Tag Archives: damage

Big

I have always been the “big” girl.  I’ve played that role, though against my will, for most of my life.  I’ve been the biggest of my classmates, my church friends, my coworkers, my (ex) husband’s friends wives.  I was always the person others observed while exhibiting an expression of disbelief and horror.  As if I had leprosy.  Or worse.  They rejected me for my outer wrappings.  And had pity for my ex.

I was the freak.  The one who didn’t fit in.  Because I was big.  And that made me ugly.  Unworthy.  Disgusting.

The first time someone told me I was fat, I was 7 years old.  They told me I couldn’t be the princess.  Princesses were little and pretty.  Dainty.  Adorable.  They weren’t big.  They weren’t a fatty.  Like me.

Big girls never get the prince.

I hadn’t considered my size.  Not until that day.  I still remember where I was.  In my grandparent’s driveway.  Riding my bike around in circles as we haggled for a star role in our pretend game.  And when they told me I was too big to be the princess, unacceptable to play the role of the fair maiden the prince would rescue and fall in love with, I rode away with tears running down my cheeks.  Hidden away in a quiet place, I thought about what they said.  I started to compare myself to them.  And I realized they were right.  I was bigger, taller, looked older. There was nothing spindly or fragile about me.   I was not petite, girlish or cute.  Certainly not worthy of being rescued or loved.

By the time I graduated from high school, I was well on my way to being seriously overweight.   My band uniform pants were the largest size they made for junior girls.  Even my feet and hands were big.  And though I was no longer the tallest in my class, what I lacked in height, I made up for in bulk.   If anyone saw me at all, they quickly turned away.  To talk to the cute, popular girls.  The girls who were a size 3.  The princesses.

My parents told me I would be such a pretty girl, if only I would lose weight.  My great hair was my only redeeming feature.  And your hair can only buy you so much acceptability, even with your parents.

When you’re the big girl, you’re nothing at all.  And nothing can compensate for your repulsiveness.

I went on a diet for the first time before I started Junior High.  And my life has been one long diet ever since.  An endless battle, shunning the foods I enjoy and eating salads without dressing instead.  Of eating very little, yet still gaining weight.  Of watching others devour in one meal at least three times the amount of food I consume in a day…but they were still princesses because they never got big.  I ate only one healthy meal a day and still packed on the pounds.  Denied and starved myself only to be transformed into the wicked witch.

When you’re overweight, people don’t believe you when you tell them you don’t eat that much.  They think you’re lying.  They smirk and assume you eat in secret; eat massive amounts of fattening foods behind closed doors.  But it’s not true.  If only they would be forced to exist on the quantity of food I consume!  Then they would understand.  Wishful thinking.  Where is karma when you need it?

I have only been princess-sized twice.

In my late twenties, I began to strictly control what I ate because I couldn’t control anything else in my world.  I started walking.  Then running.  And then, I was running 13+ miles a day.  I weighed and measured my food, counted every calorie, refused to eat unless it was at times I deemed to be acceptable and only allowed myself small quantities of food, none of which was enjoyable.  I even counted calories in the gum I chewed.

Miraculously, I lost weight.  When I hit 90 pounds,  I started to feel really good about myself.  For the first time ever, I wasn’t a big girl.  I didn’t have to be ashamed because I took up too much space.

But it only lasted 6 years.  I broke my hip in two places, the result of the strain from all the exercise.  Turns out, I didn’t have big bones.  Turns out, my bones were on the small side.  You could see them pretty clearly at 86 pounds, the lowest weight I reached as an adult.  And I loved to look at those bones.  Because it meant I could be the princess.  It meant I wasn’t a big girl.  Nor an abomination.

I had never heard of anorexia.   Wasn’t until much later that I learned about eating disorders.  Took even longer before I realized I just might have had one.  One that abandoned me when I needed it the most.  For after I was forced to stop running, I started to gain weight.

I got bigger and bigger and bigger.  No matter how little I ate, how much I walked, the pounds accumulated.   I hated myself.  Was buried under layer after layer of shame and self-loathing.

My ex was ashamed of me too.  After years of living with his rejection, disgust and shaming, he finally decided to do some running himself.  He left me for someone younger, blonde and much, much thinner.

The switch suddenly flipped again a few years after he dumped me.  But this time, I learned a new trick.  I ate like a lumberjack, but threw up everything I ate.  Sometimes 5, 6, 10 times a day.  And I lost the weight; it all but melted off.  This time, I was older.  My body wasn’t as resilient.  I began to have some major physical problems about the time I hit 92 pounds.  Problems like not being able to stand up or walk without falling over. Crazy cramps from potassium depletion.  Irregular heartbeat.  Unable to control my muscles.

I slowly realized how dangerous my new friend could be.  It took a while because I hadn’t had any physical problems “before,” during my first encounter with anorexia.  But I didn’t care.  I downed electrolyte enhanced drinks, ate teaspoonfuls of salt and kept losing.  Staggering along the treacherous precipice while attempting not to fall off.

Just as suddenly, after 10 blissful years of freedom, the switch flipped again.  And when it flipped, I gained.  My greatest fear became reality.   I was nothing but a big girl in disguise.  And I was being unmasked in spite of starving myself.  Can’t fight who you are.  Can’t hide it forever.

The ugly, worthless, disgusting big girl revealed herself once more.  The despicable, stupid, piece of crap fatty began to take control.

But I can’t.  I don’t have the strength to keep fighting.  I simply can’t.  I can’t be THAT girl ever again.  The girl who is too big to be the princess.  The girl who is repulsive to the prince.  The 7 year old on the bike, rejected and teased for her size.  The big girl.  I can’t. I can’t live in that body.  I have reached the end of my ability to deal.  I can’t go back to that place. I can’t go back to being that person.

I won’t.

If I can’t be small enough to be the princess, I would rather die.

 

Brain Damage

I waited a very long time to get help.  This was partially because it took me forever to get to a point in life where I could afford professional therapy.  It was certainly delayed by the pressure  my (then) husband used to avoid involvement, unpleasantness or difficulty.  He told I needed to act “normal” and “keep it to yourself” because he didn’t want to be bothered with the darkness and brokenness inside of me.  It was also somewhat attributable to the heavy sense of shame I carried within me.  Shame for being defective and dirty.  For being repulsive and unsightly by simply being.  Because I wasn’t like everyone else.  And since I was working 10 or 11 hours a day as I tried to prove my worth to various employers, it was also partially due to exhaustion and an inability to make time for myself.

I learned early I was undeserving of space, care and acceptance.  Abuse, particularly when you’re a child, drives that point deep.

In truth, I didn’t make a serious, “all in” attempt at healing until a few months after my father died.  Suddenly, it felt as though the time had come to deal with the festering wounds I continually attempted to hide beneath layers and layers of makeup and masks.

At the time, I didn’t realize there was any need to rush.  I didn’t understand healing might not be attainable if the wounds were left unattended for a long period.  I didn’t know coping mechanisms, shattered perceptions of worth and self were being cemented more permanently into place as I aged.  I thought healing would happen “someday” when the stars aligned and someone finally valued me.  I certainly didn’t know my brain might actually be working against me as I slogged through all the ruin.

Did you know that child sexual abuse actually causes brain damage?

I didn’t hear about the results of this body of research or its implications until I was years into the healing journey.  I was in weekly “talk therapy” sessions with a gifted psychologist, giving the process everything I had to give.  I journaled, prayed, attended workshops, went through a few abuse and sex abuse recovery groups, completed 2 different yearlong Celebrate Recovery groups and allowed a couple of different psychiatrists to experiment on me by prescribing every different antidepressant on the market in various combinations and in ever higher dosages. Nothing worked.

The most frustrating part for me was expending so much effort when I had little energy to spare, yet it changed nothing, in spite of all I put into it.  In spite of the time and money spent.  I became dejected  and deeply dismayed, occasionally shedding a few tears because of the lack of progress or results.  I knew I wasn’t a stupid person, so why couldn’t I grasp the information I was being given and bring it to life in my soul?  Why wasn’t I being transformed?

I’ve always felt damaged.  Like I’m faking it, hoping to someday make it.  But it never occurred to me my brain was the part of me that had probably sustained the most damage because of my abusive childhood.

I was told by my counselor that I needed to reprogram my thought processes.  I tried.  For years.  But I slowly began to realize, what I needed was more encompassing than this.  In actuality, the sexual abuse, in particular, overwhelmed and fried the circuitry in my brain.  What I need is not to be reprogramed.  I can load new thoughts all day long and run them through my head again and again, but it’s never going to make a difference if the program can’t run properly.  And it can’t.  Because the problem isn’t so much the program as it is the wiring.  It’s been incinerated.   Nothing is going to process and transmit the way it should with smoldering, shattered and scorched wiring.

It was a small relief to learn I wasn’t a failure for failing to reprogram my thinking.  Though hard to believe and comprehend, I started to glimpse the real problem.  It was deeper than poorly written and executed programming.  I had experienced a circuitry overload that burned my brain, creating a philological barrier, changing how I process data and interpret experiences.  The two hemispheres of my brain aren’t as integrated as the brains of people who haven’t gone through the trauma I survived as a child.  Perhaps this is due to an engulfing need to compartmentalize and isolate.  Or maybe it’s simply the way brain development is affected by continual trauma, abuse and intense stress during childhood.  Regardless, I have begun to realize I’m not merely fighting old, wrong programming.  I’m fighting a brain that has been singed, seared and annihilated by severe, horrific child abuse.  It’s no longer capable of making the connections I’ve long tried to make as I’ve sought to be healed.

Trauma is biologically encoded in the brain in a variety of ways. Considerable and often negative changes in structures like the hippocampus, and the coordination and integration of neural network functioning have been identified. The nervous systems of children who are abused runs on a constant high because of the continual anticipation of further danger. There are documented alterations in cortisol production in children with histories of abuse and neglect. And this state of chronic ‘hyper-arousal’ persists throughout adulthood, so even when the abuse and violence has ceased and the environment is “safe,” adults who experienced childhood abuse perceive the threat to be present; their fear is maintained and becomes pathological.

The brain is so damaged, it begins to dismantle us.

The experiences of childhood abuse cause changes that are reflected in physiological, psychological and interpersonal experiences.  Adaptation to trauma, especially early in life, becomes a “state of mind, brain, and body” around which subsequent experience organizes. Research has even documented significant changes on a genetic level.  Every function of mind, body, heart, soul, emotions, logic and even cell structure is altered by the abuse experienced in childhood.

The brain governs everything.  And when the brain is damaged, certain functions become impossible.

When I say I was forever changed by the abuse I survived during childhood, or explain that my path was eternally altered, I’m not speaking metaphorically.  The damage is comprehensive, large-scale and wide-ranging.

Who I was and who I was meant to be was obliterated before I entered grade school.  That destruction changed every fiber of my being and shaped me into someone far different than the person I was created to be and become.  My life and an ability to truly live and enjoy life was massacred by abuse.  My brain has been extensively damaged on a physical, as well as mental and emotional level, just as surely as if I had experienced a horrendous car crash that fractured my skull, leaving me barely alive and unbearably traumatized.

Brains don’t bounce back.  Once damaged, the consequences will be noted in various aspects, both minor and momentous.  The entire personality is altered.  Health, both emotional and physical, is compromised as various bodily and cognitive functions are short-circuited.  This is the gift my parents gave to me.  This is what I have been fighting against and attempting to overcome.

No wonder I am weary.  No wonder the results have been limited and the path too difficult to traverse.  No wonder I feel as if I’m damaged goods.   A failure.  My heart knows, even if my brain can no longer comprehend the extend of the mutilation.

My wiring has been short-circuited.  I’m trying to change what has already been radically, fatally altered.  I’m attempting to transform myself into a normal, healthy person, but I am not normal and my health has been broadly compromised.  My brain has been unspeakably damaged.  And it’s quite likely healing isn’t a reasonable expectation or probable outcome.

 

Child of Pain

The world that I was born into was a dark and lonely place.  I figured it out pretty early.  My life wasn’t like that of other kids.  My parents weren’t like their parents.  The things that happened behind closed, locked doors, out of sight of those my parents sought to fool and impress, were very unlike those experienced by most other children.

 

I was a child of pain.

 

The very first thing my eyes were able to see, blurry though the image might have been, were the faces of my parents.  The people who created me, so to speak.  They claimed they wanted me.  But these people who struggled to name me, who never really adjusted to having me, who were supposed to love and protect me, introduced me to a hostile, chaotic, dark world.  A planet where pain ruled and thrived.

 

Pain claimed me at birth and never let me go.

 

It became a way of life for me and it wore my canyons deep.  When I awoke, it greeted me.  And it held me as I would weep.  As my life went on, it became my song.  It was all I knew.  It was the way I grew.  It penetrated my bones and as my soul grew numb and cold, it wrote on my heart of stone. Marked me forever.

 

From the womb that bore me, that grew, ripped and tore me, to the abuse, the out-of-control screaming and hitting, the demands and expectations that I could never meet or fulfill, through all the ugly and despicable things I endured, I became pain.  Pain became me.

 

There was no safe place of laughter, no nurturing, no dinner conversations about my dreams…or my day.  My world was lists of chores, front and back, 30 items or more long that were supposed to be completed every evening before my parents got home.  It was straight A’s, or else, smiling on demand, keeping my mouth shut, and hiding from their violent outbursts whenever I could see them coming.  I didn’t laugh together with my parents or act silly and have fun with them.  Instead, I learned about secrets and how to keep them.  I learned about monsters who hide in plain sight, who wore masks of respectability, but who snuck into my room at night to rape and abuse me.  I learned about double standards, surviving the darkness and nightmares all alone, keeping my head down, and trying to do as many of those chores on the never-ending lists my mother made for me without complaint.  But nothing I was or did was good enough.

 

I learned slapping leaves a big red welt, but it fades pretty quickly.  I learned that you can be knocked across the room with one punch, but you can still get up, go to your room and do your homework.  I learned that being alone, totally and utterly alone, was crushing, but being with people who trampled and molested you was even worse.   I learned about the power of words to cut you to your core.  To leave you bleeding and deeply wounded.  I learned about pain.  Pain provided the only air I was allowed to breathe; to take into my lungs.  It was the blood that flowed through my veins.  It was my skin.  And my eyes.  For everywhere I looked, pain was there, waiting to take me down.

 

I stumbled through endless days, trying to avoid land mines.  Trying to stay alive…physically and emotionally.  I succeeded to a degree.  I physically endured.  But my body was the only part of me that made it out alive.

 

Child of pain.  It ate my soul and devoured my heart.  It permeated every fiber of my existence.

 

Fate spun her web made of poisoned thread.  I have a multitude of scars to show for it.

 

Once you are wounded and marked, once you have been saturated by pain, it doesn’t go away when finally you physically escape your abusers.  Abusers who gave you life, then sucked it right back out of you.  It stays with you.  Sometimes forever.  Once a child of pain, always a child of pain.  The scars don’t fade easily, if at all.  Pain enjoys torturing and destroying. Playing with you.   It finds you wherever you go, delighting in the chase.  There is no escape.

 

Some things cannot be repaired.  Some wounds can never be fully healed.  Some pain is so deep, you drown in it.  You are absorbed into it.  It changes you.  And once you know pain this intimately, you are joined with it forever until you become one with the agony and anguish.

 

Born into pain.  Living with the shame, sorrow and heartache, trying to build a life in spite of massive damage and debilitating brokenness.  Living with the emotional encumbrance, longing for escape, until death ultimately marks you, claims you and carries you away.

 

Child of pain.  Until death do us part.

 

Single

At my age, “married” is the most common marital status.  Singles groups are filled with those in their 20s and 30s…even a few in their 40s, but not with those in my age bracket.  People my age are beginning to enjoy their grandchildren or they’re traveling with their spouse as they celebrate 25+ years of marriage. So, when someone asks if I’m married and I tell them I am not, there’s always the sound of mild surprise in their voice when they ask their next question.  And the next question, without fail is this:  “widowed or divorced?”

I discovered early on, within mere weeks of my ex-husband’s departure, it was better to be widowed.

The end result is basically the same.  You’re alone and that’s not really what you wanted.  You’re left to pick up the pieces of what is left of your life, your dreams.  Now, you’re supposed to move on with humility and grace.  You have to fill out a lot of legal documents, switch accounts into your name, erasing the last traces of the person you loved.  Build new traditions and routines.  But the differences are significant.

My ex left me after years of belittling, rejecting and deriding me for not being the person of his dreams and for not living up to his expectations.  He “fell in love” with a younger, more beautiful and more lovely woman than I can ever hope to be.  She was to be the perfect wife.  One who cooked, who cleaned, who worked and made good money, who never had an opinion that contradicted his own and who was always ready for hot, dirty sex.

When a spouse dies, they aren’t leaving you because they want to.  They have no choice in the matter.  You might not have had the most perfect marriage overall, but for most women who are left to cope with the death of their husband, love was shared and parting is extremely painful.

What I found, having been dumped and not parted by death, is that I lost almost all of my friends when he left me.  They didn’t know how to relate to me as a single.  We had done “couple” things and now, those things were awkward.   In truth, they probably liked him more than they liked me.  He had a much more outgoing personality.  He was funny.  Not too deep, but lots of fun.  I, on the other hand, am introverted.  I spend vast amounts of energy hiding all my many deficiencies and the brokenness in my soul so as not to offend.   I work extremely hard to be normal.  This brokenness is the result of growing up with abusive parents who did a lot of damage.  Couple this with waiting too long to get professional help to recover and rebuild.  I’m deep; too deep for most.  I think and feel things most people never want to consider and I’ve experienced the kind of abuse they don’t want to know exists.  I try, but I know I’m not even close to epitomizing the definition of a “good time.”

They liked him more and they kind of figured he dumped me for good reasons.  So, life got very empty very quickly…and it wasn’t full to begin with.

I am well acquainted with a couple of women who lost their husbands when they were too young.  It was astounding to see how everyone rallied around them.  Yes, their life was also empty in a horrible way.   A loss is a loss and it’s always going to hurt deeply.  But they didn’t also lose all the other significant people who had been a part of their life and on whom they relied.  Those people were still there.  A lot.  They walked beside them as they cried and raged and vomited their grief.  They included them in events, ignoring the “fifth wheel” discomfort.  They reflected acceptance and let them know they were no less of a person, nor less worthy of love because of their loss.

Those ladies didn’t fill out all their legal forms alone.  Nor did they always have to wipe away their own tears.

If you reach a point where you long for love and dare to hope you can find someone with whom to share your life once more, I have also observed, though divorce is common, men tend to shy away when they find out you are single because your ex left you.  This is particularly true when you objectively share they “left for another woman.”  You’re then regarded as being tainted, defective and assumed to a bitch who got what was coming to you.  Why else would the guy you were married to have bailed?

But if you’re widowed…well, he didn’t want to leave you.  You were still prized, cherished and maybe even a little spoiled.  You were probably a real catch!   Some guy wanted you; wanted to be with you forever.  Which makes you someone worth pursuing, worth getting to know, and possibly, someone worth loving and sharing life.

I am single.  At an age where being single is a bit of a strike against you, right off the bat.  I am alone…and not by choice.  I was dumped.  And yes, I am flawed.  Deeply wounded with many faults and failings.  I see each one of my deficiencies…and oh, how I wish I could make myself into another person altogether.  I know I’m probably harder to love than that person who had never had to rebuild their soul from dust and ashes.  I keep hoping, if I dig around in those ashes long enough, I’ll find something within me that’s worth loving, even just a little.  I keep praying I’ll have something of value to give.  But what I’ve experienced is unending aloneness.  Struggling simply to survive.  Digging through those ashes by myself.  Because realistically, who is going to spend their time poking around in the dirt when there are beautiful gardens to explore and gorgeous landscapes to enjoy.

 

We All Fall Down

It was written about the plague, you know.

Ring around the rosie,
Pockets full of posies;
Ashes, ashes,
We all fall down.

About death, disease, falling down into forever darkness.  Leaving behind this world of joy and laugher,  desire and triumph, meaning and meaninglessness, tears and striving, heartache and cruelty.  This world, where we are told that anything is possible, is a trickster.  For those possibilities are rarely achieved.

We will all die.  Even the baby you hold in your arms today.  That little one who is unable to crawl or speak.  Their time will come.  Life is all about dying.  There is no other option.  It is the last thing each of us will do and there is nothing we can do to prevent it from happening.

There are a plethora of ways to die.  Some were more common at points in history than they are today.  When the plague was harvesting a large number of us during medieval eras, which was a very common way to pass, car wrecks were unheard of.  Because cars hadn’t been created.  Nor had antibiotics. The times change, but our fate does not.

Regardless of the decade in which we were born, regardless of the manner in which we will depart to the next stage, depart we will.  We will all fall down, never to get up again.

Death does its thing.  It wears many faces and has many names.  But the end game is always the same.

The ultimate purpose of life is to die.  We creep closer to it every day, to that moment when our final breath departs from our body.  So, why is life viewed as a gift when in reality, it’s nothing but a period of time during which we are required to find some way to survive as we move ever forward toward the inevitable moment of our departure?

We all fall down.  We cannot escape our fate.  Death will come to claim and smother us, collecting us.  Everything we have held dear will be ripped from us in that moment.  Everything we’ve worked for will be left for strangers or strange family members to take, disperse and sell.  Nothing of what we have done here will endure.  Time will swallow it until we are remembered no more.  Because even those who remember us for an instant will themselves eventually fade into obscurity and die.   Soon, there won’t be anyone left to remember.

We all fall down.  It is our destiny.

Why do we struggle so?  Why do we keep trying to achieve, to succeed, to leave a mark?  Why do we continue to seek purpose when our purpose is to die.

In the end, we will be wiped from the face of the earth.  The clock will keep ticking long after we have stepped out of the timeline.  Dust will return to dust.  We all fall down.  Down for the count.  Everything will go on without us.  And every day that comes after we are gone, others will follow and also fall for the last time.

I used to believe my purpose was to tell the story of the abuse I endured as a child so others would better understand the horrible impact.  So they would begin to comprehend the terrible wounds and crushing pain.  So some would be compelled to confront and end this kind of treatment of children. But I also believed I would win the war I was fighting…the war to survive and thrive.  I believed I would heal.  Find love.  Have a happy ending that made all the suffering and destruction worthwhile.   I would be an inspiration.

I have no happy ending.  I can’t inspire or even guide you on the journey to wholeness because I was infected with a plague when I was a toddler and the damage to my heart was extensive.  Most of my soul didn’t survive.  Healing has been illusive and elusive.  I have no words with which to motivate you because there is nothing inspiring about the place I’ve come from, what my wounds have made of me, what I’ve become as a result of these hideous injuries and where I’ve ended up in life.

Eventually, the death plague will claim me.  All my trials, wounds, scars and attempts to free myself will prove to be without meaning or merit.   We all fall down.  My day is coming.  And who I am, what I am, what I’ve suffered and what has shaped me will ultimately hold no meaning, provide no lesson or inspiration, nor have any redemptive value for those who are left to travel on within life for another day.

The final loss will come.  I will fall.  And my life, in spite of all my efforts, will have no lasting value whatsoever.

 

Storms

There was a storm last week.  Last Thursday evening.  Wasn’t the worst I’ve ever seen; ever survived.  The wind was intense.  Knocked out my power around 6 pm and it wasn’t restored until after 3:30 the next morning. In some places, trees were uprooted, fences were flattened and because it hit suddenly, with little warning, over 15 people died on a nearby lake.

I sat in my closet with my dogs for about an hour.  Then, I sat in the dark until I finally drifted off to sleep with a couple of candles flickering to provide a small amount of comfort.  When you’re without electricity, there are so many things you can’t do.  Sometimes, sleep is the only way to escape.

Without electricity, you can’t cook, heat up a cup of coffee, cool down the house, keep your refrigerated food from perishing…or even do something mundane, like clean house or vacuum your carpet.  You can’t open your garage door, read, shop online, post on Facebook, binge watch a show on Netflix, do something crafty to pass the time or flick on the light when you walk into a dark room.  Though it didn’t stop me from trying.  Out of habit.  More than once.

It didn’t seem like it would be much of a storm.  It was nice out.  Then, the sirens went off, a warning to take cover.  I grabbed my dogs, my purse and external hard drive, then headed for the closet.  Eventually, we were all panting and hot, so I cracked the door and listened for a moment before venturing out to see if it was safe.

Everything was more or less intact.  But it was dark.

We survived.  We survived the storm that took the lives of others less than an hour away from where I live.  We survived with windows open and candles sputtering, encased in the darkness.  Numb and fearful in the eerie aftermath of the storm, waiting to assess the damage.

I have known many storms.  Weather.  Personal crisis.  Abuse.  Rejection.  Unfairness.  Neglect.  Many storms of varying strength, with countless levels of impact.  I have been battered physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually.  I have been broken and wounded.    But somehow, I have survived.  Not intact.  I’ve taken a lot of direct hits, experienced extensive damage and waded through mountains of debris.  I’ve been left to pick up the pieces over and over again.  To patch together a life from what was left of me.  I’ve not been wildly successful.  I have not healed.

Life is one continuous storm.  It’s hard.  People can be monsters.  They do monstrous things.

There are storms…and there are STORMS.  Sometimes, you walk away from them, a little bruised and stressed, but otherwise unharmed.  Some of them, you’re lucky if you can crawl away.  Sometimes, you have to sit there for a while, figure out where you’re bleeding, how deeply you’re cut and what is broken, until you can work up enough strength to turn over, breathe and attempt to stand.  Sometimes, you’re so wounded, you can’t even move.  You know the damage is terribly deep and significant.  The pain is crushing.  All you can do is lay perfectly still, barely breathing, stunned and trembling, unsure if this will be the one that finally brings you down.  After those storms, you can only pray you will be rescued.  And parts of you die a little bit at a time when the rescue never happens.

Even if it takes a long, long time, It’s easier to fix the electricity than it is to put the pieces of your heart back together.  Surviving the storm doesn’t mean you made it out alive.

 

Love is Not a Word

My parents were abusive.  They were abusive in my ways, on may different levels, all of them destructive, demoralizing and debasing.  I was something they owned and a thing to be used for whatever purposes served them at the time.  I could never live up to their expectations, nor did I ever manage to earn the air I breathed while growing up in their house.  I failed them time and time again.

My parents told me often that they loved me.

I generally tried not to think of these two opposing points because I could never allow the  opposites to exist in my mind at the same time without feeling as if my head would explode.

When I couldn’t ignore the nagging thoughts any longer, I would ask them the most obvious question.

“Did you WANT to have children?”

Regardless of how many times I asked and they answered, their response always caused additional bafflement.   And confusion.  For they assured me with very convincing words that they had wanted a child with all of their heart and had been crushed when told it might not happen for them.  Having a baby had been an answer to their prayers.

It was difficult to believe.  They were abusing me and treating me as though I was a worthless mutt who ever lived to disappoint.  They seriously wounded and treated me horribly, making it challenging to reconcile their actions with their explanations.  Why would they abuse and discard me if they had wanted me?

My brain, frantically in search of a logical justification for the incongruent data supplied, settled upon the next plausible motive for their abuse and neglect.

“Did you want a boy?”

Their response never wavered.  “Oh, no, we were hoping for a little girl.”

I couldn’t understand.  For it was at this point they usually told me they loved me, their own little miracle, their first born.

Thus, I learned to ignore my “gut.”  I learned to distrust my intuition.  My feelings.  I listened to their words.  I came to the conclusion that they were telling me the truth and love was very painful indeed.

Being loved was like being mauled by a bear.  Someone was going to get hurt and hurt badly.  And the bear was going to amble away, living to maul another day.

If love is painful, if it’s a destructive force, one that demands, takes, uses and demolishes, it’s not actually something you can cozy up to.  Walls have to be built and maintained.  You have to protect yourself from that kind of a presence.  You can never let down your guard.  And if you don’t do exactly what is expected of you at any given moment, love will turn on you and rip you to pieces.

That’s the only conclusion I could settle on.  Love took and never gave.  You needed it, but the price you had to pay was astronomical.  My parents wanted me.  They loved me.  And I wanted their love. So being loved was what caused the damage and abuse.  It was so painful, it could barely be survived.

The problem, I finally realized, was found within my definition of love…what it really means to be loved.  I was well over 40 before I realized the flaw to my logic.

I began to consider the facts once more and was startled to realize I had the equation all wrong.  I had begun with the answer and built my case on it.  But I had not started with the correct answer.

If my parents loved me and my parents used, neglected and abused me, then love, though necessary, though hungered for, was painful and wounding.

If parental love + parental abuse = “True Love”

  • Then true love is nothing more than abuse, rejection, never-ending demands and disgust, among many other hurtful and appalling actions.
    • Therefore, abuse, rejection, never-ending demands and disgust are what is deserved, because this is true love.
    • I didn’t deserve anything beyond what they provided because I was asking for more than love.  I was worthless, a failure who never met their expectations, an object (not even a person).  I wanted and needed what I should not want and need.
    • They were justified. They acted out of love so their actions were what I deserved.

I created a Boolean loop.

But, what if…

What if they didn’t actually love me?

What if the way they treated me wasn’t love?  What if the things they did to me were indications of their lack of love for me?  What if those hurtful actions revealed their true motives, their own selfish desires and their narcissism?

What if love is not a word?  What if it is a force that comes from the heart and propels one to take actions or motivates certain behaviors that are totally, absolutely, conclusively not like those actions and behaviors I experienced with my parents?

If saying you love someone doesn’t equal love…?

This is when the world turned upside down .  Or maybe, more accurately, it’s when it began to turn right-side up again.

I think they loved the IDEA of having a child.  But loving the child was another thing altogether.  That was the part they couldn’t do.  And the lack of love for me was unmasked and evidenced by their acts and deeds.

I let myself be deceived.  I believed their words, discarding my own observation, intuition and understanding.  I thought I had to be wrong because they told me they loved me, proving my feelings and conclusions were inaccurate.  But what if my observation, intuition, understanding, feelings and conclusions were dead on and their words expressing love for me contained the lie?

What if love is not a word?  What if love is more…so very much more?  What if it’s not a bear that mauls you, but a puppy that can’t stop kissing your nose because you are their whole wonderful world?  What if being loved doesn’t = being abused?  What if my parents lied so I would never look too closely at their actions or question their harsh demands and judgements too carefully?

I am still working at undoing all the faulty logic in my brain.  All the thoughts that were derailed and discarded because I started with the wrong conclusion.  I believed their words and not their deeds.  But I think I am on the right path now.  I think I knew in my heart that they didn’t really love me, which caused me to probe and question them repeatedly.  In trying to fit WORDS OF LOVE and ACTIONS OF ABUSE together in a way that made sense and didn’t rip me to pieces, I allowed myself to believe their lie.

I’m finally starting to get it.  Slowly.  It’s beginning to take shape in my soul.

Love is not a word.  I have never known love.

Sometimes the Pain Wins

I, along with the vast majority of human beings currently living on the planet earth, are incredibly saddened by the news of the death of several high profile “stars” over the past year.  Kate Spade’s suicide marks one of the most recent of those tragic deaths.  A death that was premature.  Unexplainable, to those of us watching from the outside.  “Senseless,” we call it.  Some are using it as a lesson; “money can’t buy happiness!”  Some of my friends even said it was selfish.  A few are actually angry with her.  But I can’t go there with them.  Not to the place of being angry or judging or moralizing.  Because I know something they don’t understand.   Something they simply can’t comprehend.

Sometimes the pain wins.

Until you have experienced that kind of intense, destructive, unrelenting pain in your soul, you probably can’t understand.   But I’m know it’s true.  The agony and isolation can take you down and knock you out of the game permanently.  Depression doesn’t fight fair.  And its goal is to destroy you.  Simple as that.

Depression is ugly and because it’s ugly, a lot of people won’t even glance in your direction when you are struggling.  That is part of the reason pain wins.  Ignorance.  Rejection.  Being judged as unacceptable.  A downer.  Troublesome.  A burden.   When we’re not “together,” we’re required to wear a mask and pretend as if we are.  And it’s lonely behind the facade.

When others see you as a burden, it’s unbearably hurtful.  When you can only see yourself as a burden, a negative in the universe, pain will use this advantage, this crack in your armor, and it will take you down.  It will take you out with one huge knock-out punch.  It will win.

This is the place where hope breathes its last breath.  The place where the aloneness and emptiness becomes overwhelming and shattering because there is absolutely nothing or no one to hold on to or to grab.  All strength and the will to fight is annihilated.  Nothing seems worth it, especially not you…your life.  You realize you are asking too much from the world when you ask to be wanted.  You’re more trouble than you are worth.  A toxic substance in the life of everyone you touch.  And you just can’t stand to contaminate the world or live such an empty existence one second longer.

At this point, the emotional pain becomes excruciatingly physical.  Your heart feels as if it will explode.  As if it is being ripped apart from the inside out.  Your mind stops functioning and the wiring in your brain smokes and fries.  You try; still you try.  But that kind of rending, tearing, shredding, utterly consuming pain is more than most mortals can handle alone.  And when you have been marked by the significant fracture it causes in your soul, you simply don’t stand a chance.  You are hardwired to self-destruct in times of such consuming emptiness and overload.  You don’t have the skills or the connections that are needed to survive.

And let’s face it; we live in a world of superficiality.  Your aren’t supposed to be real.  To “over-share”.  Which means, you aren’t supposed to share at all except in very limited doses in very specific circumstances.  Only the good stuff, even if you have to make it up.  You aren’t allowed to be vulnerable, to talk about weaknesses, issues, struggles, destructive thoughts, hurts.  You are not allowed to have dark and difficult times emotionally.  None of that is acceptable.  You’re supposed to be upbeat and positive and see that damned glass as being half full even when the sucker is bone dry empty.  Smile!  Look for the silver lining!  Don’t share your heart.  Whatever you do, don’t be real, don’t be weak, don’t fail, don’t cry, don’t tell, don’t acknowledge the ugly darkness that is destroying you.  Nonconformance will cause you to be labeled as defective.  Deplorable.  A plague! You will be judged and found worthless.  People will turn away and run in the other direction when they see you coming.

You can’t be real on Facebook and you can’t be real in church.  You can’t be real with your friends or they’ll stop being your friends.  You have to play the game or you’ll become a total outcast.  You can’t be honest about who you are, what you are dealing with or where you have come from or you will find yourself wholly alone.  Without even the most shallow of connections.  Lacking any form of companionship.

In those times of darkness when your own soul is gashing you to pieces, you need someone to tell you that you have value.  Even more, you need them to show you.  To be there.  To help you find your way.  To invest in you…time, heart, connection.  To believe you are worth the trouble.  You need something solid to stand on.  So you can rest and stop struggling for just a moment so you can get your strength back.  You need real.  And real…well, real is hard to come by.  Real is rare.

In fact, being real is discouraged. It’s ridiculed.  It’s scorned.  But real, honest, vulnerable…these are the only things that will pull a person through.  And if you don’t get real, that’s when the pain wins.  And when it wins, it wins for keeps.

I am saddened that Kate Spade was in that place.  That place of grasping for a hand in the darkness and coming up empty.  That place of desperately seeking a hint of light in the black, dense fog that obscured anything and everything worthwhile in the world.  Of not being able to see even a pin prick of light to guide her through. It breaks my heart that, when she gave up because she simply couldn’t walk one…more…step, there was no one there to catch her when she let go.  No one to reach her when she began to fall that one last time.

She needed real.  Something solid; someone to tell her she was worth it.  That she could make it and they would help her through.  But when she reached out her hand, for whatever reasons, it came back empty.  And the pain won.

I pray that this tragedy will cause others to break through the facades we spin for ourselves, to rip off the masks and to start a journey to the place where we share our hearts…good, bad, ugly, dark, broken, confused.  Where we embrace, encourage, accept instead of ridicule, reject, disavow.  Where we love instead of judge.  Where we offer a hand instead of a fist.  Where we share the pain until the darkness recedes.

Nothing can fix Kate’s world now.  Nothing can help her to find a reason to hang on.  To live.  Nothing can help her to see how wonderful and specials she was.  And how valuable.  The door is closed.  She closed it, alone in the night of her soul.   I am saddened that this woman who brought so much happiness to the lives of others through her many creations ran out of joy.  I’m upset that she found herself alone in the darkness at the time of her greatest need.  I hate it that this wondrous, unique, creative, beautiful individual couldn’t find a reason to hang on and couldn’t find anyone or anything to hang on to when she needed help the most.  It should never happen.  To me, this is our ultimate failure.  The pain should never win.  But it does.  As it did here.  And we are all diminished because of the loss of another special individual who should have never had to know what it is like to be that horribly alone and without hope.  Depression colors and clouds our perspective.  We need the eyes of another, their hand to hold, their arms around us, their heart beating with ours to survive those times. We need intense intervention.  Someone has to carry us when we are that lost.  And when this doesn’t happen, when we reach out, desperately grasping and find nothing but empty air, the pain wins.  There are no second chances.

I hope we will not continue to be lulled into complacency, believing things will turn out okay in the end.  Because sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes the pain wins.  And when the pain wins, the winner takes all.

 

Breaking Chains

Several years ago, I read an article in “Readers Digest” that made me cry.  I don’t often cry.  But the story touched me deeply in a tender place, liberating long overdue tears while providing a minor release of buried pain.

It was the story of a man who was sent to visit his grandfather in another country one summer when he was a child.  His grandfather lived in the middle of nowhere on a farm far up in the mountains.  He was a hard worker, but had little in the way of material goods.  So, he gave his grandson the one thing he had to give.  Himself.

During that summer, he taught his grandson some important lessons.  He spent time WITH the young boy instead of spending money ON him.  He taught him to do things for himself, to take pride in the work of his hands, instead of always buying cheaply made, but expensive, things.  One of the interesting skills he passed along to his grandson was how to make things out of wood.  A flute.  A bird feeder. A boat.  And the boat was the central character in this story.

He was proud of the little boat he made and he sailed it at a nearby lake many times during that summer visit.  But when it was time to return to the US, his father told him he would have to leave his precious craft behind. There wasn’t room in their bags for even one more item.  So the boy reluctantly took the boat to the lake and carefully hid it in a small hole under a big boulder.  Then he said goodbye.

This was in the early 30’s.  His grandfather died soon thereafter and he didn’t return again until the mid-60’s, when he was accompanied by his own children.  One of the first things he did was to search for the boat…and he eventually found it!  He told his children the story of the little boat, then returned it to its hiding place before leaving.  Over the years, they made several return trips and each time, he would pull it out and carve the date of his visits in the wood before hiding it again.

And then, he was the grandfather.  He took his two teenaged granddaughters to the old remote farm up in the mountains where his grandfather had lived and died so many years before.  He retrieved his tiny boat once more and told them the story of his grandfather, the lessons learned by his side, how he made the small craft and what it represented.  His granddaughters listened quietly.  And finally, the youngest one said, “Grandpa, I will come back and visit your boat.  And I will bring my children.”

And so, I wept.  Touched by the chain of love this family had created.  The links over several lifespans that would continue long after they were gone.  The grandfather that started it (or did he?) had been dead for many years before the granddaughters first heard about the boat.  They never met their great grandfather.  But he lived on in the grandson, just as the grandson would live on through his granddaughters and their children.  The love would survive.  Their chain of love was strong and enduring, even though the wood of the toy boat weathered and wore.   There was a legacy of love in this family, passed from one generation to the next as children were nurtured and taught and guided. A beautiful legacy of love that spread and thrived as it passed from father to son to daughter to grandson to granddaughter.  The flesh grew old and failed.  But the legacy of love never faltered.

In my own life, I am part of a chain of abuse.  A chain with steely links of rejection, depression, brokenness and destruction.  This chain binds me as surely as the chain of love binds that man and his family.

I never met my great grandparents.  I have no idea what they were like because their stories were never shared with me.  But judging from my grandparents lives and the legacy they left behind, I can’t imagine they were given enough unconditional love, nurturing or attention.  The thing I have noticed that stops me in my tracks, the really frightening thing is this: whatever is passed along tends to intensify through the years. It grows and thrives, becoming a strong, nearly unbreakable shackle.

My own father was not cared for by his mother when he was a middle-school child.  She suffered a breakdown during a divorce.  The divorce was at least partially caused by a father who chased after other women.  His unfaithfulness nearly destroyed my paternal grandmother and certainly destroyed the marriage.  He was also a drunk.  My own father didn’t drink often, but his need came out in different ways.  He was angry…violently so…and he was obsessed by pornography.  As a result, he abused me sexually and physically.  So the neglect he experienced became vicious, deviant abuse in my life.  The kind of abuse that is criminal and does lasting, deep, horrible damage.

My mother had a grandfather who was diagnosed in later life as paranoid schizophrenic.  My mother was depressed, angry, self-centered, manipulative and felt the world owned her.  She, in turn, abused me physically, emotionally and verbally.  She was never beaten and her own mother loved her, trying to make up for her father’s paranoia.  The “abuse” she suffered was verbal (which is also damaging).  But again, the bad was intensified.  She was far more abusive than her own father had ever been.  The bad became worse.

The chain of love never seems to diminish.  It remains a steady, flowing stream of life, health and stability.  But depravity intensifies and causes more damage with each generation.  When a person is deprived of what they need to become a healthy, whole human being, if the chain is not somehow broken or the pattern isn’t significantly disrupted, the depravity expands and strengthens.  Just as those addicted to pornography have to find more intense ways to thrill and stimulate themselves, the abusiveness seems to grow worse and worse, spreading like a cancer of the spirit and soul.

As much as we may not like it, as much as we may fight against it, the hand we are dealt impacts us.  It doesn’t totally define us.  We can overcome it in some cases if we’re willing to delve deeply into the damage.  With much work and dedication…and maybe some luck…we overcome.  Without significant intervention, we succumb to the hideous chain that binds us to our legacy.  We have a choice.  We can acknowledge it and fight it, or give in to it.  We may love it or hate it, submissively accept it or get mad about it.  But acknowledged or not, our legacy does leave a mark.  It has a positive impact or a negative power.  And that gets passed down through the generations, even if we are able to bypass a lot of the negative fallout.

It is our foundation.  We may build a big, fancy, wonderful life on that foundation and the house we build may survive in spite of the cracks and faults of the foundation.  But the chances of the house making it through our lifetime increase with the sturdiness, solidness, levelness and health of the foundation on which it is built.  If the foundation is bad, the house deteriorates rapidly over time.

I am thankful to have broken the chain.

Fearful of my ability to change the patterns set in motion by my own foundation, wary of the damage my own brokenness might cause a developing child, I remained childless.  I will leave no legacy behind simply because there will be no one with whom to leave it..   There will be nothing of me to pass down, to go forward in the heart and genes of another human being.  No stories of my life, nothing to be remembered…good or bad.  When I die, my lineage comes to a screeching halt.  The only dates that will be carved in memoriam will be those on my tombstone.  A tombstone that will not be visited by children or grandchildren.  The legacy of pain and abuse will die with me.  Laid to rest at last.  Safe beneath the boulder where it will remain forever undisturbed, soon to be forgotten.

Fallen Sky

“’My, oh my, the sky is falling.  I must run and tell the lion about it,’ says Chicken Little as she begins to run.

She runs and runs.  By and by, she meets the hen.

‘Where are you going,’ asks the hen.

‘Oh, Henny Penny, the sky is falling and I’m going to the lion to tell him about it.’

‘How do you know it’s falling?’  asks Henny Penny.

‘It hit me on the head, so I  know it must be so,’ says Chicken Little.”

 

Chicken Little was right after all.  The sky has fallen.  It has fallen to the ground and hit me on the head.  But I have no one to run to.  No one to tell.

The sky has fallen and I can’t put it back where it belongs. The stars have shattered on impact and lay broken in frosty shards upon the ground.  I’ve tried to repair and rehang them.  To string them up.  To tape them in place.  I’ve tried, but I have failed.  The empty black void above me is a testimony to my failure.

The sky has fallen and I can’t make it blue again.  I’ve attempted to paint it with a brush.  Wished for a magical solution.  I’ve tried to find a button to push; one that would right all that has become wrong.  Worked diligently to restore light and to coax a soft breeze from the stagnant, stale air.  I’ve tried for what feels like forever.  But the heavens remain dark, gloomy and empty in spite of my best efforts.

Paint doesn’t stick to a fallen sky.

The damage happened long ago.  A storm of meteors slammed into my world, dragging the heavens down with them as they sliced through the atmosphere.  Everything changed in the blink of an eye.  All that was familiar was instantly gone.  A foreign landscape appeared and tenaciously remains where life once flourished.  A terrifying transition that has taken root and taken over.  All that I once knew and believed and trusted…vanished.  The ground shifted violently below my feet, callously throwing me to the dusty earth without a second thought.  Without a single concern. That’s when the sky fell.  That’s when it hit me in the head and fractured me.  That’s when the stars crashed and splintered and died.  That’s when who I was became someone I didn’t know and had never seen before.  And those who were around me were unmask.

The massive meteors slammed into and sliced through my stratosphere, tearing apart all that was normal and good, leaving nothing behind but ruins, wreckage and terror.  Chaos and confusion.  Ashes and emptiness.  I shattered with the stars.   My tears crystallized on my cheek, freezing my heart until my soul was completely numb.  I worked so hard to pick up all the pieces of my demolished world, of my fractured being.  I strove to glue them back together, to make something functional of them once more.  I looked to the sun for guidance, only to realize it was nowhere to be found.  Nor could the ruined stars provide direction.  Alone, I could not repair even a small portion of the damage.  Alone, I could not find my way to stable ground.  Alone, I sat waiting in the darkness, hoping only to survive the trauma and ravaging shock.  I could not hope for more…it seemed frivolous to do so.  For my dreams had perished in the catastrophe and lay buried somewhere in the midst of the ruins.

I have been sitting alone in the darkness now for decade upon decade.  The light has never returned to my broken, fallen sky.

I cannot fix what has been smashed and wrecked.  I am left with nothing but the debris.  Millions of particles that can never again be fit together.  What once was is lost forever.  There is no life remaining in the barren, lightless world that is now spread out before me.  The sky has fallen.  The damage has been done.  Magic has failed.  As have prayers.  The rewind button never functioned, refusing to return to me even one second of that which has passed into oblivion.   I am not who I was, but am instead who I’ve become because of the tragedy that wrecked the planet on which I must somehow live.  A planet with little air to breath.  One that shifts beneath my feet and hides my path in blackness that can’t be penetrated.

I shattered with the traumatized stars as they fell to the earth and died.  My world is blanketed by the cold unending darkness of a moonless, starless, sunless void.  I am but a shadow of the person who once lived.  Who was growing straight and strong.  Who laughed and loved freely.  I am no longer related to the one who existed before masks were ripped away and everything changed.  Before the meteors hit, slashing apart the sky, bringing it and all it sheltered crashing to the ground, annihilating my world and every wonderful thing I erroneously thought it contained.  The meteors stripped away all falsehood, exposing the truth behind the façades.  And that truth was devastating.

The sky has fallen.  It hit me on the head.  Crushed me.  Scattered me.  Left me without remedy.

The sky has fallen.  I cannot pin it back to the heavens.  Nor can I any more pretend that it did not utterly ruin me when it fell.