Hello darkness, my old friend…

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

Until today, these lyrics from the song Sound of Silence had a completely different meaning to me. I’m not sure how I could have listened to it a million times and related it to PTSD, but I completely missed it. This morning, however, the first two lines came to me as I started thinking of a moment I had last night before bedtime.

I have been living in recovery with PTSD for almost two decades now, and for the most part, it has faded into a light haze rather than a menacing darkness.  Still, there are moments that always catch me off guard and and make me worry about what is to come. Last night, something triggered a thought, a question of when something happened, and even though, as most of us do, I immediately told myself that’s not something I even want to know, the fear crept up that my brain would not let go.

Sometimes I feel like my mind and my trauma scarred brain are often at odds. My brain says it needs to tell me things, while my mind says I really don’t want or need to know. All these years later, the two still fight like children about who gets to sit in the front seat of the car. This struggle between the two left me wondering before bedtime if I would have a nightmare about what I didn’t want to remember, or if I would wake up with a new memory. It was so unsettling that it was hours before I could make myself try to fall asleep.

Fortunately, I woke to find my fear had not come true, but there is still this nagging feeling that my brain is just dying to tell me what it knows. I know the longer I ignore it, the more horrifyingly dramatic ways it will present my story when it finally breaks out into it’s performance though. So I wait for a moment when I can cuddle up quietly and allow it to speak softly with me about the things it needs to tell me. I will listen and allow it to get all the negative it’s been holding out, and I will grieve anew and give myself time to accept the feelings that I should have felt and dealt with long ago…

Hello darkness, my old friend…

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.

Afraid to Dream… *Trigger Warning*

I’ve been here before.  I’ve felt these emotions, and I’ve fought to quell these fears. Yet, knowing I can overcome it just is not enough.

I went to sleep last night praying I would not dream of questions that are on my mind. Somehow, it seems it would be more terrifying to remember in a dream.  I really do not want to travel down this path.  I’m not even sure there is anything at the other end, yet the possibility of finding something terrifies me.  I’m not sure why it still scares me so much.  Haven’t I been dealing with flashbacks since I was fourteen?  Shouldn’t I be prepared for that queasy feeling that everyone gets when approaching the dangerous unknown?

In my mind, the answer is, “No, Kylee. No matter how long you are on the path, this part of the journey will always feel the same.”  Still, I keep wishing there was a different answer.  I know I have the tools.  I am strong.  I have conquered the darkness many times before.

I guess, even though the memories are mine alone, I’m just a little afraid to do this on my own…

Something I Can’t Remember… *Trigger Warning*

Have you ever had something that you just cannot remember?  You know it is something you need to know or say, but for some reason, no matter how long you wait, it never comes to mind?

There is this memory – one I cannot shake.  I am not sure how old I was, so I cannot place it on a time line.  All I can remember is taking a bath at my grandmother’s and being afraid.  You see, there was an older man there (my step-grandfather), and I was anxious that he would come in to the bathroom while I was alone.  I am not sure if this is a normal fear for most children, as it is something I was always afraid of as a child.  Since I cannot remember how old I was, I am not sure if this moment came after my grandfather molested me or not.

There are a few memories I have of this place where my grandmother lived.  I am not sure how many of them are from separate times, and how many were from the same visit. What I know is that I remember every place I have ever slept, except that one.  For some reason, I have always memorized every room, even if I only slept there one time.  Yet, I spent the night at this place, and do not remember a single thing about it.

Those two puzzle pieces, coupled with one other, make me feel as though something more went on.  One afternoon, after my grandmother, aunt, cousin and I had been on an outing (this I do not remember either), we returned to the house to find the door locked.  When we tried to get in, this man came to the door and told my grandmother to leave and never return.  He was angry and he was accusing her of something.  I was confused.  I did not know what was going on.  All I could think of was that my doll and my clothes were in the house.  I begged and pleaded with him to let us come in and get our things.  The memory fades from there, but I think he might have set my things outside the door.

Honestly, if there is more, I do not want to know.  Yet there is this nagging feeling that I cannot escape.  It is a very uncomfortable feeling that I wish I could just ignore.

I’m ok…

There was a time when it took everything I had just to get through the day.  When I would wake in the morning and hope to get through just one day without having flashbacks on continuous loop in my brain. When I would simply just blank out and shut down because I couldn’t take the overwhelming feelings of disgust, hatred, and betrayal.

Before I learned about grounding and redirection, I learned to tell myself, I’m ok.  At first it was a way to remind myself that, while for that moment I was in a state of panic, I was really not losing my mind.  It helped to quell the attacks by grounding me more in the reality that there was not anything wrong with me, but that I was momentarily experiencing something that was hard to deal with.  There were times when I could be heard repeating to myself over and over, “I’m ok.  I’m ok.  I’m ok.”  I’m sure I sounded a bit crazy, but it was all I could do to regain some control over my run away mind.

Over time, however, “I’m ok.” became a personal mantra.  It became my way of saying to myself, and to the rest of the world, that there was really nothing wrong with me as a person.  By saying these words to myself, I learned that  I wasn’t crazy.  I wasn’t wrong for feeling the way I did.  My inner being wasn’t misshapen, disformed, or unlovable. I was really ok.

Sometimes it is important for us as survivors to remind ourselves the fundamental things like this.  Even though we may not really believe it at first, in time, if we say it enough, we start to open up to the possibility.  For me, “I’m ok.” was just the start.  Over the years, I have learned to tell myself quite a few things – such as I am a beautiful person, I am worthy of love, I am not unlovable, I AM good enough.

Some people may think that a bit silly, but abuse teaches us that we are not any of these things, including ok.  Sometimes it is our abusers who say these words.  At other times, it is the perception about ourselves that their actions leave behind.  Whatever the case, the lessons we learn from abuse are hard wired into our brains.  We believe them because it is what we have been shown.  We, in many ways, have been brain washed, and in order for us to break the never ending stream of negative thoughts we have learned to repeat to ourselves, we must train our brains to question everything we have ever learned…even if that means we have to start with saying, “I’m ok.”

The Bear Chair…

One day we went to K-Mart to buy a little yellow plastic bear chair.  It was the only time I ever went anywhere with my grandfather.  I remember thinking how odd it was to go with him, and how I liked my new chair, but not as much as I should have. I also remember that my younger cousin had a pink one….

Neurosis and the Merri-Go-Round…

New faces, new people, here we go again.  Step on and let the world begin to spin.

Long lost feelings and broken memories….

At age 5 or 6, I worried about men walking in on me in the bath – but only in places where older men (my grandfather’s age) resided….

I can only remember tiny snippets of the one and only time I went somewhere with my grandfather….

Sometimes I worry that these small memories are a sign of something more.  Although I tell myself they are probably nothing, there is a nagging fear that more memories are hiding in the darkness.  I have recognized that I have been abused and the damage it has done.  I hope to God that nothing else exists because I don’t want to remember more…

Can we stop this ride now?  I think I’m gonna be sick….