Beating on Walls

I have walls.  They were constructed long ago, when I was a child.  And let me tell you, I was one heck of a builder.  They are thicker than an Egyptian pyramid; more impenetrable than a nuclear bomb shelter.  My walls are AMAZING.  And terrifying.

They keep me locked tightly inside.  They prevent my emotions from escaping.  Keep me in a warm cocoon.   I can’t get out, even when I want to.  I can’t feel though I struggle and try with all my might.  These walls are high and thick and deep and wide and strong. Very strong.  Massive.  Painfully constricting.

I’m currently beating my head against them while I fight to claw my way out. I’ve been battling to tear them down.  I’ve been laboring to dig my way out from under them or to find a way around them…since I can’t seem to get over or through them.  I’ve begun to despair that I may be trapped within the confines of this fortress forever.

My walls, these walls I built with my own hands to protect me, these horrible walls will be my coffin.

Is there some magic word I need to say?  Some formula I can use that will cause them to crack and come tumbling down?  Some trap door I’ve yet to find?  Some secret passageway?

I am in awe that I constructed them well before I hit my teen years. I’ve fortified them since, over the years.  But still, this mighty wall that runs through my heart, through my mind and that imprisons my soul, was largely complete before I reached the age of 13.  Time has not worn them down, caused them to decay, eroded them in any way, or created even a slight breach.

I’ve been trying for years to destroy them, to no avail.  I remain tightly encased.  Enclosed.  Trapped.  Untouched by emotions, for the most part.  I experience a profound level of depression and not much else.  No highs to go with the lows.

To be fair, we all have walls.  Some boundaries are healthy.  I don’t want to completely dismantle mine.  But I would like to significantly reduce them.  Perhaps include a few windows and doors.  I would like to be able to escape them if I choose to do so.  I would prefer they not be my prison.

Or my coffin.

My walls keep everyone out.  Everyone.  Out.

They keep me in.  Caged.  Bound.  Incarcerated.

Neither do they keep me safe.  Nor do they protect me.  They give me a sense of security and numb me.  But I can still be hurt.  Even deeply wounded.  Yet, if my ability to connect wasn’t nearly nonexistent, the damage would be far more extensive.  They can still stab me in the back and make fun of me.  They can look down on me, ridicule me and reject me…all of which is painful.  But I survive.  Behind my walls.  Alone and numb.

The most critical task my walls perform is to isolate me.  They do an astonishing job.  So astonishing, I no longer seem to have a choice in the matter…my walls have completely taken control.  I’ve not been able to reclaim power over them.  Reminiscent of Frankenstein; once created, the monster had a life of his own and could not be restrained.  My own creation has become my captor.  My jailer.

As desperately as I long to flee, that which I created has proven to be inescapable.  There is no hidden hatch.  I wander endlessly in this maze, this desolate wilderness, beating on never-ending barriers that don’t give an inch.

I’m weary of beating on walls.  I am weary of trying to escape this coffin.  This coffin in which I will surely be buried.  In which I am, even now, buried alive.

The 2nd Floor

I never had children.  There was a time I wanted one; maybe two.  Girls.  Once upon a time, I even picked out their names.  But the desire passed before I graduated from high school, attributable to reading a book or two that supposedly documented a cycle of abuse.  Asserted that those who are abused as children will, in turn, abuse their own children.  Though I didn’t believe I would ever be capable of hurting an innocent child, especially my own, I decided I couldn’t take the chance.  I didn’t want anyone to suffer the way I had suffered, particularly at the hand of a parent who was supposed to protect them.  My hand.  So, I set that daydream aside, swallowed the pain and disappointment and decided I would never give birth or parent a little one.  

The years flew by.  And then one fall, I received the results of my annual exam.  My PAP was abnormal.  Further testing indicated my cervix was covered with severe dysplasia.  Abnormal cells.  Pre-cancerous.   My doctor recommended an immediate hysterectomy.  I was concerned about the time I would have to miss from work…a job I had just gotten not quite a year before.  My boss was not sympathetic to my situation.  He seemed to delight in pressuring me to “earn my keep.” To contribute more than the men who reported to him. I, a mere woman, was expected to work longer and harder to prove my worth.  That meant forgoing necessary medical treatment if I wanted to keep my job.  But the doctor insisted.  They said my only option was to have the hysterectomy immediately because the cells were quickly progressing and nearing a cancerous state.  

Even then, immediately didn’t quite work for me. Feeling the need to do my duty, I put it off for a few months, mainly trying to get through the holidays.  I wanted to find a time that would be more convenient for my staff and for friends who would be helping me out afterwards.  I made it until February.  My doctor pestered me, strongly insisting that I was putting myself in danger.  Telling me I couldn’t wait any longer, no matter what.  

And so, it was arranged.  Two weeks later, a friend took me to the hospital early in the morning and I was prepped for surgery.   She graciously opted to stay with me, waiting in my room to watch over me as I slept and woke repetitively from my morphine-induced haze that first day.   

I was touched.  It turned out to be a more emotional experience than I had anticipated. 

You see, my room was on the 2nd floor.  They asked me if I would mind if they put me in a room on that particular floor before the surgery and I had agreed to their request.  I didn’t think it would matter.  Didn’t think it would be a big deal.  But as it turned out, it was harder than I thought. 

The 2nd floor was the maternity floor.  I had never been in the maternity ward before.  My first stay in this particular area of the hospital was not to give birth, but to have all that baby-making equipment removed.  And surprisingly, it hurt.  Even though I had set aside that dream many years before.

I was old enough by the time I made it to the 2nd floor, no one should have supposed I was there to have a baby.  But the young man who wheeled me down to my friend’s car upon my release from the hospital said, “Just you?  You’re not leaving with anyone?”  And he sounded rather sad.  I wanted to laugh…I mean, I WAS far too old.  But for some reason, I also wanted to cry.   

I told him, “Yes.  Just me.”  Not leaving with anyone.  No new little life.  Never did that.  Never had that experience.  Never will.  

Didn’t even have a husband to pull the car around and help me into the passenger seat.

As I said, it was mostly by choice…never having a baby.  I was so afraid of damaging a child.  I read too many books, research papers and articles about abused people abusing.  I would prefer not to risk it…it was too big of a chance to take.  So, even though I felt strongly and would rather die than abuse an innocent little one, I chose the safest path.  I was concerned the brokenness of my soul and all the things that were missing in me would create lasting problems for a tiny little being left in my care.  It was better avoid the risk.  So, I remained childless. And now it was far, far too late to change my mind. 

Sometimes it still hurts a lot.  Sometimes I feel good about the decision I made.  More often than not, I believe I did the right thing in sacrificing my own selfish desire.  Most of the time, I only experience a dull ache and the regret is bearable.  

My stay on the 2nd floor was short.  I was only in the hospital for a total of 32 hours.  The room they gave me was toward the end of the floor and there weren’t any others in my “pod.”  I think they did this on purpose, so I wouldn’t be near the nursery or the new mothers.  Near those who had just given birth.  I didn’t see a single other patient during the mandatory walks I made after my hysterectomy.  But I didn’t venture too far down the hall either.  I walked in a circle around my lonely little pod.  I didn’t want to see.  I didn’t want to encounter a tiny new life, a beaming new mom, a proud new father. Hearing the muted cries from the other end of the floor was surprisingly heartbreaking.   

Sometimes, when I think back on that experience, I am suddenly flooded with regret and sadness.  There is a wistfulness that comes over me.  A horrible emptiness.  As much as I was willing to sacrifice to ensure I never hurt a child, I can’t help but wonder.  Might I have been a reasonably decent parent if I had really tried? Reached out for help?  Did I give up my dream too easily?  Was it wisdom or overkill? 

Now that I am approaching old age, now that I am totally alone, I realize it would be comforting to know a little piece of me would live on in a child.  That through them, a particle of my soul might go forward into some distant future.  That perhaps I could have even given them the love I never received myself.  And given them the ability to trust, to believe, to feel, to hope, to dream.   

It would be comforting to think someone would be there to see me off when I arrived at my last day of life.  But these are selfish thoughts.  And I have always fought to avoid selfishness. 

There is no rewind button.  No going back.  No do-overs.  The choices made are written in stone.  The story of our life, once lived, can’t be rewritten or revised.   What is done is done.  

And so, my one and only stay on the maternity floor of the hospital was to recover from a hysterectomy.  Highlighting everything I had lost.  And the losses were massive and deeply painful.  I lost the chance to live for someone else.  To be needed in that special way a child needs a parent.  To heal.  To know joy and connection.  I lost so much more than my ovaries, uterus and cervix.  So very much more. 

I can never go back and take a different path.  I will have no opportunity to repair all that was broken inside of me.  All that is sick or was eaten away.  No chance to repair all that was taken from me.  I can never start fresh.  That time has come and gone.  I left important pieces of myself behind on the 2nd floor.  They rolled me out in the wheelchair, gutted and alone.  In more ways than one.  

Kilroy Was Here

The war in which I fought, the war that left its indelible mark on me, was not a major battle lauded by historians as a great victory or a lesson learned.  It was not researched after the fact, analyzed, viewed from various interesting angles and dissected by great minds with the intent of culling any worthwhile data it might provide.  Nor was it documented with video equipment and reenacted, or detailed in studious dissertations.  It was not noted at all, in fact, by any person alive on planet earth, either during or after the terrible war had essentially ended.  It is actually only briefly noted within a massive list of words and definitions by a single two-syllable word that resides in Webster’s Dictionary.  Just one word to explain the hideous events that changed my world forever.  That annihilated me, though I fought for survival ever so gallantly.  One word.

Incest.

The battle was fought in my own home behind doors that were kept locked with the intent of keeping the boogieman safely outside.  But the boogieman was a resident of the house where I grew up.  He built it.  The locks were pathetically ineffective.  The fox was guarding the hen house.

I had to maintain the highest level of invisibility achievable by a child who was terrified of those who gave her life, only to metaphorically take it away.  I could not draw my name upon the wall to mark my passing.  To commemorate how I had fought and suffered.  No “Kilroy Was Here” left on a board or stone to prove I had been, though I was no more.

I cloaked myself in darkness, but again and again, the darkness betrayed me.  For it did not hide me from my father who quietly sneaked into my room at night and took what he wanted from me, leaving little behind.  It did not soften the impact of being raped, abused and used.  It did not shield me from his warped lust.

I could not leave a mark as a witness of what I suffered at their hands as they used me to satisfy their whims or to release their raging anger.  I could not speak of the atrocities.  Nor memorialize the tragedy.  No one knew of the war in which I so desperately struggled and fought.  I could not tell them.  I was a prisoner of an unknown and unacknowledged war.  People do not want to hear, they do not want to know the ugly truth of the torture such prisoners endure.  Even when the war is supported, they turn their head and shut their eyes.

“Kilroy Was Here” was a proclamation.  It was created as a visual symbol to commemorate the GI’s presence.  He left it behind as a sign for those who would come after.  To let them know he had been where they are now…and had lived to tell.

I have no clever graphic.  I have only words.  I leave them strewn here on this screen for those who will come after me.  And sadly, there will be many more who come after.  More broken souls who start their life wounded by those who were supposed to die protecting them.  Staggering under the weight of every form of child abuse.  And like any soldier who endures and fights in horrendous conditions while attempting to survive the unrelenting attacks of a deadly, disguised, fanatic enemy, we are each one forever changed by what we have endured.

We may survive, but we don’t get out alive.

 

When the Bough Breaks

“Rock-a-by baby
On the tree top,
When the wind blows
The cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks,
The cradle will fall,
And down will come baby
Cradle and all.”

The wind blew.  It started blowing before I was born.  A cold, harsh, unforgiving wind.  Destructive.  It blew. Relentlessly.  Every day.  Without ceasing.  My parents were driven by it; directionless without it.  And the first air to fill my lungs as I cried out after birth was that of the powerful wind that haunted me and cut a vicious path through my entire life.

The wind blew without ceasing.

My cradle rocked.  Wildly.  Brutally.  And the bough broke.  Time and time and time again.

Who takes a baby up to the top of the tree, only to let them fall?

The wind whipped up emotional storms.  Violent fights between my parents.  Hitting.  Slapping.  Throwing.  Leaving.  And when I tried to intervene as a tiny child, the hits and slaps landed on me.  After the storm, when they had both walked out, I held my younger brother, told him everything would be okay and cleaned up the mess.  Picked up the tossed dishes (melamine doesn’t break), the silverware that was strewn across the kitchen and small living room of the trailer where we lived.  Gathered the scattered clothing.  Did what I could to fix the unfix-able.  Did what I could to survive the fall.

Sometimes, the storm hit me full force.  There was nothing to hold on to but the ferocious wind that tossed me to the earth, broken and bloody.  No shelter.  No way to escape.  Couldn’t put the pieces back together.  The bough broke.  I fell.  Hard.

The wind blew in the abuse.  Abuse of every kind, shape and color.  It howled and danced in frenzied glee at the havoc it wreaked.  This is what the wind does.  It tears apart.  It shakes everything that can be shaken.  It destroys anything that can be destroyed.

I was vulnerable.  A child.  I was easy to take down and rip apart.  Easy to destroy.

I lived in the wind, slammed down to the ground, tossed like a weightless feather.  Watching the earth fall out from under me.  Watching my world disintegrate as we smashed to the ground once again.  Standing against the ferocious gale was impossible.  Walking in it took every bit of strength I could muster.  There was no keeping my balance.  Up was down and down was sideways.  The debris crashed into me as I crashed into it.  The tempest never died down.  Never grew tired or lessened in force.  Never lost interest in breaking the bough I clung to with tenacity, even as it was ripped out of my hand.

When the bough breaks, you fall.  You fall through empty air.  And you know it’s going to hurt when you hit the ground.  There is nothing to soften the blow.

When a child is born into the arms of the wind of chaos, even when you run, there is no escape.  It’s within you.  You can’t get away from yourself.

I tried.  I ran when I was 17.  The squall chased me.  I thought getting out of the cradle my parents created, that cradle into which I was born, I oh-so-stupidly thought it would change everything.  But I had been changed by the wind.  I was powerless against it.  When I ran, I took that sadistic wind with me.  It had become a part of the very fabric of my being.

It has been with me every day since birth.  Endlessly raging.

The storm is in me.  And when the wind blows, I break.  Everything I cling to is ripped away.  I fall to the earth, screaming silently in the wind as it rips my breath from my lungs, howling in delight at my  raw, ferocious pain and unending agony.