Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday.  I took the day off work; a treat to myself.  More than anything, I think I wanted the day to be different in some way from every other day.  I wanted to say, “See, I’m here…this is the day I was born…it matters…”
 
My brother sent me flowers, a card and a gift, which was very sweet of him.  A friend met me at Panera’s, bought me an iced green tea, gave me the new Josh Groban CD, some body butter and body spray, a book and a card (whew!).  A ton of people posted birthday wishes on my wall on Facebook.  My aunt and brother called me.  An old dear friend who lives quite a distance away called me too.  I mean, honestly…that’s a lot of attention!  So what is wrong with me that I still felt so alone?
 
Really…what in the heck did I want?
 
Oh, yea.  To be treasured.  To be cherished.  To be desired.  To be wanted and protected and cared for.  To be celebrated, in spite of my many shortcomings, by someone who knows me…really deeply and truly knows me and who still wants me.  To be joined at the heart and soul with someone who thinks I’m special.  Even though I’m just me.
 
This birthday was better than most.  I’m very thankful for my family and friends.  That should be enough.  I feel very wrong for wanting more.  I guess I’m still waiting for the fairytale ending.  But in reality, fairytale endings don’t exist.  Why can’t I get my heart to understand this and let go?  Why does it keep longing and yearning for someone special who will think I’m special too?  I’ve enough birthdays under my belt, I ought to know better by now. I ought to be able to accept that this is one gift I’m simply not going to get.  Ever.  But I’m still that 17 year old girl inside, dreaming of my prince charming.  Unfortunately, the prince never came; it’s not looking good for next year either, or the year after that. This is one dream I need to let go of.  But my heart isn’t listening to my head. 
 
And so another birthday passes.  And so I grow a year older.  Alone.
 
Happy birthday to me.
 
 

Turned Out O.K.

“You turned out O.K.” he stated with great satisfaction.
 
If I heard this once, I heard it a million times.
 
I tried to have minimal contact, because it was so stressful, upsetting and relatively painful.  But my (then) husband thought it was wrong of me to not have a relationship with my parents, so he pushed me to continue to see them fairly frequently.  Had I been left to make my own choices, I would not have pursued or continued that relationship.  But my husband thought they were both nice, wonderful people.  He thought I was wrong about them.  He didn’t understand why they were so hard for me to be around.  Of course, a large part of his lack of understanding was calculated.  He didn’t want to hear anything about my abuse-filled past or the things they had done to me.  He didn’t want to know my pain or hear the cries of my heart.  So I continued to have very difficult and problematic encounters with my parents.  Because my ex required it.  And as I was such a disappointment to him, I wanted to do what little I could to please my poor, long-suffering husband.  If that was possible at all.
 
My parents used to come to visit occasionally and my father always took everyone out to lunch; Mr. Magnanimous because that’s the image he wanted to cultivate.  During those lunchtime encounters, he inevitably, predictably told me that he was proud of me and that I “turned out O.K.”  Internally, I would rankle at his observation.  I halfheartedly smiled at him in response, but inside I was screaming and my emotions were churning.  I wanted to shout, “Stop congratulating yourself.  I did NOT turn out O.K. You just don’t want to know or see how broken I am.   I’m so screwed up, so hurt, you have no idea!  I’m a disaster, a total horrible disaster…thanks to you.”  But I held my tongue.  There was no point in saying it.  He wouldn’t have heard me anyway.  He saw what he wanted to see; heard what he wanted to hear.  So I ate in silence, taking the path of least resistance, practically choking on my food.
 
He said it to reassure himself; to pat himself on the back.  He wanted to continue to believe that the years and years and years of sexual abuse hadn’t done me any damage.  It made him feel better that I was fairly successful in business and outwardly seemed together.  It proved he was a good father who had done his job well.  I continued to make him look good, trying my best to please.  That was who I was.  That was who he made me.   My job was to fulfill my parents, make them appear normal and healthy, fix their lives, fill up the empty places, make up for the disappointments.  I didn’t, but I tried.  Hard.  Diligently. Stupidly.
 
I tried to please my husband too, but I never could.  My internal resources were limited.  With his rejection breaking me down more as time went on, it got harder to fake it as the years went by and eventually, I couldn’t even pretend.  I was not acceptable and I couldn’t perform to an acceptable level.  I was a failure.  Worthless.  The very core of who I am was not good enough.  Additionally, I couldn’t keep up with the house.  Working insane hours zapped all my energy, so I had nothing left when I got home.  (Note: I was the breadwinner, but he justified this by telling me I was the only one who cared about having enough money and a few nice things, therefore, it was all my fault that I had to work so hard to support us.)  I couldn’t stand to go out much.  I was too tired to put on the “happy Robin” face and keep up the facade around other people. Plus I was too embarrassed by my appearance…I gained a lot of weight over time and couldn’t seem to do anything to lose it.  I could barely function, really.  I dreaded going to the store, getting gas for my car, running errands.  Eventually, my husband took over a lot of those types of chores and he resented it every moment of our time together while I felt shame and embarrassment at being so unable to do what I should be doing.  It was, of course, more evidence of my total failure as a wife.  And he was right…I failed.  But again, not for lack of trying with everything that I had to work with. 
 
My greatest shame was that I didn’t seem to have enough to work with.  I was ashamed of who I am even more than I was ashamed of what I failed to do.
 
My parents thought my marriage was wonderful and that my husband was incredible.  An answer to prayer. My husband did a great job of making it seem like he cared about me when we were around them.  Our solid marriage was yet more evidence that they had done a good job as parents. 
 
But there was no solid marriage or loving husband.  There was no successful, well-adjusted Robin.  It was all an illusion; one that was very difficult to maintain and that zapped all of my strength.  It took every ounce of willpower I had just to get up each day and keep going.
 
There was no one behind the facade.  Just me…a nothing and a nobody.  Broken, shattered, struggling, failure that I was, I limped along, trying my very best to keep up, falling further and further behind.  Eventually, I couldn’t even pretend to be O.K.  But as luck would have it, my parents died before I reached that ugly breaking point.  My husband left me, having fallen in love with another woman, a few months after my mother died (my father preceded her in death by about 4 years).  That’s when the facade crumbled.  That’s when the illusion was destroyed. 
 
Had they lived to see it, there would have been no question about my “O.K.” status.  I wasn’t.  Not at all.  I reached a place where I could no longer hide my brokenness.  The fruit of their parenting, plus years of being rejected by the man I once loved deeply and gave my heart to, was finally unveiled for all to see.  The abuse took a mighty toll.  A staggering toll, in fact.  I’m still trying to figure out how to live in this unending wasteland inside of me.  There doesn’t seem to be any oxygen in the air, so I’m not sure life is actually sustainable.  No shelter.  No love or safety. Too much is lacking.  I’m trying my best to put one foot in front of the other and to keep going, but I fear I’m mainly wandering in circles in the debris.  I’m lost and terrified.  And alone.
 
The truth is finally revealed.  I’ve never been O.K.  I’m honestly not sure I ever will be.
 
 

Crippled

It’s like trying to run while you’re under water.  The harder you pump your legs, the more resistance there is to your motion.  It’s exhausting and you get nowhere.
 
It’s like trying to walk when you are paralyzed.  You will your legs to move, your body to respond, but nothing happens.  You can even occasionally feel what it would feel like to move your legs, but you just can’t make yourself stand up and take a step.  There’s a huge disconnect between “I need to do this / I want to do this” and actually doing it.  Everything requires gigantic, super-human effort.
 
It’s like being so completely exhausted, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t move.  You simply don’t have the energy.  You can dig deep, but there’s nothing there.  The car is out of gas.  It’s not going anywhere.
 
It’s like going rock climbing and trying to ascend the face of a mountain with a 500 lb. boulder tied to your back.  You may be strong, but no one is that strong.  You can’t overcome the force of the weight that is tethering you to that one spot on the ground, no matter how much you struggle and long to be free.  There’s no way you can scale the sheer barrier before you, weighted down as you are, nor can you ever begin to reach the heights you long to reach.  You know what you should be able to do, but you simply can’t move.
 
This is what it’s like to live depressed.
 
It’s actually very difficult to fully paint a picture of what it’s like to be so depressed that it severely impacts your ability to live your life.  Your barrier is invisible.  Your handicap is not one that can be readily seen.  People who have never experienced it tend to think it’s a matter of willpower or making a choice.  “Just do it,” or “Get over it” are common phrases thrown carelessly at those suffering from depression.  But it’s not that simple.   Those of us who struggle with this massive, many-tentacled monster certainly wish it was.  We long for that magic pill or easy fix as we search for the strength to make it through yet another long, exhausting, draining day.  If we could make a choice that suddenly freed us from the murky depths of the ocean of depression in which we live, I assure you, we would make that choice.  But all the willpower in the world won’t set us free.  Unfortunately, it’s much more complicated.  And no one really has answers.
 
My personal journey with depression began when I was a child.  I was an abused child.  The kind of abuse that typically lands parents in prison and children in foster care.  There are times when I wonder why no one noticed my predicament.  I was so broken and depressed, I would have thought it was obvious to even a casual observer.  Because no one noticed or reached out to me, I concluded that I didn’t matter.  I didn’t have any value.  I wasn’t worth the bother.  I deserved what was happening, therefore I had no reason to complain.   But that didn’t make the pain any more bearable.  Nor did it lessen the overwhelming sense of melancholy, hopelessness and joylessness that was my constant companion.
 
I tried to take my life for the first time when I was in Jr. High School.  I took a bottle of aspirin…I had heard that would do the trick.  It didn’t.  I was discouraged.
 
I have never been free of depression, at least not that I can recall.  There was a brief time when I was dating my now ex-husband that seemed pretty wonderful.  I felt a degree of happiness that I had never experienced before, even though I wasn’t totally out of the grasp of the sadness that saturated my heart.  I had hope and optimism.  But shortly after we were married, he told me he didn’t love me and I came crashing painfully back to earth.  We were both Christians.  I guess we both felt a little stuck because of that.  But even more, I felt that if God wasn’t able to find at least one person on the face of the earth who could love me, if the best he could do was to find someone who would tolerate me, I had to suck it up and make the best of the little He was able to provide.  I had to try to make it work.  So I did.  For 22 years.  Until my ex left me after falling in love with another woman.
 
That’s when I really crashed.  Oh, I was depressed before he left; of this there is no doubt.  But afterward, I lost all hope.  I plummeted to the darkest depths of the ocean of depression and suffocated there.  I lost my church at the same time my marriage disintegrated.  Then I lost my job.  I couldn’t find another one. Then my dog died.  Yes, I had reasons to be depressed, but they only caused me to be driven more deeply into that state where I already lived.  I was completely owned by depression.  Manacled.  It broke me.
 
I tried to kill myself just before Christmas in 2006.  I took plenty of a prescription drug to do the trick, then I more than tripled the lethal dose to make sure it would kill me.  I should be dead.  But I’m not.  For some reason, I survived.
 
There is a lot of shame associated with being depressed.  I feel defective.  Totally worthless.  I KNOW I should be able to get past it…just DO what I need to do.  I know I should be able to get over it, get beyond the darkness, stop feeling it, not let it get in the way.  But I can’t and it does get in the way.  It’s an invisible barrier that keeps me imprisoned and enslaved.  It’s a massive spider web that entangles me in its sticky threads, wrapping me tighter and tighter the harder I struggle.  It’s like living in a coffin, buried under mounds and mounds and mounds of earth, unable to breath with no escape.  I’m still in counseling, trying to remove those spider webs, those tentacles, those walls, those barriers, those boulders, that ocean, that dirt…one particle  at a time.  It’s tedious, heart-breaking work and progress is measured in miniscule increments.   I am very slow.  So far, I have managed to make it to work most days, though it is a huge challenge to do so.  Some days, I’m actually fairly productive.  I’m embarrassed by my lack of ability to overcome.  I’m mortified at how difficult things are for me in comparison to others.  I plod and barely trudge while others dance and run and jump and sing.  I look at them and wonder why I can’t be like them.  I wish for the magic pill that will set me free.  And even as I doubt it will ever happen, I long for the miracle that will finally make me normal.

Matrix

I grew up during a time and in a place that many now idealize.  I lived in a small town outside a bigger, yet still relatively small, city.  You could play outside all day and never worry about someone grabbing you off the street.  My brother and I roamed not only the neighborhood, but the town and the countryside beyond, riding our bikes for hours and hours, miles and miles from home, all by ourselves.  We were frequently gone a good portion of the day and never thought twice about being out of contact for so long (no cell phones!).  Back then, penny candy still existed, it really was a penny and there were a lot of other truly amazing sweet treats available for 5 and 10 cents.  Gas varied from 8 to 18 cents per gallon.  A loaf of bread (Golden Circles was the best – still don’t know why square bread is so popular!) was less than a quarter.  Pop came in glass bottles with a metal lid that you opened with a bottle opener.  You pulled it from the icy depths of a big metal cooler  full of half melted ice and frigid water and it was so cold, it hurt your sinuses when you took your first swig.  (Anyone else remember Potomac Pop?  It was awesome!)  A bottle of pop was a rare treat, so for everyday, we bought Fizzies, dropped them in water and waited as they transformed our glass of plain water into our favorite tasty flavor (I loved Root Beer).   We froze Kool-Aid in ice cube trays for cool treats on hot days.  Pleasures were much more simple then.
 
We (my brother and I) had rope swings hanging from a couple of big trees outside my bedroom window and we would swing on them for hours, laughing and talking, trying to see who could go the highest. 
 
My grandparents had a large garden and we (again, my brother and I) grazed when we got hungry, eating cucumbers, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, rhubarb, tomatoes, watermelon, gooseberries, peaches and other such delights.  We helped shuck corn, snap peas and dig up carrots and potatoes.  We also gladly helped make homemade ice cream, cranking the handle of the ice cream maker until the yummy treat within hardened until we no longer had enough strength to turn it any more. 
 
We picked up and hulled walnuts, letting the outer green hull rot until it was a dark purple color, then laid them all out in the driveway, watching as our father or grandfather ran over them again and again with the car to break away the outer layer.  We put plastic bread bags over our hands to protect us from the stain so we could pluck the black walnuts from the debris.   Then we cracked them and dug the nuts from the shell with a pick, eating a good portion as we worked.
 
Windows were always open spring through fall.   Doors were never locked when we were home and were often left open.  We ran the attic fan at night to cool the house because we didn’t have AC, even though temperatures were often in the high 90’s in the summer.  We acclimated.  We played in our tree house, ran races with ourselves, built worlds out of Lego, created our own board games and caught lightening bugs at night.  We fished, cooking our catch and regularly played in the streams and creeks around our area.  We made “cameras” out of maple leaves, caught June bugs, tied a string around one leg and then flew them around like mini self-propelled balloons, and laid on our back in the grass for hours, watching the clouds, searching for familiar shapes. 
 
Sounds pretty ideal, right?
 
But in the world at large, the sexual revolution was going hot and heavy…pardon the pun.  Drug use was becoming widespread.  There were riots in the cities and on university campuses, crime was increasing at an alarming rate, and the family unit was beginning to fall apart as divorce was becoming a little more common and less disgraceful, while more fathers were absenting themselves from their family and financial responsibilities.  The times, they were a-changing…
 
In my little world, I existed in one dimension, but lived in another.  On one hand, there was the picture-perfect ideal small town veneer.  But beyond that veneer, there was a reality only I could see.  And that was where I lived.  Everyone else only knew the “Matrix”…it was their absolute reality.  I saw beneath the covers, behind the curtain, beyond the layer of pretense.  My reality was bleak, in spite of the small-town trappings.  And I was different because of it, so I was an outcast to boot.  Why was I different?  Because I knew the “Matrix” wasn’t real.
 
If you’ve seen the movie, which happens to be one of my all-time favorites, you’ll understand what I’m getting at.   Reality was less than ideal.  Only those who remained in the Matrix “enjoyed” the fake life that wrapped them in its warmth and glitter.  Those who had their eyes opened lived in a world that was hard and harsh and dark.  That was where I lived…in darkness.  In terror.  In helplessness and hopelessness.  I battled simply to survive.
 
So why, you might wonder, did I not live in the “Matrix” like almost everyone else in my small town?  It wasn’t my choice.  I was being abused.  The abuse peeled away the veneer.  It destroyed all sense of safety, security and demolished my ability to trust.  I knew what I saw all around me wasn’t reality.  It was a lie; not to be believed.  The world where I lived smashed the life out of me, crushed me and ground me into a million pieces.  Evil lurked behind smiles and benign conversation.  There were deadly currents in the air.  Glitches abounded.  I was trapped.  All during my childhood, I had to play the game, act like I belonged in the “Matrix,” pretend like there was no netherworld.  But I knew the small town world I grew up in was a false reality.  And transversing both worlds tore me apart.
 
I learned not to trust what I saw.  I learned not to believe what I felt. I learned to disregard my needs. I discovered there were things behind things behind things and that you had better listen for what wasn’t said, watch for what wasn’t seen and be prepared for what was hidden away.  I learned to interpret the waves in the air and to decode what was going on in the mind of my parents.  My abusers.  The people who hid behind a facade of respectability and smiled while they destroyed my innocence and demolished my life.  The people who split my reality into pieces while smiling as though nothing at all was amiss.
 
 

Blonde

When I was a toddler, I had white-blonde hair. It was my one redeeming quality.

 As I got closer to entering grade school, my hair started getting ever-so-slightly darker. This was simply not acceptable. Not at all. Not in any way.  My mother, frantic to maintain my über blonde locks, started washing my hair in lemon juice, a treatment that was reputed to make hair lighter, but that was guaranteed to burn when it got in little eyes.  I despised this ritual.  But my mother persisted, and I endured, considering the fact that my hair was what made me acceptable.  I learned this early on.  No blonde hair, no approval.  It was the only thing about me that gave me any value.  The point was completely and painfully clear.

I went through years of lemon juice treatments.  My hair kept getting darker.  Soon, it was a dirty blonde.  This was not good.

My brother had dark brown hair.  He was accepted.  He was a boy.  Evidently, that made all the difference.  Boys didn’t have to be blonde to have value. 

At one point, my mother took me to a beauty shop to see about having my hair dyed blonde (in her perception, restored to the correct color).  This was some time ago…back then, the procedure of lightening one’s hair was difficult and often less than successful.  It wasn’t something young girls did.  But my mother was so desperate to bring back my white-blonde locks, she was willing to try anything.  Even more shocking, she was willing to spend the money – on me – to have it done.  The women at the beauty parlor were not willing, however.  They said I had too much red in my hair.  That it would probably turn orange.  I was saved from the nasty peroxide process.  My mother’s disapproval was palpable.

When I was a teenager, I thought about saving my meager allowance to buy a blonde wig, but I didn’t believe that would satisfy my mother.  I opted to buy drugs instead.
 

 When I was in my mid-twenties, I went blonde.  I mainly used “Sun In” because initially, I only wanted to add some streaks and highlights.  But eventually, I was applying it to all of my hair and was bleaching it out to a fairly pale white color.  It looked pretty awful, but my mother loved it.  My approval rating soared.

Unfortunately, the color got harder to maintain over time and the roots were looking really dark when they grew out.  I got tired of the “fake blonde with roots” look and of always having limp, damaged hair.  So I finally went to a professional and asked to have my hair dyed back to my natural color.  At the same time, I had all the damaged ends trimmed away.   This is when I discovered my hair had turned a rather dark auburn.  The change was a bit shocking at first, but I came to like my natural color.  It somehow suited me. Or so I thought.

The next time my mother saw me, her anger was evident.  She let me know it looked absolutely horrible, that my hair was far too dark and was completely unflattering.  In fact, she wrote me a 20+ page letter criticizing my choice of hair color (my NATURAL color, mind you), expressing her complete disbelief over what I had done.  She considered my auburn mane to be a betrayal.  A slap in the face.  I was defying her.  Letting her down.  I was yet another disappointment in her life that was already overburdened with disappointment.  Tragically, in her estimation, everything that was wrong with her life at the moment was entirely my fault and probably had a lot to do with me not being a blonde any more. I had totally disappointed her.  I should be ashamed! 

I tried to explain that I had simply decided to embrace my natural color, but you would have thought I told her I had murdered someone.  I finally gave up trying to communicate with her on any topic at all.  There was no point.

I have never gone back to being a blonde, in spite of the fact that I no longer had any value whatsoever to my mother.

 Over the years, my hair has actually gotten somewhat lighter again.  I’m now coloring it to cover the gray and I’m using a color that is slightly darker than my current natural shade.  I may switch to a lighter auburn in the future, but I’m still content to wear this color that has been mine since my early 30’s.  I own it now.  I have made peace with not having light, wheat-colored hair.  If my hair were to turn blonde again in my old age, I fear, if she were still alive, I would disappoint my mother once again.  I fear I would go darker…for the 3rd time in my life.

Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead

“Which old witch?  The wicked witch!!”  (The Wizard of Oz)
 
My father died in 1998.  My mother died in 2002.  I have not missed them.  I didn’t cry when they died.  I wasn’t at either one of their bedsides.  My brother was with them both when they passed and he was pretty torn up.  I told myself I should be sad too, if for no other reason other than the fact that their death shut the door permanently on any opportunity for a miracle to occur and a real relationship to bloom.  But the truth is, I knew this would never happen.  I was over 40 when they died and if it hadn’t happened by then, it was fairly obvious it wasn’t going to happen ever.  So I let them go with nary a blip on the radar, in spite of the fact that I felt guilty for not feeling bad.
 
Realistically, I mourned the loss of my parents when I was a teenager. At some point in my early teens, I realized my parents were not healthy to be around, they were not there for me and were never going to be there for me, and their selfishness was always going to require me to give more than I had to offer while they took everything they could get.  They didn’t love me.  They said they did, but their actions made it completely clear that their love was a love of words only.  They said the right things because they wanted to be viewed as good people.  But they did monstrous things to me.   So it makes sense that I grieved over the death of that relationship when I was in my late teens.  I lost my parents young…it just took them awhile to actually die.
 
I didn’t party when they died, but I did breath a sigh of relief.  Does that make me an awful person?
 
When you’re raised by parents who abuse you…physically, sexually, emotionally…when they neglect you and slap you and manipulate you and send you flying across the room with one hit; when they demand that you live up to twisted expectations, use you as a counselor, expect you to take care of them, take care of the house, meet their needs, fulfill their fantasies; at least for me, under those circumstances, it was extremely difficult to be around them and have any kind of a relationship with them.  I did forgive them.  I just couldn’t stand to be in the same room with them for any period of time.  It was hurtful for me.  Even when they no longer hit me, they manipulated.  Even when the sexual abuse ended, the unhealthy relationship dynamics continued.   Everything was always about them.  It was always about what they needed from me, what they wanted from me, what they expected of me, what they required.  Their pain.  Their hurt.  Their feelings. Their disappointments.  I was a means to and end, nothing more.  I was supposed to fulfill their every want and need.  I was supposed to fix their life, give them meaning and purpose.  I was theirs to use.  And abuse.  I was an object.
 
My daddy died when I was 4 or 5, when the man I utterly adored began sexually abusing me.  My mommy died when she chose to stand by her man rather than to protect her child.  So when they passed away, it was as if a huge burden had been lifted off of me.  I was free!  Their reign of tyranny was over!!  I didn’t have to try to contort myself into unnatural shapes to have a sick relationship with them.  Their death was my get out of jail free card.  The wicked witches were dead!
 
I am very sad for the little girl who lost her parents at such a tender, vulnerable age when they crossed the line from neglect to outright abuse of her.  I am not sad at all for the adult in her 40’s who was finally set free when her parents died fairly peacefully from natural causes, having lived out their life without suffering any consequences from their criminal actions.  I think both (the child and the adult) had suffered long enough.

Father’s Day

When your father was not your protector; when he didn’t nurture you, love you, guide you, delight in you; when he was instead your abuser, Father’s Day is hell.
 On Facebook, most of my friends have changed their profile picture to one of their father.  They have said sentimental things on their status update, praising their dad longing for a father who has passed away or honoring the man they still have, love, cherish and desire to spend time with.  One friend said their dad set the bar impossibly high.  Another tells of the man who spoke few words, but lived volumes, giving him a beautiful example of how to live his life with integrity and honor.  One tells of the having the most caring father in the world.  In one accord, they speak fondly and tenderly of the men they call(ed) “daddy.”
 I am happy for them.  I’m very relieved that most people didn’t have the experience I had.  I’m glad they were loved and nurtured.  I’m happy they knew acceptance and security.  I’m glad they got to be innocent children.  I’m especially thankful they were not destroyed by the man who was supposed to protect them at all costs…like I was…
 I was destroyed by my father.  He wounded me to my core. He was my abuser.  He was my demolisher.
 If I were to be honest and post something about Father’s Day on Facebook, my status update would read:  To the man who gave me life, then destroyed it, to the “daddy” who sexually used and abused me, took advantage of my love, trust, dependence and powerlessness, who stole my childhood, my innocence and shattered any sense of normalcy, I cannot honor you today.  Though I’m sure you had some positive qualities, they were overshadowed by the horrible, pervasive abuse I suffered at your hand, abuse that fractured every part of my being.  While I have forgiven you, I can never forget because what you did to me is with me always.  It haunts me.  It lays me to waste.  You have been dead  almost 13 years now and I am sad to say, I have not missed you for one moment of that time.  May you rest in peace.  May I someday find some peace myself.  It will take a miracle for me to ever find a place of healing.  Thanks to you, though I have survived, I am far from alive.  I would have been better off without you in my life.  And that is tragic.
 To those of you who had a loving father, I am jealous…oh, so terribly jealous.  But I do wish you a happy father’s day.  I hope you can understand that today, my heart is tormented and in chaos.  I hope you can understand why I will not be posting any responses to your wonderful tributes made to your amazing fathers.  That is one experience I will never know and can never fully understand.  And the pain of my loss is sharp and deep and pervasive.

Shell

I’m not sure if I was ever a real person.  Maybe there was a time, a very long time ago, when I was fairly whole, real, integrated.  But for most of my life, as far back as I can remember, I have been nothing more than a shell.
 
Shells are interesting.  They exist to protect whatever lives inside them.  But when that being dies, the shell doesn’t disintegrate.  It continues on, though void of life within.  With no life force inside, it is washed helplessly by the tide and worn down by constant forces, no longer in control of its destiny.  But it doesn’t cease to exist.  It endures.
 
I am a shell.
 
When I was a child, I think I had a heartbeat.  I think my soul had life.  I seem to recall that my curiosity bloomed, my enthusiasm occasionally bubbled over and I experienced moments of spontaneity.  I remember loving to run because I reveled in the wind I created.  I pushed myself to go faster…ever faster…for the sheer joy of it.  I jumped and climbed and played and laughed and explored endlessly.  Well…endlessly until I died inside.  Until all the life and joy and excitement was prematurely drained from me.  Until the abuse began. When I became a shell.
 
Since then, since that time when the life inside of me was sucked away, this outer husk has marched steadily onward through life with nary a hint of a pulse.  I tried so hard to keep myself alive, but my efforts were unsuccessful.  In part, my defense mechanisms probably contributed to my demise, even as they allowed this small, hard, casing to survive.  The outer layer protected a very miniscule piece of me that managed to soldier on, in spite of the massive damage and mortal wounds.  It now encases my bloody corpse.
 
Unfortunately, life as a shell is truly not living life at all.  It is existing.  My soul does not dance.  My heart does not expand or rejoice.  I hunker down within myself fearfully, hoping to weather life’s storms, praying that the worst will pass me by.  I feel pelted and pulled and pushed and crushed by the daily demands of life. I can’t manage additional damage.  The destructive, painful disintegration of my being which I’ve already experienced is far too overwhelming.  I haven’t begun to recover.  Another wave of disastrous or stressful events will surely be my total undoing.  Shells can only protect you from so much.  They too have a breaking point.
 
A shell hides the emptiness it contains.  It protects, but it also masks.  You can look at a shell and think all is well because the shell can be rather beautiful in appearance.  It is created to deceive.  To portray invincibility.  Strength.  But in reality, that which lives inside it is weak and vulnerable.  And once it dies, the shell has no purpose.  It continues, but without meaning. 
 
Going through life as a shell is not easy.  You exist, but you are dead.  Everything takes effort.  You have no legs on which to stand.  The forces of the world carry you where they may and you are relatively powerless to fight them.  You are empty, alone, hollow.  Even the smallest things that others take in stride are difficult.  Being a shell is depressing.  There is so much shame over not being whole, not being normal.  Over being so deficient.  The shell helps you hide your messy dead remains, but always hiding from others is tiring and hurtful.  It is isolating.  The emptiness within is devastating.
 
I am an empty, lost, lonely shell.  The tide washes me where it will.  Bruised and bashed, I try to maneuver to safer, softer surroundings.   I am fearful.  It is very dark within my protective covering.  It is suffocating.  Always, always, I wonder, how much longer can I keep going?  How much longer before I am smashed and ground into sand?  When the shell fails, what little there is left of me will quietly cease to be.  Perhaps, just perhaps, it may be that this would be a very…good…thing.

No One There

I go home every day to an empty house.
 
O.K., honestly, it’s not totally empty.  I have a Miniature Schnauzer, Zoe, and she greets me enthusiastically and well.  I’m thankful for her presence in my life.  But it’s not quite the same as coming home to a person…one who would, in my magical world, be happy to see me, who would give me a hug, ask me about my day and keep me company.  In this magical fantasy world, they would be happy to see me because they would love me.  They would enjoy talking to me, hanging out with me, holding me, spending the evening together.  But in reality, my world is very quiet and vastly empty.  I feed my dog, let her out to do her business (while I try to keep her from catching the baby rabbits that love to eat grass in my yard) and I tell her about my day as she tries to entice me to throw her toys for her.  Then I get on the computer to check out what my Facebook friends have been doing.  I hunger for their comments to my meager, carefully worded (i.e. safe, sanitary, never hinting at distress) status updates, but rarely receive any (maybe they’re too carefully worded?).  Interaction is spotty.  It’s better than nothing, but not much.  If my phone rings, it’s probably a phone solicitor.  Life is lonely.  Painfully so.
 
Often, I play Solitaire on my iPad.  For hours.  It keeps me distracted…keeps me from thinking too much.
 
Sometimes, when the silence is too noisy, I listen to some music on Pandora.
 
Zoe occasionally barks at the squirrels and birds and yes, the baby rabbits grazing in the yard, as she jumps up and down at the window (let me at ’em!).  That breaks the silence for a moment.
 
I don’t watch TV at all.  Very rarely, I’ll watch a movie on DVD.  But watching a movie by myself is kind of depressing for some reason.  I guess I feel like I am only observing life as it is.  Observing it on TV or via DVD is just too much; it’s too removed.  It’s more evidence of my isolation.  And of the emptiness of my life.
 
Most of the time, I’m exhausted and depressed.  I should tend to my house.  Clean out closets.  Dust.  Rearrange.  Be productive.  But those things seem overwhelming, probably because I’m fighting deep depression.  I feel defeated before I even get started.  Drained.  Helpless. Weary.
 
My life has been, and continues to be, a very quiet, lonely one.  My overriding experience has been that of no one being there. Of having to do it all myself.  Provide for myself.  Take care of all the details myself.  Handle everything by myself.  Achieve and overcome by myself.   And I’ve reached a point where I can’t do it any more.  I simply don’t have the strength to fight the many battles I am required to fight.  Much goes undone or unattended to.  I do the best I can, even though it’s far from being good enough.  And I’m almost always alone.
 
As a kid, I was isolated, which is typical of kids being abused, I’m told.  Abusers like to limit access.  It’s safer that way…for them.  Less opportunity to get caught.  But I think part of the isolation also happened because I was so different.  Abuse does that to you…makes you different.  Strange.  You don’t fit in so well when you have to hide a massive amount of what is going on in your life from everyone else.  Always hiding who you are. You always have to be on guard, closed off, careful.  It’s hard to relate to others who are happy and normal.  Additionally, there wasn’t anyone I could be real with or even who I could tell my story to or reach out to.  No one would have believed me anyway.  So I was totally cut off from everyone around me:  my family because they weren’t safe and / or they were caught up in or a part of the craziness and dysfunction; my peers because we were so different (I was odd, too serious, too melancholy); my teachers because they were powerful adults who didn’t care about me and wouldn’t have believed me or intervened.  They required performance academically and I complied.  From my teacher’s viewpoint, my parents were respected (and feared) in the small town where I grew up. They wouldn’t have believed that they were abusing me, particularly since I did such a good job keeping my grades up and at keeping that semi-smile on my poker face.  With my peers, I was basically either ignored or picked on.  I was almost always harshly rejected.  I walked through the days alone.  Life was a deep, dark, empty black hole.  I survived in a vacuum.  I was so lonely, it hurt…badly, deeply, horribly.
 
I was lonely even when I was married.  My husband was honest.  He told me (after we were married) that he didn’t love me.  He was rejecting of me as a person. Admittedly, I had (and have) many flaws. I simply couldn’t live up to his expectations and desires.  And he didn’t want to hear about my “issues” – all the lovely damage that was done in my childhood.  I had to keep it all inside.  Try to keep it from coming out in any way.  Of course, it did come out to a certain extent because it did have a big impact on me.  But I worked hard to minimize the influence of those nightmarish things from the past.  It nearly killed me to hold it in.  I became so numb, I lost my heart and soul.  But I did my level best to keep it all to myself so my husband wouldn’t have to be bothered with my yuckiness.  Again, I felt completely alone; hopelessly so. It was painful, in spite of the fact that I was living with a dead heart.  The pain cut deep.  It was a constant companion.
 
I have a few friends…all who seem to be wildly busy with their full, overflowing lives.  There is very little room for me within those boundaries.  This is as it should be.  They have kids, grandkids, church activities, things of this nature that cause them to have more than enough to do.  They work their friendships in around obligations and tend to hang with those couples they bond with and encounter while fulfilling their obligations.  Those obligations often involve kids activities, church events.  I’m not a couple.  I have no kids.  No grandkids.  I go to church, but it’s yet another lonely experience, so I don’t go all the time.  I don’t easily mesh with what they already have going.  Plus, my friends can’t fill the void in my life.  And if I’m completely honest, the void is vast, so to expect them to make a dent in the deep darkness isn’t really fair.  The thing that frightens me is, I’m not sure anything CAN make a dent in the dense black fog that permeates my life…that weighs so heavily on my soul.
 
I reach out and there is no one there.  People are busy.  I ask too much.  Need too much.  I am defective, broken, crushed.  I can’t fix my life and certainly can’t expect someone else to fix it for me.  The isolation is extremely difficult to manage.  It wounds me. Is hard to bear.
 
I think I am doomed to always be unwanted, rejected, isolated.  I think I am doomed to always be alone, needy, hurt.  And I hate it.  I wish I could change myself.  I wish there was someone there.  Someone to come home to, to relax with, to snuggle with (besides my dog), to share with and with whom I could enjoy the little things in life. But asking for someone to be there is probably totally unfair of me, considering I’m so broken.  I just don’t know how much more I can take, going it alone.  And I’m not sure how hard I want to try.

Something To Cry About

Ever have your parents yell at you, “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!!”?

I’ve been thinking about this statement because I heard it a lot during my childhood.  The crazy thing about it is this:  I think I probably had a great deal to cry about. They didn’t need to do anything else to give me a reason to cry.  So chances are, I was likely crying for a good reason to begin with. It’s kind of scary to think about what they planned to do to me to “give me something to cry about”.

I guess there were things they could do. Like throw me out of the house when I was a young child.  Stop giving me access to food, maybe.  But there were so many things they already did that were awful, whatever else they threw in might have been a bit anti-climactic.

For example, were they going to hit me?  Ummm, they already did that.  My mother would slap me, throw me down, drag me by my hair, push me, shove me, punch me.  My father, on the other hand, would knock me across the room with one well-placed fist.  Or he would send me flying with one gigantic smack.  He was also deadly with a belt.  So physically beating me wouldn’t give me anything new to cry about.

Neglect me?  You can check that one off the list too.  They barely even knew I existed until I didn’t do something the way they wanted me to do it.  Or perhaps I didn’t do something they wanted me to do at all.  They gave me pages of chores to accomplish every day.  I tried.  But with homework and those rare after-school activities, sometimes I failed.  And I paid for it.  Additionally, I was threatened that I had better be “sick enough” to justify the expense of being taken to the doctor, so I tended to wait until I was REALLY super-sick before I told anyone.  They never once took me to the dentist, even when I split my lip open and knocked my front teeth out.  I walked to school by myself from the time I was in 1st grade all the way through high school.  I did most of the house cleaning.  I foraged for food because my mom rarely cooked for me.  I came home to an empty house and did my homework on my own because I wasn’t allowed to stay at my grandparent’s house with my brother.  I learned how many times a week a person should bathe in Home Economics and I learned how to brush my teeth in the 5th grade when the guy came in with the red “candies” that stained your teeth everywhere there was plaque.  I found out about women having periods when I had my first one – while I was at school – at age 10.  Thought I was dying.  My first bra was a size 36B (which is larger than I wear today!).  They just hadn’t noticed me.  Never paid me much attention unless I didn’t live up to one of their many expectations or demands and then they yelled and hit me.  So neglecting me couldn’t have given me something new to cry about.  Being neglected was actually a lot more desirable than some of the other options.

Sexually abuse me?  Ho, hum, my father did that too.  From the time I was around 4 until I was somewhere in the vicinity of 14 years old.  He started off slow, but worked his way through about every sexual fantasy one can imagine.  He raped me the first time when I was 11.  You would think THAT would qualify as “something to cry about,” but evidently, crying wasn’t allowed, no matter what. So I shoved the emotions down my throat until I choked on them.  And I learned not to cry.

Yep, I sort of feel like they gave me plenty to cry about without doing anything special to fulfill their threat to give me something to cry about.  Regardless, I stopped crying.  Learned it wasn’t safe.  And to this day, it’s a real struggle for me to allow myself to cry.

I probably have a lot of catching up to do in the crying department because of my parents and their threats.  I have years of stored up tears just waiting to be shed.  Thunderstorms worth.  Hurricanes of tears.  Oceans of tears.  Floods.  Massive gushing underground streams.  I’m living in a drought, but I have all this water stored up that I can’t access.  Even that seems like it should be something to cry about.  But I can’t.  Try as I might, it is only with great difficulty that I can shed a lonely tear.  Which I quickly wipe away.

I’m trying to get better…to somehow access that universe of pain I have hidden and crammed away.  So far, about the best I can do is to occasionally release a slow, small drip from the facet.  At this rate, it’s going to take a long time to drain all the despair and unshed tears.  A very, very long time.  Now that’s something to cry about…

The World Through My Eyes