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.

Is it Father’s Day?

Wow!  I completely forgot that today was Father’s Day.  Some people would gasp at that statement, because to them, it would mean that either I was a terrible daughter, or that they should feel sorry that I missed out on what they had.

Yet for me, this day is simply a day.  There is no sadness in not celebrating – there is freedom.  It reminds me that I have freed myself from the shackles that held me for so long.  Not only that, but that I have the right and the ability to choose to end abusive relationships.

So, don’t feel sorry for me, or think that I am bad on this day.  Just remember that, by freeing myself, I have been given a voice in this world – and now I can make a difference in the lives of others.

18 years…

Today marks the anniversary of the day I chose life over my father – abandoning my dreams in order to leave the pain behind.

I know it’s not a big deal to most people, but my mom and I celebrate this day each year.  Why?  Because it is the day that my mom took me away from my father – it is the day she gave me a home without fear.  It was the second night (the first was just two nights before) I would spend with her since the age of four….

There are bittersweet memories about that day, like the conversation that my father had with me before I left his house – forcing me to choose between every hope I had ever had and him.  He told me that he had planned to pay for my wedding when I was old enough to marry, and that they (he and my stepmom) had been planning to help me with college.  Then he said, “Now you know, if you leave here, we won’t do any of this for you?  Are you sure this is something you want to do?”

I was so lost.  All my dreams had come to this moment, and I had to choose between hope for the future or drowning that day.  Yet, there was no other answer for me.  I had stepped out, and I would not look back.  I was sure that I did not want to hurt anymore.  I was absolutely positive that I could not take one more whipping or one more condescending word.  My mother would be there to take me away in a moment, and everything I had ever really desired came down to wanting to be where I felt loved.

I love my mom for what she did.  I am so thankful that my stepfather was willing to take me in.  Without them, I would not be the person I am today.  If it were not for their love, I would have fallen into the abyss.

Today there are many tears, but not one is from regret….

Apologies…

One week, and all is quite.  My father has not replied to my e-mail, which means he is either angry, did not receive it, or he refused to read beyond the first line.  There was a time, when no response would have left me waiting on pins and needles, wondering if I was a terrible child and if I would ever be able to fix the damage I had caused.  However, that no longer is a concern for me – I am confident that I am a good daughter, and I know that it is not my place to fix the broken mess that my family has become.

Earlier today, I told my mother about the e-mails, and my response.  She has always been very careful not to speak negatively about my father, and she was very reserved when I told her what I said.  However, she did agree that it was good that I had the chance to tell him how I feel – without having him interrupt me, tell me how wrong my feelings are, or just completely ignore what I think.

Ahhhh…..sweet peace.  How nice it is to know that, no matter what he thinks or feels about my response, he finally knows that I have concrete reasons for not wanting to communicate with him.

How I made it through… (religious themes…may be offensive to some)

Please do not take this post as someone’s way of forcing their beliefs on others.  I am not here to make you believe what I do or to tell you what to believe.  By sharing my story, I am reaching out.  This is a part of me.  It is what brought me through the darkest times of my life, and I hope that it will bring comfort to some and understanding to others…

I grew up in a broken home.  To me it was a way of life.  It did not seem broken to me because I was only three when it broke.

At the age of six I was molested by my grandfather.  By the age of nine I was falling apart under my father’s ever increasing expectations.  My cousin took advantage of my innocence at ten and the rest was downhill from there.

Like I said before, my family was broken.  I couldn’t fix it.  No one really could.  Most people just looked on from the outside wondering how we got along.  On the inside, everyone was just trying to make it through one more day without falling apart.

I am thankful that my father did provide a home, food, and clothing (embarrassing as they were), and that he took us to church (even though his version of the gospel was a little skewed).

I can’t remember a time when I did not know who God was.  Jesus was a gentle loving man who looked at me from portraits in my family’s homes and in the churches we visited.  We read stories about how he cared for the children, the sick, the lonely, and the forgotten.  He was just as real to me as anyone else in my little world.

At the age of eight, I learned that the only person who had ever really been there for me might disappear from my life forever.  It terrified my little heart to know that I could be separated from God.  Because I did not ever want that to happen, I asked Jesus to come into my heart and be with me always.

From that moment on, the pain was a little less when my body and soul was bruised and sore. When I had no one to comfort me or dry my tears, I had Jesus.  He was my very best friend because he understood that I didn’t mean to do wrong.  He knew that I was not trying to make people mad.  He was the only one who knew what was happening to me, and he was the only one who loved me still.  I was not upset because he would not “fix it.”  I was just glad that someone out there actually cared.

So many things have happened since the time that holding my Bible at night would make the nightmares go away.  I have learned that the way I see God often puts me at odds with others.  I understand that most people do not see him as benevolent or kind.  Most see him as detached and uncaring, and I understand.  I do not think that makes me right or anyone else wrong.

I do now understand how religion can hurt so many people.  My father was a very bitter man.  He was also a music minister, Sunday school teacher, and self-proclaimed preacher, who held a very limited view of the world.  He used religion to justify his actions and beliefs instead of using it as a tool for introspection and change in his own life. The fact that his actions and words were so very different hurt many people, including other family members.  Several of my family members learned of a vengeful, hypocritical God from watching my father.  It is truly amazing how people can believe in the same God, but understand him differently because of the shape others have given him.

From my little corner, I am still learning to cope and understand.  There are days that I want nothing more than to climb up into God’s lap and cry myself to sleep in His arms.  Other days, I want Him to wipe pain from the face of the earth with His mighty hands.  And yet, most days I simply want Jesus to just hold my hand and tell me everything will be alright…..