Tag Archives: counseling

Looking Forward; Looking Back

When I was 25 and getting married to the man I adored, the man I gave my heart to, who gave me reason to be optimistic, I was so excited about the future.  I was continually looking forward.  To the life we would build.  The places we would go.  Memories we would make.  Adventures we would share.  To becoming closer.  To growing stronger.  I felt sure I could heal from my abusive past and leave it behind me with him by my side.  It would just take a little time.  Time to figure out who I was.  What was damaged.  What was left of me after being nearly destroyed by my parents.  What I needed to fix and what would be required to fix it.  I figured I would probably need some professional counseling…which we couldn’t afford.  But down the road.  There was time.  I was young and I had plenty of life ahead of me.
Looking forward was exciting.  Even though there were many obstacles to overcome, there was so much hope.  So much anticipation.  I believed.  I truly believed the future would lead me to the fulfillment of all my dreams.  I believed if I worked hard and did the right things, the right things would happen.  I believed I would be set free.  That I would be loved.  And that love would heal the broken places.
I turned around twice and suddenly, time was gone.  I was old.  The marriage lasted 22 years, but only a few months of it were happy.  That first year, he started telling me he didn’t love me.   He didn’t want to know about any of the brokenness.  He didn’t want to hear anything negative.  He didn’t want any confusion or pain or worry.  Nothing that would ripple the serene surface of his existence.  Twenty-two years of believing in miracles.  Believing he would come to love me.  That we would someday have the beautiful marriage I had dreamed about at the beginning. Twenty-two years of holding on and keeping on and surviving day after day of his rejection and disappointment.  Of never being good enough.  Never being enough.  Never being valued.  Having to keep everything buried deep inside of me.  Having to perform to justify my existence.
It has been over 9 years now since he left me and I’m still alone.  Life is empty. I have grown old.  Time has run out. 
Now, instead of looking forward, I find I am looking back.  Looking back with regret.  And it is intensely painful.  Intensely.  Painful.  I feel as if I am being ripped to shreds.  I feel so stupid.  I feel like such a failure.  A failure with no future.
Here I stand, yet again on the cusp of a new year.  I have been at this point so many times now.  I have watched many years come and go.  I used to think to myself, “Maybe this will be the year!”  Year after year.  Until I lost hope.  Until I realized there were no miracles for me.  Until I realized I couldn’t put the pieces back together again, no matter how hard I tried.
And I have tried.  I’ve been in counseling for so many years now, I’m ashamed to admit how long it has been.  I’ve written in my journal, prayed, sought God, sought insight, evaluated and re-evaluated.  I’ve gone through 12-step programs and groups and classes.  I’ve read books.  I’ve pondered.  Cogitated.  Tried to change.  Tried to see things differently.  Yet for all of my effort, I’ve made little headway. 
I’ve lost so much over the years.
So as I stand here, facing another year, getting closer to the end of my days, I am broken.  I am hurting.  Deep pain.  Regret.  Sadness.  Hopelessness.  I have forgotten how to dream.  I haven’t any excitement left.  I am empty.  My world is empty and small.  I am afraid.  Afraid of growing older, older, older alone.  Afraid of losing what little I have.  Afraid of not being able to take care of myself.  Of not being able to go on.  I am crippled by depression and none of the current medication gives me any relief.  No easy or magic cure is available. I don’t have very many friends and the ones I have are not close friends.  I do not see them often.  I am weary.  Except for my dogs, there is no love in my life at all.  No touch.  Only silence and loneliness.  Isolation.  Hurt.  Pain.
I want to believe that this year will be different.  That there will be a breakthrough.  That something good will happen.  That I won’t be so alone.
But behind me are decades filled with experience that tells me I am a fool to believe.
Now, as the years slip ever more quickly through my fingers, I want to scream, “Please, wait, slow down!”  I want to cry out in anguish and beg for more time.  For a second chance.  But in life, there are no second chances.  I have spent my minutes foolishly, believing that tomorrow would hold answers and wholeness. Believing I had plenty of them.  That soon, any moment now, I would find solutions and healing and love.  But my minutes are almost gone.  And I am yet broken.  The answers have not come.  I have not found any significant healing.  And love has eluded me completely.
Regret weighs me down with chain after chain after chain of despair.  This is how I enter the new year.  And this is probably how I will exit it.  Only I will have even fewer minutes.  And so it will go until my time has totally run out.
Terror knocks the air from my lungs.  Time continues it’s relentless march.  Regret leaves my mouth filled with dust.  I cannot change the past.  It is finished.  I cannot affect the future.  I have no power.  And today slips through my grasping fingers even as I try one last time to change my destiny. 


Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.  I don’t know how this day and the emphasis provided is supposed to keep people from committing suicide, but it’s an important cause and a good dream.  I know very little about what they do today to help prevent suicides.  Unless it’s to call attention to the fact that way too many people attempt it and far too many of those are successful in their mission.  It’s a taboo, to be sure.  People don’t like to talk about mental health issues any more than they like to talk about abuse issues, particularly incest.  Yucky subject matter.  And if said yucky subject matter happened to us as a child and as a result we are contemplating suicide, we are supposed to keep that and all of the rest of our yuckiness to ourselves.  Yuckiness is not socially acceptable.  Trust me on this one.
I tend to break the rules.
I have seriously attempted suicide once, just before Christmas of 2006.  I was jobless and out of money, living on credit cards and had no hope and no one to turn to.  My Schnauzer, Maddie, who was 12 years old, had died a couple of months earlier.  I was utterly alone.  It was dark and dreary.  I couldn’t see any way out and had lost all hope.  I swallowed 300 – 20 mg. Adderall pills, having researched and found that about 60 pills was the maximum dose anyone had ever survived previously, per the internet gods.  I figured 300 would be overkill, but I wanted to make sure it would work.  Nine hours later, in a state that wasn’t exactly normal, I started feeling bad that I was going to be the first patient my counselor would lose.  I stupidly called him on his cell phone in the middle of the night to apologize for his soon to be loss.  He, of course, called 911.  I was transported to the hospital by ambulance, a ride I barely remember, and because I didn’t cooperate fully, I was intubated and the most horrible black substance was forced down into my stomach.  All I really remember with clarity is throwing up black goop, repeatedly.  It went everywhere.  All over me. All over the nurses.  All over the floor.  Everywhere. I had no control, nor did I care at the moment.
At some point, I was moved to ICU where I spent the next 2 to 3 (?) days. My memory of this time is also patchy.  I think I had some visitors, but I don’t remember things in any sequence and I’m not sure what I said, did, or didn’t do.   When I was finally stable, the powers that be agreed to release me only if I would agree to be admitted to the psychiatric hospital.  This was what I classified as a true low point in my life.  I was angry at having survived.  I was still kind of out of it.  Confused.  Scared.  And now, I was to be a patient in a mental hospital.  Going to the loony bin.
I spent a week there.  It was wasted time.  Nothing productive happened.  They basically took everything away, including my cell phone and even my makeup, supposedly so I couldn’t hurt myself.  As if I could somehow kill myself with mascara.  They watched me eat and monitored my position every 15 minutes.  Took my blood pressure.  Gave me necessary medication.  I talked to a counselor of some kind who was trying to determine if I was going to attempt suicide again if they let me out.  My regular counselor worked with them and finally got me released.  I was in therapy twice a week with him for several months to come.  I wasn’t allowed to go home.  One of the requirements of my release was that I live with friends for at least 2 weeks…talk about being a burden…at Christmas.  And another friend brought me my medication twice a day.  I wasn’t allowed to have more than the one dose in my possession at a time.  It was horrid.  I felt like absolute crap.  Crap that wasn’t supposed to be in the picture any more.  Such a failure, I couldn’t even kill myself properly.
Amazingly, I got a job the following April.  So I decided to keep trying a little longer, just to see if something good might possibly come my way.  
In the meantime, my eating disorder took control of my life.  I went from 256 lbs. to 100 lbs. in about a year.  I was still losing when I started collapsing in the yard, in the bathroom, trying to get out of bed, trying to walk into the grocery store.  I went to the doctor.  He wasn’t available, but his nurse practitioner put 2 and 2 together and came up with ED.  They wanted me to go inpatient, but I had just started a new job the year before, so I resisted and was placed in the outpatient program.  That roller coaster ride continues to this day.
Now, I’m unemployed again.  The job was a godsend in that it paid bills, but I was never able to get out of the vast hole of debt I had dug myself into.  And the job was far from fulfilling because I wasn’t allowed to have much of an impact or be a part of things in the way I had hoped.  I was not accepted.  Probably because I’m not acceptable.  I’m a nut case, right?  I continued to try to act like a “normal” person and fulfill the role I was hired to fill, but it was a facade.  When the company sold this January, they reorganized me out the door at the end of June.  
Having any job, even an unfulfilling one, was better than where I am now.
I’m back in that dark place.  No job.  This time, because of my past unemployment, my eating disorder, several surgeries and a series of bad luck, I’m $30,000 in the hole with no savings.  I’m so close to going over the edge, I feel nothing but sheer terror, the kind that takes my breath away almost all day long.  It makes me sick to my stomach.  It keeps me from sleeping.  Am I contemplating suicide again?  If I knew how to do it to ascertain the desired outcome and if I knew my dogs (I have 2 Miniature Schnauzers now) would be loved and well cared for, well, all bets would be off.  I don’t know if I can get through the next few days, much less months.  Terror paralyzes.  Depression does that too.  But today, on World Suicide Prevention Day, during National Suicide Prevention Week, I don’t know of any way out…of my dilemma or out of the world.  I feel stuck.  I don’t know what I’m going to do.
I wonder what they would suggest, those people who man the helplines and who are trying to keep people like me from doing something permanent?  I wonder if they would care?  I wonder if there are any answers for someone as hopeless, broken and empty as me?  Other than to become a statistic.  


A very long time ago when I was first married, my now-ex-husband used to like to sprinkle me with water.  Just a little bit.  Like at the sink when doing dishes or wiping off a counter.  He grew up in New Mexico where water is rationed and everything is very dry.  Having an abundance of water was a wonderful thing to him.  He liked cleaning when it involved water.  He liked having wet hands.  He liked touching me with his wet hands.  And it sent me through the roof every time.  I literally came unglued.  I couldn’t bear it.
I begged him to stop, told him how much it bothered me, even though I didn’t understand the reason why.  For the most part, he did refrain most of the time.  But it bugged me that I was bothered by such an innocent and harmless thing.  I wanted to understand why this was such a big deal to me, so over the years, I would think about my phobia and try to connect the dots.   There had to be a reason, even if I didn’t know what it was…yet.   I wanted to figure it out, so I pondered it fairly frequently.
I also noticed I had a very difficult time taking showers.  And baths were enough to completely freak me out.  My aversion to water didn’t extend to a swimming pool or lake or ocean.  But tubs or showers or sinks filled with drops of water were gross and made my skin crawl.  It was literally nauseating.
I did shower.  But not every day.  I had to pretty much mentally prepare myself and that usually meant there would be a day…or even two…between bathing.  Well, showering, actually.  I rarely took a bath.  Those long, hot soaks that are supposed to be so luxurious left me feeling sick and dirty.  I kept clean enough to make myself socially acceptable, but not squeaky clean like those who shower every day or even twice a day.  But considering my aversion to getting water splashed on me or sitting in a yucky tub, I rather thought I was achieving a great deal in doing what I was able to do.
I began to notice that when I stood in the shower, I curled my toes up, so that the bare minimum of my foot contacted the shower floor.  I also noticed I totally came undone if I happened to touch the wall of the shower with my shoulder or an arm or leg.  Even a quick touch with minimal contact made me feel ill.  And as I thought about this, I remembered years ago, as a child, how I would curl my toes up when walking on the wet concrete floor of the locker room of the community pool where my neighbor’s mother used to take me and her daughter swimming during the summer.  I remembered being totally repulsed at having to touch that wet concrete floor with any part of my body.  Swimming wasn’t gross…it was fun.  Being totally immersed in a big body of water didn’t bother me.  But sprinkles of water on my body, water running up my arm, having to touch wet surfaces, those kinds of things caused a serious repulsion and revulsion that deeply upset me.
Weird, right?
 So, one day as I was trying to deal with all the damage to my soul that resulted from being sexually abused by my father, I was telling my counselor about my water phobia.  Basically trying to avoid talking about other, heavier, darker things.  When I had a revelation.  And it ripped into me and sent me reeling.
Sperm is a lot like water.  It’s stickier, thicker.  But it’s wet and it runs and it is seriously gross when you get sprayed with it or it gets squirted on you and you wind up with wet splotches on your body. 
And being made to shower with ones father makes being wet, showering, touching the sides of the shower with any body part, an extremely unpleasant experience.    Unpleasant enough to cause a grown woman to have a phobia about touching the shower stall with any part of her body.  Enough to cause her (me) to curl her toes and dread taking showers altogether.  Because getting pushed against the tile wall of the bathroom shower while being raped or otherwise molested is a nightmare no child should have to endure.  And it does things to you…things that twist and destroy the soul in devastating ways.
How many things in my life…things I struggle with or that are weird aversions…are “me” only because I was sexually abused by my father?  How many more lasting “gifts” did he give me, beyond the obvious?  How many more land mines are buried just beneath the surface waiting to explode when I poke them as I’m trying to figure out how to put all the pieces of my psyche back together again?
The worst part is, knowing what was causing my strange “waterphobia” didn’t make it go away.  I still curl my toes in the shower stall and can’t tolerate water dripping down my arms or being sprinkled on my stomach.  I can’t even stand to touch the shower to clean it.  Which makes me wonder if knowing and understanding matters.  Which makes me doubt if healing is truly possible.  I thought the truth was supposed to set you free.  If it doesn’t, why am I torturing myself?  If it’s not possible to be healed, why do I keep setting myself up, hoping against hope that I will someday be better, feel joy, live life, only to be disappointed and destroyed over and over again?
If it is true that the idiosyncrasies that have been etched deeply into my soul by the abuse I suffered at the hands of my parents in my childhood are permanent, is there really any reason to hope or try to recover at all?  Was I doomed before I even got started on this journey?
I’m becoming increasingly fearful that this is, indeed, reality.  That there is no such thing as healing…that there is no hope.  And that terrifies me.


I feel as if I have spent a large part of my life in the “stuck” position.  I’ve been trying for so many years to overcome all the damage done to me during an abusive childhood with so few results, it’s downright discouraging.  I’ve had some breakthroughs.  Some of them happened a long time ago; some were more recent.  Some were major.  The ground-shifting kind.  In a good way.  Most were pretty minor.
I want…no, make that NEED, some more of the ground-shifting variety.  I need to get unstuck.  Forever.
I remember one of the first major breakthroughs I experienced.  It happened when I was 21 years old and it was an astounding experience.  I was driving back to Missouri for one of those visits “home” that I somehow couldn’t get out of.  I was thinking about how much I dreaded the visit and all the inevitable manipulation and mind games that went with it.  How hard it was to be around my parents.  How uncomfortable it always was and how high my walls had to be to protect me.  As I was thinking about all of this, I had a very vivid memory of myself as a child, standing off to the side of the playground in elementary school.  It was frigidly cold that day.  But everyone was outside playing during recess in spite of the cold and I was watching them intently, though unobtrusively, from the far corner by the swings where I wouldn’t easily be noticed.  I remember quite clearly how frantically my mind was working that day.  I was trying to understand how the world could have changed so drastically.  Trying to get my feet under me after a huge blow that sent me wildly spinning.  Trying to make sense of it.  I was actually repeating to myself over and over again, “The world has changed…what changed the world?”  I was completely frantic and utterly perplexed.
You see, it was as if my eyes had suddenly been opened and I realized nothing was as it appeared.  None of the kids seemed the same to me.  It was as if I went to bed the night before to a world full of people I knew and awoke to a totally different world of people who were foreign to me.   They were doing the same kinds of things those other kids did, but everything was…different.  I couldn’t figure it out.  Still I knew nothing was the same.  I watched the kids playing, knowing they were not who they had been and the world was not what it had been the day before.  The world had changed.  It was forever altered.  And so I reasoned, if I could just figure out what had changed the world, maybe I could put it back the way it was supposed to be; the way it was before the ground shifted.
Driving down the highway that night, I could taste the memory.  I could feel what I felt.  Remember what I thought.  How I struggled to comprehend.
And then everything flipped.
In one incredible instant, as I watched myself standing alone on the playground on that freezing winter day, I realized the world had not changed.  Those kids…they had not changed.  They still did the same things they had always done because they were the same kids they had always been.  They hadn’t changed.  I had.  The world didn’t change.  I did.
I felt as if the breath was knocked out of me.  Tears streamed down my face.  The realization was overwhelming and it was difficult to continue driving because the emotional impact was so intense.  What had been was no more.  The world flipped on me as a child and now it flipped again.
When I was very young, I was able to hide within fantasy.  I could pretend.  I was able to ignore reality…the reality of the sexual abuse.  It had a horrible impact on me, but I pushed it aside and made it into something else entirely so I didn’t have to deal with the incongruency.   But as I got older, it was much more difficult to cocoon myself in total fantasy.  At some point, I could no longer ignore or withdraw from reality.  And at that point, the world changed.  Except, it wasn’t the world that changed.  It was me.
Realizing this completely changed the way I perceived my universe and how I related to it.  This was actually the first time I realized I was damaged.   The discovery told me something of the forces that had come into play at a time in my life when I was vulnerable and completely unable to defend or protect myself.  Those forces had wrought horrible change, disfiguring and neatly destroying all that I had been.  Deforming me.  My world changed because I changed.  I was blown to pieces.  Understanding that helped me to see things I hadn’t been able to see before and to make connections I hadn’t been able to make.   My eyes were opened.  My heart and my head became one.  A little piece of what happened to me became real.
Those revelations of thought and perception have been very rare.  I covet them.  Perhaps if I hadn’t had to hide all the pain and wounding and ugliness for 22 years while I was married to a man who didn’t want to be bothered and who didn’t love me, I might have had more of those moments and found a path to healing long ago.  There is no way of knowing.  I can’t help but believe it has contributed to the level of difficulty I continue to have with unearthing the truth at this point in my life.  Late in the game.  I believe the numbing of my being, my soul, has greatly delayed my restoration, if indeed restoration is possible.  And I deeply regret the fact that I stayed in that marriage, hiding all that I was, trying so hard to be someone my mate would approve of.  I wasted so much time, believing our life would someday be better.  It has cost me.  It has cost me profoundly.
Now, so many numbed out years down the road, I’m stuck…almost perpetually so.  I beg God for the ability to see, to comprehend, to grasp what I cannot seem to grasp.  When I gain a little ground, receive a nugget, I’m elated!  But a nugget in the hand of a starving man doesn’t last long.  It doesn’t sustain.  I need a hearty meal…or two…or ten.  I need to stand in the waterfall of revelation.  Let it wash over me in an unending stream of power and purity.   I need the ground to shake beneath my feet until I can no longer stand; no longer deny.  I need breakthroughs.  Many of them.  Big and small and all shapes and sizes in between.  The mind-bending kind.  The kind that take my breath away.  The kind that shatter the deception and denial.  The kind that open my eyes to the truth.
For surely, it is the truth that will finally, at long last, set me free.   

Long, Long Ago

Sometimes I struggle with all this “baggage” I am carrying around with me. Yes, it’s hard to manage it.  But it’s more than that.  I struggle because it doesn’t seem like I should have it.  Because…get real!…the abuse that has so devastated and marred me happened a very, very, very long time ago.  In a galaxy far, far away.  The frightening intergalactic war is over.  The battles have been fought.  I lived to tell, or not tell, actually, as I dutifully kept the secrets.  But I lived.  So why isn’t that the end of the ghastly and dismal story?  WHY am I STILL DEALING WITH ALL THIS MESS!!!???!!!
It seems so unfair.  You go through a horrible, nightmare-filled childhood, crammed with physical, emotional and sexual abuse.  You escape somehow (in my case, not until after I graduated from high school).  Your new as-yet-unwritten life is out there, waiting for you.  Why can’t you step out into that virgin snow as a virgin?  With a fresh page.  Hopeful.  Unmarked.  Excited.  Pumped.  Ready to meet the challenges and opportunities that are before you with strength, determination, happiness and expectation.
Instead, you’re trapped in a wheelchair and you are trying to learn how to do the simple things most people find easy and learn as children.  How to feel.  How to connect.  How to have relationships.  How to have pleasurable experiences.  To trust.  To enjoy simple things.  To not fear every moment that is ahead of you because you’re terrified of the awful thing that is going to happen to you next.  Your anxiety level is off the charts.  You have no sense of security or safety whatsoever.  You also have no sense of personhood.  You have been taught, after all, that you are nothing but an object who gains value by performing.  And you know from experience that you can never perform well enough to earn the air you need to breathe to sustain your life.  So you try to breathe sparingly.  To take up very little space.  To not bother, inconvenience, or disrupt anyone with your needs.  Or fears.  Or hurts.  You are a ghost, hiding in the shadows, moving quietly, scurrying from place to place, trying to keep from leaving any ripples that would alert others to your presence or passing.  So you can’t step confidently into the future because you can’t yet walk.  You can, in fact, barely crawl.  Things others take for granted take a monumental effort from you.  And no one understands why it’s so hard.  Least of all you.  Shouldn’t the past be…past?
You long to dance.  To run free.  To jump and touch the sun.  But the sun is hidden from view and, as mentioned, running and jumping just aren’t in the cards.  Oh, you run.  But it’s a mental game you play, one that involves a lot of denial and disassociation.  You run from all that has come before, shut down the emotions, trying to mimic the expressions and behavior of those around you so you can appear normal.  The holy grail.  Appearing normal.  That’s what it’s all about.  Because you know in your heart of hearts, you aren’t.  Normal.  The best you can hope for is to fake it until you find your way out of the disastrous mess that seems to be you.
At first, I believed I could leave it all behind.  My then husband…now my ex…wanted me to be quiet about it.  He didn’t want to hear what happened.  Not at all.  So I shut it off, walled it up and ran like hell.  It actually worked for awhile.  I was relatively successful in my life.  Not greatly successful, but I did okay.  I had a few friendships even though there was a massive part of my being that remained hidden.  I did fairly well in business.  I could fake it in public and at social events to the extent that most people would never think I was a broken, weird, crazy, wounded mess of a human being.   Unfortunately, it got harder and harder to wear the mask as time went on and as I grew older.  Like a drug that one builds up a tolerance to, I needed more and more down time between encounters with others to recharge and rebuild.  It seemed as if my yuckiness grew over time.  I couldn’t sweep all of the goo under the rug the way I could at first.  I couldn’t quite pretend it wasn’t there.  I couldn’t hide my difference.  Not all the time.  Not to the extent required.  My energy was suddenly totally depleted and my efforts were wildly lacking. So I withdrew.  I isolated.  And I hated myself more and more for my growing list of failures.
When you have been running for a lifetime, turning around to face all that nips at your heels is daunting.  First of all, it takes time just to turn the ship.  There’s a lot of forward momentum (moving away from all that is chasing you) and once you try to take a look over your shoulder and turn, that momentum keeps you going away from your demons for quite some time.  In spite of your efforts to deal with them.  Then there’s the fact that you’ve clipped nerves to keep from feeling all the pain and shame and anguish.  Nerves don’t heal overnight. Just finding a way to feel again takes a great deal of work. Energy you don’t have. And let’s not even talk about the fact that habits (denial, disassociation, self-hatred, for example) don’t magically stop when you decide to do something different.  They have taken on a life of their own.  They are determined to continue on as before.
It has been a long process for me.  One that persists to this day.  And there is, frankly, no end in sight.  Which brings me back to my point.  The unfairness.  The wrongness.  I lived through the ugliest things imaginable in my childhood.  I lived for 22 years with a man who rejected me and told me continually he didn’t love me.  But I’ve never lived.  And I want to, at least a little bit before I die.  My ex left me almost 10 years ago.  My childhood has been over for decades and decades.  Why can’t the past be past?  Why am I still dealing with all this garbage…on a DAILY basis…yet today?
Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, a little girl was beaten down, hit, rejected, sexually abused, emotionally destroyed.  She lived in hiding, without love, without nurturing, without support, without hope, without safety, without comfort.  She fought for every breath of air and she finally escaped the storm troopers.  But she did not live happily ever after.  Her prince turned out to be a taskmaster, harsh and judgmental.    Believing the best she could hope for was to be tolerated, she stayed with him and tried to do everything right.  To no avail.  He finally dumped her for another woman.  Now, she is totally alone.  She has no close friends and few acquaintances.   Her dogs are her only reason for continuing to live on the cold and barren planet where she resides.  Her battle scars are many.  They have limited her and broken her.  All she wants is a few happy years here at the end of her life.  Just a tiny bit of “happily ever after.”  But the war continues long after it has ended because inside of her, the battles yet rage.  She escaped, but didn’t win.  And she’s ever so very tired of being trapped in this tragedy.  But how do you write a fairy-tale ending to your life story when you can barely get out of bed each day?  When you can barely put one foot in front of the other to make it to work each day?  When your house is dirty because you lack the energy to tackle the clutter?  When your debt is high and makes you want to puke because you’re so terrified of how you’re going to get out of the mess you’re in. When you feel like you have nothing worthwhile to say?  Nothing to contribute?  Nothing left to give?  How do you change the tragic tone and inject lightness and joy into such a dark and disgusting story?  How do you live…truly live just a little bit…before you reach THE END?

The Payoff

 A couple of years after my father died, my mother called me to tell me that I didn’t need to keep putting money into her bank account.  For years, I had been supplementing my parent’s retirement income because I knew things were tight for them.  I continued that after my father’s death.  But when she called, my mother explained to me that her needs were simple now and since my father was gone, she didn’t go out to eat or shop the way she used to.  She was at that point in life where she was downsizing rather than buying and accumulating.  The house was paid off.  She didn’t drive, so had no expenses related to a car.  The money she received from my father’s pension plus her own social security check was more than adequate. Money was actually building up at a rather rapid rate.  So, not only did she want me to stop supplementing her income, she wanted to give me a gift…$3000, in fact.  She wanted me to use it for counseling.  It was her way, she insisted, of saying thank you.  Her way of expressing gratitude to me for keeping silent.  For allowing her and my father to live out their lives without having to pay the price for their abuse of me.  She was particularly appreciative that I never turned my father in to authorities, allowing them to grow old with each other, allowing my father to die without having to answer for his actions.  She thanked me for my sacrifice.  Wrote me a check to pay me off.  Signed.  Sealed.  Delivered.  Done. 
And that was that.  Her conscience was clear.  Restitution had, in her mind, been made.  The debt was cleared.  Paid in full.  All for $3000.
Reluctantly, I accepted her payment.  I didn’t want to offend by declining.  By throwing it back in her face in disgust, which was my first impulse. I gave $1000 of it away to a friend in need.  The rest I put on account with the counselor I had started seeing a few months after my father died.  It was gone in no time.  The money offered didn’t even begin to come close to paying for my care.   I’m still seeing the counselor.  Still trying to find a point of health and wholeness.  Still spending a ton of money years after the “gift” (and my mother) is gone.
She died in peace 4 years after my father passed away.  I don’t miss either one of them…never have…which sometimes makes me feel guilty.  But the fact of the matter is, I lost them long before they actually died.  And they gave me so many “gifts” to remember them by.  Gifts that have outlived them and the $3000 payment I received from my mother.  Gifts that I’ve been trying diligently to get rid of.  Pain.  Brokenness.  Fear.  Worthlessness.  Self-hate.  Self-blame.  Depression.  Shame. Lack of confidence.  Numbness.  Distorted thinking.  Isolation.  A wounded soul.  Loss.  Hopelessness.  Destruction.  Gifts that are far more enduring than the paltry funds given to clear her conscience.  She died before my ex left me for another woman and my world crumbled into dust and ashes.  Before I earnestly tried to kill myself. Before my eating disorder flared out of control.  Before I lost the ability to pretend I was semi-normal and before I was nearly crippled emotionally , becoming almost unable to function.  Before I could no longer wear the mask and play the role of an ordinary individual.   Not only did they never have to pay the price for abusing me, they never had to face what that abuse had done to me.  They both died thinking I was fairly successful, loved, healthy and unaffected.  They both died believing I had a good life, which proved they hadn’t done such a bad job raising me after all.
Her payoff galled me for several reasons.  I guess the most obvious was, in paying me off, she acknowledged she knew what my father had done to me.  She knew, but did nothing to protect me.  It explained her hatred of me…she blamed me even as I blamed myself.  And she chose my father over me.  He was her knight in shining armor, by god, and NOTHING was going to tarnish him in her eyes.  Not even the fact that he sexually abused their daughter.  It also spoke volumes that she wanted me to go away and get fixed without having to be bothered with the process herself.  Everything was about her, even the gift.  It made her feel better to give it and that was what was important.  Not that I actually got better.  Giving me the money allowed her to believe she had done her part without actually having to do anything herself.  And then, there’s the complete inadequacy of the amount.  It’s a paltry sum considering the expense involved in getting the help one needs to recover from such major trauma.  Not to mention trying to deal with the issues that found their beginning in that ugly caldron of abuse.  Things such as a voracious eating disorder, a victim mentality and total lack of self-esteem.  And lastly, there’s her belief that money would be an adequate payoff for the total destruction of my life and being.  That this was all I was worth.  That this should balance the books of the universe and pay me in full for any and all inconvenience and subsequent damage.  This compensation for my sacrifice was to have made everything right…and it did for her.  Her debt, in her eyes, was now paid in full.
I felt rather numb at the time.  I was aware the whole situation bothered me on many levels in many ways.  But I couldn’t really articulate or dissect it.  I was still deeply entrenched in a dissociative state where I was protected from such atrocities.  I felt unease.  I felt a strange sensation.  I felt movement within me.  But nothing connected and nothing broke through.  I simply went on.  After all, by this point in my life, I had learned not to expect anything from her.  As much as I wanted a mother, I had come to terms with the fact that I never had one and never would.  But I was aware on some deep level that this hurt.  Even though I couldn’t feel it.  The pain was there.  Hidden far away where it could do no damage.
I took the payoff for a debt that could never be paid because nothing could ever make the wrong right.  But I had forgiven the debt anyway and payment was not expected.  I guess the biggest surprise of all was that she had enough of a conscience left to propel her to do something, thereby acknowledging a wrong had been done to me.  There was some satisfaction in this acceptance of wrongdoing on her part.  And that acceptance of guilt and responsibility, even though minimal,  fleeting, glossed over and hastily put to rest, is the thing that is most satisfying to me now.  It is, indeed, a priceless treasure…all wrapped up in a paltry, inadequate, insulting $3000 gift.

Now What?

A new year.  A new revelation.  A new thought.  A clean slate.  Now what?
I recently had an incredible revelation, one that I thought would cause a lot of the dominoes to begin to tumble.  And crash.  And fall.  I was finally able to truly believe that the sexual abuse I suffered as a child under the “care” of my father was not my fault.  Really.  I didn’t cause it to happen.  It was about my father and his failings, not about me or mine.  And because this seems to be such a huge reversal of the way I have believed all my life, I expected…miracles?  Other big things to fall into place?  Other major falsehoods to be torn down, to break apart and be replaced by truth?  Fireworks?  Dancing in the streets?  I certainly expected something more than what has happened, which seems to be mostly nothing.
Don’t misunderstand me.  I’m truly grateful for the new insight.  To be able to see things in a new light from a new perspective is wonderful!  I’m thankful that what I have known in my brain through logical thinking is now something my heart can embrace. 
I just wanted it to make a big difference.  A significant difference. Now. 
It’s not as if I haven’t been working on this for a long time.  I have been in weekly counseling, reading books, going to classes, seeking prayer, trying to straighten out my thinking…which all sounds so easy, but isn’t…for years.  I’ve greeted more “Happy New Years” than I can count or remember with the hope and prayer that this would be the year I finally found some deep healing.  And year after year, I have watched another year slip away without any meaningful change. 
It’s discouraging.  I would probably give up (or have given up long ago) except that I don’t know what to do with myself if I stop trying.  I mean, what do you DO  if you give up?  How do you stop seeking?  Do you sit down and throw a tantrum?  Refuse to go any further?  And how do you stop when life keeps going?  When you still have responsibilities?  When you still have to get up in the morning?  Go to work (if you’re lucky enough to still have a job in this frightening economy)?  Pay bills?  The carousel is going to keep turning with or without you.  The only way I know to truly stop trying is to die.  Jumping off didn’t work out too well for me.  I feel a bit stuck.  So I keep trying because I don’t see a viable alternative.  But it’s definitely discouraging.
I honestly did expect some fireworks with this one.  And maybe they’ll still come.  Maybe they’ll be Sparklers instead of the big booming explosions I hoped to experience.  The awe-inspiring bursts of overwhelming color I wanted to be painted across my sky.  Maybe I expected too much.
My counselor tells me I have made a new discovery and I’m still standing on that piece of ground where the discovery was made, having not yet taken the next step.  The step of, “If it’s not my fault, then who is to blame?”  Exploring that.  Understanding the logical answer with my heart and not just my head.  So the new year begins with me standing yet again at a point of having to take some steps into unexplored, unknown territory.  A new year, a new section of the old journey.  Virgin snow.  Waiting for me to set out, leave my footprints, forge a trail.
I wanted things to simply click into place.  I didn’t want to have to keep trudging on.  I didn’t want to have to explore yet another new pathway.  Frankly, I’m exhausted.  I don’t know how much further I can go.  Not and function.  So as I face the new year and the new journey before me, instead of feeling excited and invigorated, I sort of just want to sit down on this little patch of ground I currently occupy and wait for that miracle I keep asking for.  Because I think I’ve earned it.  And I’m weary.  And this year, I really want to do something else for a change.  Like live.  
I want those dominoes to start falling.  One after the other.  Without me having to shove them all over.  Until I’m healed.  And alive.
That’s my wish for 2012.  It may be unrealistic, but that’s still my wish.  Just this once, I want something to be easy.  Just this once.


Good Will Hunting is one of my all-time favorite movies.   There is one scene that stands out in my mind.  One scene that is particularly meaningful to me.  And it has haunted me since I first saw the movie when it had just come out.
It’s the scene where Robin Williams (the psychologist, Sean Maguire) tells Matt Damon (Will Hunting) that the abuse he suffered as a child at the hands of his father wasn’t his fault.
The first time the psychologist tells Will it’s not his fault, he responds casually, logically, “Yeah, I know.”
Then, Sean tells him again.  “It’s not your fault.”  Will again responds, “Yeah, I know.”
The third time Sean tells him that it wasn’t his fault, Will is a little more perturbed when he answers.  But the wall is still firmly in place.  His heart is untouched.  “I got it,” he responds testily.
The psychologist tells him again.  Now Will is getting upset.  There’s a warning edge to his reply.
But the psychologist persists.  He tells Will that it wasn’t his fault again and again.  Until finally Will loses his cool, the wall is shattered and he attacks Sean.  But in that moment, he experiences a breakthrough.  His intellect, which has been in the way and kept him from seeing / feeling / deeply knowing the truth, the reality, is overcome.  The emotions that have been frozen in his soul are suddenly released and Will is in tears.  Broken.  He gets it.  He finally gets it.  It wasn’t his fault that his father beat him repeatedly and brutally.  He didn’t do it.  He didn’t cause it.  His heart understood at last.
I think this movie, and this scene in particular, touched me so deeply because in my heart, I have always believed the sexual abuse and physical abuse I experienced as a child was my fault.  I have always felt there was something about me that made it happen.  I didn’t know what that “something” was, but I believed it was present in me and it somehow caused my parents to abuse me.  They couldn’t help it.  They couldn’t resist because that something in me compelled them to do the awful things they did.  So it was my fault, I deserved it and therefore, it wasn’t wrong.  In the deepest part of my being, I longed for a “Will Hunting” moment.  A moment when I would finally be set free from this belief…that the abuse was my fault.  I knew logically / intellectually that I wasn’t to blame.  But knowing something intellectually and knowing it in your heart, your soul, in your core, well, that’s a very different thing altogether.  The bottom line was, I truly, deeply, firmly believed I was the cause and was therefore to blame.  No logical argument was going to change my entrenched belief.  No matter how much I wished it was different.
I have held that belief for many decades.  I am now in the early winter stage of my life.  I have never had an “ah-ha” moment.  I have blamed myself, not my parents, for the abuse.  In spite of logic.  Disregarding reason.  Ignoring intellect.  The sad little girl inside of me has continued to believe she was to blame.
My counselor has recently been trying to get me to find my anger.  He has assured me I have some.  It’s just all directed at me.  And, according to him, this gifted person who holds a PhD, it shouldn’t be aimed at me.  It should, he tells me, be aimed at my parents.  Forgiveness aside, when something wrong happens, people should respond in anger.  And anger is just an emotion…neither right or wrong.  It’s the behavior or reaction to the emotion that is either right or wrong.  He has told me repeatedly that I can have the emotion without having wrong behavior.  I can have anger and sin not. 
But anger is scary ground for me.  My parents were volatile, out-of-control people and that’s what anger is to me.  I desperately don’t want to be like my parents.  So I have avoided anger like one avoids an atomic explosion.
Additionally, I recently read that anger is something people have when their value is challenged.  I don’t believe I have any value.  So why would I become angry when my non-existent value was in question?
My eating disorders counselor has also been encouraging me to find the anger and aim it appropriately.  She encouraged me to work through the anger chapter in the “Courage to Heal” workbook.  I’ve had the workbook for forever.  I’ve never done the anger chapter because it didn’t seem relevant.  But on her advice and in a moment of desperation, I decided to give it a try. 
In that chapter, they urge you to go back to an earlier exercise dealing with who is at fault for the abuse you suffered if you’re having trouble finding your anger.  I hadn’t done that exercise either.  Again, moment of desperation, something has to give or I’m going to fry, I decided to do the hokey writing exercise they suggested.  Stupid.  Waste of time. But then I figured, what the heck.  What do I have to lose?
In this exercise, you are to picture a child who was the age you were when your abuse began.  You are supposed to notice what she looks like, what she’s wearing, give her a name.  You know she is being abused the same way you were.  You are to take 20 minutes and write her a letter explaining to her why the abuse she is experiencing isn’t her fault.
Lamely, I started thinking of a child of about 6.  But the only child I could picture was me.  Okay, fine.  So the little girl looked like me and she was…tiny.  She was really…vulnerable.  Innocent. Sweet.  Huh.
I had to walk away for awhile.  But I came back later and wrote the following letter:
“You are so small.  So defenseless.  People who should have cared for you and protected you have done horrible things to you instead.  They are evil.  You are innocent.  You did nothing, not one thing to deserve what happened to you.  They did everything wrong.  They failed you.  You should have been the light of their heart.  But their heart was so dark and ugly, they destroyed your light.  That is on them.  Forever.  It is not and was not your fault.
You are beautiful and special.  They couldn’t see or appreciate your beauty.  But that is their failure, not yours.  They only cared about themselves, their selfish needs, wants, desires, lusts.  Their failure.  What they did to you was wrong.  You are not wrong.  They wounded, fractured and scarred you, but you are still beautiful.  You are still worthy of love.  Your brokenness doesn’t mean you are worthless.  Your value remains.
They were adults.  You…you were just a sweet, sensitive child who loved them and wanted to please them.  Evil touched you, but it did not make you evil.  Darkness held you, but it could not make you dark.  Only you can put out your candle.  Don’t.  Don’t let them win.  Keep it burning.  It was not your fault.”
Such a hokey exercise…except…it got through.  It touched something.  I had my Will Hunting moment in my therapist’s office when I read him this letter.  Something finally broke.  Clicked into place.  A scream was released from the deep chasm that resides in my soul.  A primal scream.  A violent, tearing release.
I think I finally get it.  It’s not my fault.  It’s really not. my. fault.


I have a boyfriend…well, sort of.  I mean, I don’t ACTUALLY have a boyfriend boyfriend.  As in a guy or a significant other or someone I’m dating.  But, I’m kind of dating…oh, it’s complicated!  Let me try to explain.
You see, I was in the bathroom at work a few minutes ago trying to throw up.  I felt kind of sick this morning so I started eating my cracker allowance an hour earlier than usual.  I have a schedule.  I get 4 small multi-grain crackers at 9:30, 4 to 5 crackers at 10:30 and 5 crackers at 11:30.  That’s 140 calories.  But today, as I said, I wasn’t feeling very well, so I ate a couple of crackers at 8:30.  And I had a cup of coffee with powered creamer.  Scary!  So I was in the bathroom because I had eaten my first and second cracker allotment early, added a cup of coffee and I was feeling fat.  I needed to throw up.  Or not eat any more crackers, which wasn’t going to happen because I still wasn’t feeling very well.
So I’m in the bathroom and I can’t get anything to come up and I’m kind of panicking.  Telling myself it will be okay.  Just to calm down.   All is not lost just yet because I can still make up for it.  And that’s when the thought kind of hit me.  I am so totally controlled by ED.  My “boyfriend.”  You know, my eating disorder.
After my 11:30 crackers, I don’t eat anything until I get home.  Some days, I tell myself I will just have a nice low-cal salad with no dressing and I’ll keep it down (yeah, right!).  I tell myself I’ll be like a “normal” person.  Other days, I’m so hungry, I let myself have a good binge.  My favorite?  I love cheese.  Lots of thick melted cheese.  So I’ll take some flat bread and several kinds of cheese all heaped up on top of the bread, add some mushrooms, maybe some pieces of chicken, melt it all in the microwave and go after it.  Of course, I throw it all up (or I throw up as much as I can get out, which is darned near all of it).  I get the joy of eating, but not that of keeping. Which is good.  It’s the way it should be.  Keeping would make me so FAT.  FAT is SO BAD SO HORRIBLY BAD SO AWFULLY INCREDIBLY TERRIBLE IT’S THE WORST POSSIBLE THING EVER!  Trust me on this.  It’s Freddie Kruger on steroids.  It’s atomic warfare and total annihilation.   It’s the end of the earth.  It’s shame and rejection and disgrace.
Last night, I was laying in bed trying to go to sleep, which is often a challenge, and I was feeling my ribs and chest bones.  It made me happy…well, not exactly happy, but it felt good.  I like to feel my bones.  I feel safe when I can feel my bones.  ED likes my bones too.  He doesn’t like the fact that I still have some meat on them.  I’m working on that.  Nix that.  I’m not WORKING on that, but I’m kind of toying around with the idea, wanting to lose more, trying to balance that with having enough energy to stand up and go to work every day.  If I can get it all to balance out, I’ll be making ED happier shortly.  I don’t need to lose too much more.  Just a little bit.  Really, just a tad.  Like maybe 10 lbs. Then the world would be perfect. 
Okay, that’s not exactly true.  Not perfect.  But I would be able to face the day feeling a little bit better about myself.
I like it that my butt bones are sharp and poke through my skin and that I don’t have any padding.
I like that I don’t have any boobs.
I like my bony wrists, protruding knee bones and scrawny legs.
But I do want to lose more.  Just a little more.  Just to be safe.
I’m allowed only so much food by ED.  If I go over my allotment, I have to give it up, Chuck.  That’s the price I pay.  For being safe.  I’m pretty much okay with that.
Sometimes, I wish I could be normal.  Eat like a “normal” person eats…but still be thin; still be bony.  I wish food wasn’t so complicated.  Kind of like I wish life wasn’t so complicated and hard and hurtful.  I wish food could be fun and simple and, I don’t know, maybe something you get to keep sometimes?  But ED rules in my world.  I can’t break free, at least not right now.  And honestly, I’m not sure how badly I want to escape.  I like what ED does for me.  I hate what ED does for me.  I hate what ED does to me.  I love what ED does to me.  I’m thankful for my dear ED.  I’m a slave to ED.  I’m…conflicted.  Like I said, it’s complicated.
ED’s a tough boyfriend in a lot of ways.  But he loves me.  He’s the only one who does love me.  And I love what he has made me in so many ways.  Guess I’ll keep hanging around with him as long as he will have me.  At least for now.
This could even be a “till death do us part” kind of thing.  Know what I mean?


I couldn’t sleep last night.  My brain…sometimes it won’t turn off.  I start thinking about things, worrying, panicking, and the next thing you know, I’m wide awake.  Last night, my thoughts were a random whirlpool of miscellaneous fears, concerns, prayers.  But they began to turn in a certain direction, kind of gelling and I became aware of an emerging theme.  That theme was centered on cost, on the price I have paid.  For being sexually abused by my father and abused in general by my parents.
I realized there hasn’t been a single day that has passed in my life that I haven’t carried the burden of abuse.  Not one day has passed without me thinking quite a bit about what was done to me as a child.  Not being angry or bitter…but I’ve had to deal with the aftermath.  It has had a huge, major impact.  Every day.  In fact, I have never had a day when I’ve awakened free, even if only for a minute, of the damage, pain and turmoil it created.  I have been seeking healing since I was in my late teens.  That was a very long time ago.  It would not be an exaggeration to say that I have been relatively consumed daily with the destruction I suffered as a result of childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse.  Especially the sexual abuse.  It fractured me.  And not a day goes by but what I have tried to put the pieces back together…consistently, diligently, relentlessly…ever since.  I’m trying to survive.  To live.  To find a way to do what I need to do.  I’m trying to find wholeness.  It’s a full time job.  A job at which I am failing.  It takes every scrap of energy I have just to hold myself together enough to go on.  I can honestly say, there is not a day that goes by but what I don’t deal with what happened to me as a child.
Not one single day.  Not one.
That’s a pretty steep cost.  I have paid a very high price for my childhood.  And I’m still paying.
It has cost me a lot of money, to be sure.  At various times during my life, I’ve tried to seek professional help.  Most recently, I’m ashamed to say, I’ve been in counseling since 1999.  Gone almost every week.  There was a period in 2007, after I tried to kill myself, when I was going twice a week.  There are times now when I see two therapists and a psychiatrist during the course of the week.  One of those counselors is an eating disorders counselor.  Then there’s my normal trauma therapist.  The psychiatrist is part of the outpatient eating disorders program.  My co-pays have varied from $15 to over $50, depending on the insurance I had at the time.  A very conservative estimate of how much this has cost me is $18,000.  VERY conservative.  And then there’s the medication, with co-pays that average $60 per prescription.  Oh, and the money I had to pay when I was hospitalized after my suicide attempt.  That was several thousand dollars.  I think it’s safe to say, over my lifetime, I’ve paid at least $50,000 in hard cold cash as I have sought to overcome the depraved childhood afforded me by my parents.
Then there’s the area of relationships, which brings a whole new set of problems.  The fact that I don’t have any.  That I’m so isolated, lonely and broken, most of the time I don’t feel I have a reason to live (thank goodness for my Schnauzer).   I don’t understand why I have never been loved.  My parents didn’t love me.  They used me.  Abused me.   I’ve been married twice, but never was loved.  They both told me they didn’t love me.  My second husband told me he didn’t love me regularly, frequently.  But I stayed.  I believed the best I could hope for was to be tolerated, so I was thankful that he tolerated me for 22 years.  Since he left me, I’ve been completely alone and it takes a heavy toll.  I’ve paid because I can’t seem to have a healthy relationship with a partner.  I’ve paid because I don’t seem to be able to connect with friends.  Even when I want to, long to, desire to have a close relationship, I can’t.  My connector is broken.  So I have a very few distant friends who say they care, but who I rarely see and rarely interact with.  Were it not for Facebook, I would be completely alone…well, except for my therapy “team.”  And while they care to a degree, they are professionals who get paid for their services.  So it doesn’t feel all warm and fuzzy, my relationship with them.  It’s mainly business.  A transaction.  More money paid toward trying to get better.  Trying to live what little life I have left.
I try to talk myself out of the darkness.  I really do try hard.  But it doesn’t work, no matter how much I work at it.  Since childhood, I have been living in this murky darkness, half alive at best.  I haven’t yet found the pep talk that allows me to rise above and conquer. I am ashamed at how badly I fail at life.  Every day, at the end of the day, I lay my head down on my pillow in defeat, hoping I can find the strength to fight another day.  Hoping I can find the hope to keep trying. 
I am tired of paying.  I don’t want to wake up every day thinking about the abuse, how it impacts me still, how much damage it has done and what I’m going to do to get through the day because of that damage.  Trying to figure out how to get over it.  How to “think right” so I can heal.  I’m tried of going to doctors and therapists and still not finding any light in the darkness.  I’m horribly tired of darkness.  Of having to wrestle with this gigantic mess.  Of never ever feeling happy.  Of being alone.  Because of what my parents did to me…because of what my father did to me…I have battled the demons every single day of my life.  I’m really sick of the dance of death I have to engage in each day.  I want to stop dancing this horrid dance. I want to leap for joy.  At least for a moment or two.  Fly because I am so light, gravity can’t tether me to the earth.  I want to twirl in the bright daylight and soak in the sunshine.  Live.  I want to live.  Enjoy life.  I’ve very few years left.  I only ask to be able to enjoy a few of my days before my life is finally over.  Is that asking too much?
I think I’ve paid enough.  I want to stop paying. The cost has been too high.  Far too high.