[For those in a tender place or who have gone through trauma a time or two before, you have the option to not read this post. There are *not* gory details, but more, wound(s) needing ventilation. I am also fully aware by staying silent I go against the possibility of a greater good, a deeper level of healing for self and others. Had this happened to anyone else, I’d tell ‘em to let ‘er rip, let it out!]
A trip back home was in the plans, the timing was to be when Dad moved to his new place and we could offer him the best support. My hip going out delayed me getting anything done around the house in preparation for the trip, so we went a week or so later than expected. With how busy work was getting for Richard, we managed two days to visit, hoped to get things squared away with banks and lending institutions, and two long, hot days of driving to/from.
Going home, seeing family is always a stressor, always has been and chances are, it always will be. I’ve mentioned a time or two before that it took me years to get to the point where I could attend family gatherings without getting physically sick.
Anyway, I needed to get Power of Attorney stuff taken care of and postponing the trip was not looked upon favorably by family, indeed a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. I began having violent nightmares before the trip; the sleep I did get was poor, at best, when you’re at that place. I would try to nap during the day to catch up, but even there, the nightmares found me. I became weary of both no sleep and being terrified to sleep.
No matter what I did, there was no relief. In addition, I was tormented by memories of a rape that occurred in 2005, why, I would not know…
We visited Dad in his ‘new digs’ as he loved calling it. He was tired, but good. He held my hand like a man drowning. He’s NEVER held my hand before. I am 45-years-old.
We had a family dinner one evening; in attendance were my Sister-in-Law, two Nephews and one Girlfriend, two of my Brothers, Dad, and my Step-Mom, Richard and me. Awkward doesn’t quite express it.
We all sit there in the strained silence, my Sister-in-Law tries to make anxious conversation asking Step-Mom questions and she’s clearly annoyed. These are all people if I weren’t related to I’d have nothing to do with, we have nothing in common. I’m also there struggling because I promised to help, but my conscience doesn’t want me trying to shrink myself to fit their small impression of me, or trying to be who I used to be, etc.
We’re the old religious stereotype where the women do everything and the men pretty much just show up. Shallow? Yes. Uncomfortable? Beyond belief! Exhausting? Totally!
Richard and I literally reminded each other of the accomplishments or hurdles we made it through, and the rest will be easier. True, those difficult family interactions are drains of epic proportions. Times like these I joke about being ‘my enhanced version’ which means I’m jacked up on caffeine 24/7 just to get through.
But, counter to that drain, there were invigorating times of being back to my old stomping grounds. Being in a familiar place where my brain ‘knows’ where things are or at least which direction we’re facing, well, it’s a nice feeling. It is strange how some things just ‘click’ with our memories and while I enjoyed it, it would not last, so I tried to neither hold on or dread, just breathe in the moment.
We left early, early Sunday morning as Richard had to be back to work early Monday. In tow are several boxes of Dad’s files for me to go through. I will now be taking on his finances.
Visiting with him I clearly see his Dementia, confusion, fatigue, depression, and forgetting. I get it. I am not afraid nor do I get pulled into a sadness of him deteriorating. He is 89 years old; he has had a long, good, active life with much to be thankful for when he can be or is able to choose.
We get home and the nightmares continue. Still jacked up on caffeine, I spend a long time with those files trying to get a handle on things and come up with a strategy for all this. In a way, I feel like my struggle to survive and work through the broken systems post-TBI has prepared me for this. I wasn’t, however, prepared for a letter dated in July 2005 my Dad wrote to me but never sent.
He tells me things I’ve never heard before about how Mom and Dad both wanted a daughter, they’d tried eight years to conceive but could not, so began the adoption process. I always heard from Mom it was she who wanted a daughter, Dad was content to stop adopting when he had his three sons. He would tell me most of my life he never wanted a daughter, period. He would tell me in this letter how I was Mom’s special girl and through her I became his ‘special girl’, how he and Mom would talk about the things I did each day. Wow. Nice to know at age 45…I seriously thought I was the family problem until I reached age 25. Mom died when I was 16 and I remember the distinct knowledge my world died with her. Dad could say what he wants but the reality was something much clearer and less kind.
At any rate, even with those unsettling things he said, the real zinger was his concern about my dating choices. Seriously? Really?! Where in the hell would I learn about men in the first place? I learned about a woman’s role, I learned nothing how to be strong in myself as a unique and meaningful human being. I was a role to be filled, not a person to be loved, nurtured, etc. The equation looked like this, act as a different person and perform well = loved and accepted. If not, he would tell me in that horrible tone of voice how he was so disappointed in me.
In Spring 2005 I made the irretrievable misjudgment by telling my Dad and brother about a horrific date rape. Yes, people. Date rape. It is far more common than we give our consciences room to fathom. By nature, by my growing up in a home with domestic violence I became highly self-protective, never truly feeling safe in the presence of another human being because I didn’t know that was an option.
The rape was by a person I knew and trusted for YEARS – he snowed everyone in my life at that time, they were happy for me feeling I was finally in a good place with someone who would have my best interest in mind. He offered to step up and help me keep from losing my ‘nest’ as he called it. He showed my Birthfather his huge motor home with Italian flooring that we’d come visit him in Georgia.
I was, at that point in life, in my third year post-TBI and at rock bottom. I had lost my steady job, friends, and was struggling with the new work I was trying to do.
I would learn terrible things about what humans can do to each other. There are reasons why the word ‘horrific’ exists. The perpetrator was the worst, but those who blamed me only added to my pain and I seriously considered suicide…yes, I understand why sexual assault victims, those who have been trafficked, victims of child rape, PTSD survivors, why they kill themselves. There is only so much a person can take. And to blame? Wow.
I will address that unlovely event another time…
Since returning home, having gone through the family stuff, I found Dad’s letter. Why in the hell didn’t he just destroy the damn thing? When we had been at Dad’s, my oldest brother, whom I share Power-of-Attorney title with said he was real proud, Richard seemed like a good man, he had his doubts in the beginning but welcomed Richard into the family. I remembered being a little taken aback by it, but also didn’t breathe it in either, for that is life with my family. I did, however, ponder for a moment in my heart, if that is what being supported by a family member feels like.
It wasn’t until later his comments of ‘having been concerned about my dating choices’ hit home. He wasn’t telling me I’ve done well, turned over a new leaf, or had some great epiphany in my life, he blamed me for the damn rape too!
Holy shit, Batman, this is enough drama for a lifetime.
I have been depressed beyond all measure since returning home and unearthing this most unlovely discovery. I have tried stuffing all that baggage and trauma back down where it was stowed quite nicely until recently, but the truth of the matter is something like that changes you. You don’t just go on with your life. I felt responsible, yes, me. I blamed myself…but I kept following that stirring, you know, that voice inside that just doesn’t go away, that has its own truth no matter what circumstances look like?
I have been completely unable to function outside of eating and trying to sleep. All extra-curricular activities like blogging and reading blogs was pushed aside. Fight or flight mode, once again. I don’t know if it was PTSD or the family all getting together that pushed me over the edge. I only realized very recently how far gone I had been, so numb, so shut down. The sun was shining, birds were singing, the sky was beautiful but I could neither see it nor feel it. I felt lost, like I didn’t even know who I was anymore…
I have lost a lot of faith in religion, family, friends and people during my tumultuous years post-injury. The thing about trauma is it will shake all the fluff that is man-made and doesn’t mean a damn thing and cleverly rearrange everything we once called ‘priority’ or ‘right and wrong.’
What is helping me get out of this bad place was trying to see everything as though it had happened to a treasured friend. For that, there is only compassion and tears, well-placed anger, and honoring a hurt or hurts that only served to terrorize me as long as I kept them hidden.
Maybe if I can ventilate this a little bit here, I can get back to being more of myself again. I began to feel a crisis of identity, not knowing who I really was anymore. I’m still not out of the woods quite yet, wondering if I’m needing to speak to a professional again to help me through this patch, I don’t know.
The nightmares had subsided for a time and reoccurred just today, but, I did have a wonderful dream about being at a Buck Brannaman horse clinic in between. I realize I have an insatiable need for Vaquero horsemanship, the spark was lit years ago and its okay for me to love something. So much of my growing up years, I wasn’t exactly encouraged to get involved with horses although I jokingly say ‘horse’ was my first word.
I write to get this out in hopes I can get back to reading the blogs of so many people whom I admire beyond words. You probably have no idea how your courage, strength, hope, perspective, collective wisdom inspire me. It is you who I have to thank for being strong enough to write again. And for those wise, courageous, noble souls who counseled me from 2005 on, your kindness and treasured heart-gifts are remembered every single day. I give what I can where I can because of all that has been given to me and transformed my life.
This is also for those innocent souls who have walked through this path, or are now entering into it.
It was never my fault, it will never be my fault.
It was never my shame, it will never be my shame.
It was never your fault, it will never be your fault.
It was never your shame, it will never be your shame.