eighty-four: small

this word stings.

if i had to summarize what i’m doing these days in therapy, it would be that i’m grieving. without any overt plans to do so, i’ve been in touch with a lot of the things little me felt, during the time that the abuse happened.

time and time again, i’ve thought i might die from the hurt of it. the knowledge that i, as a small child, felt terror and panic and fear and disgust and shame and self-loathing in even a fraction of the degree i’ve felt lately, brings me to my knees. imagining that any child, me, my own daughter, pocketbrit, anyone, feeling so alone…oh.

coz really, how did we do it? where do little kids put all of that stuff? how did we make sense of it then? and how on earth do we make sense of it now?

*

more so than ever before, i have been granted access to how i felt when i was small. (i say ‘granted access’ coz it’s not like something i asked for or planned or even wanted, it’s just what’s happened. like something’s been unlocked, or come undone). and the experience is not of uncovering a memory of a specific event, or being submerged in body sensations (though there have been those times, too), it’s more that i am flooded with really strong emotions, and i start to feel so, so small. my therapist has referred to it as a feeling flashback. which means that sometimes, i will find myself so so sad…unable to stop crying, and i won’t even know quite why. or i’ll be completely terrified. or edgy, or unsettled, but without the words to explain why. or sometimes, delighted (unfortunately this is less common). but the way my body feels…the thoughts that are in my head…the words i have at my disposal…belong to that of a much smaller person. it is unnerving and amazing and horrible all at once.

in the past, it has been really hard to allow myself to feel the needs of this small, young part. there has been so much shame in permitting her space in my life. but lately, like i just said, it’s like i can’t even help it: she’s there, and then i’m her. sometimes i fight it…the shame gets loud, and i feel ridiculous, and i tell myself i am being indulgent and stupid and idiotic but all that does is defer her takeover and make it even more marked and inconvenient.

being small is awful when i’m trying to parent. coz all of it hurts: our daughter’s anger, impatience, or even her normal everyday complaints, all of them feel like daggers, personal and critical and sharp. and if she is hurt or sad, her pain overwhelms me. and it is similarly awful when i am trying to be a professional, or to be an equal, adult partner to my wife, when all i want is to hide under the covers or cower under my desk; to haveĀ  people speak quietly and slowly. when i just want to be hugged and cuddled and rocked and sang to.

*

today was awful. i had been bottling up all my smallness, all my neediness, and i planned to let it out in therapy. i would let her out, and my therapist could help me to hold her, and contain her, and help her. i couldn’t do it alone and i felt so so ashamed and tired of asking pocketbrit and my wife to help me. not coz they weren’t good at it, but because they were…but because the giving/taking ratio has been so, so unbalanced this month. and, they have their own shit, their own hurt, their own pain.

and then, due to a family emergency, my therapist cancelled my appointment today. and that was that.

i spun out. fully. i was so angry, because i was reminded of how unimportant i was in her life, how pathetic i was to be so dependent on a person i paid to be present, when she had no problems dropping me with zero notice. i was ashamed of how upset i was, at how instantly tears sprung to my eyes, at how convinced i was that i couldn’t hold on (it will be three weeks until i next see her). i was terrified at having to do it alone; i have always done it alone, except now i know the sweet sweet relief of not, and i’ve come to depend on it.

and the small one could not be contained anymore. she lashed out at everyone in sight; shoved everyone away, and then when they complied, felt so incredibly bereft. the small one was panicking and the adult part of me was ashamed that i couldn’t reign her in. she needed soothing and i couldn’t, i just couldn’t, because i was furious and sad and impatient and ashamed. oh god, the shame.

i nearly let it get the best of me.

i told my wife to leave me alone, which she did, for a short while. i shoved pocketbrit far, far away. i told her ‘don’t’ when she was saying kind things, and to leave me be. despite wanting exactly the opposite of that. (honestly, no one can win when i’m like that…there pretty much is no right thing to do, ugh.) i didn’t answer when she called and i rejected her love and i ignored her. the small one wanted her so badly, but i couldn’t let her.

except then i did.

and we asked her to read.

and she did.

but not only did she read, she asked if we wanted her to read on video, and we could hardly speak to answer yes (because the answer to that is always yes). and i had to press the mute button on my end, because as she read, i was taking raggedy horrible sobbing breaths, eyes and nose streaming, i couldn’t even believe she did it never mind so easily, i don’t even know how she could, except she did.

the small one felt it, and i did too, and we were soothed. and i could hold her, because i was being held, because i was being loved, because i wasn’t left alone, despite being convinced that i should be.

and so, my gratitude for today is the opposite of small. it’s gigantic as the sea, as the night sky, as the love in my heart.

*

eighty-eight: fault

i feel entirely battered by this past week’s words.

to be fair, i am likely just feeling battered by december: a month of rampant over-consumption, of consumerism, of pressure to be happy and to get the right gifts and to send cards (i never do), a month where i have to hear about people’s family gatherings and traditions, where there is such emphasis on togetherness and peace and FUCK OFF ALREADY, a month to overeat everything in sight, and the month, nearly to the day, that three years ago, i first remembered the incest. while doing something innocuous and festive with my daughter, on a sunny afternoon.

kiddo and i did that same festive activity tonight (for the first time in three years) and i was trying really, really hard to stay present. i think i succeeded. she had fun and went to bed on a huge sugar high. i didn’t crumple into a heap on the kitchen floor, or scream or weep. (well not tonight i didn’t. that was earlier today, on my own.)

one of the few friends who knows *all* of the shit about my dad said, the worst thing about all of this [pain and upset and hurt] is that none of it is your fault. you didn’t do anything wrong at all. and i’ve read those words a million times in a million places and my wife and therapist and pocketbrit have said that to me another trillion times yet it took this friend saying that, as simplistically as she did, for me to truly take it in. it wasn’t my fault. i was just a little girl.

i take ownership for so much else, but finally, finally, i know that bit to be true. it wasn’t my fault.

it wasn’t pocketbrit’s fault (no, my love. i promise. not ever.)

and for everyone else reading, if you were little, and someone hurt your body or your mind or your safety, it wasn’t your fault, and i’ll hold that for you until you can.

Fault (88)

This one’s hard. Like really really hard.

When I was a bit older I used to go to my brother and ask him for things. I did it knowing the things he would ask for/demand in exchange. I went knowingly and willingly and had I not, those instances would not have taken place.

I sold myself to him, basically.

I struggle with this, even now, a huge amount. What I’ve come to realise is that I went to him to gain some control. I went in a complete panic inside, and I detached myself and I did it. And then I felt lighter afterwards. The threat of what he could do that day was no longer a constant companion inside my head; it had already happened. I felt more relaxed and I felt safer and I was doing what I needed to do at the time to cope.

And yet… Am I not to blame? Is it not my fault? Those instances surely were… I mean had I not gone to him, there was no telling whether any abuse would have taken place those days. In law there are two types of causation, one of which is the ‘but for’ test. But for my going to my brother and asking for things, it would not have happened that day. And at least once, if not multiple times, that would be the case. In which case causation lies with me, and in which case the fault is mine.

eighty-seven: relief

relief has meant different things along the way, i think. i have unearthed it in places i never imagined, and i haven’t found it in places i was sure i would.

relief is…

  • being able to feel my feelings again, after a long stretch of being numb and inert
  • coming to realizations that have been painful, but have freed me from ties that bound me and hurt me and kept me silent
  • sobbing out loud, letting the sound out, like i never ever could, back then. it means having other people be near while i do that. it means letting other people see my blotchy face, the one that my mom convinced me was horrible and ugly and shameful, the one she used to throw a cold cloth at, the one i have always tried to hide and keep others away from
  • letting myself be held. and letting people close
  • having a bad day, saying so, and not being left
  • being angry, and still being loved