i’ve survived childhood sexual abuse and today it’s no longer about placing blame or making complete and utter sense of things from the past. i’m ebbing and flowing between moments of complete contentment and flashing shatters of utter chaos. i say these things from a comfortable place though. it’s taken awhile for my psyche and hardened shell to finally open up enough and allow me to finally forgive myself. forgive myself enough to finally believe that none of it was ever my fault.

from 3rd to around 6th grade i have vivid memories of being overwhelmed during class and i would panic until i found a way to sneak into the coat area or closet and hide under all of the coats. i’d pile them all on top of me so that i’d be in complete darkness, mentally clamoring to shut out the world, my inner voice begging for the din to stop and for ‘it’ to leave me alone. i use school grades to recall my childhood rather than actual age or year.  3rd grade, mrs. glassman, u shaped alcove and pegs. 4th grade, mrs. millet, step in closet, row of pegs. 5th grade, mrs. wolf, u shaped alcove, hooks and shelves for lunch boxes overhead…

the weight of them felt so so calming…i hated it when they would find me. there was one particular classroom that ‘was’ an actual closet rather than the other communal alcove types. this one I had to step into and close the door behind me. one day i saw a boy looking at me trying to figure out what I was doing while I fumbled with the latch. i didn’t have time to process embarrassment or shame, panic to escape overrode all else. it was also the same classroom where we grew green beans in dixie cups had a guinea pig and learned about dinosaurs. mrs. millet was so nice and comforting. pronounced like ‘Edna St. Vincent Millay.  lots of color block pant suits, creme lime green like a perfect nonpareil candy, contrasting vests too with large pockets for keys and whistles. dark hair with curls from those really big purple plastic rollers, the ones with the holes in them, all layered up in a semi bouffant and a scent of jean nate’. she reminded me of my mother, she loved jean nate’ but my favorite was windsong. mrs. millet always knew how to coax me out until my mom could come and get me. we only lived a few blocks away and i would mostly just sleep after that…

eventually i was diagnosed with petit mal seizures, epilepsy runs in the family, as well as ADD, allergies and a calcium deficiency. i had to have allergy shots daily, first riding for hours in the car with my father until he learned how to do them on my shoulder. i was never sure why i had breathing problems but with so much going on it’s easy for mental health needs to get lost in all of that. when i had to have a kidney operation, things were pretty serious health wise for about 6 months…this also granted me a reprieve from my father’s verbal abuse. lucky me…

nature vs nurture, the lines blur for me and no longer matter.

childhood trauma reverberates throughout a lifetime. i don’t remember what the ‘trigger’ was back then other than an overwhelming urge to hide in complete darkness, warmth and silence. it’s only recently that i’m coming to terms with the fact that my challenges today with flashbacks isn’t actually a new thing. it’s been with me my entire life. i still have them and that’s the challenge i’ll have to make adjustments for. life doesn’t owe me anything, i’ll make the best of what i do have and there’s nothing more comfortable than that.

as I sift through the fog and haze of a childhood that never should have been… sometimes i’m comforted in remembering those amazing teachers, school counselors and mental health professionals who did actually recognize me and who also tried to help me directly along the way. my parents weren’t equipped to step up to the plate and assume even the most basic challenges of parenthood which is not okay and that’s not my fault. i forgive myself and begin anew…

sexual abuse isn’t something a family likes to talk about. certainly not if you’re a boy of 6. just prior to that i witnessed things no child should ever have to see or experience. yet i still managed to maintain my composure that fateful day. i bundled up my infant sister, found the diaper bag and knew that i had to call for help. you see, if not for my mother’s suicide attempt, my life never would have taken the turn it did that awful day. a day so seared into memory i could paint it, draw it, recreate it or even photograph it in amazing detail. complete with smells angles of light, color of furniture…it evaporates…it’s also a movie that plays on a constant loop in my head but without any sound…i only hear “mommy needs help.” everything else that judders back and forth in and out of focus is dull and muted…

what the real professionals knew and understood what was underneath all of that mental torment and acting out. what they saw was just a scared little boy looking for some encouragement and who just needed a little structure and support along the way. i craaaaaved stability so much it would ache and crush me from the inside out sometimes. stomaches were part of daily life, they did what they could for as long as they could.

i’ve been twirling this stuff around for awhile now and…well…i guess i finally felt the need to spit it out. why tonight is beyond me but I’ll roll with it.

the solitude of small town life agrees with me. peaceful yes, easy on the body, eh not so much. lol. if i’m going to get through shoulder, knee and potentially hip surgery, i’m gonna need to ‘travel light’ as it were.

i’m glad i’ll be starting start back with my therapist jerre tomorrow. she’s a cool woman who’s also an amazing artist. she specializes in addiction and oddly enough that’s kinda what I need right now. we took a few months off of therapy last fall which was actually really good for me it turns out. i was able to get through the holidays with a sense of peace that I don’t think I’ve ever felt before and i’m beyond grateful.
~R

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