‘Twas horrible to think
that she suffered
an unspeakable childhood.
Every day they reopened
the contentions –
that she could not
Mischief and dread
became more likely
than right and wrong –
causing heads to hit
hard against circumstances
almost as good
as she once was.
(Blackout poetry created from a page of “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens)
Mother’s Day always creates such a barrage of mixed emotions for me. There was a lot of trauma, abuse, mental illness, and foolish decisions that marked my childhood. My mother was far from a perfect parent. Luckily, she does admit to that and seems to be really trying to be a better person now, but being around her always triggers so many memories, thoughts, and feelings – some good, some bad, some funny, and some tragic.
I think part of the issue is that my brain has a tough time seeing how she acts towards me now and reconciling it with memories of how my sister and I were treated while growing up. I do believe in forgiveness (within reason), and I do love my mother, but I doubt there will ever be a day in her company that doesn’t create confusion for me internally.
I write this post today to recognize those of us who struggle on Mother’s Day to even know how to feel…
Last night I had a bunch of nightmares. In fact, I woke up feeling like that was all I did all night – face some of my darkest fears. These nightmares didn’t feature vampires, ghosts, ax murderers, clowns, or spiders…they featured the person I love the most in the world, my husband.
In these dreams my husband turned cruel and cold. He stopped caring about me. He wanted to leave me or even kill me. The betrayals started small in the dreams, with him choosing friends over me and simply being uncaring and dismissive of my feelings, but they accelerated as the dreams went on and turned to him expressing extreme hatred towards me and even trying to stage an “accident” to get rid of me.
Let me say that these dreams ARE NOT representative of my husband’s treatment of me. We have been together 15 years and he has been wonderful. Caring, patient, understanding, loving, forgiving….all of these are adjectives that fit him perfectly. He always puts me first before anyone else, often, even before himself.
So why the bad dreams? My guess is PTSD. When you grow up in an unstable environment with mentally ill, abusive, and selfish people who often put their own desires before your needs, it fucks you up for life. You always feel unworthy. You always feel like the rug of security can be pulled out from beneath your feet at any time. You feel like you don’t deserve good things, and if you do happen to get love and affection, you are suspicious and paranoid about it. How I wish I could just forget the past.
Yesterday I had a genuinely good day! My husband and I went to a little new age shop that is always fun to browse through. I love all that metaphysical “woo woo” stuff, and got some cool new candles, an awesome black skull container, and a book on aromatherapy. After that, we visited a local Native American mounds park, with a beautiful waterfall:
For lunch, we stopped at a quaint little pizza place, which sat us next to an old fireplace with ice skates hanging on it (I love little details like that!):
After eating, we drove by an old neighborhood park near a river and decided to stop and check it out. They had really old playground equipment, like the stuff I grew up with! I couldn’t resist the temptation to play on their bouncy toys:
Or climb to the top of the jungle gym:
I also played on their old, flat board swingsets and a big, bouncy dinosaur that looked a lot like Barney. After playing, we took a walk along the river. I did fall at one point and woke up with a huge bruise on my thigh today. I knew I would be extremely sore today after all that activity, but it was worth it! Days like that make life worth living.
- I don’t owe you anything!
- I’m nothing like you.
- You don’t own me and you never did.
- You deserve what you got.
- Sometimes I feel nothing for you.
- You are at fault for so much.
- You have no one to blame but yourself.
- You are lucky to have anyone who still cares.
- I’m a saint for forgiving you.
- Without me, you’d have nothing!
- I hate you sometimes.
- You’ll never break me.
- I’ll never crack.
- I am a much better person than you’ll ever be.
- I’m smarter than you.
- You fuel my creativity with anger, disgust, frustration, and grief.
- I’ve made something good out of your mess.
- I am superior – by actions and attitude.
- Your religion doesn’t hide the truth.
- I found love and success in spite of you.
- I’m the person you always wanted to be, but couldn’t.
- Toys have always been better company than you.
- You helped me find and lose faith in God.
- I will heal.
- I’m STRONGER than you.
*By the way, BetterHelp has a great article on emotional abuse, I would recommend it!
A couple nights ago I was feeling so confused and conflicted inside that I started to feel a little bit claustrophobic. Some of you may not understand that feeling if you’ve never had it yourself, but it is something I have experienced more than once when the emotional and rational parts of my brain just can’t seem to find common ground. It is even worse when the emotional parts of your brain are telling you different things at the same time too.
Part of my brain might be telling me that someone does care about me because they buy me stuff (they are so generous!) and make such a fuss over me whenever I see them. While another part of my brain is reminding me of the times they fucked me over and left me to cry alone. From what I understand, this is a common thing experienced by those who have been victims of abuse. There is a real trauma bond that is created between abuser and abused, which makes it so very hard to see the abuser for what they really are and to be able to keep your wits about you when they suddenly do something nice or swear yet again that they’ve “changed”.
I know I have complex PTSD and a buttload of cognitive dissonance going on in this weary head of mine. I know that the healing process is long, and realistically, never-ending in some ways. I know that none of it was my fault, even though I still struggle with feelings of guilt, insecurity, and inadequacy. I know that I have made wide and sweeping relationship changes I had to make for my own welfare, but I still find myself feeling sorrow for what could or should have been.
I am often confused and desperate to understand what is beyond understanding. And I guess I have to make peace with that. I really have no other choice.
Unfortunately, I’ve faced a great deal of abuse in my somewhat short lifespan. Physical abuse, verbal abuse, mental abuse, and emotional abuse. Most of this abuse happened when I was growing up and happened at the hands of people I should have been able to trust and look to for protection.
There is a part of me that desperately wants to be open about all the things that happened and purge my heart and soul of them publicly. I want to speak the truth out loud and shed light on things that have always lived alone in the darkest part of my psyche. However, I find myself so scared to share the truth and feeling immense guilt at the thought of outing those who were responsible. I feel protective towards my abusers because I still love them through it all and feel guilty at the thought of tarnishing their reputations, both the living and the dead.
Why, oh why do I still feel such loyalty and duty to those who hurt me the most deeply and betrayed me the most selfishly and cruelly? Why am I swamped in guilt for just wanting to be open and honest about my own experiences? Why must this battle between my need for expression and my sense of loyalty tear me apart? How do I ever find healing?
* Art by Maranda Russell
I made this dance themed ACEO art trading card last night. In a sense, it is a dream unrealized for me, as I always wished I had been a dancer growing up. I did do gymnastics, but I always wished I could have been a dancer as well. Now with all my physical problems, I doubt I could ever make it through a dance class. Do you have any unrealized dreams like that?
You can find this card and other art for sale on my Ebay!
So I’ve decided to try to post a writing prompt every Saturday. Hopefully I won’t fall off the wagon too many times trying to do so!
Today’s Prompt: What memories from your own childhood would you most like to relive?
My response: I know it sounds corny, but the memories I would most like to relive are just ordinary days filled with happy ordinary moments. Eating cinnamon toast made by my mom while I sit and watch My Little Pony and play with my own pony toy collection (how I wish I had kept those toys!). Playing on the trampoline in our screened in front porch. Watching Nickelodeon back when it was the bomb. Coming home on the last day of school with my backpack full of goodies from the teacher and an entire summer spread out in front of me like a magical adventure. Camping out in my Smurf sleeping bag with my sister, telling scary stories and then being unable to sleep. Family picnics and midnight fishing trips with my dad. Those are the things I miss the most and would love the chance to revisit.