Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Trigger Warning: Discussion Of Childhood Sexual Abuse But Also Fun Things Including Delightful Synchronicities

I woke up this morning from yet another dream that my stepfather was in and I was having to fight him off. I was listening to a book later today about a man who'd been a soldier having nightmares, forty years after the war. 
PTSD. 
Is that what I have? Do I live in a state of constant fear, so familiar to me now that I don't even think about it? Is this where the anxiety comes from? 
I do not know but the dreams have never ceased. Despite one-on-one therapy and a recovery group and absolutely decades of exploring the why's and wherefores of my psyche, and doing the work that was necessary to get me through the hardest, most difficult parts of my entire life, the dreams still come, and I wake up not knowing what to do with them. 
I remember when I first started seeing my wonderful, beloved, excellent therapist, I had a dream in which I punched my stepfather when he tried to come into my house. I was so proud of myself! I felt that yes, finally, I was making progress! 
That was probably about thirty-five years ago. 
When I began the process of trying to heal, one of my main realizations was that the issue of abuse is like a many, many layered onion. Just as you think you have gotten to the core of something that affects you so much, you realize that no, the core is nowhere yet to be seen. What you are looking at is another layer that must be painstakingly removed. It is an endless process. 
I realize now, at the age of 68, that it is a process I will never complete. And I'm not sure how that makes me feel. Despondent, yes. Depressed. Of course. 
And yet, I know that if I had not found the therapist I found, the group of women who were fellow-survivors, I might be dead by now. 
And of course my husband who has to put up with all of it- the process and the pain and the panic and the endless processing. It is not fair to him. It never had been, it never will be. 

So many layers to that stinking, filthy onion. 

Huh. Well. I certainly did not sit down tonight to say all of that but it would seem that I have. I am certain that there are many people who would tell me if they could, that I need to just "let it go, stop dwelling on it, it's in the past, the man is dead." 
Yeah. Whatever. It will always be in the past and it will always be a part of who I am. There is no way around that. Attitudes and characteristics and coping methods of mine which were formed because of what happened are as ingrained as the color of my eyes by now. I have learned many things about myself and there is no doubt I could probably help myself further with things like meditation, doing  guided ayahuasca therapy...oh hell. I do not know. 
In the meantime, I live my life and I love my life. But almost every day when I wake up, I have to shake the dreams that haunted me as I slept. Every day I make choices based on fear and the desire for safety and comfort. 
It's something. And I have a feeling that many, many of you know exactly what I'm talking about. I wish we could all hold each other for a moment, give each other the kind of hugs that Brenda gave me in Costco today. The best kind of hug that stays with you. 
"I needed that," she said. 
"So did I," I told her. And I did.

I went to town today and ran by Hank and Rachel's house. Hank had a cyst removed from his neck and has stitches and wanted me to bandage it for him. Rachel is not comfortable with stitches. I understand. But it is nothing for me and I was so glad to do it. 
I met Jessie and Levon at Chow Time for lunch. Levon has been having abdominal pain for almost two weeks now, mostly at night, and it comes and it goes but it is real and it looks like he's suffering. She's had him to see two doctors, had bloodwork, all that stuff and nothing out of the ordinary has shown up. So today he got an ultrasound and we shall see if that shows anything. When he's not feeling the pain, he is HUNGRY because when is feeling it, he isn't, and he is a growing five-year old boy. He ate pizza at Chow Time while I ate sushi and hot and sour soup and fried okra and cabbage and pineapple chicken and then he ate FOUR DESSERTS! His mother is spoiling him right now and so she should. This is a hard time for her. No mother, no parent, wants to see their child in pain and have no idea what to do to relieve it. And by the way- they were small desserts. 
And then we went to Costco and he ate a little bitty taco sample and he wanted more of that. I let him play the game I have on my phone that the boys love. It's called Monument and honestly, it's pretty darn cool. I am spoiling him too. 

We left the parking lot in our separate cars after we unloaded our Costco goods and I headed for the library which is on the way to Publix. I am finally almost finished with the Knausgard book and thank GOD because it is so very dark and weird and yet, I have not been able to put it down because it is somehow spellbinding. I have a strong feeling that finishing it will resolve nothing for me, either as applies to the book or to my feelings about it. 

But guess who was at the library? Jessie and Levon! They had gone to turn in books and beaten me there. Levon said, "No way! This can't happen!" 
I said, "It can happen because it did."

And on to Publix. Here, I took a picture. 


Exciting, right? 
This is Lauren's Publix but it was Lily's Publix for many years. It is the closest one to my house. And there I was, in the produce section, when I heard...our family whistle! I turned around and there were Gibson, Maggie, and Jason. Oh my goodness! What a day. 


That picture was obviously not taken in the produce section but in the packaged cheese and lunch meat and frozen vegetables section, when our paths crossed for the 85th time. You know how that is- you run into someone you know at the beginning of your shopping excursion and you catch up, talking for way too long, and then finally you hug and say, "Oh, it was so good to see you!" and you make your get-away.
And then you see them again on the next aisle. 
Now of course I did not feel that way about seeing my grandchildren and their daddy but we did run into each other a lot and ended up checking out at the same time. And oh! I forgot to mention that seconds after Gibson saw me and did the family whistle, his best friend appeared and said, "Hey Gibs!" 
Gibson was amazed! "My grandma and my best friend!" I was waiting for him to say, "This can't happen!"
They hugged. It was so cute. 

So yes, what a day, and a good reminder that bad dreams and worries can, like early morning fog, become thinner and thinner and finally dissipate if not entirely disappear from existence forever. 

I saw a different cat in our backyard this evening. I always see the black panther cat who slinks by every day but this one was not one I'd ever seen before. And quite frankly, it did not look like any cat I'd ever seen before at all. It looked very much like Jack in size and girth and his colors were gray and white, like Jack's but arranged in the strangest patterns over his body. Like Jack, if bleach had been splashed over him. If he comes by again, I'll try to take a picture. 

Thank you for hanging with me here this evening. And if you are one of those people who wishes I would just shut the fuck up about things that happened sixty years ago, I understand your feelings. 
I wish I could too. Trust me. 
And please know that for whoever needs it- this is, as we say- a safe place. Words that have become another cliche and yet absolutely true. 

Love...Ms. Moon

36 comments:

  1. Fresca here
    I’m sorry you have to experience those dreams and anxieties.
    You wouldn’t let anyone say ‘get over it’ to Ross, right? “The war was over fifty years ago.”
    Fuck that!
    Don’t let anyone—even an imaginary person—say such things to you. It is not for me to tell you what to do, so forgive me,
    …but I, even as a very new acquaintance of yours, would be so outraged at any (imaginary) person who said such a thing to you or any trauma survivor, I would bop them on the (imaginary) nose!
    I looked up “trauma” a while ago and loved learning that it is simply the Greek word for “wound”.
    We all carry some wounds—some carved deeper into our selves than others.
    And we’re going through this life together, like wandering through Publix—we help one another, if we can.
    Sometimes life is like bumper cars at Publix. 😆
    You do good.
    Xo Fresca

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    1. Thank you, Fresca. That really moved me. All of us DO indeed carry wounds within us and the fact is, they can heal over and yet, still be there like an ache in a bone that was once broken. I think that the person who has been most insistent that what happened to me wasn't such a big deal is, ironically, a brother of mine. Over the years, this has caused a huge rift between us.

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  2. I am not one of those people, but i know several who are, and they suffer, like you and all i can do is listen and hug. Some day after I'm gone someone will invent a memory scrub device and that person will be a billionaire.

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    1. A memory scrub device would be good or perhaps a method that would not erase the memory but let us let it go without the attached feelings of panic and terror, guilt, fear...all that crap.

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  3. Ues, that's PTSD. I will never say get over it, because I carry scars from early childhood, fears based on real events which seem strange to outsiders but have total emotional logic. Water, search lights in the sky, skywriting, All connected with death, bombing. It changes your brain. You deal with it forever, in dreams or daily coping. So yes, you will always be safe around me and I around you.

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    1. Thank you, dear Liz. I love that phrase, "emotional logic." We so often feel that emotions have no logic to them but they do. Just their own special kind. How understanding that is of you to make that observation! I am sorry you carry those scars. I know they are as real as the chair I am sitting on. Yes. Let us always be safe havens for each other.

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  4. Thanks for sharing Mary. I had never heard of ayahuasca therapy before. Now I am better informed. Thankfully, I never suffered from any kind of sexual abuse when I was a child but as I have grown older and possibly wiser, I have often contemplated the lasting damage that sexual abuse can do to a human being. This is why abuse by Catholic priests and other "responsible" adults should never be swept under rugs. As a secondary school teacher I became aware of only a few children who had suffered in this way though there must have been many more.

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    1. I can tell you this- if every person you know who had been sexually abused as a child wore a blue heart on their shirts, you would be shocked beyond belief. And I have to say that if every abuser you know wore a red star on their shirt, you would be not only shocked but rendered speechless.

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  5. i love you so hard. thank you for being a guide for me on my own path xxalainaxx

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  6. I so appreciate your ability to air out such dreams and feelings in your posts. It doesn't make them go away, but I hope it temporarily lightens their hold on you. It tells me that it's OK to have such feelings and maybe it would be helpful to not try to stuff them in the back of the closet (which has never worked for me yet, but is my go-to strategy).

    And I love that you have a family whistle!

    Chris from Boise

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    1. Oh, we ALL try the stuffing-things-in-the-closet method and it does indeed work for...awhile. And then something happens and that door flies open and oh, what a mess it can be! That is when the work begins, I think. For me, speaking out has been a lifesaver. Knowing that yes, this happened to me, and that it was NOT MY FAULT is tremendously freeing. We should not feel shame. The shame is not ours to hold.

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  7. People who say "let it go" or "move on"
    they just simply have no idea. Lucky them!
    If we could make the bad memories go away, don't they think we would?
    xo~

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    1. Fuck yes! Lucky them!
      What we wouldn't give to not have these memories, these dreams, these often vastly unhelpful coping mechanisms.
      Thank you for commenting.

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  8. These things can never be let go or moved on from. They are part of us and always will be. All we can do is acknowledge and accept and be gentle with ourselves when the hurt resurfaces.
    I love that you have a family whistle. I wonder what it sounds like. And how lovely that Gibson was as excited to see his grandma as his best friend. Life is pretty damn good.

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    1. Yes. I always say it's like when someone had polio as a child with resulting muscular damage. The polio virus may eventually leave, but the resulting damage never will.
      We do have a family whistle! My grandfather used it and now I do and all my kids and their kids. It's a "hello! I'm here!" sort of thing.
      Life has been very good today. I am grateful.

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  9. What you describe is childhood trauma that does indeed change the brain and yes, PTSD is part of that...Show yourself the same love you would give a friend. Sending hugs.

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    1. All of us would benefit from that advice, e. I feel quite certain. Thank you.

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  10. I wish we could find a way to make your bad dreams magically disappear. If a genie ever grants me three wishes, that will be one of them. I LOVE all the supermarket hugs and meetings, they make me feel warm and happy. So good to see Maggie and Gibson well enough to get out of the house now. I hope Levon's tummy troubles are soon fixed.

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    1. I think bad dreams are just part and parcel of being human.
      Yesterday's shopping/hugs experience was truly fun. I loved it! Levon is feeling better today. Thank you!

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  11. I wasn't sexually abused as a child but I was sexually assaulted by a doctor at work one night. I made a complaint, testified twice and he finally lost his license. What helped me the most though was kick boxing. I learned how to kick box at home in my basement and I beat the shit out of that doctor over and over and over again in my mind. And your stepfather, there are some people who deserve to have their dick cut off, or their balls put in a vice, or both.
    I had a dream many years ago about a serial killer who followed me all over Edmonton. He knew where I would be, he stalked me and then he killed me. I woke up terrified. And then the next night, I had the same dream, but this time I knew where the killer would be and I outsmarted him. I didn't die.
    I wish I could just wrap my arms around you and I so wish you could feel safe. It's not fucking wonder the world causes you so much anxiety. The world is a dangerous place, sometimes, for little girls and boys. Sometimes monsters live in your house.

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    1. Luckily, and rather unbelievably, knowing the statistics, I have never been the victim of a sexual crime in my adulthood. I know that that leaves scars that are deep and eternal.
      I love that you consciously dreamed of outsmarting your nightmare killer. You have a very strong mind. Yet another thing I admire about you.
      And yes, all too often it IS in our own homes where we should feel and be safest that the monsters reside.

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  12. I have no wise words, but I am glad that you feel able to talk about these things to us, your blog friends. I hope that it helps a little. Sending love from across the water.

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    1. I am not ashamed of talking about these things because as I said in my answer to Chris above, there is no shame for me in what happened and I think that if more people talked about these things there would be more awareness and perhaps more attention would be paid when things seem off. That more children would be believed if they do come forward. And it does help me. Thank you for the love from across the water.

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  13. I don't have wise words, but I do know that what you are dealing with is PTSD. I grew up in a violent home. When a kid is raised in an environment like that, sometimes things that strike other people as abnormal do not strike you as at all out of the normal parameters. This is how I came to marry an abusive man. I recognized too late what I had done. 27 years later, when I go to visit my grandaughters, my son, my beloved boy, the image of his father, will get an impatient note to his voice about something, and I freeze inside. It's automatic and I can't stop it and it makes me very sad. That, too, is PTSD.

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    1. Yes. Abuse is abuse. My beloved therapist told me once, "We all go to relationship school in our parents' house." It is no wonder at all that abused children grow up to marry abusers. It is the normal for them.
      I am so sorry that what happened to you as a child is still affecting your relationships, even with your child but I understand. I know. I think, however, that you and I both understand at least where these feelings come from and can (hopefully) choose to act, rather than react. It's hard and there is always that initial second of terror.

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    2. It is one of those things you feel on the inside and do not show on the outside.

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  14. I would hope that no one is thinking, "Let it go." The kind of trauma you experienced goes way deeper than that, and I am sure it's at the root of your nightmares and your anxiety and that you do have some form of PTSD. How could it not be?

    It's so funny how you kept running into your family all day! I was amused to learn that you have a "family whistle."

    We want pictures of Mystery Cat!

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    1. Oh, you'd be surprised, Steve. There are so many reasons that people want you to let it go. One being that they, too, were abused and are still keeping it all shut up inside them. I understand that.
      Yep. Family whistle. We got one! It came from my granddaddy.
      I want a picture of Mystery Cat too!

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  15. Well, I would hug you if I saw you, Mary.

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  16. I think that you're so right about habits learned as a child. They are tricky though because one probably can't remember the events exactly, and are remembering an interpretation from perspective at the time. I don't believe that ALL memories are recoverable. It's surely harder to clean out stuff that's forgotten. (Does that make sense? Kind of hard to express what I mean...)

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    1. I always said that I WISH I was one of those people who repressed memories but I'm not sure I mean that. To actually remember specific moments in time reassures me that I am not crazy.

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  17. It does totally suck that you can't rid yourself of those dreams. I imagine we all have stuff we can't get over except for maybe those sickening people who had perfect childhoods and still loved their parents so much that they still grieve their deaths many years later. Yours was horrible and horrid. Mine, well, I don't know how to compare the verbal and emotional abuse, being raged at for an hour about what a terrible person you are with what you went through. That and not being allowed to be friends with the girls I wanted to be friends with because their dads didn't have the right job or they didn't live in the right neighborhood so basically I didn't really have any friends. When I graduated high school, there was not a single person I kept up with. The last time I dreamed about my parents I screamed at them that they were dead!

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    1. Ellen- as I said above, abuse is abuse. There is no my-abuse-was-worse-than-yours contest. Verbal, emotional, physical, psychological- all of these forms of abuse affect us in so many ways and form parts of who we are and often, not in good ways. Well, never in good ways. I am so sorry that your parents were so cruel. And they were! Just damn, fucking cruel.
      I, too, have had dreams about my mother in which I told her she was dead. I think that's a powerful dream.

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  18. I do agree that the work is never done, the unpeeled layers that remain are like a seed that IS part of who you are. Your awareness of this, I believe, helps...... though I trust it *is* depressing (an understatement) to grasp that it will always be there. You are blessed in that you can share your feelings, and that you have love and support from Mr Moon and your vast array of family and friends. Many people don't have that. Though I never suffered the sexual abuse you did, my *abuse* was emotional...... always having been made to feel inadequate and never *quite* good enough. 60 years later and those feelings still crop up when I least expect them...even after having learned much about myself and feeling better about myself now...... that ugly little *seed* is there still. Funny that the only person that truly *gets* me is my brother.....and that is because he saw/felt everything during both of our formative years and we openly talk about it. My husband says he understands, and he listens patiently....but he doesn't *get* me. I know you know
    Susan M

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    1. If you read what I have written here in answers to comments, you will know that I think that all forms of abuse we suffer as children are toxic and as such, all of them affect us our entire lives. I am so sorry, Susan, that you experienced emotional abuse. In some ways, the abuse that we suffer that does not really have a physical outward appearance (do you know what I mean?) is the worst because we can't point at it and say- this scarred me. And yet it does.
      Ironically, my own brother has so often told me that what I think happened didn't really happen and honestly, even if it did, it wasn't so bad. He absolutely cannot remember things that I remember (he is younger than I am) and he and my mother have absolutely told me, "Oh Mary, that never happened."
      And I think- really? I do have a good imagination but not THAT good. Shit.
      We are both so lucky to have husbands who may not really understand but who DO understand that we have been profoundly affected by what happened to us.

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