Silenced…

In the past weeks my words have been frozen inside of me. I can’t speak, even though my my mind is screaming that it has things to say. When I want to get the words out, I remain silent. I fight an incredible battle inside of myself trying to muster up whatever it is I need to thaw and allow the words to flow freely again. I can’t figure out how. I don’t understand why this is.

My dreams are active and vivid lately, but dark and obscure all at the same time. They’re like blips, or a 30 second trailer for a movie. I feel tension and confusion, pain and fear. They demand my attention regularly. The visions they provide never fade away from my mind like normal dreams do. They haunt and taunt like ghosts when they want to be freed from inside of me…

…A woman, she is standing over me on a catwalk up above. I look upwards, standing frozen and still as she gazes back down at me. There are shadows all around and a curved stairway to my right…

…There are men who surround me in a living room, their laughter and joking banter echo from all angles around me. My mind is curious and cautious all at once, and I stand very still, looking around, and wonder what will happen next…

…I was walking down a hallway that continually darkened the further I went. I walked though a door and entered a dim, concrete room. There was a window past a pile of boxes in front of me that was faded and yellowed. It glowed from behind. There was a man and a woman under a blanket in the corner of the room…

…Candles are burning and trying to talk, but they can’t get their words out. The “mother candle” spoke and said “let’s open the door, that will help…”

My fingers often linger over the keyboard unable to formulate the words I’m trying to translate out of my thoughts. It’s frustrating. It feels like I’m tied up and gagged, or trapped in a cage screaming at the top of my lungs for help over and over and then falling, defeated and exhausted, into a crumpled heap of a mess in the corner when no one hears or rescues me. I’m silenced once again.

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It’s No Big Deal…

Just into the second year of my marriage, I found a charge on a credit card bill for an escort service during a time when my husband was traveling for work. I was devastated. We had a newborn. I went home and cried to my mom. She told me “oh…guys do things like that…don’t get worked up.” I told my father, he scoffed, called him a “dumb shit,” and looked back at the television. My mother told me to go back home and keep the peace. I told my mother-in-law…and I received the same message…it’s just what guys do. Really? I felt so alone and confused. I never told anyone again. I questioned every emotion I had surrounding the incident and buried them deep down inside of me with all the others not knowing how to cope with the pain and loneliness I was feeling. This was the beginning of a whole new nightmare inside of my already secret life.

I did what my mother told me to do. I went home. I did let my husband know I wasn’t happy about it, but I let it go, just like she instructed me to. We moved on. No harm done. A little mistake. An error in judgement. I had just had a baby. I obviously wasn’t what he needed or desired. I’ll fix it. I can be better. That’s all it could’ve been. Right?

Not really. He was just warming up.

As the years went on, the discoveries continued. A strip club visit here, another one there. Online chats with other women. Pornography on hotel bills and magazines hiding in his computer bag. Sex became less frequent. Then it became scary. One night he raped me. I was trapped underneath the weight of his body, may face buried in his chest, I was unable to get out. I told him to stop, I couldn’t breathe. But he didn’t. He was angry. He was in a different world. I did not know the man on top of me. When it was over I remember sitting alone in our bed crying harder than I ever had before. I remember thinking to myself that the intensity of my tears felt very foreign and weird. What was wrong with me? When he came back out of the bathroom I said to him “What was that?” His response, “Ya..that was bad.” and he got into bed and fell asleep. I must have stuffed this away too, because it took another 10 years to remember it happened.

I kicked him out a short time later when I learned he was still messing around. He lived on his own for six months. We went to counseling. He joined a sex addiction group. He went to therapy. I went to therapy. We had 5 children by this time. I told no one what was going on in my life. Despite the fact my family all lived within 10 minutes of us, I managed to keep this all a secret. After all, it’s what guys do. Who was going to help me? He said he was sorry. I told him he could come back home. I thought I was being the bigger person by being forgiving and loving and sympathetic to his “disease.” We carried on in peace. Things settled down and I trusted him again. For awhile.

The memory of the rape (and one other) was triggered by yet another discovery 8 years later. A text conversation I saw on his phone, which then led to the discovery of many, many more text conversations, and the discovery of coffee dates, hotel room charges during times he wasn’t traveling, meet ups in the parks during the day while he was supposedly working, an Ashley Madison account, among other dating site subscriptions. And these were all proceeded by the discovery of thousands and THOUSANDS of dollars spent on massage parlor escapades over the course of many, many years. Dozens, probably hundreds, of women. Too many to count or remember the details.

I left. I packed my bags and took off for three weeks leaving the kids behind with him. I told him I needed space to figure out my next steps and that he needed to figure out his own. I couldn’t live this way any more. I don’t know why I had endured this chaos for 19 years. I thought I had to. I was told to. I didn’t know how to fight for myself. I’d been trained from a very young age that I wasn’t supposed to fight back. I just didn’t know that brainwashing was what I was operating on all these years.

After some explosive episodes over the phone, and through texts, he begged me to come home. He told me he was sorry. That he had told me everything. He handed over access to the bank account and I took control of all the money. He promised to go to therapy. He had an epiphany at church one Sunday and decided to get baptized that afternoon. He had seen the light. He was sorry and he was willing to do the work to make this right. He wanted our family in tact. All my prayers were answered. I went back home. Foolishly.

Something was off. I knew it was. I could sense it, just as I had sensed before all the other discoveries. I wanted to believe this was finally over. I wanted to save my family. I was terrified of what divorce would look like. I didn’t want to hurt my children or disrupt their lives any more than I already had. I was trying to figure out what my role was in all of this breakdown. Was I too controlling? Too high maintenance? Not attractive or skinny enough? I was desperate to take the blame and fix it all.

I don’t know why all the other incidences didn’t seem like they were serious. Maybe because he insisted that he had actually never had intercourse with these women. They just “messed around.” He had always saved that for me. That was untouchable. At least that was what he said. I don’t know why I believed him. I don’t know if I did actually believe him. I still don’t. But I accepted it. I clung to it. But it suddenly became serious when I realized one of his employees kept coming up out of nowhere. A lot. They were just good friends. Right. I knew better by now. I set boundaries. He bucked them. I couldn’t control it. He had been having an affair with her all along. While I was away…when he was baptized and washed clean by the Lord…he intermingled her children casually with ours.

He was sneaky. He told me he was going for a “prayer walk” one night last summer while I was waiting for him in bed. He was gone for a long time. I tried texting and checking his location but his phone was shut off. We were talking in bed after he returned and I asked if I could see his Apple watch. I started scrolling through it. He forgot to delete the texts off his watch before he came to bed. I saw everything. He was walking with her. In our neighborhood. Talking about their future and their next steps. I was stunned. I didn’t even know what I was feeling. Was it rage? It was bigger than anger. I grabbed his phone and found the contact info for this woman’s husband. I called him, despite the fact that it was 2am, and informed him our spouses were having an affair. He informed me he already knew and this was the second affair his wife had had in their office. I hung up and stared in shock at my husband as he stared back in shock at me. He couldn’t believe my behavior. He had the nerve to tell me I was the one who was out of control.

But as the story goes. We danced again. I stuffed feelings and froze in time. I told him I wasn’t giving up on him. We went to therapy. He went through the motions. I believed he was truly done and wanted to change and save our family. We had made fools of ourselves in front of our children at times and we wanted to rectify that. Or so I thought.  He continued his affair, but he eventually got caught at work. Amazingly neither of them lost their jobs. Probably because he was an executive. I was humiliated. I’m still humiliated. But I haven’t left him. It’s been another year. I don’t know how. I feel trapped.

I’m scared. I’m lonely. I’m frustrated. I’m so hurt. I’m damaged goods. Who would want me after all of this? I’m 41 yrs old. I have six children now. I don’t even trust myself to make a good judgements on other people’s character. I expect the worst in every situation. I’ve been used my whole life and it’s all I know. I don’t even know what “real” love is or what it looks like. I hear my mother’s voice in my head telling me how great my life is. I have loving, supportive parents who have made great sacrifices for me all my life. I have a husband who makes good money and a big beautiful home. I don’t have to work and I can stay at home to care for our children…I should be thankful…after all, it’s just what guys do.

Burdens…

I’m losing all ability to stay in control. My mind is racing and I’m questioning everything about myself. I used to like who I was. Completely in control and confident in myself and my roles. I was an amazing wife who kept a beautiful home. I was told I was a great mother over and over, that I ran a tight ship and my kids were so well behaved and polite and smart. I wasn’t afraid of paving my own path and doing my own thing and bucking the system here or there to prove I could be different from where I came from. I was proud of who I was.

I didn’t know what was lurking inside of me. I didn’t know I was a fraud and a fake. I didn’t know I was a shell around a ticking time bomb of dysfunction. I didn’t know that really, I was just like them. I have made mistakes. I have done horrible things. I think I have destroyed people’s lives for the sake of trying to save my own. I didn’t know my actions were because I so desperately needed to be seen and be loved. No one stopped me and told me they cared. I was told to just conform and let it all go. They looked the other way. And now, they don’t even look at me at all.

I didn’t know I would become the greatest burden I never wanted to be. I didn’t know I wouldn’t be able to keep it together. I didn’t know I wasn’t fit to be a good mother. I didn’t know I wasn’t good enough to keep my husband faithful. I didn’t know I wasn’t worth the time or effort to be loved and honored and cared for. I didn’t know feelings weren’t acceptable. I didn’t know I would be so rejected. I didn’t know my brain would fail me and deceive me. I didn’t know my heart would either. I didn’t know!

If I had known, I would have never brought children into this world. I would have never gotten married. I would have never adopted another child. I would have never tried to confront those who have hurt me. I would have never attempted to heal. I would have never become the burden that I am right now. I would have never allowed myself to lose control.

I didn’t know I was weak. I didn’t know I wasn’t worth anything. I didn’t know I didn’t matter. I didn’t know I couldn’t be different. I didn’t know I couldn’t be better. I didn’t know I was invisible. I didn’t know I couldn’t endure. I didn’t know I couldn’t be me and everything else they wanted me to be. I didn’t know I would need to be known. I didn’t know I needed to be listened to. I didn’t know I needed to be loved. I just didn’t know…and now that I know, I feel like the burden I never wanted to be.

My Soul Cries Out…

Outside my body is numb. Motionless. Expressionless. But inside my heart is sobbing. It aches. It mourns. It pounds in agony…over and over…like a fist hammering in desperate rhythm when words are trapped inside. With each beat of my heart its blood stained tears pulse and course through my veins and the despair is felt in my entire being.

This feeling has become my norm. It sits on my shoulders and weighs me down. I continually try to lift it off and set it aside but it grabs my hair and wraps its ankles around my back locking itself in place. It’s comfortable up there. It doesn’t want to leave or get down. It just wants to sit. Forever. Looking out at the world it feels like it never belongs in.

We go about our day as one. I pretend I’m strong and perfectly ok and prove to the world my resolve is greater than this weight on my shoulders. But lately, my strength is deteriorating. My shoulders are tense and sore. My back is aching right along with my soul. My smile has faded and my breaths become labored as I fight to stand up straight. My eyes look down and away from the world I feel like I never belong in.

I collapse into bed at the end of my day hoping to find rest and relief. But this feeling, it breathes down my neck, it whispers in my ear, it twists it’s fingers up through my hair and plays with my mind as it tries to go to sleep. It tells me stories of hope in a different world…one I always thought was the darkest path to take. But the lure of something new with no pain to feel, and freedom from it’s weight, soothes my soul.

As I drift off to sleep God sometimes intervenes and untangles the grip my thoughts have on me. I make it to the morning. I try putting on a new outfit that doesn’t coordinate with the yesterdays, but like a monkey trapped in a cage with only one place to go, this feeling climbs up my legs, grabs my shoulders and heaves itself right back up again, twisting and locking his legs, securing itself in place. The weight is felt at once and my heart sobs once again.

My eyes look out to the world and my soul cries out in desperate attempts to get me to run to the freedom this feeling continually whispers about. But the weight is too heavy and I can no longer move. My body goes numb and my fists take form. Someday, they hope to have the strength to pound like my heart, refusing to be in this place anymore. But for now, my eyes look down and away from the world I feel like I never belong in and this feeling looks out from it’s perch as I put on my mask waiting for the day to end once again.

Tiny Little Ghosts…

The smell of smoke is potent and it draws me out of my sleep, I pull myself out of bed, every time, fearing the house is burning down, but can never find where the fire is. The doorbell rings and startles me out of my sleep or my thoughts, in that moment I freeze, never brave enough to go see who might be there. I’m numb, and my body is stiff, I cannot move but my mind races a million miles a minute and my heart pounds out of my chest. Sometimes, I’ll wait hours before regaining a sense of peace that there is no one standing on the other side, waiting for me to answer.

I screamed and cried out in my sleep the other night “STOP!” “I don’t like doing this…” “no, no, NO!” and “Can we please just go home..?” I try to wake up and speak again as he pulls on my arm but I fight and push and pull away. I’m silenced and scared and no words can come out. They violently try to push and punch their way to freedom but they are too tangled in the web of excruciating fear. My body panics and my mind shouts and screams yet no words or sounds ever escape.

When I drive out of my neighborhood, there are two ways I can go. One way leads me to drive past the restaurant where he began his last affair. The other direction leads me down a path he walked with her hand in hand one night while I was waiting for him in our bed. I automatically dart my eyes but my body knows the hurt is still there. I’m trapped in the middle. I can never get away. I cry. I sigh. I wonder. I get sick. I push it all away. I’ll never be good enough anyway.

I can hear the whimpers and crying in pain. I feel the shards of glass all over my body, in my clothes and hair, and the cold dampness from my pants on my skin. I see his bloody, contorted face and his twisted, mangled body when I close my eyes. I hear my Dad’s laugh and my sister’s voice of casual indifference. When hot tears roll down my cheeks they look at me and roll their eyes…telling me I’m overdramatic once again. I feel shame and fear and guilt because it was me that wanted to go there in the first place.

The taste and smell of alcohol transports me to a weird emotional world of anger, frustration, and disgust. The smell of cigarette smoke makes me want to throw up. The shrill, shrieking sound of a referee’s whistle blowing sends chills up my spine and I can feel his hand on my head, through my hair, around my neck, and his thumb touching my cheek. My face gets warm, my legs tense up, my mouth feels dry.

When I drift off to sleep I startle and panic when I feel his touch. I wait in frozen silence as I wonder what is coming next. This time it’s only a gentle kiss goodnight. But sometimes, that’s where it all begins. It’s the beginnings and middles and sometimes the ends that trail around behind me, following me, shaming me, guilting me, scaring me…floating in and out of my consciousness unsuspectingly, tormenting and haunting me…like tiny little ghosts.

The Death Of Me…

Stay alive and die or take my life and die…?

Is there even a reason to stay? These thoughts get louder and louder and louder as the days go on…it’s a fierce battle within…question upon question…and I can’t get the volume to turn down. The pain is intense. I can’t turn it off. I don’t want it anymore. I’m tired. I’m alone. I’m dying inside. It’s slow and agonizing. Torture. This is hell. This must be hell. How do I get out of here?

I find it hard to understand how I will ever be able to escape from this madness in my life. It permeates everything. EVERYTHING. “Keep fighting.” “Keep going.” “You’ve made it this far, don’t give up now.” WHY NOT? What am I even going to gain in this battle I am in? There’s nothing to gain. I have lost so much already and will continue to lose. What is there left to fight for?

I don’t even know how to live a normal life. I don’t even know what normal is. My normal is messed up, twisted, hard, pathetic, exhausting, and hopeless. I’m afraid I won’t even recognize “normal” if it hit me upside the head. And who defines normal anyways? What am I striving for? My whole life others have been defining my normal. Do I have a normal? Do I even get to make that choice ever as to what my idea of normal is and live it out?

I’ve never had choices. I’ve thought I had choices but I’m eventually reminded that what I wanted or desired or felt didn’t matter, only what others wanted of me, that’s all that mattered. That’s the extent of my worth. That’s what I’ve been taught. Over and over and over. I have no say in my life. I never have.

I want my life returned back to me. Is that selfish? I’ve been told I’m selfish when I fight for a voice or want to do what’s right for me. I want to make my own choices and choose what’s best for me. I guess that sounds selfish, but I don’t see how sitting through this agony is best. I don’t see how I’m useful or contributing to this world. I want to go. I want to get out. I want peace. I want quiet. I want the pain to stop. I want the nightmares to end. I just want to sleep. Forever.

I’m not living right now. I’m dying and I’m giving up. I’m going to die anyway. I will die someday. Right? So why not die the way I choose to die? Why go through this torture and live in this hell? Can I at least have that choice in my life? Probably not.

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.

Winter…

His hand moved toward my face and his thumb rested on my cheek, fingers wrapped around the back of my neck. He pulled on the sleeve of my red jacket and laid me down. The snow was falling. I watched it through the window of the car door in the orange glare of the light post. I felt the cold fake leather of the front seat on the back of my head where my hair was parted. My head pressed up against the armrest of the door.

His cold finger penetrated my body…his belt buckle jingled. The snow…the fat flakes drift down from the sky. They dance in the light and swirl and twirl in circles around each other. It’s peaceful and quiet out there and I too drift away with each and every flake into another world.

Is this a dream? Can I even trust my own mind? Where is this coming from? Daddy? What are you doing? ? What did I do wrong…?

Oh God…what is this? I feel so crazy. Am I making this up? Take this away from me. I need the snowflakes again…please..give me snowflakes…

Run Wild, Live Free…

I cower in fear in the corner of my mind. I’ve been beaten and battered and twisted and tattered so many times this is my safe place. Stay back. Stay quiet. Don’t feel. Don’t move. It’s too dangerous. I feel trapped…even though I’m not.

Freedom is an elusive thought for me. I don’t even know what it means or what it looks like. How can I know if I even want it? At least here in this corner I know what to expect and I know how it feels and I know how to self soothe. Go out into the world? Run? What are you even talking about?? That’s “crazy talk.” That’s for brave people. Not me. I don’t belong out there. I don’t deserve that.

I’m like a caged animal. I’m not under anyone’s control anymore and my door is open to go out but I can’t. I’m too scared. I’m afraid I’ll be alone…even though I’ve never felt more isolated and as lonely as I do now. I’m afraid I’ll fail. I’m afraid to tell my story and live out in the world free of the pain I’ve been in. It’s terrifying. But I want it SO badly. But I can’t. No one would understand why I walked away. Would anyone even believe me? Everyone else has been trained to see the facade he’s built as well. I would be the crazy one. But no one knows, that right now, I’m already crazy inside my head. Maybe the freedom takes the crazy away. But what if I’m hurt again? I can’t take anymore. I just can’t.

I’m numb. I can’t move. I can’t even get the words so desperately needing release out of that corner of my mind. I pray to God to help me. But does He even hear me?

God? Are you there? HELP! Give me strength to endure my own emotions. Understanding and wisdom to see how you will use this for good. Patience to be still and learn. And love…help me understand your love…your perfect and pure love. I don’t know how to receive it. Father, take my hand. I’m too afraid. I don’t know where I’m supposed to go or what I’m supposed to do. My hurt is deep. My fear is strong. You know this. I need you…