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. 

 

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?

 

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.

 

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’.