I have gone through my life essentially denying that a large part of me exists. I learned early on that the abused side, the broken part, was utterly unacceptable and that it needed to remain hidden. For lots of reasons. It was obviously something of which I should be ashamed. There was no redemption for that ugly, bloody, bruised piece of my heart. It was defiled. And once defiled, always defiled.
I told no one. Even telling someone that I was being abused by my parents was a clear breach of etiquette, among other sins. To go beyond that was unthinkable.
So I kept my mouth shut. And I kept that big ball of damaged “me” and the resulting pain and brokenness imprisoned deep, deep, deep inside of my soul.
As an adult, even if people seemed to like me to some extent, I could never trust their friendship, nor could I connect with them in any real way. They didn’t know me. They only knew the outer shell, the image I presented to the world to shield them from my awfulness. It was my responsibility to keep the darkness hidden so as not to offend them or send them scurrying away from me as fast as they could run.
Because of this need to hide myself away, I have spent most of my life utterly alone, trapped in an empty nether world.
Trapped in a facade that doesn’t resemble the person inside.
I got the message. I got the message that I was not supposed to talk about it. I got that message in many ways from many people.
My father had his ways to keep me silent. “If you tell, your mother will kill herself.” If you tell, you’ll destroy the family. It will all be your fault.” As a child, I accepted the responsibility to protect everyone but myself, no matter the cost. I was afraid my mother WOULD kill herself. I was terrified of not having anyone to look after me. Where would I live? How could I take care of my little brother? How could I feed us? What would happen to us if we had no parents to provide the basics we needed to survive?
When I was 13, I was in so much pain, I reached out to the pastor of a local Baptist church. I didn’t want anything bad to happen to my father. I just wanted help. The abuse had grown progressively worse by that point and I was struggling desperately to survive long enough to graduate from high school. When I confided in this pastor, he got up and shut his office door, then calmly told me to go home and to never, ever, ever tell lies like this again about my parents. His message was crystal clear.
When I was 14, I started using drugs. It was my way of running away from home without running away from home.
About 6 months later, I did try to tell a teacher about what was happening to me at home, but she didn’t believe me either. My father was a teacher and the police judge in our small town. He was respected and esteemed, especially since he taught in the “city” that was about 25 miles from our little berg. He wasn’t teaching in the minuscule towns that dotted the predominately rural landscape that surrounded us like the other teachers who lived in our town. His was a coveted position and as a result, he was viewed with reverence and envy. My mother had been born 5 miles away and grew up in that community. She was a commercial artist, well know and also respected. Who was I? A strange, introverted, painfully shy, unpopular girl who never fit in. Who never belonged. After my second attempt to get help, I realized no one would believe or rescue me, no matter how clearly I articulated my “situation.”
I learned early to keep everything inside of me. To deny the things that were shaping and making me who I was.
Once I graduated from high school and left home, I tried opening up and letting the ugly part of me out. I didn’t take big steps, but I did try to create a crack in the darkness. To show a tiny piece of that decimated child who remained hidden in my heart. But when people I became acquainted with started talking about their parents, I learned very quickly that the quickest way to shut down all conversation was to confide that I had been abused by my parents. No details required. Just the word “abused” caused the subject to be changed with lightning speed. They shut me down and out before I even began to share. And so, the message was driven home.
I learned to keep myself to myself. I learned that superficial connection was better than no connection at all.
“Keep it to yourself. No one wants to hear it.” “Don’t talk about it. That part of you is unspeakable.”
This was further reinforced by the man I married. I foolishly believed that I could finally safely take off the mask. I told him I had been abused by my mother and sexually and physically abused by my father before we were married. I shared no details at all. And, as it turns out, that was the way he wanted it. What I did share was more than enough. Before we had been married a year, he told me point blank that he didn’t want to hear it. At all. To keep my wounding and crap to myself.
As a result, I burrowed even deeper inside of myself. I am still a broken person. I have been shattered into pieces and those pieces have rarely spoken to each other. They remain separate. Totally segregated. Aware of the other, but unaware. I have hidden all the fragments away from sight and soldiered on. I’m not even sure how much of what I have hidden has survived. I have no idea who I really am because the outer person and inner person don’t generally connect. They don’t often acknowledge the existence of the other.
By denying who I was in the past, I have denied the person I have become today. I have lost the other me. Possibly the real me. Or the me that I could have become had I learned how to embrace the good and the bad, finally healing. The me I might have been had I stopped hiding.
By denying what happened to me, I have denied what made me who I am today. And that has kept me from moving forward into a better future.
I never found my voice. I never discovered my worth.
By denying that a huge part of me ever existed, I have lobotomized myself. I have erased the other me. And by erasing that fractured, abused child, I have lost all the rest of me. Along with all I had to offer. And everything I might have become.
In losing the other me, I have lost my one opportunity to finally live the life that so many seem to treasure.
I have survived, in some pathetic form. Yes, I survived; got through it. And I have discovered that you can survive and still not be close at all to being alive.
I am mourning the other me. The one I lost because I buried her alive in an airless grave. And when I buried her, I somehow also buried me.