So many things are crowded into my past, they blur one into another, until it’s hard to see where one ends and the next begins. Some of it I’ve always known, other “incidents”, as people referred to as professionals label them, are recalled later in life. Most of the time, I’d rather they stay forgotten; but they don’t. They have a way of bubbling up and crowding out my sanity. Instinct says “keep it hidden”, but you shouldn’t. Speak out. Break the silence. You’re not alone. I understand your pain, because I know mine. I know speaking out is hard, too. Allow me to lead the way….
My father was an all-powerful terror in my life, but having raised me to think (or not think at all) the way he wanted me to, I also spent most of my childhood essentially worshipping the man. It was all mixed up with the hate and fear, and I believe that only those who experienced that awful blend of emotions could ever truly understand it. My mother was powerless and subservient, a child of abuse herself. Though we went through a very ugly form of domestic trench bonding, she did do things, and teach me things, that I never knew were considered wrong or unconscionable until I escaped as a young man and found out that the rest of the world doesn’t behave that way.
Most people I have shared things with have at one time or another told me how much they hate my parents. I understand this; as I struggle to ingest the idea that people can care about me, and I try to learn to believe it, I can see how they would feel that hatred. What is hard for them to swallow is the fact that it’s difficult for me to hear that. I’m mixed up in my head, a lot of mental “wires” crossed or tangled up so badly that my therapist and I might never unravel them all. I know it’s hard to imagine for others, how I could feel anything other than hatred for my parents. Yet even though they both abused me sexually, and my father would often beat us both, I’m too messed up and mixed up to feel only hate for them. I’m told that a child has such a need to love and be loved, that it can be appalling how easy it is to twist that need to suit the abuser’s ideal goal: an obedient victim who won’t tell on them.
What torments me the most is the question “Why”. I understand my mother; she was used by her father the same way we were both used by mine, and she knew no different kind of life. For my father, all I have is rumor and guesswork. I met his mother, she was nothing like my mother. My paternal grandmother was a powerful woman and my father actually seemed to fear her. I never met or even saw my paternal grandfather, and I got the impression he was either dead or in prison before I was born. I lie awake at night often and wonder if he was the key – did he abuse my father, and the behavior is just being passed down? That doesn’t track as irrefutable, though; studies show that the majority of abused people do not grow up to abuse anybody else. It happens, but it’s the exception, not the rule. I know this is true, because I’ve never passed on my abuse, never harmed a child. That leaves the “why” hanging over my head though, an ugly Gordian Knot that I’ve spent my adult years plucking away at in vain.
Another thing people always ask me is why nobody ever tried to help me. When I was little, most people in our neighborhood didn’t even know a child lived at our house. When records and school officials got wind of me, I was packed off to a school where my peers were more inclined to bully me than help. I was a wild creature too, as likely to bite as to run away and hide. I don’t know why a teacher didn’t report me as a possible abuse case. When I got older, I learned to tell lies. I’d fallen down the stairs. My mother had been in a car accident with me in the backseat. I’d fallen out of a tree, or walked into a door. Give most people an explanation, anything to calm the unsettled instinct churning their gut, and they’ll grab for it like a life preserver off of a sinking ship.
So I grew up under the thumb of my father, subjected to his insane, violent whims. His favorite “game” was to train me to be a pet, like a loyal dog. Because of that, one of my biggest challenges is to learn that I have human rights, even though I don’t always feel like a human at all. My abuse wasn’t hidden in my home. My mother and I endured it side by side. There were others, too; “friends” of my father. They knew. Sometimes they did things; and my father let them. One of those men was my family doctor, the man who put me on Zoloft at age nine and contributed to my becoming a bipolar rapid-cycler . Yet some people question why I have such a difficult time trusting doctors, or anybody.
Sometimes what I endured makes me a little crazy. Bipolar, PTSD, panic attacks, agoraphobia, and a debilitating grab-bag of other phobias, can make life a challenge. Also, I deal with some uncommon kinks that my abuse taught me to crave, and that makes my relationships now an endless challenge. I’m grateful to have the lovers, family, children, and friends that I do – they are teaching me how the rest of the world works and interacts, how people who had loving homes actually think and feel. I hope this will help me to cope, to understand, and someday to heal.
Those of you who don’t know this pain, I’m so happy you had loving childhoods. Please pay attention to people you know who may be acting depressed or strangely reclusive; if they have a past of abuse they are hiding, a word of kindness or offer of friendship from you could make all the difference in the world to that person. It might also save their life, because it’s so easy to give up when you think nobody cares.
Right now, I have no pretty words for my real peers, those others who are survivors of physical and sexual abuse. I have no tales or lessons wrapped in poetry, though if you explore the pages of my journal here, there are many, both ugly and hopeful, all truthful. Yet hopefully, you already know and understand how helpful it is to share even the ugly and the frightening things in our pasts. To speak is the first step to healing, and all people, survivors and their families and loved ones, need to realize that silence is the enemy. Your silence can kill; because nobody who loves you has a chance to help if they don’t know you need help.
For now, I just needed to speak out in the midst of one of my harder-to-cope days. It does help. It does get better. Just to tell and find out that people who love you don’t stop loving you when they know your secrets, is one of the most healing things I’ve ever discovered.
Some secrets are bad and silence can kill. Break the silence.
~ ~ ~
© W.R.R. 10/3/2011
For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse; you are not alone. Speak out. Find your path to healing.