I am a writer. I wrote this the other day and I have to put it somewhere for now. Take good care of it 😉
I am a recovering alcoholic. I have been sober over 8 years, and I love every day of my life now, which is some form of major miracle to my mind, both the sobriety and the sheer joy and happiness. I love who I am today, and I believe that I am finally the woman I was meant to be all of my life. That this has finally happened at the age of 52 carries with it certain sense of poignancy, though I try not to dwell on what life might have been like had I found myself sooner, or more to the point, never surrendered myself in the first place. However, I intellectually know that when trauma and sexual abuse happens to a person at the age of 4 or 5, that person is in no solid position to decide what they surrender or do not. This is especially true if there is no supportive adult to guide the child through, or someone to simply bother to acknowledge that it happened in the first place.
Did you notice that? Did you notice that as soon as I began to talk of sexual abuse, and a person, not a child, being 4 or 5, that I switched from writing in the first person to the third person? Amazingly, I caught it instantly, which I think means that what I know intellectually is moving ever closer to my heart. To that place of actually feeling the pain, rather than just having the knowledge that something happened that should not have. Since tears are rolling down my cheeks, I know I am feeling, not just thinking, which I am so very good at doing. Think, think, think… Maybe I can think the pain to death, though that has been wholly ineffective to date.
I was sexually abused repeatedly at the age of 4 or 5 by my mother’s best friend’s 16 year old son. I have a sister that is 13 months younger than me. It was when he began to go after her as well, that’s when I went to my mother and told her. The abuse stopped and not another word was ever spoken about it–ever. Through my growing up years, I had to see this man time and again, each time our families got together. I don’t know that if my father ever even knew, and since both my parents are long dead, I will never know. Now, this is something that I have always known–that this happened to me. But, who is, or was, me?
Until a few months ago, I never realized that the little girl who was molested was me, and that I was only 4 or 5…a baby, a tiny, little, defenseless, child. Little 5 year old Ann. I see her in snapshots looking so childishly smug, as if she knows all of the secrets of the world already. There’s a certain air of superiority there, also. I believe that, in my mind’s eye, I saw that little girl, me, as a perfectly capable mini-adult person who should have done something to stop all of it sooner.
Because I had failed then, I gave away myself in order to take on the role of the buffer for the world. A buffer steps in protect others from pain. A buffer gets beat up a lot. A buffer learns to feel no pain, because if she did, it would hurt too much. And that is what I did. I learned how to feel no pain in a great variety of ways. I was the buffer for 47 long, excruciatingly painful years. It makes me so sad to see that now. So sad for me as a little girl, and a teenager, and a woman. I lost a lot of life being a buffer, and that hurts in ways words simply cannot capture.
At first, dissociation was my main trick, and I was especially good at it. There is very little in this life that I undertake that I do not do especially well, expect for life itself, maybe. When I found alcohol, it was like an answer to a prayer. Something that took the pain away, and was socially acceptable, up to a point. Of course, because if I am going to do something, I am going to do it extremely well, I reached that point, and passed it by many, many miles. And now I am flogging myself with key strokes for not knowing another way to deal with my pain, or for putting a stop to the drinking before such a huge toll was taken…on me.
Certainly, many others were hurt, my children, especially, but for the most part, they seemed to have healed, or are healing, and have moved beyond it. It’s me that’s stuck and oh, so mad at the person I became. I don’t even what to think about that person, or believe that she ever existed. I have hated her for years now, and hidden her, but she is long gone, so, in truth, it has been me hiding from her—long dead, and gone. Just like I have been hiding from my anger at my mother, who set me up for such a life of pain by her coldness, detachment, and her absolute insistence that I be strong, and never shed a tear, no matter what happened to me in my life, because somehow it was always a reflection on her.
And so, me, who is finally almost free, is still a subtle slave to these two dead women. Had my mother been able to love me, and accept me, and care for me, in the way that I needed when I was 4 or 5, and every year after that, perhaps the second women, that part of myself that I am looking at today in the hopes of finally forgiving, well, she may have never come into existence. She wasn’t, my mother, able to do any of those things, and I cannot change that. She loved me very much. I know that. I was also a great disappointment to her, as well. I know that, too. More than I know that she loved me. I wasn’t smart enough, in the right way, for her, or strong enough, or whatever enough. Or, maybe, I was too much of it all, smart, strong, talented, and pretty. Maybe it was that she hated me for… Whatever the case, because of her, always cloaked in disappointment at her life, and some great internal misery none of us could reach, I have spent my life, both the parts prior to her death and after, trying to prove something to her.
I have been trying to prove that I am worthy, maybe, but I picked a funny way to prove that. Or, maybe I wanted her to know that her pain had become mine, and had tripled in size and it was eating me alive, would she please come rescue and protect me now? If it got bad enough, and it certainly did, would she finally reach out a hand to help me up? Would she finally love me just as I was, so flawed and so in pain? Would she hold me and comfort me and tell me it was okay. That I was okay? Of course, that was my 5 year old magical thinking, and it never happened.
The other day, my seven year old asked me what was the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life? How could I possibly choose, I thought? Molestation, incest, rape, abuse, alcoholism, prison… I gave him a believable answer, and he told me that the worst thing that ever happened to him was when his Dad wouldn’t let his sister take him to Funtown, but took him himself. I know full well when the worst part of my life was, it was a year midway through my 5 year relapse. It was the year where the woman I do not want to look at was alive, and well, and fully running my life. She was finally out in the open, so to speak, and it made her mad, and uncomfortable beyond words, so her actions spoke the most loudly. She was trying to kill the pain, and her and I in the process. That she did not is yet another miracle.
That year, I drank constantly. I had lost my kids to their father because of my drinking, and the pain of that was unbearable. I was living alone in a strange house, having lost my house, and I was so cold all of the time. Her, me, us, lost a baby at 9 weeks while I had been sober for 6 months, and after, we fell apart. In some ways I wonder now if she was trying to save me from the man I was involved with at the time, who would years later become my sociopath husband. I know now she was seeing what I did not want to see. I have flashbacks every day from that time.
It was a horrid time when I would blackout for days at a time in the upstairs bedroom, to wake up completely naked, bedding torn off of the bed, covered in bruises and a rash, large knots all over my head. I shook too badly to light a cigarette, or dial a phone for help. I could not move my computer mouse smoothly enough to find out what time and day it was. I’d find realtor’s card on the kitchen table and know that the house, which was on the market, was shown while I was blacked out. I would find myself getting into the car with the express purpose to get drunk while driving. I wrapped my car around a tree in a blackout and ended up in the hospital. Another time a friend could not reach me, and an ambulance came to my home and dragged me out of bed, again naked, and screaming, while my friend cried and watched. I was in the hospital for days, not knowing what day it was, save for the note on the chalk board. I didn’t eat. I could not walk normally. My arms would not swing by themselves, I had to force them to do it. I was weak and spent hour upon day upon month sitting at the kitchen table just staring, even when my kids were over. My hair was falling out.
I was back in the hospital again, days before I was to enter a rehab, having fallen and broken my nose in a blackout. For three weeks after that, they, the hospital, the detox, and then the rehab, wondered if my brain would come back enough for me to live a normal life. Amazingly, it did. Amazingly, after another rehab, and two jail stays, and a 6 month half way house, I finally got sober, but she, the one who was trying to kill us, lived on, this time, feeding on shame. She had plenty to eat, even when the rest of us didn’t. I was getting stronger, and her far, far, weaker. What finally killed her, the protector, and the queen of dissociation? I believe in was the arrest that led me to spend six months of the last year in prison.
That was the last straw, and I woke up and looked around at the abuse I was suffering through yet again, and I took control, finally. I got mad. I said enough is enough, and I remember every single day since that day. That’s a real first for me who has entire years in my life completely missing. It was in prison that I finally knocked down the walls to the bunker that had held me, the 5 year old me, prisoner for 47 years. That child is a part of me now, and I can feel her pain, and love her properly. But what of this extremely strong, extremely angry, extremely protective, and extremely self destructive, woman who is dead, but not buried?
I look at her and see that she was the exterior wall of the fortress that protected me from a lifetime of pain. She was the buffer. She’s the one who stepped in and took all of the hits, and absorbed all of the shocks and insults. She’s the one who stepped onto the plane and flew across the country to take care of whichever loved one was dying. She always found a way even when a way seemed impossible. She not only took care of me, but the entire world she knew. She’d gotten oh so very tired. It’s an exhaustion that I still feel. It was a terribly thankless job. She carried all of the pain and kept me smiling a fake smile, and moving through life in the best, muddled, way that I could.
What human could endure such an enormous amount of pain and responsibility without help from anyone? Not me. I never would have made it without her, and her beauty, and her strength, and her tenacity, for as much as she wanted to die, she wanted me to live. She gave me the time I needed to grow up, and grow strong on my own, and then she just disappeared when I was ready to take over the reigns. She is me. She was the very best of me crying to get out, and she was the very worst, most devastated, part of me, dying inside. I have been hating myself for weakness that was really strength, ugliness that was really pain, and behaviors that were really just attempts to get love from a woman who just didn’t have it in her to give, alive or dead.
We are one now. Me, and that tiny, little girl, and that tough as nails woman with a heart so big that she was willing to take on the pain of the world. That person is me, and I am beautiful, and happy, and passionate, and talented, more than smart enough, and certainly good enough. Forgiveness I give to you now, because you are me, and I love me, and I thank you. We made it through to the other side, and on this side is healing and happiness. It’s going to be okay. I am okay, just the way that I am.