I have let circumstances control me my entire life. I got hurt at a young age, innocence taken and I let the circumstances dictate my life from that point forward. Letting circumstances dictate a life from age 6 forward can be pretty daunting now looking back. I felt like a coward. I felt like, not only was my innocence taken but my dignity, and my life were taken as well.
Don’t get me wrong. I tried to live. But what did I live with? Flashbacks? Memories? Nightmares?
That was not living. That was merely breathing inside a shell of a body. I felt defeated. Defeated physically and mentally.
I gave up on myself. I stopped caring about me.
As I got older and the teenage years crept in, I began understanding the things that were going on within my emotional and physical self. As confusing as they were, I understood where they came from. I knew the sole cause and could almost pinpoint the moment of change within me.
That was the age I changed. Probably because I understood more. I was at an age where I knew about the birds and the bees from school, at least to some point. But I was also at an age that for me, the birds and the bees were nothing new. I knew for years what happened behind closed doors……or in the woods, between rocks, in the grass.
In high school I spent a lot of time in my bedroom, listening to music, or writing. Or even the classic rocking back and forth on the bed. Sounds so cliché. Like watching some horror movie in a mental health hospital with that one patient who kept rocking and rocking with a blank look on their face.
That was me. Why?
I could not stop moving.
My mind would not let me forget. I believe sometimes that I tried to shake the memories out. Tried to make them stop.
I wanted to crawl under a rock, into some dark deep hole and I wanted to die, at least mentally.
I wanted everything to stop. The memories, the flashbacks, the nightmares. I wanted an end.
Nighttime I barely slept. I was afraid of the dark. Or more importantly, I was afraid of the things that happened in the dark.
I knew what monsters were lurking. After all I had been face to face with one only years before.
I had this routine where I slept right after school before supper. I managed to get a good 2, maybe 3 if I were lucky, hours of nightmare free sleep. After that all bets were off.
I honestly prayed, and bargained with God to save me. To make the abuse stop at the time it was happening. After it was over for good, I prayed to forget, I prayed for the nightmares to stop, I prayed for the memories to go away, I prayed for the flashbacks to stop, I prayed for the triggers to not happen.
At 11 years old do you want to know what my biggest fear was and my biggest prayer? I prayed that I was not pregnant. I was terrified that I was pregnant and I was even more terrified that I would get in trouble for it.
Pregnant by the force of some fucked up monster. But not some monster in the dark in some dreamlike place without a face whom I would never see again. This monster had a face, this monster had a name, I knew this monster, and I hated him.
But no one came to save me. Have faith they say…..faith.
I guess the only prayer that got answered was that I was not pregnant.
Because as for the rest, the nightmares still rocked my body, the memories still caused tears to slide down my cheeks and my body to shake, and my God no matter what I did, I could not forget.
That is when I learned I had to save myself.
Because some mythical being was not going to swoop down out of the heavens, wrap me in its wings and warm glowing light and save me.
I am not really an atheist. But I sometimes think that “I grew up and stopped believing in fairy tales”.
You know, I don’t know if I hate him anymore. I mean, I don’t like to hear anything about him, hearing his name makes my skin crawl and causes the anxiety to grip my heart and squeeze. I would never want to see him ever again. I know what kind of response that would cause within myself.
But hate him?
I don’t think I do.
Yes, I do hate what he did to me. I hate how I feel, I hate what it has caused in my life, I hate the struggles, I hate what I had to go through, I hate what I am still going through.
I hate the flash backs, I hate the memories.
But hate him?
No, I do not think I actually hate him.
Sometimes I think that it takes too much energy to hate someone.
I am you. You know, from the future. First off wrap your arms around yourself and squeeze. Nice big hug from me. You deserve it.
I am writing this from the future, and let me give you a heads up. It hasn’t been a cake walk in the park. It is 2015 and I am 33 years old. I am sitting here with the gift of retrospect and I have so many things I want to say to you. Things that I wish you knew, things I wish you had learned at an earlier age. Things that are key to your survival.
The road behind you has been bumpy already. Filled with potholes and speed bumps and uncertainty. I need you to put your seat belt on because the road ahead is even bumpier. I know you feel like it will not get any worst. But in all honesty it will get worst before it gets better. But yes, it truly does get better.
By now I know that you are beginning to understand. But at the very same time you are confused. I remember the feeling well. Feeling scared inside your own body. A sense of the unknown tinging your mind with fear.
I know that the life altering events have already been going on for years, not constant years, but years from the start till now. I know that you have been scared, hurt and alone. But I need you to know that you do not have to be alone.
I am going to add this in here because I know how much heart ache, confusion, crying and praying this caused. But you are NOT pregnant. He will not get you pregnant. So breathe a sigh of relief in that.
I need you to do something for me. I want you to find your voice. Use your voice. I know that you do not know how to. Go talk to D. He will help you. He will guide you. He will talk to you, help you figure things out. Trust him, because he is trustworthy. He will wait until you are ready to move forward. I did not talk to him until years after. After, I know right now the concept of after has not arrived, but it will come, you are almost there. Just hang on a little bit longer.
I need you to know that it is not your fault. You did nothing wrong. You did not provoke it. You did not ask for it. You were an innocent child. Stop worrying that you did this. Stop worrying that you will be the one who will get in trouble when people finally find out. Those things are not true. Do you want to know why? Because it is not your fault and you did nothing wrong.
When it is finally over you will never have to see him again, he cannot hurt you any more. You are 11 the last time. So just another year and you will be physically free. Although being mentally free will take some more time. You will work hard to become mentally free. I can honestly say I am not sure when that completely happens. Mental health issues will follow your for the rest of your life, at least up until the point I am now, at 33. But we have ways to make them easier.
Talk to your therapists, open up to your psychiatrist, see your doctors regularly. Write your victim impact statement and say everything that you want to say. Do not hold back. I know it is hard. Believe me I wrote to the doctors instead of talking to them, if that still works for you that is okay too, but just make sure not to leave anything out. Do not hide things because you are ashamed. That is what the doctors are there for, they are there to help you. To treat the problems in the right ways. So just please, for me, and most importantly for yourself, do not hold back. Bare it all to the right doctors. Take your medications, do not miss any appointments, and just be honest.
You will get various mental health diagnosis’ over the years. I know that is difficult to swallow. But please try not to be ashamed. I know you will, because I was. But there is nothing to be ashamed of. You will make some great friends through your mental illness. You will get your love for writing from it, you will go on to inspire yourself, inspire others, and begin advocating for mental health rights through writing a blog.
To change the topic, and this is hard but I do want you to know, you will only have Dad for a few more years. You are just 13 when his body gives up the fight he has been fighting since you were 2. His entire life he used to say “If I can just live to see her grown up”. He tries, let me tell you, he fights but he makes it to your teenage years and cannot fight any longer. No one tells you he is dieing, so when he does it is such a shock for you. No one prepared you. I want you to know that Dad fought for you. So please spend as much time with him as you can. He loves you more than life itself. You are Daddy’s girl, the center of Daddy’s world. Oh how many times we sang that song together.
You will struggle with his loss. Mom will struggle with his loss. But you will all be okay. Dad is without a doubt a guardian angel for ‘us’ now. So many times when I should not have made it and something helped me. I believe it was Dad.
High school is hard. You find it difficult to concentrate on school work. From depression to hypomania to mania, although at the time you did not know these words, only depression. Retrospect…..in retrospect they are there. You all but gave up on school. I am here to tell you to please try. Don’t give up and to try your very best.
Be selective of your friends. This might sound bad. But not everyone who smiles at your is your friend. Pick and choose just what information you give. You will make some great friends, in time. You will know, when the time comes.
Graduation and Grad party are a hard time for you. Things happen. I wish I could change back the clock and make them not happen, but unfortunately I cannot. So perhaps in telling you, you will not make the same mistakes that I have. Grad is a very emotional time. You wish Dad was there, it hurts but you will be okay.
Grad party. Please don’t drink. Or drink moderately. Do not let the things happen that happened there. You have spent a big part of your life struggling and not knowing things about that night. Frustrations and wonders. Only to remember things and have doctors tell you other things that will make your skin crawl.
The night after grad party you are literally picked up off of Dads grave and taken to hospital on ambulance. In shock. Incoherent. When the doctors ask what happened, tell them. Spill it all out. Open the flood gates, it is the only way to ease the pressure.
You will go on to attempt suicide. You struggled with that for a long time, wanting to commit suicide. You were fortunate enough to realize part of the way through the process that you did not want to die. You just wanted the pain to end. So please get help before this point.
There are some good things coming up in life. You will meet your husband in college. Yes I did say husband. He will literally save your life, if you let him. He is the first person you ever feel comfortable with. You open up to him, and he knows pretty much everything before you become a couple. It was rough for him, hearing everything and trying to be there for you when you constantly kept pushing him away. You did everything in your power to push him away, you were afraid you would hurt him, you were afraid he would hurt you. And to be honest at that point in life you just wanted to die. You wanted to lay down and not live. It gets so bad that if someone put a gun to your head you would have been the one to grab the gun and pull the trigger.
But he saves you. He truly does. And you will forever be grateful and you will forever love him for what he has done. He will probably never know just how much or how deep your love runs for him.
You have another difficult time coming up, in a pregnancy. You end up with a miscarriage at around 7-8 weeks pregnant, and inside your mind, you biggest fear of the sexual abuse and rape have hit home. You think you cannot carry babies, and you hurt. You blame him (your abuser) and your heart feels like it is going to break in two.
But rest assured you go on to have three beautiful babies, who are your whole world. He did not take that from you!
I think I have spilled a lot of things into this one letter and I know for a girl of 10 it will be hard to read it. But I also know that you have been ‘wise beyond your years’ for a long time. And most of these things you already know and have dealt with.
I want you to know that I am proud of you. You have fought through things that most people cannot even begin to imagine. I want you to know that you are a fighter, you are strong, you are a survivor.
Trigger. A topic, word, phrase, item, picture, smell, taste or song that can create an emotional response in someone or cause them to relive an experience. Traumatic or otherwise.
We all have them.
Something that triggers a response in our brains to remember a corresponding memory. Sometimes these memories are positive, rewarding memories. Other times they are negative, sinister memories.
Some of these triggers may be weird. But that is the thing about triggers – you do not get to choose which ones affect you, or how they affect you. You cannot control the triggers, but sometimes the triggers can seem to control you.
I have good triggers. They are my ‘happy’ triggers. They make me feel warm and fuzzy. Loved.
My wedding song does this. I hear it on the radio. It might sometimes cause me to cry, but in a good way. I remember one of the happiest moments in my life. I drift back to the moment I was dancing with my husband. Our first dance as a married couple, with a shared last name.
I cut sandwiches and toast from top left corner to bottom right corner creating two ‘triangle like’ pieces. Sometimes without even thinking I cut my bread into squares. My Dad used to to this. These are the times I know he is with me, watching over me, protecting me. It always seems to happen on a particularly bad day. As if he is trying to remind me that I am not alone.
Then there are the other triggers, the ones that cause a negative response.
I have triggers that bring up very painful memories for me. They cause me to shake, sweat, feel nauseous, and have even caused me to cry. They make my skin crawl and my spine tingle.
Cabbage Patch dolls are one of my bad triggers. If I see them, even in a picture I literally shudder. I feel sick to my stomach, I start to shake, and my heart begins to beat faster.
The anxiety begins and my mind travels back to a memory stuck in time, like some black and white slide that someone stuck on repeat in the projector. I have tried to over come this, but I get the same emotional and physical response every time.
I have an extremely hard time when something in my own home triggers me. It makes me feel like I have no control in my personal space.
My suppose to be safe place. No longer safe. Instead, invaded by thoughts, memories and flashbacks of something my brain has long since tried to forget.
I have this one song that does this for me. I have the same trigger response as the Cabbage Patch dolls. Its one of those stupid one-hit-wonders. Sometimes I will be watching television and I hear it come on. It still makes my heart squeeze with anxiety, beating faster. Worry lines creasing my brow, tingles up my spine and skin crawling.
I hate that I let these little insignificant items become such a big significant, controlling part of my life. It bothers me that after all these years my body still continues to have a negative emotional and physical response to these triggers. A response that I have absolutely no control over.
I have other triggers, some good – some bad. The good triggers, I cherish. A warm, happy memory flooding my heart and memory. But the bad – they make me want to scream “Why can’t you just leave me alone. I was doing fine before you flooded my mind.”
My memory is really bad. I mean, really really bad. I forget simple things. I forget more important things. I forget stories that I want to tell. I forget plot lines in movies. I read a good book, and 6 months later I know I have read it, but chances are I cannot give you any details. I forget funny things that happen in our every day lives. I forget birthdays and anniversaries. I forget things that my children have done, things that I want to remember.
These are all things that I want to retain within myself, yet I am unable to do so.
I have often wondered about my lack of memory. I get frustrated because I cannot recall the details of something my kids told me earlier, or that funny thing my son did yesterday. I want to replay a story in my head, only to have it stall out because the details are lost to me.
Why is it so hard for me to remember?
It occurs to me that I have spent the better part of my life trying to forget details of some particularly painful childhood experiences. I spent time building an impenetrable wall. I learned very early in life just what a secret was. I learned how to place things in a box, place the box on a shelf and try my hardest to forget it was there.
But why is it that I can remember things I do not wish to remember? I remember painful experiences with a muddled clarity.
But the beautiful, inspiring moments, are lost. Washed away like the dirt from yesterday.
I found your picture a while ago. Stored in a bin in my basement, air tight, sealed with a cover. It was kinda like opening a time capsule. The little girl staring back at me hadn’t changed since the day it was taken, she is stuck in time in some sort of suspended animation.
It stirred up emotions that had been buried for a long time. Emotions that I never expected to ever let resurface.
I look at the picture. A little girl. She is 10 or 11 years old. Any one who did not know her would think she was happy. She has a smile. But I know it is part of her mask, I know it is fake – forced. The twinkle in her eyes is long gone, replaced only by a muddled clarity.
I am overwhelmed with the sensation of wanting to protect her. To reach my hand through the photo paper – through time – so I could squeeze her hand. I want to pull her into my arms and give her a big gentle hug.
So much I want to tell her. Because at this point in her life. She is stuck. She feels so alone.
I want to tell her that everything is going to be alright. But that would be a lie. I want to tell her that today is the last day. But that will be a lie. I want to tell her it won’t hurt. But that will be a lie. I want to tell her that time heals all the wounds. But that will be a lie.
I wish I could tell her that she is not alone. That it is okay to ask for help. That someone will help her, all she has to do is ask. I want to tell her that it is okay to scream no.
I want to tell her that in the not-so-distant future someone will save her. As unlikely as it sounds. That she will rise up, that she will prove she has the strength to survive. That she is not only a fighter but a survivor.
I want to tell her to not give up, to stay courageous, to keep fighting. I want to tell her that I know these things as fact. I am not whispering half truths.
I know all these things to be true because……
……Sometimes I am still that little girl with the muddled clarity in her eyes.