Can nobody hear me?

I regularly make excuses for the poor behavior of others in my life, especially when their behavior directly affects me.

I excused my father’s part in my abuse because I told myself my mother made him do it (as if she held a gun to his head). I excused my coworker’s behavior a few weeks ago when he called me a bitch several times, telling myself he didn’t know any better because he was raised to treat women that way. I excuse a close person’s consistently offensive behavior, telling myself she just can’t help the way she acts.

I do this not as a way to defend these people, but to defend myself. If I didn’t excuse them, that means I would end up angry. And I don’t want to be angry.

But making excuses only works superficially, because on an intellectual level, I know that my excuses aren’t viable, that these behaviors were/are wrong, and that I really should be able to feel angry and hurt and however else I want to feel. Eventually, my feelings come to the surface, and I can only push them back down so many times before they come out full force.

Last therapy session, I couldn’t push my anger down any more. We were discussing the aftereffects of the letter, about how it made me feel sad. Then my therapist asked what else I was feeling, because it seemed like more than just sadness. Without thinking, I said “I’m angry. All of those fucking idiots, why didn’t they do anything to help?”

I immediately felt bad for what I had said, and apologized to my therapist. When she asked why I was apologizing, I told her I shouldn’t have used those bad words. I said, “it’s not their fault. They didn’t know. I wasn’t their problem. I shouldn’t be angry.”

“Why don’t you want to be angry?”

“Because if I’m angry that means I’m like her, like my mother.”

“Anger isn’t the same as abuse. What your mother did to you, she didn’t do because of anger. Anger is something that everyone feels, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re going to abuse. It’s okay to be angry.”

I sat there for a minute, still trying to push down what was trying to come out. I looked around the room, trying to think of something else to talk about.

“No, no, I can’t do it.”

“Yes you can. It’s okay to be angry. Anger makes you human.”

I repeated what my therapist told me to myself a few times. Anger doesn’t make me like her. Anger doesn’t make an abuser. Anger is okay.

And then it erupted. Through tears and clenched fists, I let it all out.

I don’t understand. I don’t understand why nobody helped me. I never wanted to go home after school, I tried to stay with the teachers but then the teachers sent a note home and said I couldn’t anymore and then I got in trouble. None of them ever asked why I didn’t want to go home. None of them asked why I wore so many layers of clothing to school, why I was always covering up. No one questioned why a six-year-old girl tried to drown herself. Children don’t just try to kill themselves out of curiosity. No one wondered why a girl would scratch off her own skin. No one questioned my injuries. How many times could a child walk into walls? I wasn’t clumsy. But nobody did anything! They just nodded their heads and moved on!

There it was. My anger. Finally free and out in the open. The anger that was rightfully mine to have. I was a child who had no other way to communicate. A child who was threatened never to tell. And I didn’t. So I tried every other way to speak without using my words.

I could see just by looking at my therapist’s face that she understood. She got it. And she was okay with my anger, and my hurt. “There were all these red flags, all these ways you tried to ask people for help…”

“And they still didn’t hear me!”

There were so many red flags in my childhood. So many. Yet no one wanted to see them. I could have set those flags on fire and waved them an inch away from their faces, and they would have just stood there and talked about the weather.

I am angry. I am angry that these people just perpetuated my hell by not intervening. I am angry that I spent my childhood thinking that it was just normal to be hurt like this, thinking that no one is hearing my cries so this all must just be normal. No one should ever believe that abuse is normal. It should have never had to be my normal.

It’s an anger I am not sure will ever go away.

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Letter to My Younger Self

Dear younger self,

I’m so sorry for all the feelings you’ve been having all this time. I’m sorry no one listened to you. It must have been so hard to keep it all inside. But I want you to know now that it’s okay to feel. You deserve to have feelings. Your feelings are valid, and they are yours. No one can take them from you anymore.

It’s okay to feel confused. Mommies and daddies aren’t supposed to hurt their children. There’s nothing wrong with you. There never was. Mommy and daddy told you that so they could keep hurting you. It was all lies.  I’m so sorry they confused you. You may never understand why all those times, daddy chose to hold your hand instead of pushing hers away. He was wrong. She was wrong. But you were not wrong. You were just a child.

It’s okay to feel afraid. Instead of fearing monsters, you feared mom and dad. It must have been so scary for you. You had nowhere to hide. I’m so sorry you had to live in constant fear. But you were always so strong, even when you felt afraid. You are one brave little girl.

It’s okay to feel scared. Mommy and daddy made you believe that the world was scary and full of bad people who were going to hurt you. That wasn’t the truth. That’s what mommy and daddy told you to make you stay. The real scary place was home, and the scariest people were mommy and daddy. I’m sorry you feel so scared. It’s not fair. You don’t ever have to go back home again.

I know you feel empty. Mommy and daddy made you believe that you had no purpose, that you were worthless. That must have hurt your heart so much. I’m so sorry for your pain. But the truth is, there are so many good things inside of you that mommy and daddy never wanted you to see. Now you can let those good things free.

I know you feel lonely. Mommy and daddy kept you away from everyone. You were never allowed to talk to outsiders. Mommy and daddy told you that no one would ever understand you, that no one could be trusted. But that was all lies. I’m so sorry they lied you. It hurts to be alone. But there are people here to help you now, to help you feel less lonely. You don’t have to hide anymore.

I know you feel small. All of the bigger people around you didn’t help you. They didn’t notice you were desperate to be saved. It must have hurt so much to feel invisible, to have no one see your pain. I’m so sorry no one let you know how important you were. I see you, and you’re not small. You’re a little girl with a big heart, and you matter. You always have.

It’s okay to feel angry. You can be mad at mommy and daddy. They hurt you, and you didn’t deserve to be hurt, ever. You can be mad at the other adults who didn’t listen to you. They should have helped you. You can be mad at world. You deserved to have good parents, and you didn’t get that. I am so sorry for all of the hurt they caused you. I’m so sorry for all of the anger you’ve had to keep inside. But it’s okay to be angry. You deserve to be angry. I’m angry, too.

It’s okay to feel sad. Mommy and daddy told you it wasn’t okay to cry. They told you that you had no reason to be sad. They hurt you. But they were wrong. I’m so sorry. It must be so hard to hold that hurt in your heart for so long. But it’s okay to be sad now. No one will punish you. It’s okay to cry. You won’t get hurt. You can cry for the childhood you didn’t have. You can cry for the mommy and daddy you wished you had. You can cry for all the times they hurt you. You can cry. You can be sad.

It’s okay to feel hurt. You were wronged, in so many ways you were wronged. The grownups in your life failed you. Your mommy and daddy hurt your heart as much as they did your body. You had to learn to live with the pain. You deserved to be comforted and supported and nurtured, and instead you were hurt over and over again. It wasn’t fair. I’m so sorry that you are hurting.  I wish there was a Band-Aid I could give you that could make your hurt go away. I want you to know now that mommy and daddy can’t hurt you anymore.

I know you feel hopeless. Mommy told you that you would never be away from her. You thought that she would keep hurting you forever. I’m so sorry that you were hurting so badly that you wanted to die. You were just a little girl, in so much pain. Someone saved you from drowning, but no one saved you from what led you there to begin with.  I want you to know that you are safe now. Mommy can’t hurt you. You don’t have to die anymore.

I know your heart is broken. My heart breaks for you. You are just a little girl. A beautiful, intelligent, strong, kind, amazingly courageous little girl.

I know you feel unloved. Children are supposed to be loved by their parents. But something was wrong with mommy and daddy and I guess they missed that memo. It’s not your fault they didn’t know how to love. It doesn’t mean you are unlovable. You are so loved. There are good people out there who want to love and care for you. You deserve love and care. You deserve to feel good feelings, too. You deserve so much, and I want you to know that.

Thank you for being so strong. Thank you for being you. Thank you for helping me get here. I love you.

When pain becomes your normal

When you’ve been hurt repeatedly for so long, that hurt becomes normal, almost natural, to you.

Wake up, feel pain. Breathe air, feel pain.

You learn to anticipate it. You wake up every day as a child and know that you’re going to be hurt in some way; you just don’t know exactly how and when. But you find a sick sort of comfort in knowing that it’s coming. The familiarity with routine makes you feel more secure. You’re unsure of yourself, you’re unsure of the people around you, but you are sure you’re going to be hurt.

The hurt becomes so much your normal that when you go so long without it, you start to panic. They let me off easy today. Something isn’t right. It’s as if you’re hoping for that pain just to feel yourself again. And sure enough, the pain comes, and everything is back to normal.

Then you become desensitized. You get to a point where you become an expert at hiding the pain from the world. You smile and laugh to cover your crying. You wear clothes to cover the marks left behind. No evidence of pain. They can’t see it, so it must not be there.

But the pain has always been there, like a best friend that never leaves your side. It knows everything that goes on. It holds all of your secrets. You hold on to it, because you need it to survive. It’s the only constant in your life, the only stability in your unstable world. Pain becomes as much a part of your life as food and water.

Then your life changes. You finally get away from those who were causing you pain. You are free. But you can’t be  free from the pain. The emotional damage is still there, deeply rooted in your heart and soul, still killing you from the inside.

Pain has always been your normal. It has become a part of you so strongly that you need it to survive. So you become your own abuser. You find a sense of comfort and release in feeling normal again. You become so blinded with feeling the pain, that you don’t even realize what’s happening. You are perpetuating the cycle of your own abuse.

You can’t run away from yourself. Now you’ve become your own worst enemy.

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.

Flee, Part 4

As I was walking home after my therapy session, I put my ear buds in and turned my music up as loud as I could. Music is my method of release. And I needed to release.

The first song that came on  was Lie to Me (Denial) by Red. It’s a Christian rock band. Even though I’m nowhere near Christian, I like the music and tend to relate to a lot of the lyrics. This was no exception.

Although it was a song I heard many times before, one part of the song stuck out at me:

All your secrets crawl inside
You keep them safe, you let them hide
You feel them drinking in your pain to kill the memories
So close your eyes and let it hurt
The voice inside begins to stir
Are you reminded of all you used to be

All the pain you fed
Starts to grow inside
It lives again and you can’t let it die

Well, then. If the timing of that song wasn’t on point with what I just went through in therapy.

Hiding secrets. My whole life was spent hiding secrets, and here I was, still hiding secrets. And my parts are hiding secrets, too. They’re holding their own memories, safeguarding them from me and from the world. Until the time they come to the surface. Why is this memory now coming to the surface? Why am I being reminded of a past I don’t want to remember?

I think there’s still a part of me that believes if I just ignore it, it will go away. I made a similar mistake when I first started managing life with DID. I ignored my parts, hoping they would just go away. But ignoring them only makes it worse. They get louder. They get out of control, and then life gets chaotic.

If I ignore these memories, they won’t go away. They won’t die. They will only keep causing more and more pain. And I don’t need any more pain. I’ve had enough.

Then I started to wonder if it was fair to my parts to keep us from processing the trauma. I have to think I am experiencing these memories for a reason. The reason why, I don’t quite know, but I’m sure there has to be a reason. I’m not even sure the reason really matters.

It’s weird. In a way, dissociation itself is your mind’s way of fleeing from reality. You can’t physically escape the danger, so you mentally escape it. My parts took over for me to protect me. Maybe I don’t need so much protection anymore. Maybe they need to be protected now. I don’t know.

I wish I wasn’t still running from the truth. Why can’t I find my voice? Why can’t I say out loud what happened to me? Why is it so hard? And why does it hurt so much? I know why it hurts so much. Because speaking the truth out loud makes it real. And I don’t want it to be real.

I want my father to be a real father. I’ve always rationalized his physical and emotional abuse, normalizing it as something fathers just do. He was better because he wasn’t abusing me like my mother was. Maybe he just didn’t know. Maybe he didn’t understand what was going on. All of these years, I held on to that belief that he was just oblivious. He would’ve helped me if he knew.

I can’t hold on to that hope anymore.

Because as my mother was abusing me, I turned to him, crying, and he turned away. He turned away. He knew what was happening.

How do you turn away from someone in pain? How could you turn away from your own child?

My heart is still hurting. I still don’t want to admit it out loud. I don’t want to admit rejection. That is what hurts more than what my mother was doing to me. And I don’t know how to get over that.

I don’t want to be stuck anymore.

Flee, Part 2

“Are you protecting them or are you protecting you?”

“I don’t know. I don’t understand this.”

“You don’t need to protect them anymore.”

I know that; intellectually I know that. But I was still so afraid to say out loud what happened. We were trained not to tell anyone anything. She told us they wouldn’t understand. So I kept quiet. I never told. And even though she’s not here now, I’m still not telling. I’m still living in fear of a threat that is no longer valid.

I think I am protecting her. I am still protecting both of them. I can still hear her voice inside my head sometimes. Don’t tell. Don’t tell. Don’t tell.

“Look around. You are safe here. They are not here. No one can hurt you here.”

I knew where I was. But I was somewhere else in my mind. I was existing within two worlds at the same time: the world of now and the world of my childhood. It was as if I were standing on an invisible line, with one foot on either side: the past to my left, and the present to my right. I can see both worlds, but I can’t pick a side. So I stand there, existing in limbo.

“What was your mother doing?”

The pressure built up inside my head again. I could feel my insides shaking and I started to panic. Why is it so hard for me to tell? I want so badly just to let it out and I can’t. I can’t do it.

“Do we need to take a break?”

I wanted so badly to say no. I wanted to be strong. I wanted to fight through the chaos inside. But I knew in that moment that I couldn’t go on. I wanted to flee from my own body. I wanted to escape right then and there. But why? I was in a safe place. I was with a safe person. So why do I still want to run away?

I want to run away from the truth. I want everything to be okay. But it’s too late for that.

I told her yes. I didn’t acknowledge in that moment how powerful it was for me to admit that I needed a break. I never did that before.

My therapist asked what I had for breakfast. Nothing. She asked what I had for lunch. Nothing. She asked about coffee. I always have coffee before therapy, even if I don’t eat anything. I used to drink it black, but now I get it with cream and sugar for the added calories. It all tastes the same to me.

I’m in therapy now, talking about coffee. I was slowly crossing over the invisible line into the present, no longer teetering into the past. We talked about my school situation. We talked about the GRE, and how I cried over the phone because the person registering me could not understand me. But I wasn’t crying about the misunderstanding or about the GRE; I was crying because I couldn’t handle everything that was going on in my mind.

We talked about TV. I bought a TV back in February and have watched it twice since then. I don’t know why. She asked what kinds of television shows I like to watch. She mentioned reality shows. “I can’t watch them, my father watches them.” She mentioned another type. “I can’t watch them, either. He liked them, too.”

I have disconnected myself from anything that reminds me of my abusers. I told my therapist about the Poptart incident from the week before. I told her how I can’t wear headbands because my mother wore them, how I can’t eat certain candies because my mother ate them. I don’t want to be like her. I don’t want to be like my father, either.

“That doesn’t make you anything like them. You need to reclaim those things. You can eat a chocolate Poptart because you like to eat them. It doesn’t make you your mother.”

“It’s alright, I switched to peanut butter. My mother hates peanut butter. But I knew that wasn’t my therapist’s point. I’m still avoiding. I’m still restricting myself from things that I could enjoy just because those other people enjoyed them, too. It’s not fair.

By the time the coffee and Poptart conversation was done, we were nearing the end of session. It didn’t feel like all that time had passed. I was sitting there, still very much unresolved. I knew the memories were going to come back. I knew I failed again.

I want to stay here. I don’t want to flee anymore. Help me get through this. Help me stop this.

Please, no

I’ve spent the last hour laying in bed crying, trying to block out the flood of memories that have been bombarding me off and on since this morning.

It all started in therapy. My therapist and I were going over the stages of treatment worksheet I had done last week. We got to the section on medical care, which tends to be an issue for me, but I’ve been working on it decently the last couple of months. Primary doctor. Check. Dentist. Need that. Gynecologist. Initiate panic.

I started feeling sick. My stomach was queasy, my head was spinning, and I felt my chest getting heavy. I didn’t want to talk about it. Please, no, don’t make me go. The panic got worse, and then the memories started flashing before me. I tried to make them stop but they wouldn’t. I remember crying and then I drifted away.

I knew what triggered the memories. It’s the same reasons I’ve avoided going to that kind of doctor. I connect it with what my mother did to me. She said I was sick there, and she needed to help. But she didn’t help at all. She hurt me. Over and over. And it never got better.

The thought of someone being in that position with me is mortifying. I can’t deal with it. Fuck, I can’t even handle it in therapy. Imagine if I was at an appointment, what would have happened. I can’t. It’s not going to happen.

My therapist wants to work on it together a little bit at a time. But I’m scared. I’m so damaged. It’s not even going on anymore but the damage is done. I can’t erase the memories, I can’t forget how it felt.

And if that wasn’t enough, the memories have kept coming, even hours after my therapy session. Don’t tell anyone, they won’t understand. I’m just trying to make you better. I didn’t tell anyone. I was a good girl. So why did it keep happening? Why didn’t I get better?

Daddy is standing there. He’s holding my hand. But it still hurts. Why is he letting her hurt me? Does he know I’m sick there, too? I don’t understand. What did I do? I keep saying please, no but no one is listening. My voice is gone. I close my eyes but I still feel everything.

I don’t want to remember anymore. My heart hurts.