Guard down, guard up

Sometimes, I let my guard down.

Then, I am quickly reminded of why I shouldn’t.

It’s a complicated thing. The fear of trusting anyone, yet the seemingly innate pull to open up to someone. The desire to be alone, yet the need to be in contact with others. The want for a family, even when family has continually been nothing but toxic.

I made a mistake. I should have seen it coming; looking back, I don’t know why I even put myself in that position. But it’s that seemingly continuous push and pull of two opposing wants that seem to lead to these mistakes.

It was the right timing. I was vulnerable. I had just left to go across the county. I left everything and everyone behind. I was disconnected, not only physically, but emotionally as well. And I wanted so much to reconnect to something or to someone.

And I did. I got a friend request on Facebook from a distant cousin — my mother’s niece. Years ago, I would have immediately deleted it. In fact, I may have even had her and others blocked. But over time, I let my guard down. I let my fear dissipate. But, given the circumstances, I felt okay enough to accept her request. After all, I was nowhere near her or my mother physically. After all, this was someone who hadn’t seen me since I was 14 years old. After all, this was someone who my mother avoided having any physical contact with, someone who my mother spoke ill of (along with her sister and others in her own family). So how much of a danger could it have been? I added her.

I soon learned that was a bad decision. In response to my last blog, she posted several comments, all of which focused on how I was loved and cared for, how I chose to leave the home where I was loved and cared for, how my mother loved her children and wouldn’t ever molest them…you get the gist. I did, too, because I heard it before. Almost word-for-word, in fact. Because they were my mother’s words, her defensive speech. We’ve all heard it before.

I was trying not to engage, but I eventually gave in and defended the truth. I reminded her that she was barely in our lives, how the last time she saw me was when I was 14, and that she really couldn’t have had any realistic idea of what was going on. I told her that I could connect her with people who witnessed the reality first hand — not just of the physical environment we lived in, but of my mother’s inappropriate words and actions. I suggested she be open to hearing both sides, as it seemed she was taking my mother’s word for truth without taking any initiative to find out what existed outside of my mother’s words.

But my words to her didn’t get very far, because when I woke up the next morning, her comments were deleted and so was she.

I had a tiny bit of hope that a friendship could have existed before all of this happened, that I could be connected to a part of my family, even if it was just in this small way.

I’m not that hurt over it. I got over it quickly. I think what stuck out to me the most was just how gullible people could be, how easily they could drink my mother’s Kool-aid and believe everything she says just because she says it. I’m fortunate enough that many people didn’t fall for her lies. I just wish that more of those people were family.

I find the timing interesting. Adding me as a friend a week before my freedom anniversary. Waiting until that very moment to let it out. I highly doubt it was all just a coincidence. But it doesn’t even matter. My lesson has been learned.

In her last comment, my cousin talked about how my mother was sick and suffering.

Good. I’m not going to lie. Good.

And that’s even if she is really sick, because I really don’t think anyone is close enough to her to truly know.

But, I will not feel bad about my anger or my grief. She is in her 60s. She got to live. I am 32 and can barely make it a month without a stay in the hospital, dealing with health issues that people my age (or anyone really) shouldn’t have to deal with. I’m not going to feel bad for being angry at her. I’m not going to feel bad for hating her. And I’m not going to feel bad for not caring about her, because she sure as hell never cared about me.

1,000 Days of Freedom, Part 5: Hopes

I decided to end with something a little different from what I had done before. I had acknowledged my past and my present, so I thought it was important that I also acknowledge what I hope for in my future.

I chose sand dollars to represent my future hopes. Sand dollars are hard to come by, but when you find one, they are said to bring you good luck. Some traditions also say sand dollars symbolize peace.

I chose six sand dollars, and wrote one hope I have one each one.

To become psychologically, physically, and financially stable.

It’s been a struggle to achieve stability in any aspect. Psychologically, I’m not the best. I spend way too much of my life in therapeutic settings. I can’t take most medications, and the ones I can take don’t seem to work. They’re always telling me it’s going to take a lot of time to get better; it’s going to take a lot of time to undo 29 years of programming. Those who know my story tell me I’m doing great considering what I’ve experienced. I could have died. I guess they are right.

Physically, I know I’m never going to be 100%. My health issues are not curable. Some will get progressively worse over time. I just want to be able to feel better, to gain whatever control I can have, if that’s even possible, over my illnesses. I want to be able to stand up and walk without people being afraid I’m going to drop.

I want to be able to live with more than $1 in my bank account. I want to be able to go out without having to sell something to pay for the bus. I don’t want to be a burden on others, even if they tell me I’m not. Whether it’s financial assistance or some kind of work, I just want to be more secure and stable.

To get justice for myself and others.

I still feel responsible for leaving people behind, for leaving my mother behind so she could hurt others. I know it’s not my fault, that her actions are not my responsibility. But I long for justice. I want my mother to be punished for what she has done, for all the crimes she has committed. I want that for me, and for the other people she has hurt. I know it’s difficult to go through a trial. I know a lot of therapists don’t recommend re-traumatizing yourself for the sake of justice. But I hope one day, I can be strong enough to go through it. And if I can’t, that I can find some other way to get even just a semblance of justice.

To know my purpose in life.

I never had a chance in my first 29 years to learn who I was, to gain any sense of what my purpose was in life. Even after I ran away, I spent so much time focusing on therapy and work that I really didn’t spend enough time trying to find myself. I thought my purpose was to be a therapist and help others like me, but after the incident with my grad school that led to my removal, I lost that sense of purpose.

Perhaps it’s not about how far I can get in my education. Perhaps I don’t even need a degree to do what I was meant to do. Maybe I am meant to be a writer. Maybe I am meant to speak out about abusers like my mother.

My therapist always asks me if I’ve built a skyscraper yet. He said in one of our first sessions that I am the type of person who has the intelligence and the drive to do amazing things; he said one day, I’m going to have my own skyscraper. I have no desire to do that, but I understand what he’s saying to me. I can do things. I just have to figure out where to start.

To help others like me.

I’ve already started to do this, I think. I put myself out there when I started writing professionally, and I’ve had so many people reach out and tell me how much my writing and my honesty has helped them. I know I haven’t done much with PAFPAC lately. It’s been difficult to manage everything I am doing by myself, tired and sick. I want to do more one day, but I need to work on myself first.

To know what it’s like to live without wanting to die.

I’ve been wanting to die since I was six years old. Not a day goes by that I don’t think, even for a moment, that dying would be so much easier than living. I’m chronically suicidal to the point that it’s become normal to me. The thoughts come up at any time; some triggered by events or trauma anniversaries, but some don’t even have a reason to be there.

It’s exhausting. It’s like I’ve been fighting a battle that will never end. I just want to live without those thoughts. I don’t want to have to worry about waiting for the urges to get stronger, because I know from experience they will get stronger. I want to live a day without the weight of that on my mind. Just one day.

To accept that I’ll never know or understand why.

I think this is the most difficult hope for me, and yet the most necessary. I’ve spent years trying to figure out why my mother did what she did. I’ve read every book on sociopaths and narcissists. I’ve studied psychology and neuroscience. I’ve shared with others who have had similar experiences and I still can’t come up with a reason why. I need something to blame; for some reason, blaming her hasn’t been enough. It’s keeping me stuck.

I’ll never be able to understand why I have this life. I’ll never understand why I had to endure things that no child, no person should ever have to endure. I’ll never be able to rationalize the pain and hurt I feel every day of my life. Sometimes, there aren’t reasons. Sometimes, we will never know why. I will never know why. And that’s okay.

I will be okay.

Don’t go looking for the reasons
Don’t go asking Jesus why
We’re not meant to know the answers
They belong to the by and by

–Chris Stapleton, Broken Halos

1,000 Days of Freedom, Part 4: Help

I would not be where I am, 1,000 days into freedom, without help from others in my life.

I’m fortunate to have these people in my life. They have helped me in more ways than I can really even count. Whether it’s listening to me vent, helping me with medical problems, or getting me through tough days, these people have made a huge impact on me getting this far.

I wanted to recognize them, so I got three blue starfish shells. Starfish have multiple arms to help support them. They need them in order to survive. Blue starfish also have their own unique defense system that helps them survive from predators. I found it similar to how my support system helps me defend myself from people and things that hurt me.

On one, I put the names of my parts on each arm of the starfish. I couldn’t fit all of the names of my system on one starfish, so I put them in groups. I recognized K, even in her absence; I know she did a lot for me before I even knew she existed. I acknowledged Charlie and Violet, who have come to the forefront to keep us going, even when it was hard. I thanked my younger parts, many of whom hold trauma for me and for us. Without my parts, I wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t be functioning as I have.

On another starfish, I put the names of the therapists and doctors who have been there for me as I struggled through PHP and IOP. I spent five days a week with them for ten or so of the last 15 months. They helped me find a stable place to live, and even though we hit a few bumps on the road, we got there. I wouldn’t have been able to do that on my own. They pushed me to make doctor’s appointments and reach out for support when I needed it. The psychiatrist worked with me through all of my medication reactions (and there were quite a few), and never seemed to give up even when I wanted to throw in the towel. The nurse was there for me through all of my medical issues; she was the first person to legitimize that what I was going through was real. She and my therapist helped me through my pregnancy and abortion, without judgment, and helped me see that I was making the right decision. My therapist sat with me and let me cry when I needed to. She told me it was okay to feel. She dealt with me when others would have given up.

I went through some of the most difficult struggles in those months, and they were there for me through it all, and helped me through the darkness when I thought I would be stuck there forever.

On the last starfish, I wrote the names of those involved most closely in my life. My therapists, both new and old. My best friend, who I’ve known for half of my life. Even though we’ve never actually met in person, she has been the voice of reason for me in a lot of situations. She also never fails to make me laugh. My friend who took me in when I was homeless, who has made sure I always have what I need, who has consistently reminded me that I am safe, and who has taught me what it’s like to experience a normal life. My online supports, who not only give me an outlet, but many were also there for me when I escaped, encouraging me not to give up and give in. The people I met through work and therapy, who have since become friends. They’ve been there for me, they’ve made me laugh and cry, and they’ve managed to deal with me quite well, as I know I can be hard to deal with sometimes.

These people are important to me, and will continue to be important to me, even if we don’t see each other. Their words and actions have impacted me in ways that will last a long time. They’ve helped me decipher the lies and discover the truth, and for that I am forever thankful.

(I did not show the names for privacy reasons)

1,000 Days of Freedom, Part 3: Truths

In all this time, I’ve learned a lot of things. While I buried what I learned to be lies in the ocean, I needed to hold on to the truths that I learned.

I didn’t want to do stones; I wanted to do something different. I wanted something symbolic, something that reminded me of the place I was in. I thought about the beach. I remembered how, when I first planned out my escape, I walked along the beach and looked for sea shells. I was looking for certain ones, which were hard to find among the seemingly endless amount of shells that had washed up.

I eventually found them. I also found some really beautiful shells, completely by accident. I didn’t look for them, I just stumbled upon them in the search for my special shells. It made me think of the truths I’ve come to learn in these last 1,000 days. Some of them I went looking for; others I just stumbled upon on the way.

So I got sea shells, and wrote six of the most important truths I came to learn inside them.

I deserved to be loved and nurtured.

There is nothing — NOTHING — a child could ever do to deserve to be abused, tortured, raped, or assaulted. I didn’t do anything to warrant that. I was a child who deserved to be nurtured and taken care of, not abused and neglected. I deserved love and care, hugs and kisses, kindness and warmth. I didn’t get any of that. But I deserved to get that. I deserved to have a childhood without fear and pain. I deserved a home I could feel safe in.

I can speak the truth. She can no longer silence me.

I had no voice for years. I grew up in fear of telling people who my mother was, and telling people what was going on. I thought I was lying to protect myself, but I was really lying to protect her. I know that now. Now I can use my voice, because I am free. I will continue to speak the truth because it’s my truth to speak. I am no longer afraid to speak. I am no longer shamed to admit what has happened to me. I will not be silent.

I am a good person who deserves good things.

Even after I ran away, I lived my life for others more than I did for myself, because I still believed that I was somehow less deserving than others. I deflected compliments as if they were poison, because I believed I didn’t deserve them. I understated my achievements because I believed I didn’t truly earn them. But I’ve come to realize that I do deserve the good things — whether they be compliments, promotions, awards — even food. I am a human being. I am a good, kind, genuine person who deserves some good, as hard as that may be for me to acknowledge.

Family isn’t biological. You can make your own family, and I have.

Despite what people have said to me, even recently, my family is not the people who are genetically linked to me. My father may have been my sperm donor, but he was not my family. My mother may have given birth to me, but she is not my family. The others who never intervened, they are not my family. My family is made up of the people who support me and care for me and love me for who I am. They are there for me no matter if it’s a good day or a bad day. My family is unconditional.

I am nothing like my mother.

I’m not a sociopath. I’m not a predator. I’m not an abuser. I’m not who my mother is. I used to think that if I liked the same things as her, if I ate the same food as her, that meant that I was her. She used to change her hair to match mine. She used to take my clothes to wear them herself. People used to say how much I looked like her because she made herself to look like me. I could never separate any aspect of myself from my mother. But now I realize that physical appearance means nothing, and that shared blood doesn’t make for shared behaviors.

I can ask for help. It doesn’t mean I’m weak. It won’t get me in trouble.

I grew up never asking for anything. I never wanted to be a burden. I never wanted to be punished. I could never reach out because I knew, in the end, it would only end up getting me into more trouble. That fear carried over into my adulthood, and even after I ran away, I struggled with reaching out. There were times I needed someone to talk to, but I was too afraid to be a bother. There were times I was dissociating and needed help grounding, but I thought asking for help meant I wasn’t strong enough to do it on my own.

It’s no surprise that one of my main goals in every treatment I’ve been in — from PHP to IOP to individual therapy — has been to learn how to reach out for help. I don’t have to wait until I’m at a breaking point. I don’t have to refuse help when someone offers it. I can ask because people are willing to help me.

These truths will stay with me, as a reminder of how much I’ve learned and grown.

Two Years of Freedom, Part 2: Learning to Live

“There’s a lot of things that she should have learned as a child and didn’t, but she’s learning them now.”

It’s so hard for people to understand, and I don’t necessarily blame them. They don’t understand why I have trouble communicating, why I am so scared to go out places, why I freak out when I have to use the phone. I’m an adult. I should be able to do these things. What they don’t understand is how much I missed learning and experiencing for the first 29 years of my life.

Even after I ran away, my experiences of life were skewed. I was in an environment that really wasn’t the best for me. I told myself it was okay because it was better than where I came from, but the truth is that being in that environment held me back. I was no longer a prisoner of my mother’s home, but for multiple reasons, I became a prisoner in my own room. The ways of life I was experiencing were not the ways I thought a normal life would be. But I didn’t know any better at the time. All I had to go by was the word of those close to me, and those were not the best people to learn life from.

I lost hope for a bit when my mother found me, shortly after my 500 days of freedom. I believed that was going to be it for me. Those next few months were the hardest. I questioned whether it was all worth it. No family, dwindling friendships, increasing debt — I was living on leftover scraps and cheap rice from the dollar store, functioning on little to no sleep because the place where I was living was no longer safe for me. But I had no other options. I was too ashamed to ask for help, too ashamed to ask for food, too ashamed to tell people just how bad my life had become. I learned to tolerate life, just like I learned to tolerate the life I had before I ran away.

What I didn’t learn, up until a few months ago, was how to live. All this time, the only thing I was learning was how to tolerate things I shouldn’t have had to tolerate. That was not life. That was not living.

But everything is different now. For the first time in my life, I am in a safe environment. I don’t have to lock and barricade any doors. I don’t have to worry about who is in my home. I no longer sleep with a knife under my pillow. I no longer go to bed with three layers of clothing on, because I no longer live with the fear that my mother is going to come and hurt me in my sleep. She doesn’t know where I am, and if there ever comes a time when she does find out (because I don’t believe for one second that she won’t try to find me again), there’s nothing she can do to hurt me. I am protected — by people, by three big dogs, and by my own (still growing) strength.

I have people who genuinely care about me. They are helping me learn what life really is, what normal is. And I still struggle with things. I don’t always eat like I should, or know what to say in social situations, or how to act when I’m out and about. But I am learning, with their help.

And even in the few months that I’ve been here, I have improved so much. I used to avoid the grocery store because it gave me anxiety. Now I look forward to going every Sunday. I used to have meltdowns whenever I’d end up in loud places. Now I go out to eat in noisy restaurants and manage the anxiety with the help of people who support me. I used to hide food in my room because people would take it from me. Now I don’t have to do that at all, because I know that food will always be available to me.

I’m learning how to make choices, although I admit that I still need to work on that. I try to navigate through healthy and unhealthy relationships. I try to make decisions regarding my medical issues. I even try to pick out foods I like, which is something I never got to experience before. And it’s not always easy. I still have times when I get too overwhelmed, when I need to ask for help. And now there are people there to help me do that.

I go outside so much. Sometimes it’s to play with the dogs. Sometimes to just sit outside to read, or to watch the fireflies, or to look at the flowers. Some nights, I still sit outside and look up the stars; it reminds me that I am free. It’s something I could never do before. And it still amazes me.

I never knew what life really was up until a few months ago. I never imagined things would be this way. From the outside, you would think my life would be in turmoil. I’ve been out of work. I’ve been bombarded with some serious health issues.  I’ve bounced from place to place just trying to stay out of the shelter, losing a decent amount of my possessions along the way. I’ve lost a few thousand dollars I can never get back.

But I’ve learned that life isn’t about having money and things. It isn’t about how long you have to live. It’s about the people you have in your life. It’s about how you choose to spend the time you are alive. I may or may not have a long life ahead of me, and these people may not be my biological family, but that doesn’t matter to me.

I am learning to live the life that was meant for me, not the life my mother chose for me.

Two Years of Freedom, Part 1: Letting Go

I hold on to things. I become attached.

I think it has a lot to do with having nothing. When I ran away, I took whatever clothes and shoes could fit in my bag, my computer, and a few small things, and left everything else behind.

And I lived on very little for those first couple of months. The only furniture I had was the bed my roommate let me borrow. I wore the same pair of shoes. I cycled through the same sets of clothes. I cooked and ate out of the same plastic container. And every night by 9 o’clock, I laid in the darkness, because I didn’t even own a light.

Then slowly, I started to settle in. I started to buy things. One of the first things I bought for myself was a mug from the Disney Store. It was from the movie Inside Out, my favorite movie to this day. And I used that mug every day, because it was the only thing I owned to drink out of. But that was okay. It was mine.

And I held on to that mug. Even as I found myself bouncing from place to place, that mug came with me. It was as important as anything else. I could have easily just brought another mug along the way, but it wouldn’t have been the same. I formed an attachment. To me, that mug was a sign of my freedom. The first thing that was really mine.

Then a few weeks ago, I set my mug on the table as I had every morning. I was preparing my breakfast, and accidentally dropped the spoon. Even though it was only a two foot drop at most, the spoon hit the mug in such a way that it shattered the handle right off. I wanted to cry. I couldn’t repair it. A part of me wanted to. A part of me believed that throwing that mug away somehow meant throwing away so much more.

But I faced reality. It was just a mug. There were dozens more in the cabinet I could use whenever I needed. Why keep something that no longer served its purpose? I had to let go. I reminded myself it’s useless now and I threw it away. And I was okay.

In doing that, I thought about the other things I carry with me, the things that weigh me down, the things that no longer have a purpose.

I carry a folder with me wherever I go. It has my medical documents in there in case of emergency. It also has notes from therapy to help me if I ever needed reminders.

It also had the cards I’ve written to my family. The cards to my mother. The card to my father. The card to my brother. The letter my mother wrote to me. And the gravestone posters she mailed to my address.

I’ve been holding on to these things for so long. Those cards will never be sent. I wrote what was in my heart and let it out into the world, and that was that. My mother’s letter was just four pages of lies and denial. And the gravestones she sent me were not the stones that I deserved. But for some reason I attached a meaning to them. A meaning I didn’t need.

I needed to let them all go. So today, three days away from two years of freedom, I took the cards, the letter, and the gravestones and let them go.

I remembered the things my mother believed. Bad things have to burn. So they will. I burned every card, the letter, and the gravestones, piece by piece.

The card to my father went first. He’s gone now, he will surely never read my words. Then I burned the card to my brother. That one wasn’t as easy. I had to tell myself that I did what I could for him. I hope one day he knows what it’s like to be free, but I can no longer carry that burden on me.

Then came the cards to my mother. A lost cause, because even though she knows my words, she will never hear them for their truth.

Then I burned the letter she wrote to me. I didn’t even read it over. It didn’t matter. As I put each piece in the fire, it burned within seconds. Just like that, it was gone. Everything turned into indiscernible ashes.


I saved the gravestones for last. I debated whether or not I should keep them, but I realized they had no purpose for me. They never did. My mother could wish me dead all she wants. She can send me all the death threats she wants. She could even kill me. But she can never hurt me any more than she already has. The gravestones weren’t burning well, so I tore them up into tiny pieces and mixed them into the ashes.

I no longer carry these things with me. I no longer hope for the day my father becomes a father, because he is dead. I no longer carry the burden of saving my brother, because I know that he is not my responsibility. I no longer hold onto my mother’s words, because her words were never the truth. And I no longer hold onto the stones my mother thinks I deserve, because I no longer believe that I should die just for finding my freedom.

It’s been almost two years now. I had to let go.

500 Days of Freedom, Part 3 (The Stones I’ve Gained)

I am good. I have worth. I have power. I have hope. I have a purpose. I can have feelings. I can say no. I can live. I deserve care. It wasn’t my fault. I am safe; we are safe. I am free.

These are the stones I’ve gained. They aren’t false beliefs. They are the truths I learned from being free.They don’t weigh me down like the other stones.They don’t need to be thrown out to sea, or thrown out of my mind. I hold them close to me. I hold the beliefs in my mind everywhere I go, and the stones in a jar I keep with me. The stones remind me of what’s already growing inside: my new beliefs, the truths that I’ve gained from the lies I threw away.

I am good.

I was a good child. I am a good adult. I am a good friend, a good colleague, and a good human being. I was a good daughter, even though I never got the good mother I deserved. I do good things. I think good thoughts. There is goodness inside of me that was never allowed to come out. But now it can. And now I know. I am a good person, inside and out.

I have worth.

My body matters. My thoughts matter. My feelings matter. I matter. I am a human being, and human beings have worth. I am worthy of respect, kindness, and love. I am worthy of family and friendship. I am worthy of so much. I matter.

I have power.

I can make choices now. I may not always know how to, but I am learning. I have the power. My mother can’t make decisions for me anymore. I make my own decisions. She took my power away from me, but I got it back. Now I am learning to use it.

I have hope.

I see opportunities. My mother wanted me to be nothing, but I am going to be something. I used to live in the darkness, where there was no light. But now I know that light exists, so I try to talk towards it. Even if I still stumble in darkness, I can remember that there is a flame.

I have a purpose.

I try to believe that there are reasons that things are the way they are. There is a reason I’m still alive when I should be dead. There is a reason I found my way here, in this city, at this job, writing this blog, telling my story. I am not useless, or a waste of space. I have a purpose, and I will make a difference to someone, even if that difference is small.

I can have feelings.

I can be angry without being my mother. I can be sad without being punished. I can cry for as long as I want. I can feel without fear. I can feel something other than constant fear. I don’t have to hide my feelings anymore. I am learning that it’s okay to feel.

I can say no.

I couldn’t say no before, because saying no never worked. No one listened. I became powerless. I lost my ability to say no, and it caused me a lot of pain. But I can say no now, because I have power. I don’t have to comply with other people’s wants at the expense of my own needs. I can say no without feeling bad or wrong for doing so. I can be assertive now, and no one will punish me for it.

I can live.

I don’t have to die now. I am not destined for a life of pain. I still hurt, but hurt is not my life. I no longer wait for death. I no longer wait for an end to the pain. I find relief in the every day. The little things are the reason I can keep living.

I deserve care.

I deserve to receive care from others. Friends, coworkers, doctors, therapists. I am worthy of others’ care. I can go to the doctor. I can ask for things I need without having to feel guilty. And I deserve my own care, too. I deserve to take care of myself, in the ways I should have been taken care of as a child.

It wasn’t my fault.

My family’s failures were not my fault. My father’s death was not my fault. The abuse was not my fault. I was a child. I wasn’t to blame for any of this. It was never my fault, no matter what she said and still says. I didn’t do anything to deserve any hurt.

I am safe. We are safe.

I got away. I escaped. My mother can’t hurt me now. She can’t hurt my parts any more, either. I try to let them know that. I try to let me know that. I don’t have to be scared all of the time now. I am trying to learn how to be not scared.

I am free.

I can leave my house. I can walk down the street. I can lock or unlock my door. I can buy what I want. I can eat what I want. I can do all of the things I should have been able to do before, but couldn’t. I am free now. She can no longer control me.

They are the stones I’ve gained.

499

I have some things for you from your mother.

He said it like it was nothing. He didn’t know it wasn’t nothing to me.

I wasn’t expecting it. I was having a regular conversation (over text) with my friend about something I wanted to do and out of the blue, he mentioned this. I froze for a minute, both physically and emotionally. I was numb. You could have stabbed me in both hands with a steak knife and I would have stayed sitting where I was, staring blankly at the wall, never flinching.

Then the emotions rushed in. I couldn’t tell if I was angry, sad, or both. I asked my friend what it was. It’s a letter, and some other things. At that point, I didn’t care about the other things. My thoughts danced around the letter.

I felt myself being swept away by hope. My mother is finally apologizing. She is finally going to say how sorry she is, how she never meant to hurt me. She is going to tell me how much she misses me, how much she loves me and has always loved me. She’s going to say she wants me back, that we are family. She is sorry and she loves and cares for me.

I sensed the joy of younger me, the excitement over the wish of family and of love coming true.

But I was crying, because adult me knew that those wishes were not coming true. This letter was not going to be one of love and caring. It was not going to be a letter of acknowledgement or apology.

My heart is breaking again. I am torn between the wish and the reality, the hope and the truth. Part of me wants to see that letter, to read my mother’s words, because there is still a small wish, a flickering of hope that my mother would be what I need her to be: a mother.

But then part of me knows that what I hope and wish for will not be fulfilled in that letter. Part of me knows that my mother will never apologize, that she will never be sorry for what she’s done because she believes she has done no wrong. Part of me knows that my mother doesn’t miss me, because she has pretended like I don’t exist. Part of me knows that she doesn’t love me now, and didn’t love me then, because a loving person would have never done the things she did. Part of me knows that I can never be a part of that family.

My mother hasn’t been a mother in the last 30 years. There’s no reason for her to change now. She won’t change. She will never be 1/100th what I need her to be. And her letter won’t be what I need it be. I don’t even think I need to read it to know that it isn’t. But I still want to read it. Part of me wants to know what she has to say.

I feel like I would have been better off not knowing this letter existed. I could tell my friend to throw it away, or I could take it and burn it myself. But then I would never know what my mother wrote, and I’m not sure I can manage never knowing. I also know that I could never handle reading the letter on my own. The mere knowledge of the letter’s existence has created an emotional storm in me that I am trying my best to weather. I imagine the its contents would let loose a tornado.

At first, I wanted to rush back to my home of origin just to get that letter; part of me still does. It’s that hope again, rearing its head in my consciousness.

But I am trying to focus on what is important to me here. I can exist without that letter. I have things to do here, experiences to celebrate. I have made it 499 days, without her and without her letter.

In my rage, I learned something.

I am sitting here, several hours past my bed time, waiting for my Ativan to kick in so my heart will stop pounding and I can go to sleep. All because I became enraged over a social media post.

One of the pages I follow on Facebook posted this story: Mom Dies In Hospital, Then Son Writes Obituary Saying He’s Glad She’s Dead.

I was immediately drawn to it, as the headline sounded just like something I would write for my own mother’s obituary. I thought about what it would be like for me when my mother dies, if I am fortunate enough to outlive her. A friend once asked me if I would go to my mother’s funeral. I told him I would. Not to pay my respects, but to see for myself that she is dead. I wanted the same for my father, but to see him would have meant seeing my (very much alive) mother, and I couldn’t risk that.

Even though I have thought about my mother’s death, I never once thought about what I would write in her obituary. My father’s obituary was lacking. I guess it was better to not say much at all than to say the truth of who he really was.There was no emotion behind it. Just his demographic information. I thought about how I would write it, but stopped myself because I had (and still do) an unresolved compulsion to protect my father. Even so, my father knew he was an asshole. He admitted it.

But my mother, that’s a different story. I feel no need to protect her. She has already done a magnificent job of protecting herself her whole life, at the expense of everyone else. It doesn’t matter what truth I or anyone speaks, she will always turn it back and away from her true self. But she can’t do that when she’s dead.

As morbid as it sounds, I feel like writing obituaries for both of them. For their symbolic death, if anything. Let me write their eulogies, too. They won’t be filled with fluff and niceties. They would be filled with the truth and emotion.

Anyway, after reading this article, I felt an immense sense of respect for the son. To come out with such honesty and raw emotion had to have taken a lot of courage. I commented on the post as such.

Then I made the mistake of reading the other comments. Quite a few of them echoed similar sentiments that I had. Then I came across this:

Why wait until she’s deceased to come forward. Should have been done that. Whatever if she did do that then God made her suffer before her passing. It breaks my heart to see people come out like this in the end.

Why wait until she’s deceased to come forward? Because the fear is gone. She is dead. She can no longer hurt anyone. So many people severely abused by a parent continue to live in fear until the day that parent dies. That’s why.

Should have been done that? Maybe they did. Maybe no one listened. Are victims only limited to speaking out once? Is it a case of you’ve had your say, now let it go? We don’t have that option. We live with that shit for the rest of our lives. Or maybe the mother denied everything just like so many abusers do. I don’t see any abusive mothers coming out of the woodwork admitting they are abusers.

If she did do that? REALLY? We are doubting the victim now?. You just proved my earlier point of no one listening. People don’t want to come forward because the victims are the ones scrutinized instead of the abusers. Especially when a mother is involved, because God forbid a mother abuses her child, no, that NEVER happens.

I won’t even get into the rest of that comment right now. This person’s continual comments only added to my rage. Focus on healing their families and not on making the parent look bad. Don’t keep the heartache going around. How do you get to feel better about yourself for something you should have done long time ago. If you would have been said something you wouldn’t have had to wait til mom is deceased to start feeling better. To put in the obituary like that. Nobody probably believes them now anyway. Some should have seen signs. It’s always one person you can talk to. There are signs and there are people to tell.

I responded to some of her comments, but nothing was getting through to her. I told her it had nothing to do with feeling better about oneself. Abused children and adults have a hard enough time feeling good about anything. It wasn’t about making the parent look bad. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. No one should sit there and call that duck an elephant. This was about sharing the truth.

I managed to maintain my composure online, as I like to conduct myself with respect even when I disagree, and fight back knowledge instead of emotion. But on the inside, I was burning. Once she said if you had just said something, I completely lost it. I sat at my computer, yelling at my screen. I was angry.

If I had just said something? You think I didn’t want to say anything? There’s always people to tell? WHERE WERE THEY? No one was listening to me. No one was seeing the signs. Where were these magical, abuse-stopping folks I should have told. Because of course it’s the child’s fault for not saying anything. Let’s not shift any blame to the people who are actually doing the abusing (and the neglecting, for those in power that stood silent). Nope. It must be my fault. Even though I was just a child forced into silence in order to save my life. And now you want to force me and others into silence in our adulthood? Get the fuck out of here.

I got myself so worked up that I could barely breathe. This person was a stranger, but her words affected me so much. And for once, I didn’t turn any of that anger inward. I was angry at this woman. I was angry at every adult that chose silence over honesty. I wasn’t angry at me.

I realized, in that moment of rage, that this was just what I needed. Without thinking, I had admitted out loud (to myself) that I was just a child. I admitted that I couldn’t have said anything. I just spent a week suppressing my anger against others because I wanted to believe that my own silence was my fault. I allowed myself to do that. What I couldn’t allow was someone else faulting me for it.

It was through my need to defend the countless other children who couldn’t speak out, that I finally realized the truth within myself. I was not to blame. No child is to blame.

I get it now.

Lies

I’ve been struggling with a memory for the last couple of days. It came up inadvertently in therapy on Monday.

My therapist asked if I could smell anything. I have issues with smell, due largely in part to a deviated septum I got as a child when a classmate accidentally kicked me upside the face. I never went to the hospital; my mother insisted I was fine. I just sat in the office with ice packs covering my bloody nose and face.

I found the need to justify my mother’s inaction. She cares. She’s taken me to the hospital before. I recalled several visits to the ER to have Lego blocks removed from my nostrils (my mother wasn’t happy about those incidents). Then I recalled the major hospital incident of my youth: the time I walked into the wall.

My brother was playing a video game. Super Mario Bros. 3 on Nintendo. I can remember that part.

Then I remember sitting in the backseat of the car, surrounded by bloody wash cloths and towels. Don’t look. Just keep holding it there. We were driving for a long time. We lived just minutes from the hospital, but that’s not where my father went. He drove all the way to a hospital in the next county.

I remember laying in the hospital bed, staring at the lights above me. I couldn’t feel anything, but I knew what was going on. I just focused on the lights as the doctor stitched up my face. No more bleeding.

What I can’t remember is what happened in between. How did my face get like that? My parents always told the story that I walked into a wall. I was just being clumsy and careless and smacked my face right into the bedroom wall. I never really questioned it as a child. What child would?

Saying it out loud the other day made me realize how bizarre the incident was. How I could have walked into a wall and caused that type of damage? How could a little girl walk into anything with that much force to cause a deep cut across her lip like that? How was my nose spared? Wouldn’t that have hit the wall first? And why did we drive so far away to get help? I have all these questions that I don’t have the answers to.

I still have the scar (thankfully less prominent) 20+ years later. What I don’t have is the memory of how I got it. All I have to go on is a story.

The last couple of days have been full of memory flashes of what happened after, but nothing of what caused the damage. It’s frustrating for me. I want to know. Why can’t I know the truth?

Maybe I did walk into the wall. But why can’t I remember doing that?

Maybe I did walk into the wall. Because why would my parents lie?

I ask myself that last question and realize that my parents have lied most of their lives. They’ve lied to themselves. They’ve lied to their family. And they’ve lied to their children.

There’s been so many lies, that I can’t even figure out what was truth. Even the most insignificant things were lies. My mother lied about where I was born. I didn’t find out until I went to get a Social Security card after I ran away, and ended up giving what I found out to be inaccurate information. My birthplace was wrong. My mother’s name on my birth record did not match what I knew her name to be. I haven’t been able to get my birth certificate because I don’t have the right information to verify who I am. As if I didn’t struggle with figuring out who I am enough, I can’t even figure out the most basic components of my identity. I know my name is the truth. That’s about it.

I was a child who believed what my parents said because that’s what children are taught to do. Trust your parents. They don’t lie to their children to hurt them. Sure, parents lie about Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. But they don’t lie about birthplaces and bleeding faces.

Maybe I’m just overanalyzing. Maybe it wasn’t a lie. Maybe I did just walk into the wall in just the right way. But how the hell can I know truths when so much has been lies?