Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." Genesis 9:13

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A look back

This is a hard post to write.....if my neighbors were being appropriately quiet for 11:45 pm I might put it off longer. But maybe if I start with you this story won't be quite so hard with Dr. Mind on Thursday.

I've alluded to an abusive childhood before. Now it's time to talk about that. Someone who has read this blog and paid rapt attention may know about 1/3 of it. Dr. Mind knows more than that, he's got a decent outline, but I've never been specific with him. I spent 4 years working hard on how it FELT and how to live without it overruling everything good when I was in college, part of that in what would be considered intensive outpatient (6 hours/week plus a support group). In grad school I tried to continue therapy and a moderated group. First I dropped out of the support group as I realized that even though I was the youngest I was doing the best, by far. Therapy didn't go so well. I couldn't find a therapist I clicked with, and I was just in an angry stage that I seemed to need to work out for myself. I was so angry at the world for what had happened to me for a while.

And in the 6 years I've been treated where I go now, I've talked about it from time to time. I've explained what I needed to. But abuse issues aren't first and foremost on my mind almost ever, I'm very proud of how I've handled them, and I just don't need for them to come up. I'm also very defensive about it because I've had too many therapists decide that I can't determine for myself how well I've adjusted to what happened and I have had more than one insist I'm in denial because I said I'm coping well. I had gone to one in particular for a specific issue and rather than listen she kept insisting it was abuse I needed to talk about.

Over the last few months there have been a few times it's come up more. And now it's going to come up intensely for a while. So, here's the story. With some bits left out, and some things altered because I feel safer and it's my story.

It started as more of a disinterest on the part of my father. Like many men, he was not willing to help with baby stuff at all. He took it to a new level though. I was an extremely difficult baby, with severe colic that didn't recede until I was 8 months old. For that entire time I had to be held. He never helped. And the crying angered him. My mother says that she sometimes had to lay me down and walk away because she couldn't handle it 24/7, but he was angry that I cried and that she couldn't stop me, yet he never did anything to help.

When I stopped crying I started talking. I spoke early and clearly. A psychologist later explained to me that memory often starts with increased verbal skills, and I am able to describe events nobody would have had reason to tell me about accurately from 8-11 months old.

Around that same time my mother went back to work from her maternity leave and I started staying with my grandparents. My grandfather immediately began molesting me. It was part of my life as long as I can remember, and it had gone on forever before I questioned anything. By that time he had threatened me liberally, even taking me to a dark, wet corner of a basement where he would lock me up if I told. Needless to say I'm absolutely terrified of basements. This house has many issues but it has a dry, well-lit basement.

At some point my parents found out about it. It's hard to understand and it took me a long time to get there, but they were confronted with a problem nobody talked about in those years and in that place. I grew up in Appalachia and culturally this is kept a deep secret by all involved. At the time there were no laws to help child victims and I would have had to testify. I believe I've also been told the press would have had access to my name, etc. They considered moving away but somehow decided not to. My guess is that it had to do with my mother becoming pregnant and moving would take away insurance. They did set up barriers they felt would protect me. That did not happen.

As the years past my father became more and more mean. I still have a hard time remembering that he was abusive, because he did have really good moments in the earlier days of my childhood. But he also had horrible ones. Once we didn't clean our room fast enough and he emptied it with a shovel, throwing everything down a flight of stairs and breaking many toys. If we were in the car and he had the radio on essentially we were to be quiet. If we talked and he turned it up we were to immediately shut up and if not bad things happened. I don't want to give more examples; I can't even judge was was more irrational than something else. I don't remember him hitting a ton when I was young, but hitting just increased year after year until it was a major problem by high school age.

It is questionable whether he sexually abused us. Things he did qualify as sexual abuse, but I remember only a few times he touched me inappropriately. And compared to the physical and mental abuse it was nothing. So I guess he did, but compared to what I'd already experienced it was nothing. Later he was accused of molesting a neighbor girl. And he became involved with his 8th grade student at some point. That part of the story goes on a long ways, but after many years they were married and had a baby. That's how my "step-mother" was 2 years older than I. We were in high school together (before the marriage).

While I was in high school things worsened. Due to a medical condition he was on steroids a lot and had steroid rage, along with regular rage. High school was miserable and I couldn't wait to leave home. One of the top five reasons I picked my college was Saturday classes for pretty much every student (I had one semester without them) so I couldn't go home.

My mother tried to leave a number of times but he'd threaten her and she'd stay. It got to be so that she was not to be believed about that facet of life. She wasn't leaving. She finally did when I was 19.

I had almost succeeded in shutting him out of my life when my little brother was born. I couldn't shove an innocent being out, and I knew the kid would need help, so I was sucked back in.

Finally the baby's mother also left my father and I was able to walk out of his life when I went to grad school far from home. For a while he would write to us, nasty and meaningless letters showing how bad his mental illness had become. Then the postal forwarding limit came and I've not heard from him in many years. A cousin checks in on him from time to time.

Like I said, I have had many, many hours of therapy about this. And the story is really much more complicated, of course. But I am now at a new place where I have to deal with some parts I never thought about. Like how sad it makes me that I said good-bye. I think in a way my father left my life/"died to me" and I never grieved it. Which means that some of the problems I've had in other areas are because I have been taking things out on other people.

It's just so frustrating; I don't feel he has any place hurting me anymore.

So that's where my mind is for the next week or so.


Anonymous said...

I would love to hug you. I know that I can't take away the pain, but I can say that you are not alone. <3

Sometimes writing about it will help, hopefully this is a case for you.

I am here.

otgirl said...

:( hang in there

Emilija said...

You have a lot to deal with. I've had Eye Movement Desensitization Training for some more minor trauma during my childhood, and it helped- a lot. It doesn't make you forget, it just strips away a lot of the associated negative emotions.