No one ever asked why I wore a bathing suit under my clothes. It was quite visible through the white polo of my private school uniform. I wasn’t going swimming in the middle of winter. But for years, I would wear a bathing suit over my underwear and under my clothes, and no one ever questioned it.
Why? Because it helped me feel protected. In my child mind, I foolishly thought these extra barriers, these layers of protection, would prevent me from being abused.
So I stuffed myself with wads of toilet paper. That toilet paper was going to protect me. She can’t put anything inside me then. She’s not going to be able to hurt me.
And then I’d wear two pairs of underwear, sometimes three. Then, my bathing suit. Then my pants. Then two or three shirts. I needed all of that to feel protected. I needed to be covered. I never wanted to be without my protection.
But those layers didn’t work. She still hurt me. It just took a little more effort.
I never gave up trying, though, even to this day. I always wear two pairs of underwear. I always wear at least three shirts, no matter if it’s the heat of summer.
And when I am feeling vulnerable and afraid, I go right back to my childhood methods of protection.
Since I’ve been struggling with this memory, I’ve found myself reverting back to childhood a bit. I’m teetering in a place between being a free, 30 year-old adult and being a scared child. As weird as it is, I feel like both at the same time.
I know I am an adult, but I am also living in fear of my mother. I check my bedroom door ten times to make sure it is locked before I go to bed. Why? Because I don’t want my mother coming in and hurting me. Adult me knows my mother isn’t even here, but the fear is still playing out actively in my head.
And as I’ve gotten ready for bed each night, I have created a protective cocoon of clothing: extra clothing under my pajamas, a sweatshirt with the hood over my head and closed tightly. Throw blankets wrapped around me like I am human burrito.Why? Because I need to protect myself from my mother. My mother, who is nowhere near me anymore. My mother, who doesn’t even know where I am. But that knowledge doesn’t matter because I am living in a state of confusion, a mixed state of past and present that has become my reality.
I’m not sure what is worse: living in fear and not knowing why, or living in fear, totally aware of the irrationality of it all, but not being able to control it.