It’s a reoccurring dream I have. It’s always a quick flash but leave a brutal impact on my brain. In my dream, I unleash verbally on my Mom for probably less than a minute. But it is a full-on flash of rage. I am screaming, yelling, swearing and often standing over her in a threatening manner. This time, I was pointing at her face and moving towards her aggressively swearing and said “you want to know, you want to know fine I’ll tell you every disgusting detail” and this time she fell to the floor and crumbled into a ball crying as she replied “what do want me to say? I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
I know that I have anger at my Mom. I have worked very hard to get rid of it. I have tried to see things from her view and her life. I still know deep inside that the child is enraged with her. I know why. I choose to walk a different path. I choose to spare my Mother my rage. She has not earned it. Not all of it. And if that can gets opened, I still do not trust myself not to unleash on her. These dreams are a constant reminder of that.
This dream and the others are nightly reminders that I survived a fucked up childhood and upbringing. And that PTSD remains alive and active in my broken brain. I hate it. I hate dreaming of being chased, trying to escape a burning building or being raped. I would give almost anything to make the nightmares stop.
I buried it. And along with it the very last of him. The last man I loved. The last man I allowed to abuse me. The last man I tried to save. I will never forget how simple and yet how powerful the journey to finding the shovel in my hand slamming into the dirt has been. I am changed. Deep inside I know I am free. I know that I will never allow another to abuse me.
Childhood abuse can create a pattern that a child accepts and does not realize is doing so. A child’s mind is being formed. We are not born understanding how the world works. How we are brought up, the conditions, the way we are treated and so on have a direct effect on what becomes “normal” to a child. Childhood sexual abuse often leads to promiscuity and the need to replace the abuser in one’s life. This was one of the hardest realizations I faced in therapy. I refused to acknowledge that I sought out, chased down and fell madly in love with men who abused me in some manner. When shit got real in 2013 and I reentered therapy no subject was off limits.
There it was right in front of me. I was no longer able to deny that I had allowed males to abuse me since I had been raped at age 13yrs old. Slowly I saw how my choices had grown progressively worse as I got older. I saw how I valued myself less and took scarier risks with each man I loved. I allowed myself to embrace the truth that I had been replacing the abuser in my life because I didn’t know how to live without the abuse and I didnt know how to live without a fucked up male I was afraid of and trying to fix. That day I sobbed and sobbed in my therapist office. Years of therapy were in front of me.
In 2015 my Partner and I moved into a beautiful home together. As I packed my condo I found it. The very last item he had tried to win me back with. It was a silver engraved pocket watch in a black box lined in silk. I tossed it into a box. A few months later I spoke to a Shaman regarding the watch. I told a brief history and asked how I should cleanse myself of it. She advised that I should spend time sending him love and peace every time I thought of him and that I should then bury it. I asked how long I should do so and where I should bury it. Her reply was “you will know.” The box sat in the back of a cabinet for three years. I did as I was told. Every time I went to the lake or hiking I wondered why I had not remembered to grab the box.
Last week my Partner and I attended a womens festival in the woods. That is all you get to know about that 😉 While I was packing I saw the box. It was near the front of the cabinet. I was thrilled and tossed it into my bag without opening it. We shared with our Sisters for four days. We danced, We laughed. We sang. We wept. We made art. It was glorious. I never thought of the box. I had a spiritual reading and she told me I had something to leave on the land and not to forget. I still did not remember the box. I searched my heart and came up empty. On the last morning as I was packing things into my bag I put my hand on the box in the bottom of my bag. I immediately knew what I had to do. I explained it to my Partner and campmates and took off in search of the Matirach on the land.
The land I was standing on is sacred land. I knew better than to commit an offense by burying it alone. I found our beloved M and gave her a brief description of my journey to this point. She smiled and said “Yes you are ready, let’s go and do this now.” We walked together to the shed and retrieved a shovel and a pair of large garden clippers. She led me to a spot and she cut away the thorny bushes, creating a small cave at the bottom. “You dig and it has to be deep. Very deep.” I immediately began to slam the end of the shovel into the ground. I picked up shovels of dirt and tossed them into pile. Behind me I could hear M praying and shielding the land and the women from any harm. When she finished she set the box down and said “you finish, this is for you just make sure it is deep and no one can tell we were here. I’ll come back and check on you.” I replied “yes ma’am” and kept digging. The women I had shared the past four days with were gathering around the fire pit to sing and say goodbye. I could hear their laughter but they could not see me. I kept digging. Make it deeper I kept thinking. I realized I was filling with joy. I was unimaginably free and happy standing alone in a thorny bush shoveling dirt in my sandals and shorts. Soon I had to begin to cut through roots with the end of the shovel. I slammed the metal into the ground hard, slicing through roots and thorny branches reaching out to cut me. I caught one on the arm and slapped it back with the shovel as if to say “don’t fuck with me.” I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t sad. I was fired up. I was digging my way to the last bit of freedom. The women’s voices grew louder as the crowd gathered. I wanted to be with them but I wanted to be free more. I kept digging. I found evidence of humans before me. I unearthed trash and put it in a pile. When I reached what I guessed to be three feet or more down I stopped. I picked up the box. I held in flat in my left palm and held high to the sky. With the sun shining on my face I said out loud “I wish you love and peace. I forgive you. I forgive me. I grant myself love and peace.” The very moment the words left my mouth the women gathered around the fire sang out. Their voices echoed through the forest as if they knew. But they didn’t. Only I knew. They stopped, I lowered my arm and I tossed the box into the hole I had dug. It landed upside down and I tried to flip it over but it threatened to fall open and reveal its contents. Having still not looked inside for so many years I didn’t want to risk it. I buried it. Alone. I suffered the abuse alone. I went to therapy alone. I buried that son of a bitch alone. In my way. I was free and I knew it.
I set the shovel down and walked to the circle around the fire with silent tears running down my face. I made eye contact with M and she smiled. I sat down and listened to the closing remarks. I walked back to the spot and picked up the shovel. I used it to grab and pull the thorny bushes back down over the place I had just covered in dirt. The thorns never bit me again. Only the once. I threw away the trash I had unearthed, put away the tools and walked back to my camp. It was so pure and so simple but ultimately freeing.
I will never be abused again.
I just realized that deep inside I am still afraid he will come for me someday. He swore it to me.
I was face down on a gravel road in Oregon. My knee’s and hands bleeding from being pushed to the ground. He had just raped me. I was crying and he decided I needed a reason. My Mother was just down the road and around the bend in the river. “If you ever tell anyone I will kill you and I will kill Mom. Someday I will fucking kill you.”
He just left me there. I realize now, I was afraid he would kill my Mom back then. Today I still know there is only one reason he would suddenly appear in front of me. I have nightmares about it. I also fear my reaction. Would I freeze? Would I be terrified and reduced to a little girl? Would I snap? Would I defend myself?
I hope someday never comes.
One of the things that I hate the most is when I catch myself displaying a mannerism that comes from my StepFather. It bothers me that I picked up some of his ways. It is normal for a child to duplicate his/her parent’s behavior, speech patterns, taste is food and more. But where does that leave a person who hated the parental figure they are mimicking?
It’s the subtle little things that make me want to lash out and be angry with myself. As if anyone who has these same mannerisms must be as much of an asshole control freak as he was. The feelings of self-loathing and despising wash over me like I walked into the biggest spider web I have ever battled. I am instantly and completely focused on what a horrible human being I must be. I have the mindset to recognize, deflect and reassure myself now. But I can see where I did not in the past.
It was constant. All day every day. I avoided him as much as possible. I learned at a very young age that nothing I ever did would ever be right. He criticized and belittled me every day. He continued the behavior when I would visit in my 20’s. After I got married it was easy to avoid him. It stopped when I was succeeding at running a small business. I rarely spoke to him. When I did I was the calm confident self-made woman and I never ever let him see anything different. I never showed vulnerability or fear to him again.
I can see his insecurities now. I can see how he was threatened by my fierce independence from the get-go. He was Don Draper. Seriously……. fucking asshole.
Yesterday I was talking to my Grandaughter (almost three years old) and I said without hesitation “You put your hand up and tell him NO. If he does it again you hit him in the face.” She is two months shy of three years old and already has a boy at the gym who tries to kiss her. He is the same age. All the kids are adorable including this young boy. His GrandFather has my respect. He is a tattooed grey-haired gentleman who speaks fluent Dude. We have made eye contact and we understand what is happening. I told him a month or so ago “I do not want her growing up thinking she has to let the boys kiss her.” GrandFather responded with “and he is a complete ham and will need to learn.” We gave each the nod and that was settled. Some of it is cute and we let go to the point where she is clearly trying to not have contact and the boy will not leave her alone.
Here is the scene. We go to Gym specifically for kids. We are in our second year. It is frak’n awesome! We scored when we found this place. So it’s the same kids with the occasional newbie. There are lessons, circle time as well as free play gym time. Each child has an adult wandering around keeping track of their “big kid” and making sure they follow the rules. My granddaughter is in love with her coach. She is learning the kid’s names and it’s awesome. Little man has a serious crush on my Granddaughter. During free time they run and play and giggle laugh. Sometimes the two of them but often there are others with them. When the coach calls the “big kids” over to his matt they all go running to find a seat on the matt. Little man follows my Monkey and sits right next to her. And it begins. Holding hands was the first. It was incredibly sweet. Sometimes she would hold his hand and sometimes she would push his hand away. Grandpa has been great about pulling him back and correcting his behavior. Then the kissing started. Little man will kiss her arm or side of her shoulder that is exposed to him. She does not like the kisses. She leans away, wipes them off and tells him no. Again, Grandpa pulls him back and tells him “Dude no you can’t do that.” All the while the kids are facing the coach and listening to what he is saying. Parents are standing behind staring at their child to keep them on the matt and following the rules. Sometimes it stops because of the exercise the coach is leading them through (distraction) and sometimes Grandpa will just have had enough and make him sit down on the other end of the matt.
First of all this young boy is very sweet. He is clearly very well loved by his best friend and Grandfather. He is not a bad kid in any way. I am not here to come down on any parenting style. The fact that caught in the moment I heard myself say “you put your hand up and tell him NO. If he does it again you hit him in the face” is what I would like to talk about. Monkey had given me “the look” at the gym that morning. Little man was kissing her and she didn’t like it. I saw her want to hit him. I have told her over and over and over “no hitting at the gym.” In the car after class, she said “I don’t want boy kisses on my face” as she wiped her face off.
Now I am questioning my judgment. I believe she has the right to hit him square in the face for unwanted kisses when she has said stop. And only after one time and only because she is in a gym. And in reality that is even wrong. Why does she being a kid make it OK to be kissed like that when she doesn’t want it? If I was working out at the gym and a man I had seen working out there for a year suddenly kissed me I would punch him in the face. Why does she have to tolerate this because she is two years old?
I watched a show called 13 Reasons Why. It starts out with a crappy teen drama. But then it turns ugly and nasty quick. It is the real truth of high school in America today. You follow the life of a female student who takes her own life. This series changed me. I will not have my Granddaughter grow up letting boys treat her this way. I want her ready to defend herself. I want to teach her strength and confidence. So today I asked her Father to watch the show and told him that we then need a plan in place for her self-defense and we need to be on the same page. I told him that I had told her to punch that boy in the face if he comes again after she says no. I told him and my Partner. Her body is hers. She will not be told to take that off boys. Not now. Not ever. So we need a set of rules and we need to all live by them. I’m going to teach her when it’s OK to take the first swing. Why does age matter? At what age does a woman own her body and have the right to say no? And if you crossed the physical contact boundary why shouldn’t she punch you in the face?
Every time I stood up for myself as a girl I was chastised and punished. I am 48yrs old and just learning to stand up for myself every time. Sometimes, I still allow people to walk over me. I would say I am somewhere around 60 /40. That number needs to change.
Standing up for me does not feel natural. I have had to learn how to do so with the proper amount of tone and inflection. I can’t let that shit build up inside me. For my sake and for those I love. Learning to stand my ground and speak my boundaries in a sane and appropriate manner has been difficult. I find myself checking myself, choosing my words and tone wisely and then moving on. I owe no one an explanation for my boundaries. Not even myself.
I was spoken down to and belittled for so long that I have zero patience for it now. I can be told that I wrong, need to be redirected and whatever other super hippy way you want to say it. I can take direction. I can not take being spoken down to. Being spoken to with a tone that says you are stupid for not knowing this. My StepFather chastised my Mother and me by asking us rhetorical questions in a shitty “you are so fucking stupid” tone of voice. I would usually stand there blinking searching my mind for what to say to this giant man whom I feared every day. You didn’t ever want to set him off. I’ve spoken of it before. His and Mother’s claim to fame is that he never touched me. He didn’t need to. She was just as afraid of him. I have tapes of her fear in my head.
I find standing up to men to still be a more difficult challenge. They use that tone I begin to crumble. It usually takes everything I have got for me to retain my dignity and stand my ground. The happier I become the easier it gets. A bright shining happy person is easier to hear “no thank you” from then a raging freaking out angry bitch. Just say’n.
I have been triggering lately. Anger bubbling up and I struggle to come down. It’s uncomfortable and scary. I worry about losing control. I worry about being in darkness and the insanity of a full-blown PTSD snap. I want to believe that the tools I have now will always help me. I want to believe.