Red shoes. Cannibalism. They rape the babies and children. They eat them. They skin them. The red shoes they proudly wear, they are made from their flesh.
Red shoes. Cannibalism. They rape the babies and children. They eat them. They skin them. The red shoes they proudly wear, they are made from their flesh.
A little girl talked to me yesterday. I was sitting on my bed deep in thought and was surprised by her presence. I wasn’t sure what to do or say so I lay there silent, with my eyes closed, and listened. She told me a story of something that happened to her. This is what she said…
“In the underground there are cages. It is dark and cold and scary there. It is sad and painful. I cried a lot. Not out loud though, because if you do, that is bad and you get in trouble. You can only lay down with your legs curled up to your stomach. You can’t talk to the others who are next to you. If you do, they will take you and do things to you. They burn you. They eat you. They cut you open. They tie you up and put things inside of you. They scream in your face. They hit you and don’t stop until you stop making noise. I don’t like it here. I can never leave. They will chase me and take me back. I have to do what they say or they will cut me. Or burn me. No one will help me. Everyone forgets about me. I try to tell them what’s happening but they all stop talking to me. They are too busy. I don’t think they believe me “
When she was done talking, she cried.
This story took the little life that I had left out of me. It has frozen me in a way that I have not felt in a very long time. I feel stuck in that cage again. With no power and no will to fight for freedom. I can only sit there and obey. It is the safest thing to do. I want to help her but I don’t know how. I want to save her but I don’t know who she is or why she came to me. I want to talk to someone about this but no one is there.
In the darkness of the night I stood in front of the stone table. I was led there with no clothing on, blood dripping down my legs, holding an infant. The man with no hair nodded to me and I placed the baby onto the table. There was a fire burning underneath.
This image has reappeared over and over in my head. My body goes numb, shuts down, every time it appears. And for days after I feel sick to my stomach. I vomit. My head hurts. My heart races. I cannot sleep. I cannot eat.
Each time it returns I close my eyes in fear. Pushing it down as hard as I can, trying to avoid the unavoidable overwhelm. A voice in my head repeats over and over “She’s burning. She’s burning. She’s burning. She’s Burning…” And the glow of the fire fills my eyes and covers the image. I’ve screamed. I’ve panicked. I’ve cried and fallen to the floor praying no one finds me.
Oh God. What have I done?
…the fire burns…I am praised…I am tied…I am touched…I am used over and over for celebration…
My gaze goes up and I float into the top of the giant trees. I hide and rest in the canopy, hoping no one will find me and make me come down ever again. But they always did. Over, and over, and over, and over.
In the underground rooms there was a young girl like me who I now know was in labor. I was in the room next to her and I heard them through the door say “she is ready.” I could hear she was in pain. I heard footsteps and a door open and close. I know they had left her alone in the room. She cried and she moaned. I got up from my bed and I peered through the door. I saw her laying there alone and afraid, wearing nothing. She rocked back and forth, side to side.
I was sad for her. I knew the pain she was in. I made a dangerous choice and walked through the doors over to her. I talked to her and held her hand. I started to cry with her and I rubbed her belly in an effort to comfort her and soothe her pain. I told her that I hated it when they touched my stomach and asked her if she hated it too and she said yes. We smiled at each other and cried together. She groaned and began to vomit.
A flurry of black and white rushed into the room towards me. I froze while I clung to her hand. There was yelling and words I could not understand. My head whipped backwards and my body was grabbed from behind.
I can feel the fear of that moment in my throat. I can hear the grunts of my own voice as my body jerked backwards and violently shook. I don’t know what happened after that. The pictures in my head disappear. I never saw her again.
My body is experiencing sensory overload. It’s overwhelming. I’m forced to shut myself down and numb every last cell of my being. It works for awhile, until the images push their way to the front of my mind. Tears leak. Hands shake. My heart pounds loud and fierce. Fear and anxiety fill my soul. I fight and shut it down again. I need to forget. The cycle repeats over and over. See. Watch in Horror. Fear. Anxiety. Overwhelm. Numb. Repeat.
I watched as they laid his small naked body on the ground. His arms outstretched and wrists bound. His feet and ankles entangled in ropes that made the shape of an X around them. Eyes wide in fear, he is erected high. The knife touched his chest. He screamed and cried out. I remember how his body shook so violently, his eyes and mouth so wide. I stood, rigid, and still, frozen, watching the blood stream down his belly, his legs, to his feet. His head dropped down. They opened his stomach. They opened his legs. They opened his arms. They said he was an angel. His skin pulled to make his wings. My hair blew in the wind. My knees shook. I knew he would never come back down from there. My stomach feels sick. I do not move. I know not to move. I wonder if I will become an angel too. I wonder this to this day. When will they come for me?
My insides are full of evil. Gruesome. Unbelievable. Unimaginable. What has happened to me? When will this end? I don’t want to see this anymore. Close my eyes. Push it away. Breathe it out. Forget. I have to forget.
No. Open your eyes. Stay alert. They are coming…closing in. I cannot hide forever. I am afraid. I am overwhelmed. Stuff it down. Numb it out…
I am evil.
The self harm game is strong right now. It’s fighting a fierce battle to take me down. I’m spiraling. It was a subtle swirl that started a few months ago. I didn’t notice or recognize it at first. But in hindsight, I see it rearing it’s ugly head. Tightening it’s grip. And somehow, just like that, it’s programming has taken over and I am it’s prisoner trying fiercely to get free.
I had gained a lot of headway in my life last fall. I had taken control of my health. I had reversed illness that had plagued me for years almost to the point of complete body failure. My anxiety was under control. My body was the strongest it has ever been. Emotionally, I was steady and grounded. Therapy was productive and introspective, hard, but tolerable and progressively helpful. I was taking steps forward. So I thought. But somewhere in that process of healing, things went awry. My healthy habits of eating well and exercising turned compulsive and into an eating disorder with a frightening diagnosis of atypical anorexia nervosa. Exercise turned into an addictive drug and eating became a punitive practice, a means to relive past trauma in a covert way.
Feelings that had been stuffed and buried under the guise of my new leaf on life began leaking. My body is trying desperately to purge the memories, to make sense of them, to bring them to my awareness. I don’t want to see them. I’m scared of what I see. I don’t understand. I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel in control. And the more I try to “be in control” the more out of control I become.
In therapy a couple months ago, I began moving my fingernails back and forth on the top of my hand. Digging deeper as the distress and memory erupting from inside intensified. I was completely shut down as I recounted what happened with my therapist and after I got into bed later that night my husband pointed out the cuts across the top of my hand. Like a perfect four lane track…bloody and raw. I had no idea I had done that. I didn’t feel it. I was still numb. And then it happened again in therapy a few weeks later. This time, my therapist caught it, but not before I had dug so deep into my skin I now have a scar to remind me daily of the turmoil that brews inside of me.
I haven’t cut myself since I was a teen…over 25 yrs ago. Now, I have to fight the automatic response to do so when I feel overwhelmed and go numb. Is it a way to try and ground myself? To feel something? A punishment I inflict on myself for telling secrets I’m not supposed to reveal? I don’t know. But I want to stop doing it.
When I was a child, food was both restricted and tightly controlled. It was also offered as a reward for compliance. Eating became a confusing practice. I was punished and food was withheld if I did not obey or if a lesson needed to be learned. But I was rewarded with food of I did obey or my training was successful. It was used as bribery to do things I did not want to do. It was used as bait to lure me into vulnerable situations where I became trapped and used. When I realized my eating was becoming an issue I sought out help and the anorexia diagnosis followed. I agreed to more therapy. And I started. But then something weird happened. I did a full 180 and self-sabotaged/self-harmed again. I stopped exercising. I stopped all self care. I stopped eating well. I stopped every “good habit” I had put in to place and went backwards. I stopped restricting and ate everything. I ate all the foods given to me to lure me into abuse. Ice cream, candy, fast food…whatever it was…things I have long avoided and refuse to even look at, I eat and relive my trauma. I also suspect now as I contemplate this, I was trying to regain control. Trying to prove there was no eating disorder, I got this, I’m not wasting away, I’m not restricting on purpose, I’m not punishing myself…
I’ve made myself sick again. I’ve spiraled down fast and furious, after I swore I would never go back to feeling that way. Every day I subconsciously look for something to do to hurt and punish myself for being so awful, for failing, for remembering, for telling my secrets. I don’t know why I do it and I don’t even know I do it sometimes. It happens automatically. Like a different person has taken over my body. I don’t feel like me anymore. I’ve lost myself. I feel so much shame and guilt. I feel like a failure. I feel small and vulnerable and afraid. I’m afraid of myself and what this might escalate to next. I’m alone in a darkness I haven’t seen in a very long time.
Thunder is rumbling and lighting flashing outside. As a little girl, I was afraid of storms. My father came into my room one night and sat me on his lap as the winds howled and the sky flashed it’s smile of wrath. We looked out the window together as he told me an elaborate story about God and the angels bowling in the sky. As the story unfolded and the storm raged he began to rub my back to try to console my fear. His hand moved down and over onto my legs. As my heart began to pound and a lump formed in my throat, it moved back up my back and landed, cradled, around the base of my neck…the touch that I know means business…no more sound or movement.
He placed my small body back onto my bed. He kissed my forehead and moved his hand up under my nightgown. My eyes drifted up and I stared up at the corner where the pink checked wallpaper met the ceiling…I drifted away to a world of darkness where I no longer see or feel when the pain settles into my body. It’s my escape, my secret hiding place, where I become nothing.
I’ve been returning to that dark hiding place in my head often lately. My husband turns over and touches me in the middle of the night, pursuing his own release…I shut down and hide in my darkness until he’s done. Nightmares harass me and I see the horror of my life in flashes. I curl up and cover my head and think about that corner I would hide in, the safe dark place that became my refuge. I re-enter it’s familiar walls. As I remember…I sat in the chair, wrists bound, needles and wires piercing and prodding my body, I would look up to the long windows near the ceiling and drift away into the dark world of my mind. When he hits me and pins me down and threatens me for daring to try to speak up against his cruelty, the pain in my face and the warmth of the blood dripping from my nose lures me back to the dark and numb, just like the little girl in the past, who stared into the corner of the ceiling to enter the darkness and hide.
I look into the mirror and I see a stranger. It can’t be me. Who is she? She looks strange. Empty. It must be the woman who lives in the darkness of my mind…she’s been in there a long time. Hiding. Silenced. Hurting. Afraid of the storms all around her in her darkness. Nowhere is safe anymore. The storms rage everywhere. There is no escape. She shatters the mirror in shame and fear. She shuts down and slips back into the darkness of her mind, her secret hiding place, hoping the storms blow over so she can remain hidden, isolated, and silent…unbothered and free of pain…the only safety she knows.
I’ve never thought of myself as a promiscuous person. I didn’t have a lot of sexual relationships as a teen or young adult…or relationships at all, for that matter. I had a boyfriend throughout most of high school. We had sex for the first time when we were 17 years old…in the winter of our junior year. I remember it very clearly. He had been trying to for months and I kept avoiding it or wiggling my way out of the situation using any excuse I could to not engage. But I lost the battle one afternoon. It just happened so fast and it was over before I could process or protest. He had to leave for basketball practice and as he drove away I saw him give a fist pump to himself. I felt humiliated. I was a prize to him, an accomplishment. I will never forget seeing that.
I went home to an empty house. I walked straight to my parents room and laid on my Dad’s side of their bed and sobbed in his pillow. I don’t know why I went there and not my own room. I felt dirty and cheap. I wanted to die for what I had allowed to happen. It wasn’t at all what I wanted for myself and I was frustrated I didn’t somehow stop him. I wanted to be better than this. I wanted to be different than the other girls in my class, or my older sister, who had a reputation for sleeping around with pretty much anyone.
The only other sexual relationship I had was with my now husband when we were in college. It was a similar situation. I vowed never to allow myself to do that again, to not have sex before marriage, but one night I found myself in a hotel room with him once again being caught up in a pressured situation and failing at my commitment to myself. Again, the feelings of humiliation and shame surfaced the next day. I was so disappointed in my weakness, my failure to speak up for myself.
My therapist asked me today how many sexual relationships I had had before marriage. He went on to say that that was pretty typical…for people to have one or two partners before marriage…but…it sounds like for me, after revealing some things I’ve been seeing from my past, that it’s been a lot more. Something has happened to me since he said that. I know it was not malicious in any respect, but it has had a profound impact on me as I have processed this part of my time with him today. As soon as I started driving away and thinking about his words a feeling of shame and disgust came over me. I felt so dirty and cheap. I felt like a hypocrite. I felt like a liar. I felt like a whore.
If the things I have been talking about with him have actually happened, he’s right. There have been many, many more sexual encounters. Encounters with my father, my sisters, shadows of men that raped me one after another on multiple occasions all throughout my childhood. My desires and efforts to be pure as a teenager were fruitless. I was already used so many times it wouldn’t have mattered. And now I feel no different than my husband and what he’s done to me with the dozens of women he has pursued. I feel like a cheater now. I feel like I’ve deceived him. I feel like I’m not any different than any other woman who offers up her services to countless men who walk the sidewalk strips and choose their indulgence through windows along the dark streets of night.
I don’t want this to be my story. The guilt I’ve felt for the one high school boyfriend before marriage was already something that has weighed so heavily on me. I hated that I did that and continued that relationship with him. And I hate that I did it again with my husband, even though we ended up married. It’s something I still get frustrated with myself about all these years later. That desire to have something special for your spouse at marriage that no one else has shared or experienced was obliterated in that and all those other moments. It’s one of the reasons I stay in my marriage now sometimes. I wonder…who would want me after this? I have nothing left. It’s hard for me to imagine someone wanting to share a life with me after all this exposure. Somehow, I feel like I’m no longer trustworthy or worth anyone’s time or affection.
This reminds me of something else my therapist said several weeks ago. We were talking about my current desire to leave my husband and the consequences and challenges I would face if I choose to leave. I don’t remember the full context of what exactly we were discussing at that point but he briefly mentioned remarriage and said “…I don’t know why you would want to…” I immediately internalized that and began questioning “Why not? Does he think I’m too damaged? Am I no longer marriage material? Do I not deserve it? Is it not safe to ever want to know what real love might feel like? Would no one want me?”
After today, I’m wondering even more now. Who the heck am I?? I feel low. Very low. I feel like I somehow brought this all on myself. I’ve made all the bad choices and let all these bad things take place. I allowed my body to be used. I didn’t stop anyone. I just let it happen. I still do with my husband. My life is so tainted now. I don’t even know how to process that. I don’t even know how to think about myself. I feel like a prostitute. The exact type of woman my husband would pursue other than me. He doesn’t know what my mind is revealing to me from my past. I’ve told him nothing. What would he think of me if he knew? Would he like me better? Would I finally be more appealing to him? Or would he look at me in disgust or discontent? He’s a very jealous man…he holds me to very different standard than he does himself. I hold myself to different standard…and yet I allowed myself to not adhere to it.
I learned today another part of who I thought I was is not actually who I am. I have no idea who this person…me…is. If I accept what I see in my head, I have a new reality, I’ve had more sexual partners than I know, I’ve been touched and tortured and used. I’ve been passed around and enjoyed, just like some lady of the night.
I can’t breathe. All life in me is gone. My heart feels nothing. Not joy or sadness or hurt. My body is numb. It can’t even feel pain. I’m completely shut down. I can’t react. I can’t fight. I can’t cry. How can I feel my heart beat again? I can’t breathe…
I look in the mirror and gasp at the stranger staring back at me. Who is she? Confusion and fear fills my soul. I don’t know what’s happening. I want to smash the mirror into millions of pieces so she disappears. Forever. I’m broken. I’m shattered. I’m not ok. How can I be ok? I can’t breathe…
I can’t breathe. Please, give me a place to run to, to escape from this place I’m in. This prison. This cage. This asylum. Everything is dark. Everything feels cold. I don’t know where I am. I am so lost and afraid. How can I find a way out of this place? I can’t breathe…
My head is filled with evil. Paintings of trauma. Pictures of death. Images of the unthinkable. My eyes stare at each in shock. My voice is stolen. No words can describe the carnage that sits inside of me. I can’t move. It’s impossible to think logically anymore. How will I ever regain consciousness? I just can’t breathe…
I can’t breathe. The weight, the heaviness, it sits on me…the heaps and piles of terror. I’m suffocating. I can’t catch my breath. There is no air left in my lungs. They have won. I have no control. I’m too weak to get back up. I can no longer breathe…
As I was drifting to sleep the other night I had an image come into my head of a baby whimpering in distress and sorrow. It had something black attached to it’s head that resembled the look of headphones. It was so clear in my head and I felt immediate sadness and angst and wanted to literally grab that baby out of my head and hold and comfort it. It was such a strong feeling, I picked up my phone and recorded the details. I had this gut feeling that it might be of significance. I have had flashes of babies before. One was covered in small black snakes, crawling all over it, on its face, it’s head, it’s body, it’s hands, everywhere. Dozens. The baby didn’t move. It just stares into nothing.
Last night I disclosed to my therapist some things I have been seeing in my head. I had absolutely no intention of going into any of the detail that I did and I’m not really sure how it all came out. There was so much fear inside of me. I felt like I was going to throw up. I stood up and paced. I was trying so hard to not say a word about it. I couldn’t contain what was happening inside of me. I don’t remember a lot of what I said, which scares me, but I do remember some things and being in such extreme distress. More than I have ever allowed myself to outwardly show him. I regret everything today. I’m waiting for the consequences. I know they’re coming.
I told him about the babies in my head. The nursery where they were kept. The metal white cribs all lined up in a row. The babies just laid there. No movement. They stared without expression. Wires attached to their feet and their heads, right above their ears. They were trained from birth to comply. If they cried, they would be shocked or burned. Their limbs would be pulled straight and restrained so they couldn’t move. They were fed, but only after they had to endure their torture. None of them had hair.
At this particular time there were five babies. Three were laying lifeless in the cribs. The baby that cried, it was taken away. I never saw it again from that day. The fifth baby was in a sling chair on the floor. It was smaller than the rest. They wore white shirts. Their legs were bare. There were no blankets in the beds, just the babies. I was never allowed to hold or touch them. There were times when they would take them away and I knew I would never see them again.
As I write about this, I am now seeing a young girl giving birth. She wore a white gown. They just pulled the baby out of her with some sort of metal instrument. She stared at the ceiling. Frozen. Her hair was light and fell over her shoulders as she lay there. There was a man between her legs and a women standing next to her. I don’t know where I am in this room. I just see it happening. In a weird way I can feel her extreme agony and pain. But she doesn’t show it. She just lays there.