After going really deep into memories yesterday, I am staying out of anything deep for today. Yesterday I remembered details I had long forgotten. It seemed wise to just sit with those details and not try to think about too much more of that deep stuff.
I’ve always felt like I had a great memory, but I have a great ability to hide things from myself. Like if it hurts too much or I just don’t want to remember, I will not. But sometimes I can jump into my memory and really concentrate and remember long lost details. I have found that it hurts less taking things in small bites and not trying to bring up everything at once. My life is a series of really traumatic events spaced apart by a few years. But I made it past all the tragedy and pain to be in a good place now.
I feel like now I can finally breathe and look around at everything I made it through that doesn’t feel like it hurts so much anymore. It’s taken so much time in therapy and so many tears to let it all out. It’s taken tremendous patience from my wife too. She has put up with me dredging things up when we had a lot going on and when she was under a lot of pressure at work. I am at a place now when I can kind of keep myself together and not think about things that might be too hard to deal with at a particular time.
I think about little me all the time, the one that hadn’t yet been hurt at all. I only know this person from pictures because I don’t remember what life was like before everything happened. I like to see how bright and trusting my eyes were, like I thought everything would be ok and everyone would be kind to me. I didn’t know that parts of me were unacceptable to my parents and that they would try to mold me into what was best for them. I didn’t know I would be entrusted to a babysitter who had an abusive husband and she and all of her children would take that out on the kids she babysat. It’s really hard to picture that little face being hurt repeatedly on purpose.
But then I move into school pictures from third grade and beyond and I see a sadness and this sense of distrust in my eyes. There’s also exhaustion and fatigue from holding so much together and acting like a perfectly normal child outside my house. I always felt this sense of secrecy, like no one should know what was happening at home or at the babysitter’s house. I’ve met kids that talk too much and you find out things about their family that are funny or different, but I was never like that. I just instinctively knew to keep my mouth shut about the things I’d experienced.
I once had a therapist who talked about how no one gets out of childhood unscathed, but the goal is to not mess up your kids as much as possible. She used to tell me that I had survived extraordinary circumstances, and I wasn’t even able to tell her everything. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me and I don’t want to sit around feeling sorry for myself either. But I think in doing that, I have forced myself to not acknowledge that I really did survive a lot. I think I have minimized so much of what I have done because it feels like I am just making excuses or blaming a bad life for everything that is wrong with me, when I know I made decisions that led to bad consequences for me. But so much happened to me that was out of my control, there was no way I could get myself out of those situations, nor did I even realize I was being traumatized by the adults around me.
All of this therapy in the last year and a half has made me much more conscious how I speak to my children and how I treat them when they make mistakes because they just didn’t know any better. I recently took one of the boys to the doctors for a med-check and we passed this woman and her son on the way out. She was speaking to him in a nice voice, but saying not nice things to him. She kept thanking him for losing a post-it note that validated her parking and now she would have to pay. No one was really paying on the way out, so I’m not sure it was worth berating her 8ish year old for swinging papers around. Does any adult not know by now that post-its are notoriously NOT sticky when on papers you’re carrying around? I’ve lost many that were unimportant and a few that were important. If that post-it was so valuable to her, why did she hand him the papers at all? Kids don’t understand that post-its don’t stick for long. I can’t tell you how many times one of the kids had done a huge post-it note thing in their room, just to find all of them on the floor an hour later. Instead of setting him up to fail, maybe she should’ve just carried the papers. And that way she was talking to him…nice voice but very harsh message. It was upsetting to me because that’s how I felt growing up. My brain wants to trust the nice voice but the words coming out are not nice. Hearing her made me remember that I didn’t really understand sarcasm for a long time because my parents spoke to me like that all the time.
My son said “I feel really bad for that boy because if she talks to him like that in public, just imagine what happens to him at home.” I didn’t have to imagine because I know. I experienced it.
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