Yes, hurting people do hurt people. We don’t mean to. It just happens. Which is why I’ve released my husband. I hope he can move on. This way his dysfunctional tendencies can’t hurt me, and mine can’t hurt him. It’s the sad reality of healing from abuse.
It’s the strangest thing. I wasn’t scared of shadows before I started therapy. But since the onset of PTSD, every single time I have a moment in the spotlight with my therapist and we dig deep, shadows haunt me for about a week or so. I see them everywhere. They sneak up on me. One of these days I’m going to scare them back.
Recently in my group therapy session my therapist took me to the violent storm that’s been wreaking havoc in my soul. She’s really good at working visualizations with me. I went back 26 years ago, though it seems like yesterday. It was the day he left. He’d dropped my mother off at a doctors appointment and bailed. Just left. Guess which 18 year old got the call at work to pick her up at said doctor’s office? Yep. First I called his place of work. They informed me that, “C doesn’t work here anymore. He quit this morning.” Well thanks asshole. Let me smile at my co-workers and pretend like everything is normal. What excuse can I come up with quickly so that I can leave work and go pick up my mother who is falling apart? I’ve gotten really good at the fake smile thing over the years. Good times.
We got back home and the shit hit the fan. We all started comparing notes. That’s the day it all came out. The things he’d been doing to us for years… I remember my mother acting oblivious. My sister remembers her commenting something like, “Well, I thought something like this was going on.” My adult brother and live-in sister in law compared notes and shared what an asshole he was for all the times they’d seen him outside of our windows watching us or bent over on the floor outside of bedroom doors peeking or “listening.” (Listening for what?!) But, more importantly, what?! You knew? You’d seen these things?!
Fast forward 22 years later. It was the year my sister and I traveled back the scene of the crime to press charges. Yeah, that’s when they told us we were making it all up and they wouldn’t help us. Said brother was asked to write up something for us. Anything. Describe what you witnessed. Tell them what you saw. Guess what? He didn’t. He didn’t want to get involved. He couldn’t put himself out there. Blah. Blah. Blah.
Why didn’t people protect us? Adults? That’s what gets me, over and over and over. Nobody protected us. Even 20+ years later.
So, back to the storm. It was raging. I closed my eyes. I explained it was a hurricane, not just a thunderstorm. It was fierce and the eye of the storm was to the left of my stomach and traveled down my legs. My therapist asked me if my angry self would be willing to step aside. She said yes, and so I put her in the corner of the room by the door. (Easy exit, right?) She stood there and watched me, armed crossed, scowling the whole time, but she was willing to let me talk. Next, what did I need from the group? I asked them to take a deep breath and blow as much peace into that storm as they could. I cried. I cried hard. For quite some time. They were all patient with me and allowed me to let it rise. (I love those ladies! My soulmates.) My hurricane calmed to sprinkle. It was manageable now. This I can do. Now, my therapist says, “Where do you want to put all of that energy? That wind that came from the hurricane? You can’t just leave it in there brewing. Can you think of somewhere to put it? Can you bury it somewhere?” Well, you can’t bury wind, and that started to stress me out. But only for a bit. I thought, for what seemed like forever, and then I remembered. A few years ago I went to I-Fly Austin with my sister and our families. We did indoor skydiving. It was pretty awesome, but I was scared I’d be sucked into the wind tunnel. It was pretty strong and I went quite high. If I could go back and do it again, knowing that you don’t get sucked in… It simply doesn’t work that way. That’s it, “I want to put that intense wind into the wind tunnel,” I said. “That way it can do something good.” Aaaah, breathing now.
When asked what I wanted to tell my brother? “Fuck you.” That’s all I could muster.
I wish there was a time and and a place where I could go to be fucked up and cry or smoke or drink or throw a tantrum all by myself. Raising teens and going through sexual abuse therapy is a whole new trauma in itself! Sometimes I think I should quit and get back to it after the last one graduates but I’m so steeped in this shit now that I feel like I’ve passed the point of no return. Gotta get better. Tell me it gets better.
I started out, and left, my therapy group on Monday flying high. I felt like a victor. Clarity really felt like it was setting in. Could’ve been my core. Couldn’t been a part. I just don’t recognize it yet. But good grief! Then tonight happened.
The hubs, the man I’ve separated from, by choice, who I still see a few times a week in hope of reconciliation, sent me into an emotional tailspin. I can’t believe how it triggered me. The anger. The pain. The sadness. So I dealt with it in an unhealthy way and drank. Not into an oblivion or anything. Just enough to attempt to numb out. But it didn’t work. Instead of numb, the conscience set in. It pisses me off.
I’d devised all kinds of plans to use others the way they use me. To play the same stupid games. Yes, it all sounded so fun and freeing. But that stupid voice of reason steps up – that part. Damn that part. But I’m not supposed to tell it to go away, or so I’m told.
How do others do it? The users and abusers. How do they do it and then fall asleep so quickly at night?
I reached out to my groupie sistas tonight. I truly would be lost without them. They got me through it. You know what they all asked me? “Are you safe?” I wish my husband cared enough to ask that. But he didn’t. And so I grieve, yet again.
Here’s a word of advise: If you are going to heal, you ARE going to need support. Get yourself into a group with fellow warriors who will support your every move and thought. Do not go it alone! Find your people. You’ll know they belong to you because you’ll be able to tell your story to them without shame. They will support you. They will let you scream and yell FUCK at the top of your lungs if you want. They will eat ice cream with you, or frosting. When you tell them that you ate 1/2 a bag of Fritos in bed at midnight, they’ll reply, “Rock on Sista!” They will teach you what they know about healing. And guess what? They absolutely won’t condemn you. They won’t tell you that you should be this way or that way. You’ll never hear how you could’ve done it better if you did it this way… They will love you. It will feel unfamiliar. But embrace it I tell you. Let them love you. The beautiful thing is, you will love them right back. Those are your villagers. Get comfy with them. You will need them. Because the fact is, some days will be like today – a fucked up, beautiful day.
Hardly anybody knows. I have these 2 secrets that I keep to myself. I don’t talk about them with my co-workers, my former co-workers, many of my friends, not so close family members or 99% of my church people. One is the fact that I’ve left my husband and moved out. I couldn’t breathe. Suffocating while attacking your demons isn’t a healthy mix. My heart, my soul, my spirit – they weren’t being supported. The other is that I’m finally tackling the healing process for childhood sexual abuse. (And I’m pretty damn proud of myself for it – finally.) Apparently one wasn’t possible without the other.
I was trying to explain this shame and condemnation I’ve been carrying around to my counselor and therapy group sistas tonight. My counselor kindly reframed it for me; it’s not shame I feel, it’s containment and privacy. Until I am ready to share and until those I want to share with have earned my vulnerability, I am allowed to keep my “secrets.” Aaaahhh, clarity. I needed that. Aha moment, anyone? Sometimes I’m dumbfounded that I couldn’t figure these things out on my own. Hence the therapy…
Shame was what I carried for 25+ years when I hid the fact that I had been sexually molested for years by him. It was the lie that I believed that somehow I could have saved my sister from the same trauma. Couldn’t I have done something as a kid to protect my younger sister? Why didn’t I make a stink out of the situation with my mother? What about safe adults? Surely, somebody would have listened, right? Why wasn’t I screaming at the top of my lungs, “He is a pervert! He’s molesting us! Help! Somebody help! Save us! Doesn’t anybody see what’s going here? Help!” It was the junk that I buried deep inside my spirit all of those years as I tried to convince myself that I wasn’t going to let it define me, or take me down. Yet it was the very thing that shaped the adult I’d become. Talk about irony. That realization was a hard slap in the face.
I’m fearfully excited about the day when I can be authentic to the world. I look forward to sharing my story in truth and love and not being ashamed of a single detail. As for now, I’m cocooning. That’s what one of my groupie sisters called it tonight. I like it. I’ve adopted it. I’ve hit the reset button. I’m hunkering down in my safe place, away from anyone I don’t feel comfortable with. I’m taking the time for self care, self awareness, self love. I will read and research and blog and therapy myself until I’m better. And I will be better. One day. It’s coming and it’s going to be good. And then, like a butterfly from her cocoon, I will gently emerge, in new form and beauty. That is when I will share the beauty of my pain and grief with the world.
“Out of indescribable pain comes clarity of belief and depth of purpose.” – The Betrayal Bond by Patrick Carnes.
I must transform my suffering into meaning.
This is the second time I am reliving this. The first time was when we attempted to press charges only to be told that we were making it up… Yeah, 25 years later I’m going to make up a story about him abusing me for years. Okay. Data based research tells us that many times it takes that long for abuse victims to come to grips with what happened, especially when the other safe adults in our lives didn’t do their job. Hence, my mid-life therapeutic journey.
She didn’t protect us. My mother claims she didn’t know what was going on. I believed her for a long time. I felt pity on her. I wanted to take care of her. And so I did. I became the mother to my mother. I made up excuses and took care of her and her needs for a long, long time. Oh boy! Talk about co-dependent. That’s another post.
I recollect all of the times I found him outside my bedroom door with his eyes looking through the key hole. Or the times I’d catch him on all fours with his ear to the wall in the bathroom where my room was on the other side. I often wish I could go back to those times to see if he’d drilled a hole in the wall to spy. What the hell was he “listening” for? “Um, what are you doing?” I’d ask. “I dropped something…” would be his reply. Did I question him further? No. I just covered it up and added it to my schema of normal. Oh, and the times he’d be outside my window watching me. And of late, I have visions of him on hands and knees watching me as I’d sleep. But maybe I’m making that up. I don’t know where reality and falsehood cross. But my mom? She never busted him spying? Highly unlikely.
I remember her telling us to stop running around in panties and t-shirts in our home. I remember her telling us that what happens in our home stays in our home. But here’s the kicker, right after my high school graduation, and I mean right after, he left. This guy dropped her at a doctor appointment and left town without a word. I got a call at my place of employment. My mom told me she’d been waiting for him to come back and get her but he hadn’t shown. I hung up and called his employer to see if he’d been to work that day. “C doesn’t work here anymore,” they told me. You know that wave of complete chaos and uncertainty that washes over you when you realize you are in another highly dysfunctional mess but you don’t have the words to describe it? Yeah, that’s what happened. That’s the day the shit hit the fan. Everything came out. The years of abuse were revealed to her. And yet she claimed she had no idea. Are you ready for this? Shortly after that, she allowed him to come back into our home. They were going to get help. “Families can heal from this kind of stuff.” Instead of fighting for me and my sister. Instead of defending us and getting us into therapy THEN, she brought him back home.
Fast forward to present day – I told her last week that I don’t want or need to see her right now during my therapeutic journey. I don’t want to drive her around town to run errands. I don’t want to put effort into Sunday night dinners. I don’t want to hear her complain or rant about her stuff. I no longer want to experience panic or anxiety when I’m around her. I just want her to leave me alone. She is in her mid 70’s. I have no sympathy. I’m not even angry. I am numb. Do I feel guilty? No I do not. I don’t know what the future holds for our “relationship,” but for now, I’m taking a sabbatical. She was just another perpetrator.
I went to school and taught all day. I even wore a smile. The entire day. It’s automatic. I made it to my therapy group tonight. Yay me! I came home and packed up mini me for her school camping trip tomorrow. Whoop! But yet I feel so disconnected. What am I waiting on? What does healing look like? I’m holding on for happiness but I am not.even sure I know what it looks like. I only know false happiness. Made up happiness. Do the clouds just suddenly clear one day and you feel better?
I started feeling as though something wasn’t quite right after that worthless non prosecuting trip. I was disconnected and angry all the time. In February of this year I decided I was going after some help. I found a great counselor. She’s changed my life. I started group therapy. I was finally getting some answers. Then the Spring brought some terrible storms our way. I had to break from it all for about 6 weeks. That sucked, seriously sucked. It left me in the middle of my grief. In June I separated from my husband in hopes of really getting to the bottom of things. I increased my therapy and my research. I’m a teacher. I knew I had the Summer. I guess I thought healing would come sooner. It doesn’t. It’s a process. I’m still smack dab in the middle of it. I’ve learned so much about myself; some good, some really not so good. It took me 44 years to get here. It’s going to take some time to get there. I try to be gentle with myself but it’s not easy. I’ve disrupted our lives. The guilt lays heavily on my chest. But the determination for healing trumps it all. Even more so, I really want to be a voice for the shamed. I’m just SO not ready for that yet. Godspeed. That’s what I need.