Remnants

The past week has been challenging to say the least. I lost my dad on Oct 25, and a cascade of unrelated events followed. The details are unnecessary, but to say I am tired and worn would be an understatement.

After receiving a message shaming me for the pain my bio father and his wife are going through, I wrote a long letter. In it I let out the hurts and heartbreak they dealt to me over time, and for the first time, publicly told my side of the story.

One of the things I mentioned in the letter was how I used to hide in my closet because it was the only place in the world where I knew I couldn’t be “in trouble.” As I started my day today, I remembered that, even after I left his home, I still found the need for that safe space. Even though my room at my mom’s was a safe space, I still needed a sanctuary, somewhere I knew I couldn’t be found. So, in the only corner of the closet that wasn’t exposed with the folding doors were open, behind the long dresses I hung up to shield me from prying eyes, I made a little nest where I could hide.

Until this morning, I had completely forgotten about my hiding place. Now, however, I remember going there several times. I’m not even sure I needed to when I did, but it the only space in my tiny world I was certain I could control. It was dark and silent, in it I could find peace and release the anxiety that would build up.

What I also didn’t realize was that over time, I have continued to keep my little closet space, but I’ve expanded it a bit. My home is now my safe space, my sanctuary. It is the place I go to hide – it’s the only place where I have complete control. When people come to it unannounced, I feel that same sense of anxiety that I had when I would hold my breath, hoping no one would find me in my closet when I was hiding from the world.

My Own Little World…

“Now it makes sense!” He said that the only thing he had remembered about childhood was that he seemed always to be alone. “Now I understand that being alone was when I felt safe. There was no one around to hurt me.” 1

This quote struck a chord with me.  It resonated deeply, and it brought everything about the few good childhood memories I have into perspective…

As a child, these are a few of my most vivid memories:  riding my bike for hours, searching sandy terraces for quartz crystals, exploring the woods near my home, playing in my room, sitting in my closet in the dark, reading under the covers after the lights were out, fixing meals, eating dinner, playing board games.  Most of these memories are after the age of nine.  All these memories are peaceful, and in every one, I am alone.

I have other memories.  Memories of school, memories of being at my mom’s, memories of staying with my grandmother, In some of these memories, I am solitary, but never totally alone. Most of them are vague, the ones that are more clear are generally punctuated by fear, anxiety, or hurt (emotional or physical).

I have some memories of my “family,” as it were (dad, step-mom, brother, and me).  I am not sure there are more than a couple that involve all four of us.  Most of the memories are from trips to visit family or go shopping. I remember the parts where I was alone more vividly than the rest.  The remaining vivid memories I have from that time are negative ones.

When I was alone, I felt safe.  When I was alone, I was sure of myself.  When I was alone, I was not doing ANYTHING wrong.

It makes more sense now why I prefer to be alone.  My world has perspective when I am not anxious about someone else.  I deal better with people when the situation is one to one because most of my positive interactions as a child were exactly that.  Just me and my mom, my friend and I, etc.

My world was, and always has been, very small.  I like it that way because it is all I have ever known…


1. Cecil Murphey. When a Man You Love Was Abused: A Woman’s Guide to Helping Him Overcome Childhood Sexual Molestation (p. 43). Kindle Edition.

Who Is Responsible?

As a child, I learned to take responsibility for a lot of things.  Sometimes, these were the things that most youth learn in order to become responsible adults.  Yet, there are other things that I learned to take on that are clearly not my own – or at least it is becoming more clear that they do not belong to me.

I remember thinking that it was my responsibility to protect my mother from the wrath of my father.  He said ugly things, lots of ugly things, about her, and I did my best to hide them from her.  Not only this, but after I was molested by my grandfather, I remained silent because I wanted to protect her.  I knew that if my father found out that her father molested me, he would find a way to blame her – even though it was his fault for leaving me with that man instead of with my mom.

As a teen, I took on a new responsibility, that of the secret keeper.  I kept the secrets of my grandfather locked away inside because I was afraid that if I told, I would bring someone else pain.  My greatest fear was that someone else (especially my mother) had been molested by him, and sharing my pain would bring back ugly memories.  I knew what it felt like to remember, to loathe, to feel shame, so I did anything I could to shield others from the past.

What is even worse is that I even learned to protect my abusers from their own shame. For many, many years, I protected them out of respect for what is most people call “family.”  I felt it was my duty not to sully the family names by bringing out the ugly secrets that lay within.  I believed that bringing their offenses to light would destroy the world that family members considered safe.  I even felt, and still to this day somewhat feel, that to point out their shame would somehow be unfair because, they are “family” after all…

In my blindness, I enabled my family to pretend that nothing was wrong.  I was, and am still, fairly certain that my father would not believe that anyone in his “loving, Christian family” would be capable of causing such harm.  I believed that my mother’s family would turn a blind eye to the ugly truth, because they have a history (in my opinion) of sweeping things under the rug.  “Talking” is something they never truly do.

Where does this leave me?  I have not the slightest clue.  Sometimes, I want to call them all together and lay it all out.  I want to tell them about the dark and ugly secrets of which they are not aware.  Yet, my mind keeps coming back to the question, “What good would it do?”  I fear that my voice would not be heard – that their collective propensities for blaming someone else would end up making me look like the bad one and once more minimize my experiences.

I guess deep down, what I really want is for someone else to shoulder the responsibility for this entire mess for a while.  Yet all my life, all I have received from others are excuses.  Excuses as to why it is not their fault and why they should not be expected to bear the burden as well.

So, I keep shouldering the responsibilities, even if they are not my own.

Balancing the evil with good…

Sometimes I just wish that I could say their names out loud.  I wish I could just point them out to others and say, they are the ones who abused me.  Sometimes, I just wish that the rest of the world knew the kind of people they are.  Yet, I still hold back.  Why?  I am not sure.  At times, I think it is self-preservation.  I fear that if I speak their names publicly, then I will bring their wrath, opening myself and my character up for more abuse.  Yet at other times, I wonder if I am still doing it to “protect” them from my anger.  I still worry about skewing the perception of others against them, I feel like pointing them out would be asking others to judge them.

Then I have to ask myself, why do I want to say their names out loud?  Most times, I just want to say them because they are a SECRET that burns inside my mind.  Other times, I feel that, although I know they will never admit to the wrongs they have done, I would like for them to still be responsible for them.  While I keep their names secret, they go on with their lives.  They do not have to live with the burden of having done something wrong, because no one is openly telling them they did wrong. Maybe sometimes, I just want them to feel a fraction of the pain I have felt.  Maybe I would like for them to feel what it is like to be shunned, misunderstood, and disliked. Yet, the one reason that concerns me most is, how many other children have been/are in danger because I have not spoken the names of my abusers?

While this conflict tears me apart at times, I think about my list of abusers and their enablers.  It is a fairly short list.  It amazes me to think how such a few people could have had such a negative impact on my life.  Their actions have haunted, hurt, and tormented me for over 20 years, and it has taken twice as many positive people to overcome the damage they have done.

Positive people.  I can list those.  There is no stigma attached to the people who have supported me, nor is there shame in saying their names out loud.  Saying their names reminds me that there is hope, and it also reminds me that there is good.  With that said, here is a list of the people who were a part of the major turning points in my healing journey:

John*
Paulette*
Ott*
Kim*
Sandy*
Lisa*
Gary*
Lynn
Brittney*
Denise*
Matt*
Mike*
Bryan*
Ryan*
Ronnie*
Horace*
Carol
Bill*
Kyle
Alana
Natalie
Michael
Sharika
Joanna
Karen
Anne
Erin*

While those listed may never have known what I was going through, I can remember exactly what they did to change something in my life.  The ones who are starred, either were the catalyst for one of my blog posts, or have been mentioned anonymously in the posts or journal entries that I have shared. Whether it be linking me to new friends, giving me a chance to express myself, giving me the courage to speak up, or fueling an emotional breakthrough, they have each done something extremely important in my life.  I am thankful for their presence, and I know I would not be the person I am today if it were not for their support.

I’m Not Who I Was…

While putting together my book, I spent a bit of time revisiting the person that I was during the time period that the selections included were written.  I can vividly remember the feelings and thoughts, and often events, that prompted me to write each entry, and unfortunately, most of them came from a very dark place in my mind.

However, a few years ago, I finally reached a point in my life where I was able to begin living in the light.  While there is still a great deal of darkness inside, I am now able to keep it from overpowering the light that I have found.  I see the world much differently, and I am thankful every day that life is about change.

In honor of the person I have become, I am revisiting an old post from my Btrflywngs (Kylee Jones) MySpace blog, entitled “I’m Not Who I Was.”  The “friend’s profile” I mention in the first line was my real (Erin) profile (see, now I do not even have to be anonymous anymore).

July 19, 2009

Recently, I was checking out the music list on a friend’s profile and ran across the song “I’m Not Who I Was” by Brandon Heath.  This song is such a wonderful expression of transformation and healing and it reminded me once more of the beauty of the transient experience.

Many times, I have said that I have been shaped by abuse, but I refuse to be defined by it.  Yet, that is not the way I have always seen myself.  There was a time when I believed that I was an abused, abandoned, emotionally-scared, unlovable, unforgivable, worthless being.  As you can imagine, it was often very hard to live with myself knowing that these things defined the person I was and who I would become.

Somewhere along the way, a beautiful thing occurred – I learned that there is a difference between who you are and the things you have experienced. Labels are the words people (including ourselves) use to define what they do not know or understand.  However, once you look deeper, you will find that labels are superficial and can in no way fully describe the person inside.

Another beautiful truth I learned was that experiences are transient.  Yes, I have been abused, but I am no longer abused.  What does that mean?  It means that I was an abused person, but now I am a person who has experienced abuse.  However, even that statement is incorrect.  Even while I was being abused, abuse was the experience, not the definition of my inner being – I was a person who was experiencing abuse.

In the moment that we learn to separate the actions and circumstances outside of ourselves and our control from the person that we truly are, we are made whole.  We no longer see ourselves as incomplete, but as fulfilled.  Our perspective changes, and we begin to understand that while we may have experienced many things, the most important part of the experience is the journey to find who we are.

Who am I?  I am Kylee Jones, someone who as experienced abuse and emotional abandonment.  I am happy to say that these experiences have been transient, and while I may have experienced them in my past, what I do with today and tomorrow is what matters most.

Not My Family…

Over the past week, I have been hearing stories about health problems my step-mother is experiencing.  Today, I received the following message from a family member in my fb inbox:

Information
Your dad asked that I let you know he is in the hospital (they are doing a full work up on his heart).

At first, I wanted to simply respond:

I don’t care.

However, I thought about the fact that she was really trying to help.  I know people don’t always understand the extent of what has happened between my father and I, and that they really want help us make peace.  However hurtful it might be that people don’t respect my wishes to be left alone when it comes to my father, I do understand that they don’t mean to hurt me.

As I waited for something nice and friendly to pop into my head, I worked on some therapeutic activities…On my fb status I posted:

for those that wonder why…they aren’t my family. we don’t share a bond….

I followed this activity up by going to my groups and adding one called, Extended “Family”  In this group I added those that I consider my brothers and sisters, people who love and accept me as I am, and with whom I share a bond.

While I was contemplating what message I would send back, my mother called.  She said my step-mother had let her know that my father wanted to know if anyone had told me.  I shared with her that I had received a message already, and that I was trying to figure out how to respond.  I told her how I really feel about it, and we talked about how she shares many of the same feelings about her own father.  She talked about how people still try to get her to contact him, and how she doesn’t feel she has a reason to do so.  Although I hate what my mother has been through, I appreciate that she understands how I feel.  She even told my step-mom that she would tell me, but that was all she could do.

After talking to my mom, I took a little more time to contemplate things.  I finally responded to my family member with the following:

It’s really nice of you to do this for him. I’m sorry to hear that he’s not doing well. Of course, you understand, I can’t be there. He hasn’t been my dad since March 26, 1989…the day he “disinherited” me for going to live with my mom…for wanting to stop living in fear.

You are his only chance at having a daughter now. I hope he treats you better than he did his own.

The more I think on this, the more I come to understand that my father did disinherit me.  If I had known then what I know now, it wouldn’t have bothered me as much that he was using empty promises to try to manipulate me into staying in his home.  He would never pay for my wedding, much less even begin to be able to help pay for a college education.

Even without considering that, I never had a bond with him.  As I think back, after the age of 4, I can’t remember loving him.  I remember being afraid.  I remember obeying because I wanted to be a good girl.  I didn’t want to hurt, and I didn’t want him to keep me from seeing my mother.   But I never loved him.

The walls he caused me to put up also kept me from creating a true bond with my step-mother.  In all of this, she is the one I feel he has really hurt.  I was not able to develop a relationship with her because of the way he tried to use her to replace my own mother, someone who was still very much a part of my heart and my life.  She is a very patient, loving, and kind woman, but in the end, she is like my father…she’s just someone I know.

Yet, as I read this, something else comes to me.  I have never allowed responsibility to rest on my step-mother for not protecting me.  I’ve always tried to protect her feelings, yet she never protected mine…