The Number Red…

A soft white glow surrounds from all sides. I feel myself resting on the bed, my naked body shivering cold. My tiny wrists bound above my head. I writhe in fear and try to cry out but my voice has been stolen. My tongue is dry from the cloth shoved in my mouth. I tried to get away. I’m stunned into silence and stillness. My face burns like fire as my head whips to the side from the force of his hand. I don’t understand what is happening to me. I must have done something terribly wrong.

Daddy stop….please no…Daddy please no….

I don’t like what’s happening. How did I get to this place? Why can’t I move? Is this a dream? The red numbers on the clock gleam behind your arms. You growl with anger and everything begins to fade. All feeling is lost as I see your body tower over mine like a silverback in his protective stance.

Hello? Who is that standing in the doorway…? HELP!!

The numbers on the clock are a blurry mess of red. Hot tears flow as I shiver uncontrollably. The wet sheet sticks to my cheek. My eyes roll further back and I am lost in the trees through the window, surrendered and frozen in time once again…the world fades back to black. She didn’t rescue me.

Dear Baby Sister…

Two weeks ago your baby turned three. We had such a fun day celebrating her. She beamed when she awoke and found her playroom covered in streamers and balloons. She belly laughed with excitement when we sang “Happy Birthday to you…” She squealed with delight repeating over and over “for me..??” with each little gift she opened. We told her about birthdays and she had imagined in her head what hers would be like. We knew we had high expectations to fill for her. I think we did well and met every single one her little heart desired.

I was sad on that day too, though. I thought about you often. I wondered what you were thinking and knew I could not even imagine the heartache you must have been feeling knowing you could not enjoy her day with her. My heart ached for you too. I thought a lot about your last words to me…“you are not her mother, you will never be her mother!!” I thought about the countless times you have blamed me for your failures and accused me of stealing your only child. I felt guilty beyond measure and I hurt for you and your loss.

I miss you, baby sister. You were my best friend. I’ve missed you since the day you ran away from home 22 years ago. I cried for you in my bed when no one knew where you were for weeks on end. I cried again a year later when I visited you for the first time in rehab. Our conversation was awkward. I didn’t know what to say or how to help you, I was hurting too. I just didn’t know what we had gone through wasn’t normal. I didn’t know what we did together ourselves was wrong. We were just little girls. I didn’t know I was supposed to protect you. All I knew for sure was that I wanted you back.

Throughout the years you also broke my heart. You made promises and didn’t keep them. I tried to let you know how special you were to me and how much I wanted you in my life. I was disappointed when you ran away again and bailed on attending my first daughter’s baptism. I had chosen you to be her Godmother. I had to find someone else to stand in at the very last second when you never came. Why did you do that? I eventually became used to you not showing up, though. I expected it. I even empathized with you and was proud of your self awareness to not be around my family when you were in no condition to be an example to my children. It still made me sad, though. I always thought you’d be the perfect “cool Aunt.”

Your addictions have taken you over. Drugs and alcohol have become your best friends now and your way to cope with your pain. You seem to have no control anymore. In some ways, I can relate to this. I feel crazy and out of control everyday. I wish I could tell you why and I wish you could tell me your story too. You blame me for ruining your life. You blame “the system” for setting you up to fail. We all tried so hard to help you. I hoped this baby of yours would be a turning point for you. You were so excited and I know you loved her. You were so proud of her, always asking me “what do you think of her..?”  But she wasn’t enough motivation for you.

I wish you would stop letting her Dad beat you and abuse you. I wish you would run away. I know your choice to leave is so hard. You are far too deep in a hole to do it yourself and you can’t find the strength to stay away. I understand completely. I want to leave too but I too am scared. You think I am perfect and you resent the life I now have. I know that makes you angry. But, I’m just like you…stuck in a world so tangled and dark that I cannot see how it could possibly be any better or different. It has sucked me in too. I’m just better at hiding it. I cope alone in secret.

I want you to know I love you. I want you to know that your baby is safe with me. I know my life is full of crap like yours. It’s different crap, but it’s there, and I won’t let it get in the way of her flourishing in life. I know I fought to adopt her out of foster care against your wishes, even with all this crap…if you only knew how counterintuitive it felt. I know you wanted her to stay with Mom and Dad so she wasn’t so far away from you. But I know things about them that I don’t think you remember. I’m just beginning to remember myself and realize we were not ok. They are not the god’s they make themselves out to be. They were awful to us. They still are. I don’t want one more child to have to endure what I, and maybe you, did. I blame them for your addictions and your pain sometimes. I couldn’t let it happen again. Not to your baby. No way. She’s a little shining star and so, so sweet.

I will fiercely protect her. I will love her like we never were. Whatever path my life takes in the coming years, I will put her needs first before mine. I will fight every battle for and with her. I will always let her know that she matters and is loved because I know that that is what we both so deeply desire ourselves. I am praying for you. I did not steal your baby. Someday I hope you will understand that I saved her.

Stuck…

I had a conversation today that left me feeling weird. Unsettled. Like I was more stuck than I actually felt I was to begin with. I can’t pinpoint exactly what spun me out of control. In my world of chaos nothing seems to make sense. I try to process and address the issues that come up. But then something else barrels in that throws me off balance that I wasn’t expecting and I need to reprocess everything again. To make sense of it or try to understand, even if there is no way to do that. This sounds very vague, I know, but I want to believe there is someone out there that understands exactly what I’m saying.

Why is this a bad thing?? Trying to understand trauma and process it is hard. Especially when you don’t always believe yourself or have confidence in your own memories or experiences, past or present. When I have been taught over and over and over that my reality isn’t true, perceived correctly, or am manipulated to think my life is normal and nothing is out of sorts, why should I just assume when you tell me it’s not, or something that happens “was totally expected,” that your voice is the right one?

Because I didn’t expect it. I didn’t know it was going to happen or that it follows the pattern of abuse because I don’t always connect it as quickly and I don’t want to believe this is happening to me. I’m still learning this, remember? Why does it feel wrong for me to want to be sure about something before believing what you tell me? Why downplay my feelings in the moment and say something dismissive like I just need to “move on” or “focus on me?” Aren’t I doing that by trying to gain understanding? Is it really that hard to listen to me process out loud or revisit something again?

Maybe I just need to hear over and over and over that I’m not crazy. Maybe I need to hear more than 5 times (or 100) what the pattern of abuse is and that’s what was happening again. Maybe I need to hear it like it was the first time hearing it. Isn’t that how I learned to conform before all of this chaos began to emerge? Maybe it will take me 5 years of hearing this to really believe it when that information competes with 40 years of learning and hearing something different. Maybe I need to stay in this spot a little longer before “the next step” in my healing so I really understand what has happened and can begin to accept it because I feel really confused and unsure right now about everything. So why would I move to the next thing when I’m not even sure where I am in this moment?

Maybe after having a brain scan that verifies and validates I have trauma markers from the past and present was really a lot to absorb when all along I’ve been trying to find ways that I was wrong that this all existed. Maybe I need more answers to my questions about that because a ten minute explanation wasn’t really enough. Maybe. Maybe not. All I know is that I feel like I was hit by a truck two times this week, even though what happened in the first incident and what I learned in the second were both “expected.” But it doesn’t mean that it is as easy for me to move forward and move on as it is for you.

I still have voices in my head that yell at me from the past. And they still yell at me in the present to try and maintain control of me. I’ve just learned to recognize these voices. I’m still learning that maybe those voices are not what I’m supposed to be listening to or following. It’s a process. It’s my process. Sometimes I just need to revisit and reprocess and think about it again. Not because I’m trying to spin my wheels and stay stuck. But because I’m trying to spin them out of the mud, and sometimes that means moving backwards to reposition the wheels so the treads can grip something new to pull me out.

If Walls Could Talk…

If the walls that surround her could talk…they’d tell you this…

“There have been some who have hurt here before, but this one…she is lost, she has no hope. She’s confused and scared, ambushed by many, and she is cornered. Her eyes dart back and forth…she’s lost in her thoughts, unable to make sense of her world. She doesn’t know which way to turn or where to go. She’s alone. She has no one to hold her. Her husband leaves her feeling empty and cold. He is unsafe. There is no love or kindness from him. She cannot feel it.”

“She’s a child…but she’s not. She cries in her sleep and she screams out in terror. She lays still with eyes wide open, frozen, while the touch across her body transports her to a world of confusion and distress. As he moves about her, his words smooth and sly, the panic rises inside of her and she is overcome with anguish, no longer able to take anymore. She trembles and cries, curls up, and is unable to speak. He looks at her and says simply, “you’re ok…”  and turns over, leaving her, cold and alone again. He’s blinded by himself, she’s not ok, but he got what he wanted from her. She shakes, trying to gain control, and wonders what she did to deserve to be so hated. She wonders why she is so inadequate and if he’ll ever really see her. She feels used. Invisible. No one sees her. No one rescues her.”

“She escapes from her reality and cries out to God. She clings to the pages of His word, caressing them methodically back and forth, a momentary calm washes over her. Her peace disappears when they enter..searching for her companionship. She breathes deeply and returns to her tasks. She worries she does everything wrong. She feels like she’s failed as a mother. Her confidence is waning. Nothing she does satisfies her. She counts the minutes until her fingers can run across those smooth pages again. She is weary.”

“He sleeps soundly next to her, oblivious to her heartache and pain. Her chest heaves as she tries to breathe. Tears flow freely. The nights are hard for her. She’s afraid to sleep. Her pen moves furiously across pages and pages…pleading through unending prayers night after night. She finally relents and closes her eyes but her mind races still. She is so restless.”

“When the light peers in at dawn, he moves about in a fury and she startles out of her dreams. Her breaths are short and labored as her heart pounds through her chest. He leaves her and walks away in a rush. She sighs deeply. She’s a fighter. She rises again, embattled, though weak-kneed. Her shoulders hunch over somedays, weary of what’s ahead. She disappears into her day and we wonder if she is ok…there have been some who have hurt here before, but they have escaped. But she…she has no hope. She is confused and she’s scared. We surround her. We protect her. We hope for her because she can not.”