When I was a little girl, the darkness came calling very early.  It rolled in like a thick, suffocating fog.  It clouded my vision.  Lodged in my throat.  It pinched my nostrils and stole away all my air.  Then it stabbed and slashed my heart.  And gutted me.  But I had to go to school.  Get dressed in the morning.  Interact with friends.  Teachers. Do my chores.  My homework.  Play home-made board games with my brother.  Build our fantasy worlds with Lego.  Practice my clarinet.  Feed the dog.  Clean my plate.  I had to keep walking and talking and smiling and performing, in spite of the pain and darkness.  In spite of the fact that the people who gave birth to me, who were supposed to love and care for me, were the ones who caused the fog.  They hit me.  Rejected me.  Molested me.  Raped me.  I had to go on as if nothing was amiss.  As if the darkness didn’t exist.  As if there wasn’t a monster or two living in my house.  Sleeping in the bedroom across the hall.
When you are in great pain as an adult, it can break you into pieces.  It can tear you up and spit you out as if you were nothing.  But you have resources. That’s when you reach out for your family.  For your friends who love you.  Or you get professional help.  You try to stagger back to your feet.  To rebuild.  But when you are a little child and the source of the pain is your family and there is no love there to be found, you have no resources.  No options.  There is only terror and the ever-present fog.  And the agony. When that pain becomes so overwhelming it breaks you and you have nowhere to turn, it finishes you off, shattering you completely.    There is no one to reach out to.  No safe place.  No safe person.  No release from the darkness.  No end.  That’s when the pain crushes you until you splinter into tiny particles.  If you survive, you become numb.  A zombie.  And everything you know and see and feel and believe becomes twisted, defiled, and distorted.
I can remember laying in bed at night, trying to go to sleep, but the pain was so intense, it felt like claws scratching on the inside of me, ripping open the walls of my chest, leaving me raw, shredded, and bleeding.  And as the tears rolled down my cheeks, dripped from my nose and ran into my mouth, I told myself over and over and over again that it didn’t matter.  It.  It didn’t matter. 
It.  didn’t.  matter.  It.  Me.  The fact that I was unloved.  And abused.
Oh, they said they loved me.  But is love something that hurts you so badly that it demolishes you completely?  Something that turns you into a worthless object to be used and discarded, disregarded, and manipulated?  Is love something that hits and screams and lashes out, telling you that you are nothing?  Does love grab you with greedy, angry, lustful hands, touching you in ways and places you should never be touched when you are a 7 year old girl who loves her daddy, worships him, hates him, fears him, only wants him to love her?  Does love rape and use and destroy?  Does it wound you so deeply that you walk away from yourself because something has to die; some very big, very important part of you has to die in order for you to survive?
It.  didn’t. matter.  I.  I didn’t matter.  My pain.  My brokenness.  The abuse.  Chaos.  Uncertainty.  Panic.  Fear.  And what this did inside of me.  I didn’t.  Didn’t matter.  The darkness  took me into its arms and ripped me apart with hungry, hateful fingers.  Shredding and eviscerating me until I was nothing but a shell.  None of it mattered.  It couldn’t.  Because if it mattered, if I mattered, I couldn’t continue to exist.  That’s how big and consuming and horrible the pain was.  It was ravenous.  Unending.  Without mercy.  It was a cannibal and it was eating me alive.
And so, as I cried silent tears in the dark, as the anguish tore me into little pieces, I placed everything in a sturdy box with thick, massive walls, far inside my soul.  I beat it all down my throat with my fist.  Inch by inch by inch.  Until everything was safely placed inside.  Then I closed the top with a thud that echoed deep within me.  Reverberating through every cell.  And then I locked the lid with a very big, impervious lock.  Again and again.  Night after night.  Telling myself.  It.  didn’t.  matter.
For years, I stuffed the pain and disassociated from the memories of what had happened to me until I could watch the movie of my childhood without flinching.  But only in my peripheral vision.  Only in bits and pieces.  In no specific order. A 15 minute segment here.  A 10 minute segment there.  A 5 minute segment, each that had to quickly fade into black at some point because even with the hurt stuffed away in that box in my soul, it was still too much to bear if I looked it in the eye.  So I peeked through the cracks between my fingers or watched with my head down, my vision averted.  And I stopped the film and let the darkness take me away when what I saw was too horrible to watch; too demented to take in.
This was my childhood. It warped me.  Sliced me into tiny fragments until I was nothing but dust.   Yet, I am the one who destroyed my emotions.  They ate at my gut, so I locked them up and threw away the key.  Stuffed them down again and again until I couldn’t feel the pain.  But when the pain was gone, so was love.  And joy.  And hope.  And innocence.
The abuse…the physical, emotional and sexual abuse…it was decimating.  But the worst part by far, the most awful thing that was stolen from me, was the ability to leave the dungeon.  I didn’t know at the time.  But once you enter that box and place your heart inside, once you crucify your feelings and bury them within that cold, iron container in your deepest soul, you become a prisoner of your own prison.  And there is no escape.  Everything that you were and are and could become dies there.  The shell keeps walking.  Only that empty shell survives.  It wasn’t what you intended.  You thought you could emerge and bring yourself back to life when it was safe.  But you can’t.  You stuff your own body into the grave you dug and everything that is important dies there.  And once it is dead, you can’t revive it.
The Shell
Age 12, living in the darkness.

You’ll spend the rest of your life trying to resuscitate your heart and soul.  But the lid stays closed.  That massive lock never comes undone. Not any longer.  Once, long ago, you thought you would never get it to stay shut.  But you finally got it closed and now you can’t open it.  Everything that matters is stuffed inside.  And still you lie and tell yourself none of it matters.  Because the pain, that horrible pain, it’s still too much to bear.  And the death of your soul is more manageable than allowing yourself to realize that you did, and maybe still do, matter.

The coffin you created to save you will not give up those things you placed inside.  And in surviving, you lost everything that was worth living for.

4 thoughts on “Stuffed”

  1. Every time I read your words I feel sorrow for the little girl in you. I send warmth and love to your deserving soul. You are loved.

  2. I feel for you and I wish you strength in your journey. I can relate to your words, I can understand the emptiness. It’s so interesting to find people online who feel exactly the way I feel. You are not alone, and I am not alone. “For years, I stuffed the pain and disassociated from the memories of what had happened to me until I could watch the movie of my childhood without flinching.” That is me.

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