I feel like I spend most of my life lately saying, "It's complicated" because no matter what subject I am looking at there are many different things that could be combined/fixed/told. And I don't know how to begin. Luckily I have the internet, and friends who are awake. My friend Peter pointed me towards the class where I met him. There is material there. And he's right.
My first semester of graduate school was in 2003, before I met Noah, right after Tom ended our M/s relationship. Before Tom and I were poly I started grad school. Naw, that's not even true. That's when I applied to grad school. I started spring semester so I started grad school in January of 2004. I met Noah in late February. So this story is going on concurrently to me starting to tell the story of my abuse out loud in the context of my relationship with Noah.
I went to a fiction writing class. Honestly I picked it based on when I wanted to be on campus. Always the best selection criterion, I tell you. I did write some fiction for the class but all of the fiction I chose to wrote was borderline pornographic (or very explicitly pornographic depending on which story) or I wrote creative non-fiction. I didn't tell the class that I was writing about my own childhood abuse. I did not explain that the horrific, gut clenching story about a 7 year old being raped was my story. I kept distance there. Most people in the class responded just fine and they gave me very valid feedback on my writing.
But there was this one woman. Liz? I think her name was Liz. She didn't like me much. She didn't like my stories. She didn't like my attitude. She was one of those out and proud lesbians who acts like all heterosexual sex is rape. I doubt she would have actually said that, but that's pretty much the place she was in. Now, like 7 years later, I can see why she was the way she was. Then she just felt mean. She picked on me when I shared my stories.
What do I mean by that? I mean that when I was visibly upset when people were workshopping the story about my rape she was very hostile. She specifically said, "This story is ridiculous because this kind of thing doesn't really happen to people." Now I kind of wonder if she was denying her own abuse. Her response was really hard for me. I brought stuff that was too intense to class and I felt like I got screamed at for it. To be perfectly clear, the professor was awesome. I'm quite sure he had strong suspicions about me because he gave me great writing feedback and he gingerly patted me on the shoulder and told me I would make it. Men like him have been the rock I have built my life upon. Women rarely manage that kind of support properly.
But oh man. I'm not over Liz. How dare she tell me that my story was unrealistic? That's not fucking writing feedback. We had a guy in class writing stories about people who were kidnapped by aliens! She chose to tell ME that my story was unrealistic! Ok. Fuck her. I feel like she is part of the great evil cabal that wants me to kill myself instead of speaking because she doesn't want to hear about my pain.
But I'm in a lot of pain. And that's a hard thing to talk about. How do you express your pain properly without hurting anyone else? I mean, the problem with Sharon and Liz is that they feel I am overstepping their (or someone elses) boundaries and I don't have the right to do that. Thing is, I don't have any clue whatsoever where boundaries are supposed to go. I flail and I fuck up. Sometimes they are really far away from me and no one can get close enough to have a conversation and sometimes they are in so close that I can't defend myself when someone rapes me. I do not know what healthy boundaries feel like to naturally have them for ones own body. I don't. I pretend. I try to make it up. My boundaries shift depending on time of day, how many people are around, how recently I have thought about my family, what I'm eating, how often I sleep...
And that's not cool for the people around me. That's messy and abusive. Because then I go off on people for correcting my grammar. I saw that I know it is a little thing, but it felt abusive. It felt over the top. It felt like you were trying to publicly humiliate me and make me look small and stupid and you look big and powerful. Thats not what was happening, but that's how muddy my boundaries are. I can KNOW things and not feel them.
I hate being sober. I can't tell the stories. See how I am dancing here? But Sharon made a crack about the marijuana and how I should stop using it and go on psych meds. Despite the many many many years of problems I had trying to get psych meds to work. Despite the fact that the people who are in my house with me monitoring my behavior tell me adamantly that marijuana is the right decision right now in this crisis point because it is clearly helping me and it does not have the miserable side effects. But someone in authority, someone I feel "knows more than me" told me that I should stop. So I am not smoking this morning. Even though I am going round and round in circles and winding myself up.
I don't know how to get past the anxiety and look at the stories without it. My brain is too effective at shutting down those avenues of thought. When I try to sit here and think about being raped when I was 7 years old my stomach starts to hurt, my neck hurts. I feel tense. I am breathing fast and rapid. If I were trying to speak out loud I would be doing it so fast and so quiet that people probably wouldn't really be able to hear me. I'm scared. I'm small. And I have no real voice. Even if I could start rattling off the facts, I was 7 years old when a neighbor raped me. There was a witness in the room and another witness (his mother) came in and saw what was happening and then walked out leaving it to continue.
Many many people saw my story. People were there watching it while it happened. People actually physically saw me being raped and didn't stop it.
Why shouldn't I be angry again? Why in the hell is it surprising that I have rage issues? Why in the hell should I learn to tell my story in a small, inoffensive way so that other people don't have to be hurt by my story? Why is that my responsibility? I didn't do anything. All I am doing is telling the truth. All I am doing is saying, "Hey I was a little kid and people hurt me" and people then react to me as if I am a monster. They want me to shut up. They want me to be little and silenced. They want me to make my story palatable.
Well fuck you, none of this is palatable. This is disgusting and horrible and I had to live through it. How fucking dare people tell me that I don't have a right to speak. How dare people tell me that I have to make my story palatable. I had no choice. I was raped. I was raped over and over during my formative years. I was programmed to think that my value was in sex and I should be silent the whole rest of the time.
But I am not that person. I am loud. I am here. I have a voice. And I'm not going to stop using it.
In May of 1989 my brother Tommy was hit by a car. My entire childhood is told in relationship to that event because that is the Big Obvious Date that I can remember. I turned 8 in September of 1989. Tommy was in a coma for five months so he woke up in October. When he was hit by a car we were living in Texas. I dreamed about the accident and woke up and told Mommy that I saw Tommy get hit by a car. She told me it was just a dream but couldn't get a hold of my dad for three days to find out how Tommy was. I have no idea how long this lasted, but my mom was there for a bit before rushing back to California to sit at Tommy's bedside. She left me with Denise (my sister) who was pregnant and her then husband Bobby. I was raped after my mom found out about the accident but before she left. So I am pretty sure I was 7.
This is how it works with all of my memories. I have to stop and think of all the collaborating details or I am afraid I am making it up. I have to be able to list off long, extensive lists of things that happened the same day to prove that I was alive and I had that day and I saw those things and other people believe me about all the other things (often these details are verifiable) so therefore they will believe me about the abuse. But people don't. People tell me that I am lying or exaggerating. That my stories cannot be real. But they are. My stories are real. I am real. This was my experience of the world. It is bad and scary and hard. But it happened. Dirty things were done to me but I am not dirty. I am not bad.
His name was Michael and I had quite the crush on him. I followed him around. I was desperate for any sign of love and affection. I was willing to do anything he wanted me to do. I don't think I told that part in the story in class. This event wasn't the first time Michael and I had sexual contact, it was just the last. One day when we were in Michael's room and he and his cousin were playing video games in between saying degrading things to and about me. I can't tell the whole story right now. Not right. Not the real thing. I can't. I want to but I don't feel safe. I feel like if I tell the whole story again someone will be nasty, and they might and I can't control that.
I feel like it is my fault Michael raped me because I put myself in the dangerous situation. I went after him. I pursued him. I am in the phase of recovery where I can't tell the story from the point of view of a victim. I am the monster. Right this minute I want to tell the story as a bragging story. I want to talk about how I am so into sex that I knew when I was a little girl that I wanted it. That I picked a boy I wanted and I went after him. I didn't let any obstacle get in my way. And I fucked him.
That's all I want to say. I want to sound tough and bad ass and brave. I want to sound like I had choice. I want to sound like I was active player. I wasn't a victim. I wasn't abused. I wasn't raped. I was just ready for sex earlier than other girls. Do you know how many times I have told that story? More times than I can count. That is how I survived. That right there.
I have been raped so many times in my life I'm not sure I can count them any more. The vast majority of the sex I had was only consensual in the sense that I got into a situation where a guy wanted sex and I didn't believe I was allowed to say no. I wanted to be touched. I wanted physical contact and I knew no other way to get it. When I was a toddler and I sat on my fathers lap he would put his hands under my panties and slip his fingers into my vagina. That was love. They showed me porn. My mother started giving me tips on blow jobs when I was 11. It was my fault, of course. I brought it up. I asked. She didn't initiate that conversation so she feels like she is innocent.
But my mother gave me advice on better blowjob techniques when I was 11. That's not ok. She needed to hold that boundary. That is how she continued the cycle. That is why I do not trust her. My mother does not know what kind of boundaries other people have either. But she is in her 60's and she still doing things that are that kind of inappropriate and if you call her on it she goes into this long explanation of why she isn't responsible for her behavior. Bullshit!
I am responsible for my behavior. Me. Not God. Not my father. Not my mother. Not my sister. Not my therapist. Not my husband. Not my children. Me. Me. Me. At the beginning of the day, at the middle of the day, at the end of the day... I am with me. I always have been. I always will be. I am not looking to be any one else's ideal of the right person. I'm afraid that right now I am at the point where I have to stop relying on anyone else. Maybe I can find the right therapist if I keep looking but it will really and truly have to be the RIGHT therapist. Sharon isn't it. Sharon wants to make me into her image of the perfect post-abuse mother. No.
Why do I want to recover these memories. Why am I doing this to myself. This is horrible and I am beating myself over the head with it. I am very good at forgetting. I was told I have to forget. I was told to be quiet about what I do remember. But instead I am completely structuring my life right now so that all I can do is look at these memories. But I'm letting the memories control me. I am letting personal time become all the time. Why. That's a big thing to do.
I'm afraid that if I let myself have these memories fully, if I really examine them I will become the people who hurt me. When the people around me react with horror I feel silenced. I feel like I am driving myself insane. I have to say these stories. I have to tell them in all their tear filled agony and I cannot bear to see peoples reactions. I think that officially makes me a writer. Right now Noah is making breakfast and my babies are playing and singing with him. I am not allowing my rage to destroy my family. My family is beautiful and strong as I am beautiful and strong. Most of the time I bear my burdens lightly. I do not feel weighed down by the weight of incest. I know the right road for me and I am on it. I don't want to change who I am. I really like me.
I want to feel like it is ok to be me. I want to feel like who and what I am is right. I want to feel like it is ok that I am different from everyone else. I want to feel like it is ok that I am special. That sometimes I need to say, "Hey can people use gentle voices with me even when I try to escalate things" and have the people around me understand that saying that is humiliating and embarrassing and I feel like a disgusting person for saying it. I need it to be ok that I talk about my past. I need to get to a place where I know in my heart what the right amount of information to give my children is. I do not want my children twisted by my legacy of shame. I want my children to continue to grow in the absolute safety I have provided. My children are a strange mix.
So here's my thing. My daughter is verbal. Astoundingly verbal. Exceptionally verbal. Who knows what that will mean in terms of her overall achievement in life. That's not the point. It's not about competition and I don't know how to talk about it without it sounding like I am being an asshole. So I don't speak about this problem. This is a problem. I am having a very hard time with how verbal Shanna is. Shanna asks me questions and she mentions things in off-hand ways that sound like they might maybe be questions and I don't feel like I know what the appropriate amount of information to give her is.
Shanna wants to know why I am sad. Shanna is acting out being sad and I feel horrible about it. So far I have told her that I am sad because bad things happened to me a long long time ago and I think about them sometimes and that's hard for me. I have described my anxiety as "I have a lot of work to do. And you know how you feel when you are tired and really hungry? I feel like that all the time when I am trying to do this much work." I have no idea if I am doing this right. I honestly think that I am freaking out so much because I feel like I have to hurry up and get over feeling like this because otherwise my kids will grow up with someone like me who just checks out for a while.
And I have a lot of shame about that. That is what my mother did. My mother was on so many drugs to numb her pain it was absolutely ridiculous. She popped so many pills it was unreal. That was normal. I grew up convinced that I wouldn't do that. And I have such an aversion to taking pills that prenatals were nightmareish for me and I have now stopped taking them because I simply cannot do it even though I should take them as long as I am nursing.
Instead I am smoking pot. I'm not drinking. I'm not taking pills (and I won't), but I'm smoking pot. I am having a hard time with that. I am not a lifelong pot smoker. I really don't enjoy doing this. I'm not enjoying how it feels. But it keeps me level. It keeps me from snapping while I can't get the memories under control. It is making me go flat line. And while I am doing it during the day I have people here watching my kids for me. That is the difference between me and my mother.
I cannot meet all of my children's needs by myself right now. I am having a crisis. But I am dealing with it. I am dealing it with it in a way that is safe for me, for my children, and for the people who are offering help. I am not stepping on anyones toes. I am not doing something bad by asking for help. I am not imposing. I am not hurting anyone. I am weaker than normal and I cannot carry my load. People with room to spare, people who love me are helping me. I am doing the right thing for me. I am.
Believing that is the first step to recovery for me. That's it. Right now, for this moment of this crisis that is my step. I have to believe it is ok for me to be weak and need help. I have to believe that it is ok for me to ask for help. I need to feel like I can allow other people to help me. I need to actually accept the help.
Baby steps, people. I see several of the offers and I love you and I want to respond and I can't right now. That is too big of a step. I don't yet believe I am allowed to take it.