my body with kindness.

So like roping runaway wild horses, the reining in begins again. Show yourself kindness and respect. When those thoughts sink in, the compulsion to eat away uncomfortable feelings disappears. My soul still starves for the nourishment of self-love.

My mother’s hand upon my fevered forehead. The special times when her love was felt because most of the time my hatred, rage and inability to trust walled it away. It is true with Samuel, my kids, and friends. Love is there, but it is not trusted.

And it is not there for myself, except for glimmers now and then. As the depth of love for myself opens so does love for others, both coming in and flowing out.

Love has always been there for me, around me like soft warm winds but could not enter for fear of betrayal and abandonment. A cat could only open me. And though that remains true, even a cat gets cold rejection when rejection of self occurs during periods of stress and detachment.

Come back to each moment because this is living, not some big event later on. Now is living in this moment. Nothing earthshaking, but life-changing in its quietness.

The cat purring on my lap because I’m aware of her, loving her, the vibrating from her purring matching my own, and she knows it. Taking a garage sale find and making a treasure out of it, day by day, in my own time, and with my own style. It’s OK to enjoy the little things. That is life, all the little things.