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…

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Faded memories…

In a previous post, I mentioned how few memories I have from when I was a child. As I pondered the meaning of family over the past week, my attention once again turned to these memories as a way to weigh my feelings against reality. The more I thought over things, the more I realized there was only one truly happy memory of my bio father before the age of six.

I know he worked days, so his time with us was mostly limited to nights, but I don’t even remember him in the time between work and bedtime except on three occasions. One I remember because I was embarrassed that everyone was laughing at something three year old me said. The other, I could only see his legs and shoes because I was a baby and sitting in the floor – not a memory of him in all reality. Take away those, and the only memory I actually have of him that is a good one is when I was standing beside him in his favorite recliner watching football when I was four.

The simple truth is, to me, there were only six years of my life in which I actually remember him being there. As I have written previously, in those memories he was mostly tearing my mother down, overbearing, extremely distant, or punishing me harshly. This means for me, I never really felt like he was my father. I felt a sense of duty because he told me that’s what family is, but in truth, he wasn’t my father just because he put a roof over my head and met the bare necessities for clothing and feeding me.

When talking to my brother last week, it hit home when I told him our “father” hasn’t been a part of my life for 28 years. Suddenly, I realized I am 40, and six years does not qualify someone as a parent, especially when a large portion of that time was punctuated by emotional abuse and neglect, endangerment, and physical abuse. He was a tiny blip in my timeline, one I think is hardly worth continued concern.

I don’t say these things to be harsh, hurtful, or vengeful. I do say these things, however, to be honest, open, and real about where I am in my life. It’s time for me to let go of the things that have held me back, to honor the ones who have supported and loved me by moving forward with my life, and to no longer feel like I should keep secrets and protect people out of some misplaced loyalty to a family that never actually existed.

Eureka!

I minimize my feelings because my father minimized them first.

Minimizing. It’s something I often do.  Although I do it less often than I used to, I am sure I still do it far more than I should.  I’m not sure what brought me to the thought because I think about so much.  I analyze my world and everything in it.  Every single thought, I have to fully explore it.  I’ve known for a long time that part of this was a coping mechanism.  When I was little, analyzing every movement, mood, tone, look, action, and reaction was essential to my attempts to keep the balance and strive to live in a happy world.  I learned to watch everyone else to be sure I was prepared for what was coming, but I also learned to watch myself, just in case any little thing I did might set a new chain reaction off.

Along with the running analysis of my environment, there also came another coping mechanism – the art of staying small.  Until tonight, I did not realize just how much of my minimizing actually developed as a reaction to my environment. Yet in twenty-one minutes, I realized how years of emotional guilt and shame all come down to that one little sentence.  In just twenty-one minutes, I understood so much more about my life.  This is what I learned (forgive me if it is a bit fragmented, it was a continuous stream of thought):

I’ve spent my entire life feeling guilty for feeling anything – feeling like I was wrong or bad for having emotions…like I shouldn’t ever be angry or hurt, like I’m a bad person when I don’t like someone for [hurting] me. When I say guilty, its not like “I ate that ice cream, I shouldn’t have” guilty, but seriously guilty – not owning things emotionally because my father’s (and now other’s) feelings were more important, and my feelings didn’t matter.  What he wanted or needed came first, so I learned to protect myself.  I had to make me small, and to protect people I loved, I had to not feel anything at all.

I didn’t tell about my abuse because my father taught me that my feelings did not matter to adults. My grandmother reinforced this when she basically told me that what my grandfather did was my fault. I also did not tell because I did not want my mom to get hurt. Years later, I don’t tell people when they make me mad because I don’t want their feelings to be hurt.  It is safer to absorb the negative feelings I have than to risk the added emotion and guilt from creating a negative reaction in someone else because of course, negative reactions are my fault. I’m a bad person if I make others feel bad, and its all because that’s what i was taught…I just didnt realize that’s what I was taught.

It makes a little more sense now – that man and all his guilt…

Something else I realized was that I’m shy as a result.  My mother tells stories of when I was little, before she and my father divorced.  Back then, I wasn’t shy at all.  I never met a stranger, and I loved everyone in the world.  Yet, after she left, and it was just my father, brother, and I, I learned fairly quickly that it was really important not to show how I felt.  I had to process my thoughts before speaking, and analyze my actions before following through.  It was important that I did not act or speak in a way that would anger my father, or “hurt” anyone else, thus I turned inward and became very shy.  After years of coping this way, it kind of just became a part of who I am.

And then…I realized something else. This is why, no matter how many times I speak in public, or how comfortable I am with a crowd, I always become unbearably nervous while in the midst of my speech. My voice wavers and I start to shake, even when I know the content and the people extremely well.  I’ve spent years trying to figure out how to keep myself calm and not let it get out of control, and yet now, I realize it is because I am not supposed to let others see my emotions. There is a recording in my head somewhere that says, “Stay quiet.  Stay small.” and by speaking to others, I am going against that thought.  My fear of being heard, or doing something wrong, of making others upset takes over – even  when I am not worried about these things at all – my brain remembers all the lessons I have been taught and it tries to take control.

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…

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.

Inspired…

Earlier this week I wrote about being inspired by a group of youth to share more of my journey with the world. Although it has been somewhat scary to share this, it has also been inspiring at the same time.

Through my late teen years and early twenties, I spent a great deal of time learning to express myself through poetry and prose. Since I began writing, precious few have seen my works, as I always felt they were deeply personal. Because I felt so many things in my life had been taken without my permission, I viewed my poetry and journals – my thoughts – as one of the few things that I truly owned.  I have always been weary to share them with others for fear that they would be stolen or ridiculed.

In spite of those fears, I finally published my first book this week.  After editing the text and designing the cover, I felt a great sense of accomplishment once I saw the finished product posted online.  Yet, even with that wonderful feeling in my heart, there are still moments when I look at it on Lulu.com and wonder, “Am I really doing the right thing?”

In those moments of doubt, the words of my high school literature teacher come back to me.  On the last day of my Senior year, she said to a group of my friends, “Be good to her because one day, your children will be reading her poetry.”  While I do not hold lofty aspirations, and it is well past time for many of those children to be reading what I have written, her words remind me that someone cared.  Someone believed that I had something of value to share with the world, and even though there are times that I want to take my poems and hide, I should do my best to live up to that belief.

On that note, I should get back to work – I have 10 years worth of poetry type up.

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.