Trapped

I can’t talk about anything.

I can’t write about anything.

Everything is trapped. My words, my thoughts, my emotions. In the prison cell that she created. And I don’t know how to get any of it out. It’s suffocating me.

I’m still afraid. Afraid of her. Afraid of the truth that I will never be free.

She speaks inside my head. She reads my words. She is everywhere, even when she’s not.

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This is not my family.

I still remember what my mother wrote to me

You made your decision to disown your family.

It wasn’t a decision to disown my family. It was a decision to save my life.

And I am reminded of that decision every day.

I left a life behind. A life I can never go back to. A life full of people I can’t see anymore.

One of my best friends graduated from college last week. I wanted to be there to support him, in the same way he was there to support me when I graduated college last year. But I couldn’t. I could only experience his moment through pictures he posted on social media. Because I can never go back to that place again. I can never take the risk of my mother seeing me, of finding me, of hurting me. I can never return to the only place I knew for 29 years of my life, my home, my friends, my family. And that hurts in a way I’m not sure I can ever explain in words.

For all those months after my escape, I went through my hardest moments alone. I spent holidays alone. I stayed in the hospital alone. I struggled to explain to every person taking down my information that I had no emergency contact, no next of kin, no person to notify. No mother? No father? No siblings? No one? They could never seem to understand how I had no family. Didn’t they hear? I disowned my family.

And now here I am, smack dab in the middle of a family that is not my own. I’m going through shit with people by my side from a family that is not my own. I am spending time with people from a family that is not my own. I am living in a house that is not my home.

Now it’s different. I went to the cardiologist appointment with someone by my side, someone who cared enough to take the time to come with me, because she knew I wasn’t going to speak up for myself. But she doesn’t know I don’t speak up for a reason. She doesn’t understand I’ve been trained not to speak up for myself.

I went through my surgery with her by my side. As the cardiologist stitched up my incision, she said “I’m going to go out and tell your mother how everything went.” In that moment I realized that’s who should be here: my mother, my family. Instead here was this woman, of no relation to me, standing by me through a hard time. She isn’t my mother, but she cares and supports me more than my biological mother ever did, strong enough that even my doctor mistook her for my own family member.

I always dreamed of having a real family, but I never knew what it looked like. I didn’t really imagine other people, I just imagined my parents being different. I imagined living a life with a mother who didn’t rape and abuse, and a father who hugged instead of hit. I imagined going out places instead of being stuck inside of that prison. I imagined that they would change, but they never did.

Thirty-one years later, I found that family. A normal family where I don’t have to be afraid to go to bed at night and I can eat food without being punished for it and I can go outside and see the world whenever I want. I found a family with a man who asks if I’ve done my homework every Friday, because he knows I have a paper due that night. I found a family with a teenager that asks where I’m going each time there’s a stranger parked outside the house waiting to pick me up for a date. I found a family with a kid I can joke around with so much, we both end up rolling on the floor. I found a family with a woman who tells me goodnight and gives me a hug before she goes to sleep. I found a family that makes sure I’m eating enough, a family that always makes sure I have what I need.

It’s a normal family. It’s a family I never experienced. And it’s not my family. Because I’m not sure I fit into a normal family. I am not sure it’s fair for them to have to deal with me. It’s not fair for them to have to make sure I am eating like a normal person. It’s not fair for them to have to hold my head off the floor every time I pass out. It’s not fair for them to care for me, when I can barely find it within me to care about myself. I am a burden. And they did nothing to deserve that.

As much as I’m included in everything they do, I still feel like an outsider. I feel like someone who doesn’t belong. Because I don’t belong. This is not my family. I am alone. In the middle of a room full of people, as crazy as some of them may be, I am the only one that doesn’t belong.

It’s ironic. My own family treated me like the outsider my whole life. Yet the truth is I never belonged with them anyway, because I was nothing like them. And now, with a family who is treating me like I belong, I find myself pushing away.

I ended up crying in the corner of the living room yesterday. The family had a barbecue. Other family members were there. And for a few hours I felt okay. I talked, I listened, I even got dragged into a mini-trip with a woman who had just learned my name. And then right before dinner, something clicked in me. This is not my family. I do not belong here. It hit me like a ton of bricks.

They sat down together in the kitchen and I isolated myself in the corner of another room. I knew I was going to cry. I tried so hard to hold in the tears. I tried to look at my phone, act busy, but then she came over to ask if I was okay and I just knew I wouldn’t be able to hold the tears in anymore.

She asked if it was my heart. I knew she meant my arrhythmia, so I said no. But my heart was broken in a different way, a way that I can barely explain. A broken heart that continues to break each time I realize all that I never had.

She knew something was wrong and kept asking me what it was, and I kept trying to hold it all in. I’m fine. I finally broke down and told her, this isn’t my family, this is yours. I couldn’t hold in the tears anymore. She grabbed tissues and tried to comfort me, while blocking me from everyone else in the other room. She told me that I was family, that she adopted me, that I belong. She had told me it all before, but it still didn’t feel right.

I got what I always dreamed of as a little girl. Love, care, support, safety, and all of the things a real family should be. Yet even though I am the safest, happiest, and most balanced I have ever been, I am still reminded of what I don’t have: my family. They are gone forever. Some dead, some gone away, some too dangerous to recognize they exist, but regardless, still gone. I am one standing, both disowned by my family and disowned to them.

This is not my family. I don’t want to be a burden to them.

I don’t understand how I got here.

Loneliness

I’ve been crying a lot this past week.

It’s hard for me. I’m someone who needs to prepare just to go to a routine doctor’s appointment. And now I’ve been faced with regular appointments and hospitals and tests. It drains me.

It’s been a waiting game these last few days. I went to the hospital Thursday for my CT scan and ultrasound. For two and a half hours, I pushed my anxiety down far enough to get through each test. I didn’t mind the CT scan. I couldn’t see what was happening — not knowing in the moment was comforting.

The ultrasound was another story. I could hear the sound from the blood rushing through my arteries. I could see the red colors flashing across the screen. Red was good. Sound was good. It meant that the blood was flowing. But then as the tech went further up the left side of my neck, the sound dissipated. The loud rush turned into the lightest whisper of sound. The red color flashes were blocked by blackness. Something didn’t feel right, but no one could tell me anything. You have to call your doctor.

I managed to make it out of the hospital with a brave face. My therapist had me commit to calling a support person after the appointment, and I’ve only been able to trust a few people there closely enough to reach out to them. I walked over to the coffee shop and called the nurse. She didn’t answer, so I left a voicemail. I’m not even sure entirely what I said, but I know I started out with “I’m sorry” and ended in my usual “I’m okay”.

She called me back ten minutes later, and I hesitated to answer. I did answer, but as soon as she asked me how I was, I started to cry. I was scared. She asked me to tell her what happened but I could barely make sense. I remember her saying you can’t change it now, it’s done, you can’t change anything.

I wanted to change everything. I wanted to rewind my life to a point where I never had to feel pain or know sadness, or sense fear, a point in my life when I had no problems. But that point has never existed.

I went to work later that day and ended up crying again. My boss asked me how the appointment went and I just cried. I don’t understand. I don’t have high cholesterol, I don’t have high blood pressure, I don’t eat junk. Why is this happening to me? I don’t understand. I’m scared, and I don’t understand.

In that moment, she comforted me. She said it was okay to be scared. She said she’d be scared, too. She wanted to be there for me, through the surgery, through whatever I needed. She told me to call her this weekend just to talk if I needed.

But I never called her. Even in the moments that I found myself overwhelmed with fear, sadness, and loneliness, I couldn’t pick up the phone and call her. Why? This woman was genuine in her offers of support. This wasn’t the first time she has been there for me. She took me in on Christmas when I had nowhere to go and no family. She made me a part of hers. But when everyone gathered together to take the family photo that night, I sat out. I’m not part of this family. I felt like an intruder. A welcome intruder, but an intruder none the less.

And I still feel that way. I can’t call her because I’m intruding. I’m bothering. I’m being a burden. It’s a barrier I still can’t seem to break down. She has her own family. All of these people I know have their own families. And I am not part of that. Even the people at PHP keep telling me they are there to support me, but I can’t do it. They have other things to do, other people to support. I don’t matter. I am KJ, party of one.

The hardest part of all of this hasn’t been the appointments or hospital visits or the anxious wait for answers. It’s the loneliness that exists through it all. It’s going to appointments alone. It’s sitting waiting rooms alone, looking around and seeing others with their spouses or older children or friends. It’s laying in a hospital bed and staring at the empty chairs beside it. It’s the uncomfortable silence that occurs every time someone asks for an emergency contact. There is no one. No spouse, no children, no parents, no siblings. I am alone.

It’s times like these that remind me how alone I am. I should have my family by my side at my appointments. I should have a mother to hug me when I’m shaking in my bed at night because I am so afraid of what else could be wrong with me. I should have my father’s shoulder to cry on. But none of that exists, and it never will.

I cry alone. I shake alone. I worry alone. I bear the pain alone because I’m so afraid to share my burden with anyone else.

My tears are not from sadness. My tears are from loneliness.

I don’t want them to drown me.