Sometimes I struggle with all this “baggage” I am carrying around with me. Yes, it’s hard to manage it. But it’s more than that. I struggle because it doesn’t seem like I should have it. Because…get real!…the abuse that has so devastated and marred me happened a very, very, very long time ago. In a galaxy far, far away. The frightening intergalactic war is over. The battles have been fought. I lived to tell, or not tell, actually, as I dutifully kept the secrets. But I lived. So why isn’t that the end of the ghastly and dismal story? WHY am I STILL DEALING WITH ALL THIS MESS!!!???!!! It seems so unfair. You go through a horrible, nightmare-filled childhood, crammed with physical, emotional and sexual abuse. You escape somehow (in my case, not until after I graduated from high school). Your new as-yet-unwritten life is out there, waiting for you. Why can’t you step out into that virgin snow as a virgin? With a fresh page. Hopeful. Unmarked. Excited. Pumped. Ready to meet the challenges and opportunities that are before you with strength, determination, happiness and expectation. Instead, you’re trapped in a wheelchair and you are trying to learn how to do the simple things most people find easy and learn as children. How to feel. How to connect. How to have relationships. How to have pleasurable experiences. To trust. To enjoy simple things. To not fear every moment that is ahead of you because you’re terrified of the awful thing that is going to happen to you next. Your anxiety level is off the charts. You have no sense of security or safety whatsoever. You also have no sense of personhood. You have been taught, after all, that you are nothing but an object who gains value by performing. And you know from experience that you can never perform well enough to earn the air you need to breathe to sustain your life. So you try to breathe sparingly. To take up very little space. To not bother, inconvenience, or disrupt anyone with your needs. Or fears. Or hurts. You are a ghost, hiding in the shadows, moving quietly, scurrying from place to place, trying to keep from leaving any ripples that would alert others to your presence or passing. So you can’t step confidently into the future because you can’t yet walk. You can, in fact, barely crawl. Things others take for granted take a monumental effort from you. And no one understands why it’s so hard. Least of all you. Shouldn’t the past be…past? You long to dance. To run free. To jump and touch the sun. But the sun is hidden from view and, as mentioned, running and jumping just aren’t in the cards. Oh, you run. But it’s a mental game you play, one that involves a lot of denial and disassociation. You run from all that has come before, shut down the emotions, trying to mimic the expressions and behavior of those around you so you can appear normal. The holy grail. Appearing normal. That’s what it’s all about. Because you know in your heart of hearts, you aren’t. Normal. The best you can hope for is to fake it until you find your way out of the disastrous mess that seems to be you. At first, I believed I could leave it all behind. My then husband…now my ex…wanted me to be quiet about it. He didn’t want to hear what happened. Not at all. So I shut it off, walled it up and ran like hell. It actually worked for awhile. I was relatively successful in my life. Not greatly successful, but I did okay. I had a few friendships even though there was a massive part of my being that remained hidden. I did fairly well in business. I could fake it in public and at social events to the extent that most people would never think I was a broken, weird, crazy, wounded mess of a human being. Unfortunately, it got harder and harder to wear the mask as time went on and as I grew older. Like a drug that one builds up a tolerance to, I needed more and more down time between encounters with others to recharge and rebuild. It seemed as if my yuckiness grew over time. I couldn’t sweep all of the goo under the rug the way I could at first. I couldn’t quite pretend it wasn’t there. I couldn’t hide my difference. Not all the time. Not to the extent required. My energy was suddenly totally depleted and my efforts were wildly lacking. So I withdrew. I isolated. And I hated myself more and more for my growing list of failures. When you have been running for a lifetime, turning around to face all that nips at your heels is daunting. First of all, it takes time just to turn the ship. There’s a lot of forward momentum (moving away from all that is chasing you) and once you try to take a look over your shoulder and turn, that momentum keeps you going away from your demons for quite some time. In spite of your efforts to deal with them. Then there’s the fact that you’ve clipped nerves to keep from feeling all the pain and shame and anguish. Nerves don’t heal overnight. Just finding a way to feel again takes a great deal of work. Energy you don’t have. And let’s not even talk about the fact that habits (denial, disassociation, self-hatred, for example) don’t magically stop when you decide to do something different. They have taken on a life of their own. They are determined to continue on as before.
It has been a long process for me. One that persists to this day. And there is, frankly, no end in sight. Which brings me back to my point. The unfairness. The wrongness. I lived through the ugliest things imaginable in my childhood. I lived for 22 years with a man who rejected me and told me continually he didn’t love me. But I’ve never lived. And I want to, at least a little bit before I die. My ex left me almost 10 years ago. My childhood has been over for decades and decades. Why can’t the past be past? Why am I still dealing with all this garbage…on a DAILY basis…yet today?
Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, a little girl was beaten down, hit, rejected, sexually abused, emotionally destroyed. She lived in hiding, without love, without nurturing, without support, without hope, without safety, without comfort. She fought for every breath of air and she finally escaped the storm troopers. But she did not live happily ever after. Her prince turned out to be a taskmaster, harsh and judgmental. Believing the best she could hope for was to be tolerated, she stayed with him and tried to do everything right. To no avail. He finally dumped her for another woman. Now, she is totally alone. She has no close friends and few acquaintances. Her dogs are her only reason for continuing to live on the cold and barren planet where she resides. Her battle scars are many. They have limited her and broken her. All she wants is a few happy years here at the end of her life. Just a tiny bit of “happily ever after.” But the war continues long after it has ended because inside of her, the battles yet rage. She escaped, but didn’t win. And she’s ever so very tired of being trapped in this tragedy. But how do you write a fairy-tale ending to your life story when you can barely get out of bed each day? When you can barely put one foot in front of the other to make it to work each day? When your house is dirty because you lack the energy to tackle the clutter? When your debt is high and makes you want to puke because you’re so terrified of how you’re going to get out of the mess you’re in. When you feel like you have nothing worthwhile to say? Nothing to contribute? Nothing left to give? How do you change the tragic tone and inject lightness and joy into such a dark and disgusting story? How do you live…truly live just a little bit…before you reach THE END?