When things like the things that happened, happen, it feels as though you are exposed constantly. You lose all sense of privacy when your entire being is violated. Afterwards, it feels as though everyone can see right through you and they just know what happened. I don’t know how they know, it just feels that way. Sometimes when I write, I feel completely exposed.
I think it’s fear that has prevented me from writing out the worst memories of my childhood. I’ve talked about the day to day things, but I’ve never really talked about what it is that haunts my sleep. I’ve never spoken the words aloud, or even put them in my journal or on my blog. Fear has kept me from writing out the awful things of the past. Fear that someone will read them and judge me or feel sorry for me…I want neither of those things; judgment or pity. Fear that I will fall back into that little girl, and once again, live through what happened when I was a child.
For me as I imagine for most people, one of the hardest parts to writing is not knowing where to start. Should I start at the beginning, the middle or the end? What should I include? What should I leave out? Maybe, once you find a starting place, it all just comes out how it wants to. I don’t know really. The beginning for me is a bit tricky because I don’t remember the very beginning of it all. I know when the sexual abuse ended, I remember parts of the middle, but I don’t remember the beginning; I just remember it always happening. I guess I’ll figure it out when the time is right.
How do you remember? What does it look like when you do? Is it like a snapshot? Or maybe it comes in dreams? Or is it like a movie maybe? It doesn’t really matter I guess, everyone remembers how they remember.
I remember a lot of things, but apparently have forgotten much.
If you asked me to describe what I remember, it would run like a movie. Like the old 8mm on reels it would be a bit grainy and a little jumpy. I can see it for a little bit and then something happens–the film snaps and it has to be put back together–when it starts again there is an entire period of time missing. I don’t know what happened in between, in the broken section, the missing section. Sometimes it seems that years can’t be remembered. It’s a very bad feeling, not being able to remember. T once said ‘what we forget, we forget for a reason’. Most days I wish I had forgotten it all.
What’s a person to do when it never felt like there was really a place where they could just get away? From one place to the other, it was constant fear; fear of saying the wrong thing; fear of doing the wrong thing; fear of being in the wrong place; fear of being in the right place at the right time and suffering the consequences of someone finding out all that was happening.
I was taught that children had to obey unconditionally and instantly. Failure to do so would result in spankings, beatings with wooden sticks and belts, being told to shut my mouth and stop talking. I was taught that I should always accept my punishment because I was a worthless being and it was good for me. I was taught that good children do not ever let anyone find out the truth of what was happening. Don’t talk. Don’t let anyone see you cry.
When it came to my father, it was about punishment. He was the one who gained the most by the other person feeling lesser to him. Running away would just make it worse. He would hit you until you cried and then yell at you and hit for crying. You couldn’t win. He was faster, stronger and more determined than you could ever be. I will always believe that my father had the capability of killing another person. Each act of punishment was so shocking and painful, it was like being struck by lightning.
I remember the first and last time I dared to be so brave and spoke back to my father. I don’t remember why, but one day I bore the brunt of his rage. I remember turning and looking up at him very defiantly and said ‘didn’t hurt’. So, he came at me again, and again I responded ‘didn’t hurt’. Finally, he hit me for the last time and said ‘I know that hurt and if you want to cry about it or tell me it didn’t hurt, I’ll really give you something to cry about’. I didn’t cry and I walked away refusing to let him see how much he hurt me. From a very young age I developed the attitude ‘you will never break me and no matter how much it hurts you will never see me cry’.
My childhood home contained a man who could be a really mean sonofabitch; a man who ruled with his physical power; a man who taught me to look at anyone who hurt me and say to myself ‘didn’t hurt’; a man who taught me not to cry; a man who taught me not to speak. A house that also had my mother; a woman who always protected and defended my father; a woman who said nothing and accepted it for what it was; a woman who would send me away because I was, in her words, ‘too much‘ for her and she just needed a break from me. And of course, a house of sexual abuse at the hands of those who were supposed to be my family.
In a sense there was never, ever any escape. Home life was terrifying and painful, life at the places my mother would leave me were the same. Day in and day out, it never seemed to change. I grew up in a constant whirlwind of not knowing what was going to happen next. I try to work at finding a way to hold everything together in my mind. My dad was a horrendous person; my mom didn’t protect us from him; it felt unsurvivable at times. Trying to learn how to fully trust on an emotional level when your two primary caretakers were not trustworthy does a number on a person.
I don’t know which abuse was the most difficult to endure: the mental; the physical or the sexual. All of them can break a soul. I guess it’s different for everyone and the pieces get put back together in a different way. In a strange way, if I could pick having had only one of all of the things happen to me, I would pick being sexually abused by my cousins, even though it was far more extreme. If my father hadn’t have been the way he was at the same time, I might have been able to say something and maybe everything might have been stopped.
Day after day, month after month, year after year, I learned to endure the pain, to cry without tears and to keep quiet.
Some days I’m surprised I made it this far. I did some bad things growing up, to try to hide how I really felt about all of it. My mentality had become, ‘hurt them or hurt yourself.’ I started smoking, taking shots of alcohol at lunchtime, burning myself and carving random lines on various part of my body for temporary relief. The pain gave me a new comfort from my own mind, an escape from reality. No one knew of course. I couldn’t imagine having them look at me with the same look of disgust and disappointment I gave myself. The inner fire felt completely out of control and I prayed that I could escape from the hell called life. I was too afraid to talk to anyone out of fear of my father, out of fear of the things they said they would do to me. The punishment I would have received would have been worse than just living.
Over the years there have been a couple of different situations, but none as bad as that period of time in my life. There was the time I went on a work trip with a co-worker when I was a student and we had to stay overnight somewhere. He was old enough to be my father but I thought I would be safe with him. We got to the hotel and according to him there weren’t any other rooms left besides the honeymoon suite and it was too late to keep driving. He had the hotel break it into two separate bills so nobody would get suspicious. What was I going to say about it when I was just a summer student looking to pay my tuition and couldn’t afford to lose my job.
Then in 2005 there was a guy from my current workplace who turned into an angry, raging alcoholic and stalked me on a camping trip. Because I refused to talk to him he kept following me and calling me and e-mailing me and would scream over the phone and drive by everyone’s houses looking for me. I had to call the police and they had to talk to him and warned him he would be arrested. Eventually, they fired him because he made the workplace a nightmare.
I often look back on it all to try to make sense of some of it and all that I can see is that that the common denominator in all of this is me. So what’s wrong with me? If you follow the rules and stay out of trouble and use your manners and you don’t let them see you cry then bad things aren’t supposed to happen, you know. But they did and I just can’t figure out what that means. So it must mean it’s me.
You survive. You do. But the thing is, that even when it is over it never really goes away.
Sometimes it is loud. Sometimes it’s the monster inside of nightmares. It’s a tsunami that raises the ocean’s floors. It smashes everything in its wake and demands to be acknowledged. Other times, it is quiet. It’s sneaky. It’s nagging fears and whispers and restlessness. It’s feeling flawed and invisible. It’s feeling like pieces are missing and the effort it would take to put you back together is just not worth it.
The truth is I am not brave. Or strong. Or fearless. Sometimes, fear is the only feeling I have and it makes me want to close myself off to the world. Some hurts go too deep and they have taken hold. A grip so intense there isn’t a space in time that can loosen it. How do you go on when in your heart you begin to understand there is no going back?
Maybe there are some things that time just cannot mend.
8 thoughts on “memories”
I don’t believe in the law of attraction, and I don’t believe that we’re the reason bad things happen to us. Bad things happen to good people, and no one is fearless. Eleanor Roosevelt said “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” ❤️
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Dear Courage: My childhood was similar. I can see how you are missing T. I have a feeling he had an understanding about how difficult his absence would be for you. It takes courage to call the other T he recommended….. I can see how many oodles of courage you have had, from the beginning of your life. MayI gently recommend you show that child in you some kindness, and make the call? You are no longer alone. You will not be punished for telling, nor for asking for help. Sincerely – TS
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Thanks TS. I’m sorry you are able to relate.
I’m afraid I may have waited too long to call with the long weekend coming up (Canada Day).
T said he would come back. He promised….
I don’t need him anyways. I can survive without him. It’s just 5 more days after all….
Sending Kindness from My Kid to Your Kid…….TS
I hear and get All of this. Tell you what though … i think this: “you will never break me..” attitude is what helped you survive, and it’ll be what helps you to continue to heal. You’re awesome ❤
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thanks Me! I think you’re pretty awesome too! ❤
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