Tag Archives: panic


I am a pawn on a chess board.

The game is heated, complex and heavy, for there is much at stake. I have no idea what is going on. I don’t know which direction to move. Or if I should move at all.  I am but a pawn. A lowly pawn.  Expendable.

I do know my place. 

I am apprehensive.   I fear the other players.  They have confidence and authority.  They know how to play the game and move with purpose.  They have options.  I have none.  I am lost, confused and afraid.

I didn’t expect to be the queen.  But I certainly didn’t want to be a nobody pawn.  I would have liked to be a rook or a bishop. A knight, perhaps. Maybe if I were of greater importance, someone who had more strength, power and value, I would have a small chance of winning.  Perhaps if I knew the meaning, the reasoning behind each move, I could survive the competition. But as it is, powerful people are vigorously playing the game with great intensity and focus.  They are waltzing all about me while I stand motionless on my tile, fearing their next move, waiting to be eliminated.  And crushed.

I am of no consequence.

Others flourish, make daring exchanges, taking opponent’s pieces as they move onward triumphantly.  They lunge forward with purpose and conviction.  Some easily gain important ground.  The queen, the powerful, mighty queen, flaunts her authority, tossing irrelevant players from the board.  Caring not.  She is the queen, after all.  How dare lesser men defy her!  How dare they try to restrict and defeat her!  Or block her. God help me if I find myself in her way.  She will sacrifice me without a thought.  Barely noticing my demise, should she in any way register my defeat and sudden death. She is all about the plan.  And winning.  I am nothing to her.  Nothing.

I am nothing to anyone.

Players move in predictable patterns, but in ways and at times that can’t be predicted.  I am frozen on my small square, watching them stride with assurance and composure.  They know where they are going.  They understand their purpose.  They demonstrate self-confidence, strength, and power.  They understand the game and know how to play it.  They play well.

I pray they do not see me.  I am fairly certain they are the predators and I am their prey.

They only want to use me.

While they travel precisely about the board, their movements a dance of daring, authority, and certainty, I stumble, stagnate, and stall.  It is only a matter of moments until I will be taken completely out of the game.  I, who have no power.  I, who can offer nothing worthwhile.  Who is of no significance.  I have no meaning.  I add nothing.  I exist to be sacrificed.

I look up to them.  They look down on me.  They push me around and brush me aside.  They determine how to best position me to their advantage.

This is my life.  Complex.  Frightening.  Intimidating.  Overwhelming.  Terrifying.  I am powerless and unneeded.  Unwanted.   I do not know the rules.  I do not have the moves.  I am not able to take the leaps they take.  Not even when they manipulate me into a corner.  Not even when my life depends on it.

Pawns always lose.  I am a good pawn.  I lose often.



I do not feel.  Not now.  Not for a long time.  I numbed myself years ago.  To survive the volcanic pain I held in the depths of my heart.  The raging torrent that threatened to overwhelm and drown me.  I intentionally twisted the massive valve inside my soul until the flow of caustic emotions stopped.  Until only a trickle escaped.  Until I was no longer being ripped apart by its sharp talons.  Until the agony no longer crushed me with its unbearable weight.

Once closed, that valve is impossible to reopen.  I did not know this when I shut it tight.  Had I understood, I would have chosen to let the pain take me down and rip out my throat.

I have lived my life in this state of suspension, neither dead or alive.  I have talked about all the things that will never matter and none of those that did.  Or do.  I’ve worn my poker face carefully, as if my existence depended on it.   Said what was proper in each situation.  Laughed when it was appropriate.  Cried only in secret, if at all.  Told everyone I was “fine” and “great” while turning the spotlight away from myself because I feared what it would revel if anyone looked too closely.  I performed.  Kept walking.  Went through the motions.  Amazed by the lack of a heartbeat as I took one step and then another.   And another.

I absorbed each shockwave, each loss and trauma, without reacting.  Took the next step.  Feeling nothing.  Kept moving because that was what I was supposed to do.  What I had to do.  Because it’s what “normal” people do.

No heartbeat.

Empty.  Broken.  Shattered.  My only choice was to keep going somehow.  Or die trying.

But when I am alone, when the darkness of night swaddles me tightly, pinning me in its cocoon, when the silence screams in my ears until I fear I will go deaf or insane or both, when I have nothing to hang on to and hope is a distant planet, I write.  I search for words to tell my story because I have no voice with which to speak.  Nor do I have anyone waiting by my side who will listen.  I search for the perfect words to express all the things I would feel, if only I could turn that massive handle backward, reopening the rusted valve I closed so long ago.  I vent my emotions through vowels and consonants.  I use my pen to exorcize the decaying,  pent up, blunted, deadened feelings.  The words on the page are the only way I know I am still alive.  They speak.  Quietly and falteringly.  They attempt to make sense of the repulsive tale.  They are my tapestry.

I inject all of my buried emotion into those words.  Into each one of them…each word and phrase.  I don’t feel, so much as I write it out, then read what I should or would be feeling if only I could.  I write about what I might be experiencing somewhere deep beneath the surface of my frozen soul.   I pack the sentences and paragraphs full of descriptors, hoping to attain a reaction upon impact.   I long for a response from my destroyed soul.  Any response at all.  But no matter how well I capture the moment or paint the picture or weave the tapestry, my words do not cause so much as a tiny ripple in my heart.

And so, I continue to write.  Trying in vain to uncover even a microscopic sign of life.

I long for seismic activity.  For the volcano to spew forth the hot lava that burns my insides and eats me from within.  But there is no activity to detect.  Nor even so much as a bit of steam escaping from the throat of the volcano.   The fissure does not vomit out its contents.   There is no relief.  Only enduring silence.

I search for words I cannot find.  Attempting finally to release the noxious toxic gasses into the atmosphere.  But the crater is cold, sealed by too many thick layers and far too many years.

No heartbeat.  The valve can’t be reopened.  Time can’t be unspent.  There is no going back to do it differently.  All the paths not taken will never be traveled because I did not choose to walk them.  I did not take the risks I should have taken, nor did I dare to explore uncharted territory.

There is a crater where once was housed a soul.  There is a stone where I once nurtured a heart.  There is numbness and death where once there was breath and life.  And there are now only inadequate, insufficient, unmoving words scattered across the page where once there was a heartbeat.

My heartbeat.  Silent forevermore.

Teacher, Teacher

My father was a teacher.

He first wanted to be a pastor, a revelation that was quite surprising, considering neither of my parents attended church and only spoke of God when they wanted to restrict my behavior or forbid me from participating in some activity.  Everything fun was a sin.  So, at best, I learned of a rejecting and small-minded God.

Drinking was a sin.  Getting drunk was a dire and unforgivable sin. Cursing was a sin.  Disobeying my parents was a sin.  Selfishness was a sin if I was guilty, but oddly enough, it wasn’t a sin when my parents were guilty. Lying, particularly to my parents, was a sin.  As was dancing, skating, smoking, going to movies, hanging out with friends.  Wanting cool clothes and caring about how one looked was also a sin…vanity.  Sin was not permitted.  It was very, very bad. God hated sinners.  He sent them to hell.  He only accepted the perfectly obedient.

Sex before marriage would send you to hell.  But somehow adultery never made the list, perhaps because it was my father’s specialty.  That and a few other sexual sins.

Considering these shaming conversations were the only ones “about” God that were heard in my house as I was growing up, the thought of my earthly father leading a church service was incongruous, to say the least.  Thankfully, the pastor gig didn’t pan out.  And when it fell apart, he moved toward what he considered to be the next best option.  He became a teacher.  Of 7th and 8th grade English.   And when he received his Master’s degree, he added Reading Specialist to his title.

This “next best” option still gave him power and access to fairly young children.

He was a Sergeant in the Air Force and for the rest of his life, everyone who knew him called him “Sarge.”  He earned the nickname.  Wore it with pride.  My father was a man who demanded absolute obedience.  Like God.

Though I am unsure of my age when he first started sexually abusing me (childhood trauma can play havoc with memory…and the soul), by the time I entered elementary school, I was already showing signs of long term abuse.  Torturing my dolls.  Sexual awareness far beyond what was normal for a 6-year-old.  Fear of adults.  Withdrawal.  I carried secrets no little girl should ever have to carry.

My father the teacher taught me many things.

He taught me to fear.  To disregard my own intuition and perceptions. To hate myself.  To despair.  To distrust.  To expect the bad.  For you could always depend on terrible things happening.

He taught me to disassociate.  To hurt.  Feel agony beyond what I could bear.  To hold in my tears, even as they ripped me into pieces.  To numb my emotions. To live in a vacuum void of any life-giving elements.

And he taught me about sex.  He told me he was doing it for my own good.  To help me.

My father the teacher was very, very helpful.  When he wanted something from me.

My greatest fear is that he also taught other little girls.  And if I had found my voice when he was alive, I might have been able to prevent him from taking on other “students.”

I pray I am wrong.  I pray I was the only one.  But the odds are against my prayer being answered.  I wonder often if the day will come when I encounter another child he personally tutored the way he groomed and tutored me.

He was such a “good” teacher, the lessons he taught me have been difficult to unlearn.  The numbness persists.  As does fear and despair.  My memory is full of black holes and brief flashes.  I cannot put the few memories I do have into any kind of order.  They pop into my head and play behind my eyes randomly, then fade away just as quickly.  I struggle to believe I have value unless I prove myself to be useful again and again.  I must earn the right to live and breathe, unsure I am even a person. I see my Heavenly Father through the same lens as I view my earthly father.  I fear Him as I feared him.  I don’t know how to trust Him, just as I knew I could not trust him.  I feel His rejection and displeasure just as I felt his rejection and displeasure.  I feel used by Him much in the same way I felt used by him.  My earthy father broke me, smashed me to pieces, shattered my soul.  My Heavenly Father allowed it…and He has not bothered to put me back together.

Could be the healing I have sought hasn’t come because of the lessons my father taught me.  Such a very “good” teacher.  I can’t seem to change the way I see my Father and I think this hinders me in my pursuit of wholeness.  Not only did my father shatter me with his lessons, he shattered my ability to trust the One who might be able to help me.

He stole my hope.  Derailed my future.  Defiled me.

The problem with being defiled is that I am the one who got dirty.  He walked away unscathed.  Unlabeled.   He got away without enduring a single consequence.

What he taught me did not help me.  It did not prepare me for life.  Instead, it crippled me.  His lessons have been something I must constantly struggle to overcome, not something I can build and stand upon.

But he taught me. Teacher, teacher.  He taught me lasting lessons.  Written indelibly on my heart.  Infused into every cell.   And I walk this dark and empty path he set before me though I have tried desperately to leave it behind.  I walk this torturous, desolate, poisoned path every single moment of each and every day.

I have been perfectly obedient.


Ghost of Christmas Past

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…
For some.
For others, it’s a lonely, painful time.   A haunted time.
It’s a time of unfulfilled expectations.  Of laughter that never reaches your heart.  Happiness that never makes it to your soul.  Because it’s supposed to be a time of families and close friends getting together, celebrating, sharing love, magic, joy.  Perhaps for a lot of people, that’s what happens.  But for many of us, it’s just another empty, disappointing day.  One that feels even more empty than normal because it’s supposed to be full.
 And then, there is the dark side.
I have a memory from when I was a young child.  It’s Christmas break.  My father was a teacher, so he was home with my brother and me.  It was a few days before Christmas and it had snowed…a big, deep, delightful (when you’re a child) snow that turned the world into a wonderland.  My father was born and raised in Michigan.  It snowed a lot there.  And while this wasn’t a major snow by Michigan standards, it was pretty significant for Missouri.  The snow was thigh deep in the shallowest of places.  It was almost waist deep in the drifts.  My brother and I could barely contain ourselves, we were so excited.  We bundled up and rushed outside to enjoy the miracle.
 My father didn’t often play with us.  But even he seemed enchanted by the beautiful snow that shrouded the world in clean, frigid white, like icing on a cake.  Being from a state where snow in the winter was an everyday affair, he knew lots of outside winter games.  He asked us if we knew how to play fox and geese.  We both shook our heads no, shivering with anticipation as well as with the cold.  And so the fun began! He instructed us to clear a big circular path in the snow in an open area of our yard.  We kicked and dug and packed and tramped, working up a sweat.  Once the circle was complete, he had us make an “x” path through the circle, dividing it into 4 equal quadrants. 
 He was the fox first.  We were the geese being chased around and through the pathways we had created in the snow.  The goal of the fox was to catch a goose.  Once tagged, the goose would then become the fox. We ran for our lives!  Laughing.  Falling.  Laughing some more.  It was so much fun!  We played until we were soaking wet and freezing cold and totally exhausted.  Then we all tumbled back into the house to change into dry clothes and warm our runny noses, red ears, and stiff, numb fingers and toes.
 This is where the memory changes for me.  This is where the darkness made itself known.
I was in my room, having just opened the drawer to my dresser.  I was trying to decide what sweater I wanted to wear.  As I poked through the 4 or 5 sweaters I owned, I was startled when the door to my room opened and closed.  My father entered and he was acting strangely.  Playful daddy had turned into what I later came to know and label as “sick daddy.”  He sucked the air out of the room as he entered, breathing heavily.  Quivering with anticipation.  I was enveloped by an overwhelming sense of dread that I didn’t understand.
 “Let me make you warm,” he said quietly but firmly in his new odd voice.
He removed my clothes as I hopelessly pleaded with him.  Begged him not to.  Kissing, fondling, groping, invading me.  And when he was finished, he said, “There, now isn’t that better?  Don’t you feel warm now?  Get dressed and come on out to the kitchen.  I’ll make us all some hot chocolate.”
And he was gone.
I remember standing in my room, unable to move for a time.  Then picking up my discarded clothes and placing them in a pile.  I dressed quickly.  Quietly.  I felt numb.  Frozen by ice that was colder than the snow that covered the ground.  Once dressed, I picked up my wet things to put them in the laundry and cast a glance back into the room before walking out the door.  I wanted to make sure everything was in order.  But what I most remember…vividly remember…is seeing myself still there in my room, hopelessly broken, barely breathing, laying on the floor.  I remember leaving that shattered little girl behind.  I left her there, a pile of gore and broken bones, shattered spirit and heart, where my wet clothes had been laying, hideously destroyed, fractured beyond recognition.  She wasn’t able to walk out of that room.  She wasn’t capable of facing the monster that waited down the hall with hot chocolate and marshmallows.  She couldn’t pick herself up and go on; couldn’t stop screaming.  She was in a million pieces and I left her there to fend for herself, half angry with her for leaving me, for making me go out into the ugly world alone.  I saw her body, ripped, torn, decimated.  And instead of rushing to her side and comforting her, I turned away.  I walked out of the room.  Closed the door.  And joined my brother and father as we sipped steaming mugs of freshly made cocoa.  As if nothing had happened.  As if nothing had changed.
Why do I remember this particular memory so clearly; so vividly?  It wasn’t the first time my father sexually abused me.  Nor was it the last.  It wasn’t one of the worst memories I have.  Certainly there are far more horrible memories of perverted things he did to me. So why is this one day, this one event, etched so deeply and perfectly in my mind?  Why can I still see it as if it happened only yesterday?
Several things seem pertinent.  For one thing, when my father started sexually abusing me, I was probably around 4 or 5 years old.  The memories I have of that time are shrouded in fantasy.  I didn’t have the maturity to understand what was happening.  I didn’t like it.  It scared me.  It felt wrong.  But I didn’t have the ability to grasp or process what he was doing.  Because of this, I created a fantasy world and escaped into it.  As an older child, this was becoming more difficult to execute.  And I believe I had finally reached an age and a point of understanding where it was no longer possible to ignore, warp, or wrap what he was doing to me in a make-believe world. Secondly, having come to an age where I could no longer deny or shroud in fantasy what my father was doing to me, I shattered. Completely shattered.  I believe the memory I have is of the day, the moment in time, when that horrible shattering took place.  So even though what he did to me that day was not the vilest thing my father would ever do, it was a significant moment in time because of the internal impact.  It was the moment he utterly obliterated my soul.
I didn’t stop loving Christmas.  Though I hate snow.  But Christmas was never a carefree or magical time for me afterwards.  I was always looking over my shoulder.  Waiting for everything to morph into that other unspeakable reality.  It was never again wonderful.  There was a hidden razor’s edge, cutting into my deepest and most vulnerable parts and places.  There was always pain mixed with the happiness.  Fear mixed with the laughter.  Terror mixed in with the carols that were sung.  And I stopped expecting it to be special.  Because everything that was special had been taken away from me.
Guarded, posing in front of the Christmas tree at age 12.
Me in front of the Christmas tree at age 12.
Magic no longer existed.  The lights were not as bright, the ornaments weren’t as shiny.  A hideous monster hid behind the bows and colorful paper that covered the gifts under the tree.  I knew the monster.  The monster watched me, waiting, pouncing, taking.  Christmas that year was when I finally understood what he was.  And then, I closed the lid of the brightly wrapped box in which he hid and smiled, carried on, acting as if everything was as it seemed.
He is long dead now, this ghost of Christmas past.  But he haunts me still.

Watching the Clock

We don’t start watching the clock until we are about…four.

That’s when we figure out it takes a long, long time for Christmas to arrive.  For our next birthday.  By the time we’re six, we realize school lasts forever and summer comes and goes at lightening speed.  Recess is fleeting.  Daylight hours never last long enough.  The alarm clock goes off too early each morning.  Yet we watch the clock.  Waiting.  Always waiting.  For some future event.  For some point in time yet to come.

We can’t wait for the time when we can date.  Drive a car.  For the time we graduate from high school.  Until we can vote.  Drink…legally.

We are a strange race.  We spend our days watching the clock while the moments we should treasure, the life we should cherish and fully experience, those precious moments tick away, always out of reach.  The seconds slip through our fingers.  And as a result, we never truly live.  We’re always waiting.  For something.  We wait and we forget to live.

Oddly, the things we wait for go by so quickly, we can’t seem to grasp or appreciate them.  They are gone before we even realize they have arrived.  Yet, the things we can’t wait to end, that drag on and on and on forever, those things seem to last beyond eternity.  Beyond our ability to endure.

Sadly, the things we look forward to, those things, we can’t slow them down long enough to appreciate them.  We can’t slow them down enough to wrap our arms around them.  The things we want to last forever are gone before we can even focus on them.

It’s like eating oysters on the half shell.  We swallow whole the things we should savor and as a result, never really taste the precious minutes of our existence.

One day, I was a young girl of 15. The next, there was an old woman looking back at me in the mirror, face lined with wrinkles, limbs tired and mind confused.  That old woman barely resembled me…the me that will forever possess my heart.  For you see, the 15 year-old still lives inside of my sagging body.  Life has happened, one tick of the clock at a time.  The moments are gone forever.  The memories are fading, just as my eyesight fades.  Fear causes me to look away.  To deny. To forget the reflection I saw in the mirror…the reflection that surely can’t be mine.

There comes a point where we are waiting for the inevitable.  That moment we must all experience, but that most of us dread. The moment we slip beyond time. When the breath of life leaves our body.  We want to stop the clock, but we can’t.  The ticking is deafening.

When we are young, we can’t even fathom that this moment will arrive.  And then, we age, time begins to slip away and we can’t fathom the moment not arriving.   We know.  It is only a matter of time.  We watch the clock. We can’t help ourselves.  And then, suddenly, the clock tells us that time is running out.

Still, we can’t stop watching.

Not Going to Make It

I have a fear of being without resources; particularly without financial resources.  No, it’s not just a fear.  I think it actually falls more into the category of absolute abject terror.

I was a sensitive child.  When I was growing up, we didn’t have much money.  Until I was 9 years old, my family of 4 occupied an 8 ft. x 24 ft. prefab trailer that had a couple of small rooms added, built on by my father around the time I turned 6 or 7.  Those rooms didn’t have finished windows (no sills or trim), nor were there any baseboards, pictures, or fancy decorations.  And tar paper covered the outer walls to protect thin, bare wood walls from the weather.  We had one couch to sit on and it was a little couch that was moved from the trailer into the new lean-to living area.  There was one small table that held our old black and white TV.  We made do with very little, my father supplementing our meager grocery budget with the dove, rabbits, quail, squirrels and bass or trout he shot or caught.

I’m not sure why we were so poor.  My father was a teacher, and while teachers don’t make great amounts of money, I was always mystified at our continual lack, even back then.  My mother also worked as a commercial artist until I was 15 years old.  With both of them working, even though they weren’t working in high paying fields, I would have thought we would have had more to live on.

My clothes were homemade, if I was very fortunate.  More often, they were hand-me-downs from my aunt (who was 20 years my senior) or purchased at the Goodwill store.  And back then, Goodwill didn’t offer much. There were no music lessons or other activities that cost money.  If we did it, it had to be free.  My grandparents had a large garden and we ate lots of fruits and vegetables that they grew.  Our trailer was on a concrete pad on the back part of their property, so one would think our modest living arrangement would have allowed us to make ends meet.  Yet, I still remember the financial crisis we faced each month, without fail.

“We aren’t going to make it.”

This was my father’s standard frantic declaration at around the midpoint of the month.  And it sent shards of ice and terror through my heart.

Honestly, I didn’t understand what “not making it” entailed.  I was too young to grasp the full implications.  I just knew it was something akin to the world ending in a massive catastrophe during which all of us would surely die a horrible death…or worse.  It meant no food, no shelter, no warmth, the end of life as we know it, and having no way to survive.

Discussion would ensue.  What could we do to stretch what remained in their bank account to get us through until the end of the month?  Inevitably, my father would announce that he would sell his shotgun.  The shotgun that he used to hunt.  To provide food.  A shotgun he had sacrificed to buy in the first place, for which he professed great love, but that he would forfeit…for us…because it was the only thing standing between us and horrific disaster.

I was only 4 or 5 when I first became aware of this monthly crisis.  I would have nightmares night after night as a result of our frightening dilemma.  I didn’t want my father to have to sell his gun, but neither did I want us to “not make it.”  And since there was nothing I could do to contribute, other than to perhaps not eat, my fear would grow with each passing day as I dreaded reaching the end of all things as I had come to know them.

And then, suddenly, miraculously, we survived.  We made it through another month. 

Though we would somehow manage to make it, I never felt secure.  And it was very confusing when my father would come home after some of these monthly calamities with a new, better, more expensive shotgun.  A shiny  and lovely gun that he had managed to buy after trading in the old model.  The old model he never had to sell.

Is it any wonder I am terrified of financial lack?  Or that I have an underlying sense that disaster is always waiting for me just around the corner?

If I don’t have a few thousand dollars in my bank account, I start feeling very uncomfortable.  When I get below the thousand dollar mark, I begin to panic. 

I haven’t been in the safe range for a very long time.  Haven’t even been in the panic range.  I’m so low on resources, terror is my constant companion.  I live paycheck to paycheck and there are many times I don’t think I’m going to make it.  For real.

I don’t have a shotgun to sell.  Everything I can sell has been sold, other than the jewelry I made when trying to start a side business.  Before my current crisis, I made occasional sales and those sales provided a small, but nice bonus.  Yet for some reason, no one wants to buy anything now that I really need the money. 

Besides being systematically deconstructed by the continual abuse I suffered while in the “care” of my parents, I learned that a person could never count on anything or trust in anyone.  I learned needs probably wouldn’t be met.  That love was painful, cruel and selfish.  That security was a fairy tale.  That life would throw disaster after disaster into your lap and…you just might not make it.

I’ve been trying. I’ve been trying to make it my entire life.  But I’m not certain what I’ve accomplished could be called anything close to success.

I’m still not sure I’m going to make it.


My Mother Gave To Me

I read an article written by a woman who talked about her relationship with her mother.  She shared that the relationship was shaky for a time.  She felt rejected by her mother for a good part of her life until she finally found a way to break through the barriers that divided them.  Their relationship wasn’t terrible or abusive – she just felt she didn’t measure up to her amazing, beautiful, special mom.  But once they connected, she was able to be proud of her.  The mother passed away a couple of years ago and was now desperately missed. She summed up by noting, every time she received a compliment about her prematurely gray hair (which was just like her mother’s), she would thank the person and tell them, “I got it from my mother.”  That statement became a symbol to her of all the positive things her mother contributed to her life and how they were still connected.  

The article caused me to contemplate the things my own mother had contributed to my life.  To examine the ways we are yet connected. To think about the things I “got” from my mother.

The first thing that came to mind? She was a mess and she was depressed, as am I.  But for very different reasons.  We are alike, but not alike.  Connected, but not connected. Similar, but not.

Let me illustrate. The end result was the same (depression), but for very different underlying reasons. 

My mother believed she should be loved and she got very angry when she wasn’t or didn’t get treated the way she thought she should be treated.  She projected blame outward, striking out at others. 

I, on the other hand, do not believe I am worthy of being loved.  I am so unsure of my personhood, I don’t believe I’m worth time, trouble, or consideration because I have too many issues.  Unlike her, I project blame inward.  My anger is aimed at myself. 

So while her depression was likely largely due to what she saw as grave mistreatment by others and from not receiving what she felt she was owed in life, mine is more of an outgrowth of self-hatred. We were both depressed, but for very different reasons. Alike, but not alike.

There are some strong physical similarities and characteristics we do share.  My eyebrows are just like hers were.  As are my thick ankles.  Then there’s the propensity to gain weight by just looking at food.  Our poor posture.  These things would mark me as her daughter.

But I realized, unlike the author of the article I read, the things that have most shaped my life are comprised more of what I didn’t get from her. And those marks are not as readily visible.

One of the things I didn’t get was love and acceptance.  Instead, I received rejection.  Along with physical and emotional abuse.  Over time, continually being told I was a major disappointment beat me down.  I was supposed to fulfill her and I failed.  I wasn’t pretty enough, cute, fun, or popular enough.  I didn’t fix her life or make her look good.  I didn’t perform the way I was expected to perform.  She undermined my value day after day, year after year.  In some ways, this was more toxic than the physical blows.  Never measuring up, her rejection, anger, and physical outbursts, along with the abuse I suffered at the hands of my father, all became part of the experiences that caused me to disbelieve I was a person.  I learned from my parents, from my mother, I was an object to be used.  I existed solely to provide what others required of me.

She taught me well.  I still struggle to believe I’m a real person who has any value.  

Another thing I didn’t get from my mother was a sense of safety or security.  I was terribly afraid, never knowing when the bottom would fall out of my world.  When I would be hit.  When she would turn into a screaming maniac.  When the violent fights would erupt.  What kind of craziness I would encounter.  What would set her off.  I had nightmares about the world coming to an end, about horribly destructive tornadoes, massive disasters, fires.  I walked on eggshells and tried to be invisible.  And while the intensity of the terror has dulled, her influence caused me to be a fearful, risk-adverse person.

I also didn’t receive nurture, protection, or support.  I was used, abused, left to fend for myself and to figure out a very complex and crazy-making environment.  I learned quickly that I wasn’t supposed to ask for or expect anything from the adults in my life.  I wasn’t supposed to need or be any trouble whatsoever.  The less disruption I caused the better.  So nurture and protection weren’t at all available.  I attempted only to survive. 

I am still trying to find ways to survive without creating ripples or requiring anything from others. 

As a child, I was always told I had “better be sick enough” to deserve expensive and inconvenient intervention and care.  I still have difficulty determining when I have crossed the line to “sick enough.”  For example, when I had pneumonia, I waited until I was so ill before I finally sought a doctor’s care, I needed to be hospitalized. And because I often didn’t get essential care as a child, I now think it’s wrong for me to even consider wanting, needing, or seeking it.  I think I’m supposed to tough it out.  Do without.  Find a way to keep going, no matter what.  Without help.

Without bothering my mother.

Ultimately, what my mother gave me by not providing what I needed was a very confusing and conflicted view of life, love, myself, and others.  So as Mother’s Day approaches, even though she has been dead for many years, I can’t help but think of her with great sadness and pain.  Not because she isn’t physically here with me now.  I’m actually thankful that phase of my life is over. But rather, I feel sadness because she is still with me in so many ways.  I don’t have her gray hair, but her handiwork is evident and painfully visible, manifest in the immeasurable damage within me that she left behind.


I am angry.  Really angry. With God.  Stupid, I know.  For all the good it will do me.  But there, I said it.  I’m boiling angry with Him and here are the reasons why.

Very early in my Christian walk, I did something really awful.  I was deceived and believed it wasn’t awful. But over the span of a few months, I began to realize, just because all the rules changed when I became a Christian, some things didn’t change and this thing was one of them.  It was a relationship.  A wrong relationship.  And I broke it off as soon as I realized the deception and sin.  I begged God for forgiveness.  I begged Him to take me back, make me clean again, to be my friend and lord.  But a chasm had been opened and nothing I did or said seemed able to close it.  It was as if I had one chance and having screwed up, I was forever doomed to be kept at a distance and cast away.  For years, I prayed, read the Bible every day, repented, did my best to keep all sin out of my life…but nothing changed.  God had become a distant and uncaring, demanding and cold, Father.  I had been rejected. And nothing could ever make me acceptable.

I thought God was kind enough to have a little mercy on me when He lead me to the man I eventually married.  I fell so deeply in love.  I wasn’t looking for a relationship at the time.  Didn’t expect one.  I sought prayer and guidance from some solid Christians because I didn’t want to make another stupid mistake.  I received reassurance from God, in my heart, and from others who prayed with and for me.  They felt God was leading us together.  So I put my fears aside and married.  Only to find out a few short months later that he didn’t love me; didn’t even really like me.  I was a continual disappointment to him.  He disdained the things that matter to me.  Everything about me was wrong and unacceptable.  And I died inside a little more every day until I was nothing more than a zombie.  The walking dead.  I was faithful to him for 22 years, praying for a miracle.  Believing the best God could do for a worthless mess like me was to find someone who would tolerate me.  And then, even being tolerated was too much to ask.  He left me for another woman after all that time.  After I gave him my youth and my heart.  All hope was lost and I crashed.  My life has never been the same.

While I know I haven’t done everything in the best possible way throughout my life, I have sought God’s counsel continually.  I have sinned.  I have made wrong choices.  But I have tried to the best of my ability to be the Christian God would want me to be.  In the process, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong has gone wrong and I have been continually rejected.  By friends, employers, my spouse, family.  Nothing I ever was or did was good enough to buy me any degree of acceptance.  And I’ve worked hard to be good enough.  Very, very hard.  While others found mentors who encouraged them and helped them to succeed, I’ve been thrown away, overlooked, judged and found to have no value.  Others have found surrogate parents.  People who made a difference in the course of their life.  I prayed for parental figures in my life and had exactly zero people who fit that role.  Zero.  I have had to go it alone.  I have had to take the hard road and do things the hard way.  I have had to fight for every scrap.

Do I deserve better?  No.  I’m a sinner, a failure, a mess.  I try.  To do the right things.  To perform.  To be good.  To make a difference.  To be what I’m supposed to be.  But I’m like everyone else in that I experience varying degrees of success in my attempts to be perfect.  I don’t deserve better; but I expected a little more from God.

First of all, there’s that forgiveness thing.  As in, He says He will, if we turn from our sin; if we turn to Him.  Then, there’s the grace and mercy thing He’s supposed to have going on.  And He’s supposed to love us.  All of us.  Even me.  And He’s supposed to supply some wisdom to influence us when we ask for it.  And provide for our needs.  You know, ask and you shall receive and all that.

Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people.  Life is like that.  But we are supposed to be able to pray for, and receive, God’s protection, help, provision, healing and guidance.  I know I’m pa pretty inferior, worthless piece of meat…but, damn it!  I’m NOT chopped liver!  I’m a human being too, though a vastly inferior human being.  One who has called out to Him, begged and pleaded for His forgiveness and acceptance, done the best I could in really bad situations and tried to do what was right, even when it was hard.  Why won’t He help me?  Why won’t He accept me?  Why?!!!

And now, the most wonderful, perfect, sweet little dog I’ve ever had is sick.  Her liver is not functioning properly.  She’s only three years old and I shouldn’t have to be worrying about her at this stage in life.  But I’m very worried.  And I pray for her all the time.  Again, begging.  For God to heal her.  She is so precious to me.  She is all I have to live for.  All I ask is that He give her a little touch and fix what is broken.  Is that really asking too much from a big, powerful and mighty God?  A God who is supposed to care?

Oh, and how about a job?  It’s been over a year.  I’ve applied for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of positions.  Positions for which I am amply qualified, which proven experience and ability.  Over 25 years of experience.  And 90% of the time, I don’t even get an interview.  I’ve also applied for jobs I could do with one hand, in my sleep, with no effort.  Jobs I’m vastly overqualified to handle.  But they don’t interview me either.  Why?  What is going on?  Why are God and the universe against me?

Yes, I’m old.  I have wrinkles and sags.  Employers see this and they have a choice of a young person or me.  They choose the young person.  But where is the “God factor” in all of this?  The provision?  The opening of doors and leading me to a place where I can belong?  Where is God?  And why does He hate me?

I may not be much, but I expect more from God.  What I’m experiencing doesn’t line up with His Word and that makes me mad.  So, God, if you aren’t going to come through, don’t make the promises.  If you aren’t going to love everyone…even me…don’t say you do.  If you don’t want a relationship with worthless pieces of crap like me, don’t put it in writing and say that you want a relationship with everyone.  And try communicating!  Stop slamming doors in my face and help me with at least a few things here.  You won’t heal me, but can you please heal my dog?  You don’t love me, but she is nothing but a little unconditional love machine.  If that doesn’t touch your heart, what will?  Just THINK in her direction and she will be okay!  Can’t you do that one little thing for me?  Just this once?  You won’t help me or open any doors to provide a job for me, in spite of all my effort, but can you please provide for her?  Please?  Won’t you let me have her for a normal life span?  A life span that is already too short?  Or are you going to rip her away from me this early because she means everything to me?

Why are you still punishing me?  For that relationship so long?  For my every failure?  My utter decimation isn’t enough payment?  What do you want from me?  Why do you hate me so?

It may be what I deserve.  But I expected more.  I expected a little bit better.  From you, God.  I expected you to love me.  Even though no one else in the world can love me.  I expected mercy.  I expected guidance.  I expected protection and care.  I’ve never had that; not from anyone on earth.  But I expected it from you.  I expected you to be who you say you are.  And I’m beyond disappointed that you haven’t come through.  I believed.  I believed you.  But now, I’m just angry.  With both of us.  And I don’t believe anymore.  Your live is a lie, at least for me.  I’m tired of hanging on, waiting for your approval and assistance. 

Prove me wrong.  Heal my dog.  Then I may be able to hang on a little longer.  Just one act of mercy and intervention in almost 60 years…can you do that?  Or do I have a very real reason to be angry with you?





This past week, I realized something about myself.  It’s one of those things I’ve always known, but that I never gave much thought.  Something that was so much “just me” that I never questioned it nor considered the implications.  But this week, we had winter weather.  Ice, snow, sleet.  Extreme cold…even set a new record for a low temperature.  And I hate winter weather.  Because it’s so dangerous.  You have to risk your life to get to work so you can make a little bit of money to be able to afford utilities, gas, food, shelter.  It seems so unfair to have to take that kind of a risk for money.  I’m terrified of driving on the icy roads.  Afraid my skills aren’t good enough to keep me out of the ditch or away from someone’s bumper.  Pretty sure the other guy’s skills aren’t adequate in most cases.  The stress from being so fearful and worried makes me crazy.  I despise being put in such a precarious position.  It makes me angry to have to choose to compromise my safety or look like a wimp at work and be ridiculed –  or even disciplined – if I don’t make it in.  These thoughts were winding through my head, tying me in to knots and basically driving me crazy.  And then I had my realization.

I am afraid of almost everything.

I don’t know if I was “born this way” or if it’s something I learned.  But this fearfulness has been with me for a very, very long time.  Since I was a small child.  It’s something that has always been, as far as I can remember.

When I was small, I was afraid of my parents.  They were scary people.  They fought a lot; explosive fights that left the house torn apart and both parents would leave my brother and I alone for hours afterwards.  My father would storm off in his car.  My mother would take off on foot.  I would try to comfort my little brother and clean up the mess.  I didn’t know whether to hope they would never come back or that they wouldn’t leave us alone for very long. 

My father’s explosive temper didn’t only rear its head with my mother.  Though I don’t recall him ever hitting my brother, he hit me fairly frequently.  Seems I was always disappointing him or getting on his nerves.  My mother was very unstable and incapable of handling any challenge, regardless of how minor that challenge might be.  She never drove, rarely cooked or cleaned, did little parenting and viewed everything that required her attention as a crisis.  She, too, had a temper.  Instead of hitting, she slapped.  And she would grab a handful of my hair to drag me around as she screamed at me, telling me how worthless and disappointing I was.

I had some valid reasons to fear them.  But I didn’t fear only my parents.  I feared all adults.  To me, they were unpredictable and more likely to hurt me as be nice to me.  That fear of adults grew to become a fear of all people.  Especially after I experienced major rejection and ridicule from others.  As a result, I became very shy and withdrawn.  Something that was later mistaken for being a feeling of superiority because of my reluctance to interact.  I didn’t even know I was a person, but others thought I was “stuck up!”  I had to work hard to learn how to talk to people; to swallow my fear and act the way others acted socially.  I’m still not very good at it.  I’m awkward.  The fear is still there.

I also had horrible fears and nightmares about things like tornadoes, fire, the dark, spirits, people breaking in to our house, wrecks and other types of catastrophes.    I would lay awake at night, listening to all the sounds.  If the wood popped as it settled, I thought the house was on fire.  If there was much wind or if a storm was raging, I just knew a tornado was going to hit our house and destroy everything, whisking away what little security I had in the world.  I wouldn’t even allow my fingers to hang over the edge of the bed at night because I believed they would be eaten off if I did.  I don’t know what I thought would eat them, but the fear was overwhelming.  I couldn’t even make it to the bathroom in the dark, so great was my terror of the night. 

I was afraid of not having enough money to take care of my needs.  That started young too.  Growing up, my father would tell us almost every month that we weren’t going to make it.  That there wasn’t enough money.  He would threaten to sell his guns.  Sometimes he would sell one.    He was a teacher and he only got paid once a month.  And most of the time, miraculously, he would come home on the first telling us that we made it, somehow.  And he would have a new, even better gun than the one he sold. 

When I got out on my own, I worked extremely hard to move up.  I didn’t figure I would ever be rich, but I wanted to make enough money to have a reasonably nice, safe place to live. I wanted to have some fun clothes, a reliable vehicle, be able to take a vacation once a year.  I barely got to that place before losing it all.  I worked diligently and gave the job everything I had to create some security.  But in the end, nothing was secure.  My whole life and everything I had worked for was blown away.

When I was a young adult, I longed to connect with people.  Longed for companionship.  The closeness.  But as time passed, I began to fear connecting as much or more than I wanted it.  I had been wounded too many times too deeply and I could no longer take the chance of losing another piece of myself.  Of my heart. 

I feared being alone and unloved.  I feared being without.  I feared rejection.  I feared being unwanted.  I feared having nothing.  I feared losing.  I feared being a failure.  I feared never mattering.  I feared slick roads.  I feared risks.  I feared being late.  I feared being out at night.  I feared losing my dogs.  I feared not being able to afford medical and dental care.  I feared my car not starting.  I feared…everything.  Everything.  Absolutely everything.  And I still do.  And almost everything I have feared has come to pass.

Fear took me an inch or a foot or a mile at a time.  Until everything I did or didn’t do was motivated by trying to protect myself.

Now that I’m older, I have added items to the list of things I’m afraid of instead of subtracting anything.

While I am not as afraid of being dead, the process of dying terrifies me.  Will it be prolonged and painful?  Will I suffer greatly?  Being incapacitated also frightens me.  Growing older in general strikes terror in my heart.  And being alone when you’re older and frailer takes one to a whole new level of fear.  Everything is harder.  Even getting out of the car, carrying groceries, and going to work (if one is lucky enough to have a job) becomes a major task.  And going to work every day when your body doesn’t want to cooperate is overwhelming.

About work.  Age discrimination is alive and well.  Money is no longer easy to come by because jobs are scarce, young people willing to fill those that are available are plentiful, and old people are not nearly as desirable.  Retirement looms, but most of us are ill-prepared.  I know there will come a point when I can no longer provide for myself, even if I’m employed.  And how long can I work?  How long will my body hold up? What happens if it doesn’t?

Homelessness is a very real possibility.

I tried to prepare for old age, but I’m not at all equipped.  I’ve lived a fear-filled life and that fear has held me back in many ways.  I haven’t stepped out when others might have.  I haven’t taken the chances many people take without giving it a second thought because I was frightened of failure and rejection.  I have never been recognized as having worth or value and that may partly be because I never valued myself.  It was too risky to believe I mattered because then the pain would be crushing.  I couldn’t chance that.  Even though it might have been the best thing I could have done.

Fear has walked with me every step of the way.  Accompanying me through every day.  It was present during every decision I ever made, even as a child.  it was the only thing I have ever known.  The only constant in my life.  Panic has sent me scurrying.  Anxiety has bound me.  Fear has very nearly destroyed me.  It has owned me and dictated every move I have made on the chessboard of life.  Until there were no more moves left.

This, above all things, strikes total terror in my heart.

No more moves.  Checkmate.



Am I Bad Because I Want to Die?

I have spent almost 45 years trying to recover from my childhood. 

Since my abusive childhood, during the time that has come after, things have not gone well in spite of all efforts to overcome.  I have been married twice. I have held 7 major jobs, after working my way up from a slew of menial, mind-numbing assignments.  Jobs lost due to the economy and greedy, unethical men who have no conscience, compassion, or mercy.  No morals.  I have become a Christian, having had a life-changing encounter with the living God.  Started attending church, stopped, thought about starting again.  I’ve had 4 dogs; buried 2, and cried broken-hearted tears over their loss.  I’ve owned 3 houses, lost the last one that, though modest, was my dream home and meant to be where I retired.  I’ve been in horrid debt.  Now owe and own nothing much to speak of.  Owned two new cars and now drive one that is 16 years old.  Had adequate money; had no money.  I’ve never been loved and wanted by my partner.  I’ve never had plenty.  It has never been easy.  In fact, life has been terribly difficult.

During both marriages, my ex-husbands told me they didn’t love me.  The first husband, who I married when I was 17, told me after 2 weeks of marriage that he wanted a divorce.  The second told me during our first year of marriage that he didn’t love me.  But because I was a Christian and didn’t believe divorce was an option…and I loved him totally…I stayed.  Like a fool.  Believing a miracle would occur and he would someday awake to realize he did love me after all.

Both of those ex-husbands didn’t really want to work.  The first was a musician who wanted to make a go of it in the music business.  I worked at places like garment factories, egg processing plants, and chicken processing plants to support us.  We divorced after 3-1/2 years.  It hurt like hell, but I got over it.  I was young enough to believe I had a future.  I still had hope.

The second ex wanted to be a fireman.  When he couldn’t get hired on due to failure of some weird medical test, he worked menial minimum wage jobs during our entire marriage. He didn’t want responsibility and didn’t want things to be too difficult.   I started at the bottom and worked hard.  Worked my way up into management.  Worked long hours.  Hard days.  Came home to his rejection and disgust every single one of those days for 22 years.  Trying to support us so we wouldn’t be living hand to mouth and so we could enjoy a little security in life.  A few splurges.  Nothing fancy.  But I wanted to do a little more than just pay the bills.  We finally reached that place…where we could breathe a bit.  Then he left me for another woman.  A woman he fell in love with.  Something he could never do with me, apparently.  I was never worth his love.  Never received his acceptance.

I was also trying to heal, particularly during the last 15 years.  I was trying to heal from the parental abuse (sexual, physical, emotional) and neglect I experienced until I left home at age 17.  Having been sexually abused by my father from approximately age 5 until I was 14, I had a few “issues.”  I was broken.  At times, I was a mess.  Not being loved made that worse.  It’s hard to heal when you’re still in a negative, unloving relationship.  Hard to believe you have value when you’re continually being rejected.  So I went to counseling, attended groups, read books, prayed, attended church, prayed some more, went to more counseling, enrolled in Celebrate Recovery…I pursued every avenue of healing I could afford and lay my hands on.

Nothing worked.

I lost jobs, dogs, houses, marriages, opportunities…I lost everything. I’m alone.  I’ve been trying, at an age where most of my friends are retiring and starting to enjoy life, to find another job because I literally have nothing but my modest household goods, a 1999 car, and my dogs.  I must work.  Yet, I’ve applied for well over 400 jobs, many for which I am vastly overqualified, based on my skills and experience, and NOTHING has panned out.  Nothing.  My family is ready to boot me out the door and I don’t blame them.  They’ve tried to help me.  But nothing works out. Good things don’t come my way.  Life hasn’t been a treasure.  It hasn’t been precious.  It could be worse.  But it’s pretty awful and it has been that way for a very, very, very long time.

Which is why I asked the question, “Am I bad because I want to die?”

The onlyHannah & Zoe barrier to voluntarily hopping off the planet, the only thing keeping me alive, is my dogs.  I love them dearly.  I want to be the person who gets to love them.  One of them is 8.  The other is 3.  I don’t want to leave them. Or cause them trauma.  They tether me to the earth. But I don’t know if they are going to continue to be enough. Because things are so bad, I don’t know how much longer I can will myself to hang on. I don’t even know if I want to keep up the struggle.   I’ve lost hope. The best I can believe for at this point is to find a way to get by. Can that be enough? Days without meaning. Arduous and tedious. Empty. I’m really, really, really, really tired of fighting this battle to survive. Really. Tired.

So, am I a bad person because I want to die?

I’ve tried EVERYTHING I can think of to the best of my ability.  Is it worth soldiering on when everything has fallen apart and I continually come up empty handed and alone?

Now, I’m filling out forms to receive government assistance, government subsidized insurance, help with utilities.  Which is utterly humiliating.  I’m being told to go to Dairy Queen and get any job I can get there.  Never mind that I should be able to do a little better.  Or that standing all day causes my legs and feet to swell up so much I can’t wear my shoes and can’t even walk.  I haven’t had a standing job since I was a teenager.  I’ve been in human resources management for 25 years.  I am old enough now that trying to acclimate to a physically demanding job feels impossible.  I don’t even want to have to try it.  I think I would rather die.

Except for my dogs.  The conflict between wanting to stay so I can care for them and wanting to die is tearing me apart.

The best I can do is to want to want to live.  I want to have the will and the strength.  I want to have hope to fight and vision to believe.  I want to want to.  But I don’t want to.

I pray that’s enough.  That there is yet something positive ahead of me.  I guess time will tell.  If I’m still here tomorrow.