I’ve had a bad couple of weeks. First, I fell on the ice. It was supposed to be a warmer day and the back patio didn’t look wet or icy, so I was unprepared for slick pavement. It’s the worst fall I’ve ever taken. I hit especially hard, squarely on my right hip. With all of my weight. I was taking my dogs out before leaving for work, so I felt pressured to keep moving. But I wasn’t sure I could get up off the ground. When I finally did, after crawling back to the door, I discovered I already had a rather large, extremely painful knot forming. Which concerned me. I worried that I might have broken my hip, though I was relieved when I was able to walk, even if I kind of stumbled around. I could put weight on it and took that as a good sign. But the knot grew and grew until it was hard and huge; bigger than a grapefruit. I let my boss know I would be delayed, called my sister-in-law, who is a nurse practitioner, and asked her to take a look to see if she thought I needed to go to the doctor. Her shocked expression when she saw the knot pretty much said it all.
Turned out it wasn’t broken, but the doctor told me to stay home for the rest of the week…which wasn’t going to happen. I worked 8, rather than my normal 9-1/2 to 10 hours a day, feeling guilty about “going home early” for a few days, even though I was in a tremendous amount of pain. A week and three days later, it still hurts like crazy any time I touch it.
But that was just the first blow.
Next, came the ridiculously cold temperatures. Down to -11 with a wind chill that was even lower. Then ice. Real ice. The kind you could see. Then the snow. And to top it off, I developed a horrible sinus infection. My hip was hurting so much, I couldn’t sleep at night and now my face felt like it was going to explode any minute. I was getting disgusting, hard, green things out of my nose every time I blew, which was often, along with a lot of frothy green goop that made me want to puke. Honestly, it was a bit alarming and incredibly gross. I was miserable.
And then, the weekend ended. I had to pull myself together enough to go to work.
You are probably thinking this is a stupid story, or, at the very least, an unpleasant and uninteresting one. But I’m attempting to “set the stage” so you will understand what followed.
I was in pain, sick, dizzy, exhausted, cranky, couldn’t think and was so weak, I could barely stand. Outside, we were going through a record-breaking cold spell, the roads were icy, or at the very least, snow covered and slick. My nose felt as if I had a steel pencil rammed up my nostrils and my hip hit me with a zinger of pain every time I touched it. Most people probably wouldn’t have felt apologetic about calling in sick, considering.
I did. I felt guilty. I wasn’t certain I was “sick enough” to justify staying home. I kept telling myself I could do it…I could force myself to get dressed and go to work. Just needed to put on my big girl panties. Driving in my fuzzy state would have been scary, but I wasn’t sure I had a legitimate excuse to stay home where it was warm and soft. Where I could rest.
Eventually, I did call and I reluctantly stayed home for a couple of days. But I was overcome with shame and terrified I would be fired. Or they would look down on me. I was sure they didn’t believe I was sick. I thought they probably figured I didn’t want to chance the icy roads and made it all up. So, you know what I did? I took pictures.
I took pictures of my snotty Kleenex, green and bloody and yucky. More than one picture. Four or five of them. And I took a couple of pictures of me with my Rudolph nose, slits for eyes and my massively swollen, black bruised hip. To prove I was legitimately unable to compel myself to go work. To prove I wasn’t lying.
I have had this fear, this doubt about myself, this feeling that I am not going to be believed, for most of my life. It goes back so far, I can’t ever remember feeling credible. I’ve always, always, always had this nagging trepidation in my heart that no one would believe me, even though I was telling the truth and nothing but the truth. I never feel I have a right to take care of myself. I’ve always feared everyone would think I was lying. I’ve always felt the need to prove I was being honest, all the while doubting myself, even though I knew I wasn’t lying.
Somehow, in the midst of my misery, with excruciating sinuses, with a coal black bruise, swollen, throbbing hip and pressure so great within my skull I was certain my eyes were sure to pop out at any moment, a thought…a reasonable, logical, intelligent, shattering thought…occurred to me.
Lightbulb flash. “Why do others not feel the need to present documentation to prove they are telling the truth? Why do I always feel as if I’m lying, even though I know I am not?”
And the lightbulb flash became a lightning strike. A blinding flash of comprehension.
I was an abused child. I was abused from the time I was born until I left home at age 17. Much of the abuse was emotional and verbal. Lots of negligence. But there was also a great deal of physical abuse. And the sexual abuse decimated me. I struggled mightily to survive. It was a test of my mental and physical endurance. A horrible nightmare. An unbearable trial. And I cracked exactly two times. Twice.
I reached out for help.
The first time I cracked, I was 13. A friend took me to an event at her church one evening to see a group that had presented a program at my high school about the evils of drugs. They were college kids, caring and easy to relate to. I was touched by what they shared that night at my friend’s church and I went forward to talk to one of the girls afterwards. I confided in her. That I was being abused by my parents and sexually abused by my father. This was clearly beyond her ability to handle. She called the pastor. He hurriedly took me to his office, excusing the girl I had talked with, sat behind his desk and proceeded to tear me to shreds. He told me he knew my parents. They were pillars of the community. My father was a respected teacher. My mother was born there, went to school and graduated from the same school I was attending. How dare I say such evil things about them! How dare I talk about my parents in such a disgusting way! How dare I dishonor them! Then, he told me to go home and to never tell anyone such repulsive lies ever again.
I was stunned. Numb. I left and kept my mouth shut for 2 full years.
The second time I cracked, I was 15. I confided in my favorite teacher, told her about the abuse, both physical and sexual, just as I had the pastor. She looked at me with a warry expression, sending me home that day with a neighborhood kid who was the closest thing I had to a friend. She said she and the guidance counselor would talk about it and contact my father later.
Contact my father. Contact. My. Father. My father who lied about what he did to me and put on his respectable mask each time he left my bedroom. My father who hit hard and would certainly not hold back after learning I had betrayed him by telling the secret. The big secret. I reached out to them. But they weren’t going to protect me. They were going to talk to my father, my abuser, because they didn’t believe me. They thought I was mentally ill, making it up and needed help.
I did need help. But I wasn’t going to get it from them.
I told them to forget it. And they did. Because they never thought I was telling the truth to begin with.
The only people I dared trust enough when I was a child called me a liar. In particularly painful ways. They were repulsed by what I shared and rejected me completely. They were openly disbelieving and hard-hearted. At the time when I needed them the most.
I needed help. Needed it so desperately, my soul depended on it. I needed someone to care, to protect me, to show me I mattered. I needed someone to believe me. And they didn’t.
The connection was finally made. The circuit closed. I understood.
No wonder I always feel I have to prove I am telling the truth. Provide documentation. Hardcore evidence. And even then, I don’t feel confident anyone will believe me. Because no one ever does. Why should they, when I can’t even believe myself, in spite of the fact I am being honest?
That’s what happens when you tell the truth and the world spits in your face and tells you you’re a liar. You believe them. For the rest of your life.