Flashbacks of Abuse

I know I was sexually abused when I was very young. I have two images, one like a still photo and another like a snippet of film, of the abuse.

I also have physical scars with no memory or context around them.

I went to therapy briefly about 18 years ago because I thought the abuse should be dealt with. But I stopped going bc I had so few memories and it seemed like it really wasn’t relevant to the present. Plus, therapy hurt. It seemed easier to just move on.

And then this weekend happened. I was standing on my back apartment patio with a friend. A mover was pulling things out of the outside closet. The containers were filthy, with dirt, leaves, cobwebs. Suddenly, fear hit me like a truck. It knocked the wind out of me. I couldn’t breathe. I ran inside the almost empty apartment and tried to calm myself but I couldnt.

The logical me first thought I was having a panic attack. I’d read about those and with my uncontrollable heartbeat, it seemed like this was probably what was happening.

But there was more. I was terrified. I couldn’t breathe and I suddenly started crying. I began pacing, in circles, like a caged animal.

I felt crazed. I knew there was no rational reason for the sheer terror I felt but I couldn’t stop feeling it. I felt like one of those dogs you see running in traffic, just running and running, running past people trying to help them even, because fear overrode all of their senses.

I went into a bedroom. And I completely disassociated. I felt like I was up in the corner of the room watching myself lose it. I felt crazy. I couldn’t stop the fear. The overwhelming fear and wanting to escape but knowing I couldn’t. And I just wept and wept because I was so scared.

I kept trying to calm myself. My friend was trying to get me to focus on the here and now. Intellectually, I knew I was safe and I needed to be back in body but I couldn’t control anything I was feeling.

Eventually, I calmed down. It took about 30 to 40 minutes. It took about an hour to feel like I was fully back in my body.

I knew immediately afterwards that I was at risk for this happening again.

I feel like this is the first crack in the wall between my conscious mind and my memories.

I feel like there are memories, like monsters in a lake that has frozen over, pushing up against the ice from below, determined to break through. This emotional flashback is the first crack in the surface. And I’m terrified.

I’m going to research therapy options now because it is clear that I can’t outrun the things I thought I’d forgotten.

Confession

I saw my older sister this weekend.  We have a strained relationship.  She tends to want to talk about childhood hardships and suffering while I choose to focus on the future.  Conversations with her are scratches at scabs from wounds that I forget exist until I see her.

That being written, I don’t know where to start.

I don’t remember much from my childhood.  My parents divorced when I was very young, probably around 4.

This weekend, my sister shared a memory with me that made me cry.  Not because I couldn’t remember it, but because I knew it was true despite the lack of memory.  That probably doesn’t make sense but I don’t know how else to explain it.

She said I was crying one night.  And I wasn’t a “cry baby” so my crying was notable.  My biological father went into the room where I was sleeping, on the floor, and he “beat the hell out of me” because he had to get up early the next morning for work.  Despite being hit, I continued to sob and scream, inconsolable.  My mother came into the room and decided to take me to the hospital.  This is a big deal because most of my life, we did not go to doctors or the hospital.

Now this part I do remember.  I remember being rushed down a brightly lit hospital hallway on a gurney.  I remember crying.  I remember being given a fireman’s hat and thinking that was the most pointless thing ever.

That is, of course, all I remember.

I was suffering from appendicitis.  They took my appendix out.  My sister said I was bruised on my bottom, legs and arms.  In hindsight, she was surprised they let me go home after the surgery.

When my sister told me about my dad hitting me, I cried without really knowing I was crying.  The tears came and yet I felt nothing.

She then shared that it was obvious I was sexually abused because whenever I came home from a visit with my dad, I was masturbating.  Five years old and masturbating against the vacuum and on the back of the sofa.  I asked her to stop talking about that because it was deeply humiliating.  She said it wasn’t my fault, I couldn’t help it.  I know she is right but the shame is so profound, I lack the words tonight to express it.

And yet, for some reason, I felt the need to tell her about the needles.

(Bear with me, because this makes no sense and maybe you, dear reader, can tell me what the needles mean.)

I was 28 and was having severe abdominal pains.  I finally went to the ER.  They x-rayed my stomach.  The x-rays showed what looks like two sewing needles in my lower intestines.  They had me drink a substance to promote bowel movement and then took the x-rays again.  The needles had not moved.  So they took a CT scan.  One needle appears to be imbedded in my tailbone and the other in my right butt cheek.

Now this is where it gets weird.  Or interesting.  Or something.  Part of my right butt cheek is missing.  I have a divot, so to speak, so the two cheeks are not the same shape.  I was told when I was young that a dog bit me on the butt.  I always thought it was weird that I was not afraid of dogs considering I was supposedly the victim of a dog attack.

I called my mother and I asked her if she actually WITNESSED the alleged dog attack.  She said no.  I came back from a visit with my father.  I was six or seven.  She took me upstairs to shower.  When she was cleaning me, she saw a wound on my right butt cheek.  She asked me what happened and I told her that I had no idea what she was talking about.  I had already blocked out what happened apparently.  She noted that it looked painful yet I exhibited no pain.  She called my father and he said I had been bit by a dog.  Of course, now we know that is not true.  Something happened and I have two metal objects in my butt cheek and tail bone.  I wish I could tell you that I knew what happened but I still do not.

My sister said she believed my dad hurt me to hurt our mother.

A few years later, when I was pregnant with my second child, the doctors wanted me to get an MRI (I had a difficult pregnancy).  I was filling out the MRI paperwork when I saw the question about metal objects in my body.  I told them that there may be two metal objects inside of me.  I was denied the MRI because the MRI could have killed me and/or my unborn child by pulling the metal through my body toward the magnet of the machine.  That really pissed me off because it was only through chance that I learned about the needles two years earlier.

I don’t know why I am writing this.  I guess I am just hurting and I am hoping that by admitting that I was hurt by my father, in sick ways, maybe I can start healing.

You see, I have few memories before the age of twelve.  Most are bad.  Like my dad hitting me when I knocked over his glass of alcohol.  Or my dad calling me into the bathroom to take a bath with him.  He was naked and I was 10.  I was confused and scared.  I left the bathroom, called my stepdad’s parents and asked them to come get me and they did.

I never saw my dad again.

I don’t ever talk about or even think about my childhood, which was also marked by poverty, homelessness and what I now see as mental illness by my mother.  But I don’t focus on the past.  I have always focused on the future.  I never saw the point of focusing on the past.  It is done and over with.  Thinking about it doesn’t change it, does it?

Yet here I am, at 9 p.m. drinking wine and reflecting on the fact that I self-medicate with food and wine.  And I feel like my heart is breaking and I don’t really know why.  I just know I’m lonely and my heart hurts.  And maybe I need to say out loud that I was sexually and physically abused by my father.  And I need a therapist who can help me get over this because even though I NEVER think or talk about it, it might just be the reason I engage in self-destructive behavior.  Or not.

I don’t know.  I just know I am in pain and I don’t usually acknowledge that.  But denying the pain doesn’t make it go away, it just makes it manifest in sneaky ways… in ways that prevent me from loving myself, forgiving myself, protecting myself.

I hope this journal entry is the first step in a much bigger process.

Please don’t pity or feel sorry for me.  There is contempt in pity and I have plenty of that (contempt) for myself.  What I need to learn is how to love and care for myself… how to overcome the shame of actions I could not control…  because although those actions do not control me today, the shame undoubtedly does.

If you have read this far, thank you.  I know I am not alone and I am hoping my confession tonight will help others know they are not alone either.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.  This blog was that one step for me.