Layers of Protection

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.

19 thoughts on “Layers of Protection

  1. KJ, both suck. Knowing and understanding where it all comes from totally blows. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. Nobody should have to deal with this shitty stuff. Thank you for writing this post. I suddenly have insight into all my layers of clothing and the million blankets when I was a child.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My sister always wore two pairs of under panties and spandex shorts under her skirts or with pants. She thought it would protect her.
    I know exactly what you mean when you say you watch the door. My mother would stand there motionless until I looked up and saw her. She didn’t want to just enter the room, she wanted to scare me. She’d just stand there in the dark waiting for me to see her. She’d stand behind the door at times.

    Your bed sounds like that of most survivors. We tend to pile things on the bed so that no one else can get in the bed without us knowing it. I sleep in total darkness because in order to come in, you have to let in light from outside. That’s my protection, total blackout. If I see light that shouldn’t be there then I know I’m in danger.

    My bed is against the wall, I face the wall when I sleep. I have a mound of covers as well. I guess what I’m saying is, you aren’t alone on this one. It’s hard isn’t it, trying to stay in the now when the past keeps demanding a presence. This just turned into a journal entry.


    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for your response. I’ve read it a few times. It’s sad and comforting at the same time to know I’m not the only one that does this.


  3. Hello KJ,

    This is the fear you couldn’t feel as a kid. It’s ok for you all to feel this way. I think it comes with establishing safety.

    Do what you need to to feel calm and know she can’t get to you anymore.



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  4. As weird as it is, I feel like both at the same time…

    The present of myself as a child in my adult life and recognizing what is happening is really eye opening and confusing. Sometimes I don’t know who is doing the reacting. Adult me or child me. I never really believed in this concept until I started to experience it. I’m so sorry you have to deal with this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I still have trouble knowing whether it is child me or younger me reacting. Everything is so muddled, and has been muddled for so long. It’s so hard to explain to people who haven’t themselves experienced it.

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  5. I wonder if it is useful to think about the two pairs of underwear and the locking of the bedroom door not as signs that you are “crazy” but rather that you are honoring the needs and fears of your younger, child self. She was so desperately afraid for years and evolved her own strategies to protect herself the best she could at the time. Those patterns were reassuring to her. Maybe continuing them, not forever but for a while, is just being respectful to her. If this resonates at all, you could even tell her that explicitly. You could say, “Dear little self, see how I am locking the bedroom door? I am doing this so you will know that you are safe. I have moved you away from the abusers, got a new apartment which the abusers don’t know about, have locked the apartment door, and now I am locking the bedroom door. You never have to worry about being abused again; I won’t let it happen.” This is the kind of approach my therapist suggests. Let her know you are protecting her now. As she comes to trust you, she might start to feel that she is fine with one pair of underpants. Or not. No judgment either way.

    I’m sorry though that you go through so much pain in your efforts to heal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This was so helpful, thank you. I am going to make an effort to practice this. I do tell younger parts they are safe, but never thought to apply that to this.

      Liked by 1 person

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