Sunday, February 11, 2018

Falling Out of the Attic

This post is more personal than bookish. I will advise you not to read it if you are triggered by sexual assault, physical violence, or emotional abuse.

Vintage Litha Nelle

I've often found myself questioning why I love the authors I love. Some of them are so different from me that it seems like we have nothing at all in common, and yet the stories that they write take me away from my podunk life in a small city to somewhere where things are actually happening on a larger scale.

J.R.R. Tolkien was one of my first favorite authors. Something about the journey Frodo and crew took to get rid of one small, nasty piece of jewelry seemed to resonate with a twelve year old girl who was terrified of many things. Later on in my life, when I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress, I didn't believe it. I have been through many strange experiences. Those experiences did have a significant impact on how I live and who I am as a person. But PTSD is only for soldiers.

As it turns out, I was a soldier of a different war.

Many of you who've read my blog know how little regard I have for my biological father. I was abused by him, but to my mind it was never that bad. Once I left my parents' house for my grandparents', I carefully pushed every memory I had about him to the attic of my mind. Those things happened- in the past. Ignore them. They'll go away.

My grandmother died October 3rd, 2017. I later went to a funeral where my father was invited. As it happens, he was with my grandmother when she passed... exactly where I wanted to be. He approached me at the funeral and tried to make small talk. I eventually just walked away from him.

I had difficulty sleeping, which I attributed to grief. I had difficulty reading and writing- also grief. I had memories falling out of the attic, where I'd shoved them away to protect myself- not grief.

Before I became ill with chronic stomach pain at fourteen, I had undergone a transformation of sorts. As a twelve year old, I was shy and wouldn't talk to my classmates even though I had known most of them for four or more years. At thirteen, I decided I was tired of being quiet. I started talking to my classmates (beyond my core group of friends) and sharing my life with them. Once I got sick, I continued with this new attitude. I considered it a facade of sorts, but as time went on, I realized that was who I'd always been- vivacious, outspoken, and funny.

I felt safe at school. At home, when my father was around, I learned to hide in my room. If you were outside your room, you had to creep about like a stealthy lizard and say a little prayer that "dad" was in a good mood that day. You see, if he wasn't, and he said something to you, and you said the wrong thing back? Say goodbye to your books. The computer? You couldn't use it for a week because you had "disrespected him". It didn't matter if you'd bought the item yourself or lent it from a library- it would be taken away. If all your things/privileges had been taken away, or he was mad enough? Hello, physical abuse.

We sat at the table to eat "as a family". I recall learning to eat as efficiently as possible (read: stuffing my face without looking like I was stuffing my face) so I could be excused from the table as soon as physically possible. My father might see something wrong with my plate- I took too much ketchup. It was a big deal. Also, if I didn't butter my bread in the correct fashion, well... let us pray a bit more that my father was in a "forgiving" mood.

The mantras of my youth, as dictated by my father:

"Be civil."

"You're disrespecting me."

"God told me... *insert something my father wanted here*."

"The Bible says... *insert verse to make something my father wanted to happen, happen*."

"I'm glad you know how to knee a guy in the groin. But I'm your father. You can't knee me in the groin. I love you."

"If my friend who has terminal cancer can go to church, you can go to church."

As a young girl, I was taught never to call the police. Never to trust the police. The police did not like people who lived on the poor side of town, where we lived. Don't trust them.

Laws of the United States of America? As long as you didn't really hurt anyone, what crime was there?

It is better to be honest, but always lie when it comes to family. Blood is thicker than water.

If you speak up, no one will believe you. You're stupid. You're emotional. You're not a good daughter- disobedient. The Bible says to honor your father.

Shut up- you'll get us in trouble.

These are some of the things I witnessed, all before I was old enough and experienced enough to understand what the memory actually was about:


-Being used as live porn because I was wearing my swimsuit

-Complete and total domination of a family, when in actuality I was part of a cult.

If I had been a good, Christian girl, as my "Christian" counselors advised me to be, I would've ended up raped and/or pregnant by the time I was sixteen.

Instead, I went to live with my grandparents at sixteen. Instead, I fought with my father. I physically assaulted him because he was trying to overpower me. I witnessed his crimes, and I knew in my soul if I ever had told anyone what was happening in our "home", that I would wind up dead. Every time I left my mother home alone and went out with my friends, I worried that when I came back, she'd be dead or gone.

I carry this trauma within me. I wish it would go away. I have been to multiple different counselors since my "Christian" counselors days, one who specialized in PTSD. We have tried to heal my mind, but unfortunately much of the trauma has stuck on it like old watermelon bubblegum in my hair. The only thing that has ever loosened the bubblegum? Medication.

My form of PTSD is more complex than most. Every case of PTSD is different, and some people are genetically inclined to acquire it (as I was). There are many treatments, but I feel like in my case it is more a question of managing what I have rather than "curing" it.

Because of my trauma (some of which was reinforced by more trauma from different, unrelated humans), I isolate myself. I enjoy time alone more than I ever seem to enjoy time with other people. Because of my disabilities and pain, it is very easy to feel unrelated to the rest of the world at large, the exception being others with disabilities. I write things. I garden. I make nice with my neighbors. But I would be fooling myself if I didn't say sometimes I wished to be the girl I was before.

There is no going back. Time machines haven't been invented. I am so proud that I fought for myself as a girl and as a teen. But I wish I could've protected myself better. And I wish I could've gotten my head out of my butt sooner and seen my childhood for what it was.

As I move forward from these revelations from my past, I want to be more honest. I could always admit to the abuse. I never realized it was sexual because of the way the Bible was used to gaslight me. Add in the fact that I was sheltered, and you have a recipe for disaster.

I will never be an extrovert. I want to be part of the world again and I want to be more like myself at thirteen again. I have been opening doors to trusting people again. It feels like sunshine on my face. It feels right.

This blog post- this is the ultimate trust. I trust everyone who reads it not to give me silly advice. I assume there will be those who want more details or clarification- you may message/email me, and if the trust is there or you need to hear more of my story, I can tell it. I assume there will be those who think I'm demonizing an entire religion. I still consider myself a Christian, but one who doesn't kill joy, and one who finds her peace from being a channel of it.

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