Monday, June 3, 2013

The Beginning of Understanding

Sun July 25, 1995.

..The 5 yr. old me—

I remember I always wanted to hide like a missionary who had to hide from bad people. Even though I was in the open I would squeeze into a small place between the wall and the china cabinet—I never hid under my bed or in a closet—just in a tightly confined space.

I had an imaginary friend, a bird, who lived in the post at the end of the stairs. I used to feed him smashed bread which I stuck into the hole in the post.

I remember being sexually excited when I was rubbed with a towel between my legs by ___ after my bath. I slept upstairs in my bed by the windows—Pete slept in his crib on the other side—or maybe in a small bed. I was afraid of my closet—it had a curtain across it and I was afraid it moved at night.

…At some point (3, 4, or 5) my Mom burned up my lovey (a stuffed animal) and when I woke up I had a new rag doll but no lovey. I cried and cried and went around looking for it.

…Friday, Aug 11th

I’m trying not to feel something tonight I’ve taken ½ a Xanax. I thought about taking 4. I feel very anxious but I don’t know what about. Is it about not being a couple anymore? Is it about my friendship with Kathy being less? Is it fear of being alone? …I don’t know—All I know is that I don’t feel really here and that I want to escape even more.
(we read Wed Aug 23)
Friday Aug 25


…about a week and a half ago I dreamed I was returning to college. When I got close I became afraid that I wouldn’t remember the locker combination. When I actually got there I discovered the locker was opened with a key, so I didn’t need a combination, and I remembered where the key was and was able to open it. Then I went to the apartment where I lived (I think with Ron) but he wasn’t there—when I opened the door I saw all my familiar tools laid out—they were all made out of wood—like rotor drill blades—and even though I didn’t know what I used them for I knew they were mine and they were dear and familiar and all in order. Then I looked out the window and the rope bridge that went over the swamp was frayed and falling apart. I felt really bad because that was the only way over the swamp. Then the apt. supervisor stopped by and told me that he had already called the workmen and they would start repairing the rope bridge tomorrow.

So this entry is a two-parter.
My mother was working though a self-help book in her journal. I'm not sure which self-help book, as several are mentioned in quick succession. But these entries struck me. The first set, about the 5-year-old self, I think are important. She does mention a happy memory (the stories are in My Mother's stories), about visiting her Aunt and Uncle in California and going to DisneyLand, but these stories are the most revealing, to me. They are the ones that provide some understanding. Firstly, the sexualized response to an activity, and secondly, the "trying not to feel something" and the hiding.

And never hiding under the bed, because that wasn't safe.

Mom, maybe it's my own history that makes me jump to certain conclusions, here. Or, not so much jump to a conclusion as to wonder if what happened to me happened to you. I know that children often confuse romantic love-gestures with other gestures, but sexualized responses/play are also a symptom of molestation. The wanting to hide, but not wanting to hide under the bed. . .

I know that, if you were molested, you didn't remember it. You would have told me, especially when you finally told me about how I was molested.  But it "snaps in".

Just like the day you told me about what you had seen happen to me, and all of the sudden, every suspicion of every counselor I ever saw snapped into place--because every single one of them questioned me intently about possibly being molested--just like that day, reading these pieces makes things snap into place for me: How you could have been in denial about my molestation for so many decades, why you feel so badly about yourself, how betrayed you felt about Dad, why you wanted to hide and why you needed approval so badly.

I know it was tough for you, even without the possibility of being abused that way. You felt shamed about your body your whole life, about dancing and the way you looked. Your mother was amazing in some ways, but completely lacking in sympathy in other ways, and she was so beautiful and so good at everything, and I think you felt you never measured up. But if this happened. . .

It would just explain a lot.

And I think, if what I think happened, it would explain why you'd rather have died than face it.

Because this is something big. This is something bigger than your friends being shallow flakes. This is something different than just being tossed away by a man who was supposed to have loved you. Whatever it is that drives you to kill yourself has got to either be something fundamentally wrong in your brain or something so terrible that you couldn't look at it.

And if there wasn't something fundamentally wrong with your brain (and I don't think there was), then I wish you could have looked it in the eye, and maybe talked to me about it so I wouldn't have felt so alone. Maybe you would have recognized the symptoms in me earlier. Maybe you wouldn't have denied what you didn't want to see.

Which brings us to your dream.

God, Mom, could you have had a better invitation from your subconscious? I mean, really, did you ever interpret this dream, or did you just think it was odd? Because when I read it, I see so much hopeful symbolism I can't believe you didn't march into your therapist's office and say, "OK, I'm ready for anything."  Your dream, as I see it, told you that you have the tools to be healthy, and you will remember how to use them. The bridge is being repaired and soon  you will be OK. You just have some work to do. But, Look! Everything's been prepared for you. And the things you've been worried about aren't really a problem after all (combination worry vs. key lock).

I wish, so dearly, for a Time Machine.  I'd kick your ass if I had to, Mom, and tell you that you had the tools you needed, you just needed to get to work. And the tools weren't Xanax and antidepressants. The tools were inside you.

But you buried this dream among other dreams, and hid it away in your journal. And hid from it, and hid from everything else. As you got older, you hid in your bed, even though you knew--at some point--that beds aren't safe.

You always said I was stronger than you, and I think, at this moment, I understand why. I hide, I deny, I do everything you did. But I do something else, too: I face it eventually. I get tired of running from horrible memories, and I turn around and say, "OK, let's do this." The beginning of understanding is facing what others have done to us, and what we have done to ourselves by running from it.


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