The following is horrible. It’s selfishly written. You honestly, probably shouldn’t read it. You don’t want to read it. I don’t even want to read it. I won’t be reading this over to see if the editing is proper. It is what it is. I just need to get it out. Writing this down is the closest I’m ever going to get to justice for it. And maybe, if someone’s been through something similar, it’ll let them know that they’re not alone.
Also, there’s swearing. Because I’m heartbroken and angry and I just… I can’t think of better words. I’m sorry.
So, I have severe Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. If you’ve ever wondered what that’s like, it’s like having a time machine in your brain that rips you from the present and throws you back to the worst moments of your life–only the worst ones, so it’s like they’re happening right there, all over again. The very worst moments. And it does this just, whenever. One moment you’re listening to a book on tape about vampires, next moment you’re back in time, being told and made to feel like you’re an evil person; a disgusting, worthless, irredeemable monster that no longer has any value as a human being, and doesn’t have a say in what happens next to her, because you don’t deserve a say. Because you can’t do any better. You don’t deserve any better.
These are called “flashbacks.”
And people wonder why suicide rates are so high among people with PTSD.
Everyone else gets to move on with their lives after something horrible happens to them. When you have PTSD, you don’t have that luxury. It’s always there. A shadow looming over you, ready to fall upon you and drown you in darkness.
Anyway, by the grace of God (this is the truth, through His grace), I have the most wonderful, patient, compassionate therapist in the world, named Myrna and through her, another girl and a book called, The Body Keeps the Score, I’ve learned how to do EMDR therapy. I do a TON of this on my own, some in sessions with Myrna, and then Myrna helps me make sense of things and put it into perspective.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. The theory behind it is that, it’s in our deep sleep that our brain processes the events of the day. It clears out garbage, puts away the events that don’t matter and brings the things that do matter to the forefront of our minds. It puts things in perspective. This is why you’re often counseled to “sleep on it” when you’re at a crossroads. When our brain can’t complete the deep sleep cycle, it can’t put things away. Often, when you’ve had a traumatic experience, your sleep is interrupted. You have nightmares that rip you awake. Your brain has these horrible memories that it can’t put away.
EMDR mimics the eye movements done in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which is a deep stage of sleep. It allows your brain to put away the traumatic memories while you’re awake. It’s one of the few methods that have actually been known to cure PTSD. But you can’t just focus on the memories themselves to cure PTSD. You have to focus on your body. Because your brain doesn’t just store trauma inside of itself, it stores it in the body. That’s why people with PTSD have phantom pain in their bodies that appears to have no explanation and are sick more often that normal people.
EMDR also grows neurons and improves memory… the memory centers of the brain actually grow… which can bring back lost memories…
So, when I finally started making progress with EMDR, something horrible happened.
Ever since I was a little tiny girl, I would get this sick, horrible pain in my lower abdomen. Sometimes, it would be so bad, that I would have to lay down until it went away. With this pain came an all-encompassing feeling of shame–sickening, horrible, painful, like I’d done something horribly wrong, but I didn’t know what it was.
I never talked about it. I didn’t know how to talk about it. And I was afraid that if I talked about it, someone would find out what I did.
Even though I didn’t know what I did.
I learned how to ignore this feeling. I learned how to shove it out of the way where it wouldn’t bother me.
But when I started to make progress with my therapy, this feeling came back. And it was worse and more horrible and violent than ever. It was so loud. And I just thought to myself, “No. Oh no. No.”
Because now, I knew what it meant.
I knew there was something horrible buried in my brain that I’d fought all of my life to bury and ignore.
But like the Tell Tale Heart, it wouldn’t stay buried. It grew louder and louder.
And then came the memories.
I saw myself as a little girl. A tiny girl. In a blue dress. Defeated. Empty. Crawling on top of my mother’s bed with tears in her eyes. I was so small, I had to really climb up on it. She was laying in bed, smiling at something she was reading. I felt too disgusted with myself to snuggle her for comfort. So I just curled into a ball and laid there.
I started bawling for no good reason as I told Paul about this memory. I was freaking out. FREAKING out.
That day, we went to Wal-Mart. I don’t know what happened for sure, but I was triggered by something and on our way out to the car, I was struck with this agony in the back of my neck. It felt like someone had taken an axe and struck me with it. My right knee gave out at the pain and my head spun. And I slipped into a flashback. Paul’s gotten very good at helping me come out of those, when he sees that I’m in one. And he helped me with this.
And then, starting that day, I developed a migraine that lasted for three weeks. I couldn’t look at my phone screen or my computer screen for more than a few minutes at a time. I couldn’t be on my feet without feeling like I was going to collapse. I had visual and auditory disturbances. I had to wear sunglasses indoors because the lights inside made me want to die. My doctor made me go to the ER. Nothing showed up on the CT scan. Deep down, I knew nothing would. I told myself and everyone else that it was a cerebral spinal fluid leak and would get mad and defensive when they felt like it wasn’t. I mean, my spinal column has been poked many times (got that spinal tap a few years back!) and I had all of the symptoms and they’re hard to catch in CT scans, and I most definitely didn’t want to believe the migraine was because of this… because something awful was clawing its way to the surface of my mind… I really, really didn’t… but the timing and everything—it’s just hard to ignore. I’ve kinda had to accept it. It is what it is.
After doing tons of processing, I remember almost everything.
It was a Sunday. I was around 5-years-old. Everyone inside the house was being boring, so I snuck outside. My dad had built a wooden playhouse outside for me. It had a little ladder that lead to a small loft, which connected to a little yellow slide. It had a read roof and swings. It was my fortress. And it was on a bed of sand, where I could dig for dinosaur bones. Some of the first words I learned to read were the names of dinosaurs.
But today, I was wearing a blue dress and white leggings, so in my mind, I was Alice in Wonderland, about to embark on a grand adventure. The trees were giant flowers in a garden. I ran out to the play set and started to climb the ladder.
Trauma screws with memory, so I don’t know how long I was playing for when the boys showed up. They were around 11-12-years-old. They were in the trees next to the playhouse, watching me, snickering. I was standing on the ladder when they called out to me.
I didn’t know them, really. I didn’t recognize the one at all. But they knew I liked dinosaurs.
The one said, “We’ve found some dinosaur bones!”
Really? I thought. But I don’t think I said this. I think I just sat there, frozen, staring at them, vaguely aware at how strange this situation was, especially since they kept snickering. But I was so little. It didn’t really occur to me that maybe they were being mean.
“Yeah!” he continued. “They’re over here! Come on,” he gestured with his arm for me to follow, “I’ll show you.”
Dinosaur bones were the coolest things in the world. I wanted nothing more than to find some.
So I climbed down from the ladder and followed them into the trees.
Again, my memory fades in and out. Trauma does that. But needless to say, there were no dinosaur bones.
I remember getting mad and saying I was going to “tell my mom.” A child’s first line of defense.
I remember turning toward my house and being grabbed by the back of the neck. Not by the hair, not by the dress, but by the back of the neck. Like an animal.
I remember feeling completely helpless.
I remember struggling.
I remember being struck in the lower abdomen, to get me to stop squirming.
I remember my dress being pulled up to my neck, revealing my chest and stomach.
I remember the one boy taking off his shirt.
I remember hands and fingers going where they shouldn’t. Way where they shouldn’t.
I remember the laughing. They were laughing.
I was so afraid. I was so afraid.
I remember a neighbor shouting into the trees, hearing the commotion, “Hey, what’s going on in there?”
I remember them backing off after that. I got to my feet. I was crying. I said I was going to tell my mom.
One of the boys said, “What would your mom think if she knew?”
“She would be so ashamed,” they said.
I knew I’d felt things that I should be ashamed of. Things I hadn’t wanted to feel.
And the other boy, the one without a shirt, smirked and said, “You liked it.” He said that. To a child.
“No I didn’t!” I cried.
And I ran to my house.
It felt so far away.
I was a little lost in the trees, but I knew which direction it was in.
I came out of the woods not where I expected. I ran across the lawn, so scared. So scared. I kept looking over my shoulder to see if they were following me.
I ran into the house. Up the stairs.
I went into the bathroom.
I was wearing white panties with little pink flowers. They had blood in them.
I was so afraid my mother would find them and ask questions. I didn’t want her to be ashamed of me. I didn’t want anyone to be ashamed of me. I was horrible. I was a horrible little girl. It was somehow my fault. I didn’t want them to know.
I shoved the panties in the trash.
I was barely taller than the trash can. The rim of the top was eye level with me.
I meandered into my mother’s room. She was smiling while she read a book.
I climbed onto her bed. Too horrible of a little girl to seek her comfort. I had tears in my eyes. I hoped she wouldn’t notice I was crying. I didn’t want her to ask what was wrong.
I curled into a ball.
And that’s when my brain broke.
I couldn’t handle what had happened. My brain buried it, tried to ignore it. But it always remembered, really, and my body always, always remembered, and wouldn’t let me really forget.
I started building worlds in my head where I could live. Where people were nice to me. Where I felt safe. I went there when I was at school. I went there when I would wake up from night terrors. I went there when I was afraid to sleep. I always had my safe place to go, in my mind, even as an adult.
When the memories of these things hit me, I curled onto my own bed, crying, sobbing, a wreck, saying, “That poor little girl! That poor little girl!”
I couldn’t admit it had happened to me.
But it did.
I later slipped into a horrible flashback. I was up before most of the people in my house. I gathered all of my prescription sleep aides, planning to drive myself to a parking lot somewhere and overdose, because I was clearly too broken and in too much pain to be any use to my family and to have any hope of healing, and I just couldn’t take this pain anymore. I was thinking about brushing my hair–so I wouldn’t look SO ugly when paramedics found me–when Oliver came running out of the bedroom screaming, “NOOOOO!!!” for no apparent reason. Then Paul got up, and my plans were foiled.
Paul has to hide my pills.
I went into another flashback a little over a week later, and planned to end my life. I had been in the bathroom getting ready for bed and I told myself, “If Paul’s asleep when I get out, I’m going to find my pills and just… drive…” He was awake.
I’m doing better now, I’ve continued doing tons of EMDR and it’s finally, FINALLY, helping, because I’ve been able to finally confront and start putting away this horrible memory.
I can’t rave about EMDR and my wonderful Myrna and Paul enough. I do, I feel like I have hope. I really have hope. I can feel my mind and body finally healing, after all of this time.
But I needed to write this down. I needed to get this out. It’s been 30 years since this happened. There’s no hope for justice, except for me to tell everyone about it. These shitheads came up to OUR house and hunted me through the trees. They lured me, a tiny little girl, with the promise of dinosaur bones and treated her… me… like she wasn’t even human.
It really isn’t any wonder that I went through such a similar nightmare later in life, never able to tell anyone what was going on, because I thought it was all my fault. And then getting all the blame…
The other part where there’s no hope for justice is, those shitheads were 11-12-years-old. The most they’d have gotten is a slap on the wrist, Naughty-naughty, don’t do that again! Sure, you’ve screwed this girl up for years to come, she might not survive what you’ve done, but she’s just a girl and you kids are young with so much potential, so it’s okay.
So there’s no way they’d do anything about it now.
And if I were to try to do anything about it now, they’d attack me. They’d attack my memories, my character.
It seems like more effort is spent protecting the abusers than the victims.
How? How is any of this fair?? I want to know. Why, WHY do the victims of abuse have to suffer for so long, end up SO screwed up, while their abusers get to move on with their lives with little to no consequence? And when the victims start to talk about it, they end up ripped to shreds? I watch the news. I know how this goes.
So this is my justice. Writing. This is how I heal. I just can’t sit in silence about these things anymore.
I got lucky. This was a one-time thing. One horrible, one-time thing. Some children don’t get so lucky. And… I’m so sorry if that was you. I’m so, so sorry. And I’m so, so sorry if you had a horrible one-time thing. It shouldn’t have happened. None of it should’ve happened. None of it is okay. I will never understand why people do these things.
You are so much stronger than you think. And you are not alone. Please know that I love you, and you are not alone. And if you ever need a listening ear, I’m here for you to talk to.