Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Monsters in my head

In a former life I worked in theatre. I loved it. I loved the excitement, I loved the energy. Ultimately I didn’t love the long night hours [1] and I had to go find a different dream. Coincidentally that shift happened right alongside a romantic shift. Basically I jettisoned my whole life and started over. There’s a pattern for you. But anyway. The romantic relationship I had at that time was with a boy named Steve. He was in a band called Faith in Grey. I may be the only person who still listens to the album. Kind of semi-grunge rock but with a lot of blues/jazz feeling mixed in. I actually really liked their music. I've been thinking about them rather more than usual lately. I'm thinking about them because I'm thinking about the name.

You see, in my mind there is kind of a schtick to the name. Nothing is black or white, not really. Every important thing in the world is neither completely good nor completely bad. Everything is in the gray area in between. I have noticed that there is a rapidly decreasing amount of room in my life for black and white thinking. Everything exists in the shades of gray and to me that is becoming what I am holding on to in terms of faith in humanity. I seem to be endeavoring to turn into my obsession, if not my religion. Bear with me, I’ll explain.

This has been coming up for me a lot because I'm doing a lot of abuse processing lately. That isn't actually news. I go in phases. What is new for me is that I now have to parent at the same time. I parent pretty much every hour that my children are awake. I have somewhere between 2 and 7 hours of truly non-parenting time during the course of a week. Back in the good old days pre-children during this kind of phase I would crawl into a dark cave for most of the hours of the day and not come out for weeks at a time. It’s rather difficult to compress the same amount of processing into 2-7 hours/week. Essentially I am incapable of doing the same amount of processing. This means I am having to keep my shit together under suboptimal conditions basically at all times. But no pressure.

Conditions are suboptimal because Shanna is in one of those periods that can best be described as ‘disequilibrium’. [2] She is off having her experience of the world. Right now she is falling down a lot. She is clumsy. She is having sudden bursts of super intense emotion. She is aggressive. She sometimes hits. This is very challenging. Here I want to pay homage to Arwyn of Raising My Boychick and call her triggering. Shanna yells at me.

However, thanks to aforementioned book, I have renewed patience with this stage! I am doing my best to just let her have her experience of the world quietly at home with great order and predictability for a while. At home I can cater her daily experience to her emotional levels and we can get a lot done and have fun together. It’s good. Going out can be very difficult sometimes. At this point she is large enough and heavy enough that if she doesn’t want to go somewhere... Well, it’s hard to just carry her. And besides, if I just carry her and demand that she go I know the whole experience will be hard for her. She really is thriving on our quiet routine at home. She likes having people come visit us for a few hours a day but it becomes disruptive to her behavior if they are here longer than about three hours. That’s a good pattern to observe.

I often wonder if I have the "right" to have chosen to have children, given how many issues I have. Then I continue editing and read these long rambly bits dissecting how little tweaks in her environment effect her mental health. I don’t really think I could be accused of being a neglectful mother. So what do I mean by “right”? I constantly question whether I am a good enough parent. Which is an important distinction. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I am a good parent. However, I am not satisfied by being a good parent. I want to be a good enough parent. I want to be good enough for my kids. To me this is such a complex issue. I feel like I need to hurry up and get better so I can be good enough for my kids. So far my kid is pretty over the top wonderful and I have kept her safe and secure and happy for three years. That's better than my parents did. Wow. Every day for the rest of Shanna's life, as long as I avoid the Big Obvious Mistakes, I will have given her a substantially better chance at lifelong happiness. I'm already there. That's a way to suddenly lower the bar in a really fabulous way.

I'm under a lot of pressure. As soon as I say that I feel like a 50 lb. weight just dropped on my chest. So much pressure. I feel terrified of being a bad parent. I am truly afraid sometimes that I am going to destroy my children the way I was destroyed because it is an absolute inevitability. I feel like I am choking to death under the weight of the pressure and it makes me edgy. Having that physical sensation while parenting is extremely difficult. I have had bad days where I see her move, physically, and I have this physical sensation in my body of being molested when I was very young. Having a child this age is actually traumatizing for me. I am recognizing where all of my deep, dark body memories came from. I feel enough physical urge to vomit that I have to keep a trash can near me while I write this. I have had this hanging over me for my entire life. I think this is a lot of what has been so bad, always. It really did start when I was this young. And that is monstrous. And this is the kind of stuff that will cause people to kindly reach out to me and suggest putting her in preschool or daycare so I can “get some time for myself”. They absolutely mean the best in the world. There is love in every word of what they are saying. The thing is, what I *do* right now is take care of my kids. That’s my job. They are telling me that I need to get outside help for taking care of my kids. Because I need to go fix myself. Because I’m not good enough at my job. Ouch.

That means I come back to this idea of my father being a monster. I was certainly told, over and over, when I was growing up that he was. Well, my mother and my sister told me he was a monster. I didn’t know anyone else I could talk to about him. There was literally no other point of contact in my world with people who knew my father. That’s actually quite amazing. That leads me to all kinds of fun possible derails. I want to call my brother. I want to try to contact my father’s family. I want to dig into their history. I want to find myself! I want to learn what parts of me came from where. I want an explanation for all of it. But you know what? That would be a derail. That would be looking for excitement. I would be trying to distract myself from looking at my reality. My father is dead. Whatever he may have been is a book that is long closed and cannot be reopened. I doubt he was actually a monster. Most likely he was mostly an ok person who occasionally did horrifying things. I’m sure he was an addict. He probably had some serious mental health issues that he was not dealing with. But quite frankly, how the fuck would I know? He killed himself when I was 17. I had not seen him in person since my brother's wedding when I was 13. My memories of him are few and far between and almost every single visit included him sexually molesting me in some way. It is a horrifying, awful thing for me to be present with. I am the victim of incest. My father sexually assaulted me. This is agonizingly hard to write. I want to take any derail in the whole wide world.

And that’s the point. I come back to the idea of my father being a monster because I want to derail my life. I want to run off and explore all of these things that have no relevance to my current life because I’m terrified that I am a monster and I am going to fuck up my life. I can’t bear to look too closely at what I am doing because I am convinced I am evil and bad. But I’m not. I’m a good mother. I have to deal with my memories though. I can’t avoid that. That’s the hard, scary monster in my head. I have to deal with how they impact my day to day life. And I have to do it in ways that are appropriate. I have to have boundaries around how I do this. That is how I will break the cycles of abuse. I god damn mother fucking refuse to blow up my life. And I cannot be forced to by anyone outside of me. Their actions are not my problem. I can only take responsibility for myself and my actions. I don’t know if my parents are or were monsters. I know what my perception and experience of them was. I was factually horrifically abused. That means that talking to people about my parents is unhelpful. There was plainly duplicity going on. No one outside knew the full story and no one can confirm or deny anything in a useful way. There was too much lying.

Dear God that hurts to write. I cannot hope to ever have confirmation for anything about my experience of my childhood. It cannot be had. The largest and most traumatizing part of my childhood was the experience of constantly lying and that is why I cannot rely on any version of the truth but my own. And that means I need to get back to talking about what I remember.

I remember, I must have been 8 or 9. No. Damnit. I’m doing it again. I wasn’t. We were living in Whittier. I must have been closer to 10. [3] I spent a weekend at his house. He gave me a milkshake that 'tasted funny' he insisted I go to bed for the night in a shirt and no underwear. In his bed. He spooned me. remember the feel of his body hair against me. He was naked. I remember him feeling all over my body. He put his fingers into my labia and vagina. And these are the memories I have talked about before. This is the kind of memory I can wrap my head around and put words to. But I have these intense body memories when I watch Shanna. I feel pain deep inside my vagina sometimes when I watch her. I feel like I am choking to death saying this. Admitting this. There is not a shadow of doubt in my mind that my father was sexually assaulting me when I was a toddler.

Part of why I am so convinced is one of my earliest memories is from when I was 3 years old. I know I was 3 because of a whole bunch of correlating information, but anyway. There was a little boy, I no longer remember his name. I think he was 4 or 5. I asked him to play behind the couch with me and he did. I then remember offering him a blow job. By name. I had to explain it to him. He said sure and then I proceeded to go right to it. I knew exactly what to do.

What fucking 3 year old should have that knowledge? None. No 3 year old should ever know those things. But the part that makes me shake and sob and despise myself--I am that boy's monster. I don't know what I did to him. And that. That is why I need to have faith in gray.

I am not a monster. I probably hurt that boy, yes. But it wasn't my fault. I was doing what children do. I was exploring the issues in my world through my play. That is what a child that age has to do. I wasn't to blame. But those are adult words. The little kid inside me who is still exactly that age, she knows that what she did was bad. She knows that she is a monster. She doesn't know how she became that monster, but everything is all her fault. That is my legacy as the victim of incest. That is my family role. I am the scapegoat. I am the monster. This is mostly true because of my exquisitely heightened sense of shame and guilt. I am to blame for all of the evils in the world--even the things I didn't commit. And this is another derail.

I can never truly make reparations for what I did. But that's not the point. The point is that almost 30 years later I feel guilt for what I did and that guilt is poisoning me. For the most part when people tell me that I need to 'let things go' I think they are being fucking assholes and telling me not to deal with my shit because my shit makes them uncomfortable. However, in this case, I think I do need to let this part go. I need to recognize when I am derailing my life. I need to look at the ways in which I am wasting my fucking time. I need to understand what a derail is. I need to recognize when I am doing it. I need to give myself time and space for doing it. And I need to recognize when I am out of time for doing it and I need to hurry up and stop paying attention to it. Right now I have to go pay attention to my life.

I need to let go of feeling responsible for the actions of a fucking insane 3 year old who had sexual assault issues she was working through. My 3 year old has never been traumatized, I can absolutely promise you. She still acts out in really fierce ways. Maybe I wasn't such a monster. Maybe I was just 3 and some of the stuff I had to process was really awful.

So then I come back to my dad. He probably wasn't actually a monster either. He was a person. He was a person who had a favorite song. And a favorite color. And a favorite flavor. And a favorite movie. He had good points and bad. He helped people and he hurt people. Yes, he hurt me in ways that were monstrous. But does that really make him a monster? I don't know. I can't know. There is no way for me to know. Even if he was alive I would never be able to really judge him accurately. Because when I see my perfect, beautiful little girl rolling around on the floor feeling in her body the joy of being alive I feel a large invisible body pressing down on me. I taste hot, bitter acidic semen in my mouth. I feel burning in my vagina.

And I have to parent through that.

I’m rather significantly a morning person. Lately I have been sleeping 8-3:45. Evil.
Thank God and Shiny Green Apples for the book: Your Three Year Old by Louise Bates Ames
At some point I will try to write about the Tommy period of my life. But not today.


  1. you are incredibly brave.

  2. I love you Krissy.

    That you care enough to share your monster thoughts and fears shows that you are not one yourself.

    Keep breaking the cycle.

  3. you are doing such difficult and very good work. you amaze me! xo