I wrote this last night, at 2 am. It’s a letter to Bea. I have so much ugly stuff just moving around in my head, looping around, jumping around, making a giant mess. I need Bea back. I need to tell her these things. But I am afraid. So, I decided to share it here after so many of you told me you understand, that I’m not alone and that you are all supporting me.
This might be triggering, I don’t know. I don’t mention any details but I do talk about sexual abuse.
My parents are in therapy. What does that mean? I don’t even know.
On the surface, if you met our family when I was in elementary school, say second grade, you would have met a mom, a dad, a daughter and a son. The Dad went to work everyday during the week, and he was smart; usually much smarter than people around him and successful. He’s also quiet and soft spoken. The mom is talkative, social, a people person. She stays home and is the room mother for her children’s classes at school. She works out a lot, taking classes at the local Y, and runs. The daughter, she talks too much and tries to be quieter. She likes to read and play with her barbies. She dances and does gymnastics and is known for being very smart– she is already reading books meant for 5th or 6th graders. The little boy is quiet and follows his sister’s lead. He likes his trucks and GI joes, he struggles some in school but is talented in art and likes to draw and build things. The family goes to church every Sunday, and has a fairly large group of friends they see on the weekends. The kids have everything they could want, yet they are polite and other children and adults like them. They are close with the dad’s family who live in town. The family is perfect, really perfect.
That’s the story; the perfect storybook life my family has claimed to have. It’s the story I have told my whole life. The story, my story continues that daughter grows up, and does so well in school she graduates at age 16. She attends community college for a year because she is so young, and then transfers to school an hour away from home. She does well, but after a year chooses to take a break from “real” school because she was so young when she began her academic career. She attends cosmetology school and falls in love with the profession; she finds her real passion and ends up working as a colorist and then as the director of the color department at an upscale salon several hours from her hometown. She meets a nice boy, and they get married. They buy a home, and have a baby. There are many challenges with the baby, but the couple fight for what they know their child needs, and they eventually find people who help. When the child is 3, they receive a diagnosis of autism, and they find the best therapy for their child. They fight for insurance and healthy care. They accomplish a lot, because of their daughter’s diagnosis. And after all that, the little girl is doing very well, she is succeeding and happy and has made many huge strides. Because of his work on changing the insurance policy of his office, the husband gets noticed at work by the higher ups. They see his steady job performance, his dedication to his job, how smart he is, and how much he cares. The husband receives several promotions during the time the little girl grows from baby to toddler to a 5 year old. The wife stays home and takes care of the day to day stuff, she manages the house and the daughter’s therapies. She is organized and on top of it all. The family lives in a nice neighborhood, in a small town, on a lake. They have a private beach and small park in the neighborhood. Life is perfect. They are perfect.
But it’s not real. Or maybe it is and I’m crazy. I don’t know. Maybe it’s fair to say it’s real, but it’s not the whole story. I don’t know.
If my parents are in therapy, and my mom is gone because she can’t handle my Dad’s depression anymore, and they have been here many times before but never to the point of therapy, I don’t know what that means exactly. Maybe it means that what I’ve said all along, that the perfect life was false, a facade, is true. Maybe I can’t handle that being true. Maybe it’s easier if I am crazy and lying and making things up. I don’t know.
The other side of this story, isn’t so pretty. It’s about a woman (Olivia) who lost her mother (Monica) too early, and whose father (Joe) disowned her, along with her older brother (Matt) and sister (Bethany). No one talks about why, or what happened, and although joe lives in the same town, he is avoided at all costs. Olivia is estranged from joe’s entire family, although she does remain close to Monica’s extended family.
The man (Brad) she marries has a messy family history. His father (Tyler) and mother (Joyce) are divorced, the father remarried to a loving, kind person– Lottie. Joyce was emotionally abusive, and at times neglectful. She would lock her kids out of the house when she was entertaining her boyfriends. Tyler was hospitalized twice during his marriage to Joyce for what the family will only say was a nervous breakdown. The family rumor is that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, but it has also been rumored that he was diagnosed with manic depressive disorder. AsBrad and his siblings reached the age of 12, they all chose to go live with their father and step-mother. By that time Tyler was on medication and stable. Lottie was also a stable and consistent person. After living with her father for about a year, brad’s older sister (Dana) disclosed that one of Joyce’s boyfriend’s had sexually abused her. Joyce accused Dana of flirting and trying to steal the boyfriend. Tyler and Lottie sent Dana to counseling, but that was all that was ever done. Joyce married that boyfriend; he became husband number 3. Many years later, it is rumored and whispered and wondered if Joyce did more than emotionally abuse her children.
Looking at this, it’s harder to know exactly what happened with Olivia but it is clear something ugly happened. It appears that she has had an eating disorder for a long time, as it has been hinted at that the eating disorder affected her pregnancy. Knowing Brad’s history, it is easy to see why he struggles with depression. I think he has refused to admit it or seek help because he doesn’t want to be “crazy” like his dad.
So. Olivia gets pregnant at 18, just out of highschool and they get married. Olivia is put on bed rest in July because of pregnancy complications. I’m born in October. A few years later, my little brother is born. Even when I was young, I felt a lot of pressure to be good, to be whatever my parents needed. It felt like I had to be good enough to be loved. My Dad didn’t talk a lot. He taught me to read before kindergarden, and he always told me he loved me before I went to bed, gave me a hug and a kiss. He sang funny songs– like the bumblebee song, but sometimes he would refuse to sing. He liked to go fishing, and he would take us with him. I always took a book and a drawing pad because he didn’t talk a lot when we would be out on the boat. It felt like he needed quiet.
My mom worked hard to be perfect; it was just something I knew from a young age. She did not like sad or mad feelings, happy is what mattered, what was allowed and acceptable. She would beat herself up over mistakes; like burning chicken for dinner, or spilling a drink. She threw up after dinner a lot. I remember thinking that was what moms did. I didn’t know. We had family friends, and the son babysat me. They lived next door. He played a secret game with me, and I didn’t understand it, not really, but I knew I was bad for playing the game and liking it and I was afraid of people finding out. But sometimes, I didn’t like the game and it was all so confusing. But I had no one to tell. Except, once, in first grade, I drew a picture of a little girl hiding in a closet. When my teacher asked about it, I told her I had to hide sometimes because scary things happen at nighttime. She thought it was about bad dreams. I remember telling her it wasn’t dreams, feeling so frustrated that she didn’t get it. I don’t know what happened after that, if anything at all. I remember thinking my mom would love me more if I were thinner like my cousin Angie. It was summer, between first and second grade. I remember my mom getting ready to go out, and asking her not to go. I remember too much, and not enough at all. I remember feeling left and like I did something wrong because she wouldn’t stay. I don’t know.
They ignored, turned a blind eye, and hid everything. No one could know about mom’s eating disorder. No one could know that their daughter was crazy. They didn’t see what was happening. Even my dirty, no not dirty, bloody underwear weren’t enough to make her question anything at all. I always blame my mom for not seeing, but really, my dad didn’t see either. He still believed, until this year, that I love the Ferris wheel. I don’t know. I don’t want to think about his depression, or how that was when I was a kid. I don’t want to know. No matter what, I always thought of him as so strong, so smart, believed he could fix anything. The little girl’s perspective of the super hero Dad. But it’s not completely true. I don’t know, I really need him to be able to fix anything. I remember that the day after I overdosed, I was grounded but still forced to attend my birthday party and smile like nothing was wrong. It’s all so screwed up. The summer before I was 13, when we were at the cabin with kenny’s family for a week. We went there without my parents because they needed some time to work through things. Was this because of depression and eating disorders and not just because of a crazy daughter? I don’t know. And the summer before Kat was born, there were problems. But then Kat was born, and family came to visit and they pretended things were perfect, like they always do. I don’t know what to think. It’s all so freaking messy and it makes me want to scream.
My mind is throwing ugly crap in my face no matter how hard i try to block it out. It’s all piecey and messy and chopped up. I’m little and he is there, touching me and I’m happy. Then I’m little and he is telling me to kiss him, down there. And I’m sick and frozen and can’t breathe but he is saying like a Popsicle and I think I might throw up and it all feels too real. And then I’m in my bed and I feel afraid and sad and I keep crying but I don’t understand why. And then I’m in 4th grade and my mom is gone, she left me, and I am kissing him, moving his hands to be on my body. It’s my fault, I did it, he hurt me but I did if. And I’m confused and I want to hide and I feel like a little girl that just wants her mom. Except that it’s my fault she is gone. And I’m older and kissing him in front of my mom and I’m in trouble and not being appropriate and he pushed me away. No one wants me. I don’t know. Why is my head so screwed up?
And maybe the nanny did something to sara, and maybe she didn’t. And maybe she did something to Kat and maybe she didn’t. I can’t really believe it, because it’s our nanny and I trust her. Except my parents trusted him. And he hurt me. But I wanted to play the game. Oh my god, this is all too confusing. And I tried to tell my teacher because she was nice and always listened to me and it didn’t feel like she just wanted me to stop talking and be quiet. But she didn’t get it, or maybe she didn’t believe it, couldn’t believe it because my family was perfect. So how can I not believe a different little girl? I don’t know. I don’t know. This is all so confusing and twisted and I really just want to run away but I don’t even have anywhere to go.
And I’ve been thinking about college boyfriend and all the things I allowed him to do, and how I just didn’t leave and how he could be so mean, and how much he could hurt me and how twisted he was and how I think he liked it when I was afraid or hurting. I don’t know, I don’t want these thoughts in my head but they loop around and around with the crazy kenny childhood memories and I can’t make them stop. All this ugly stuff pops up when it wants to and it’s stupid and I feel like a horrible, dirty, terrible person.
Everything feels so very screwed up and hard. I feel like the scared little girl and I really want to send this long, convoluted, insane and messy email to you but I’m afraid. I’m afraid it’s too long, I’m afraid I’m being too needy, I’m afraid that you’re going to get mad, that it’s not okay to send long crazy emails right now, and I’m afraid if i keep asking if you are mad or if you will get mad that that will make you mad. I’m pretty much just afraid that everyone in my life is mad at me for not being enough, not being able to handle everything, for falling apart and being up and down and I don’t even know. I think I’m afraid that everyone is leaving me. Hubby is here but he isn’t “here.” The rest of my people are all falling apart, in one way or another. And I can’t fix it all, and I really need everyone to be okay so that I can be okay. This is turning into another messy confusing paragraph.
This is stupid and I am so embarrassed but I wish you were here, and that I was seeing you on Monday, because this all feels like too much and I really need you to be here, but you aren’t here. And I’m afraid you won’t come back, even though I rationally know you are coming back. And I don’t want to tell you this because I don’t want to be that needy, or that vulnerable, and I don’t want to tell you this because I am afraid you will be mad that I am upset you aren’t here….but I’m really afraid and so alone and I can’t make this go away. And I rationally understand that you are on vacation and that is okay and you are coming back. But I feel like you left me and I am alone with all this scary, too much stuff, and I can’t figure out what I did wrong, to make you leave, and I’m afraid you are not coming back because you are upset with me. And I know you have been emailing me and said you are still here, but it doesn’t feel like you are here, it feels like you just left me all alone. I hate that I am this needy, this attached, this….I don’t know the word. But it is nothing good. I’m an adult, I should not be feeling abandoned by my therapist, especially when you have made every effort to be here, even while on vacation. Please come back soon. I can’t do this by myself.
19 thoughts on “Things I’m afraid to say”
Wow, there is so much here that seems familiar to me. The homemaker mom who didn’t see, or chose not to see, and still to this day only talks about happy things and avoids painful ones. Too much trust of a neighbor’s family, in a way that left me very vulnerable. Feelings of shame because I didn’t fight off my abuser(s) and sometimes encouraged some of it, maybe as a way to get attention? The supposedly successful life, seen from the outside, that on the inside feels confused and even intolerable.
What I don’t feel, anymore, is the deep need of my therapist. I did with the first therapist I talked to about this. I could hardly stand the days between our sessions, and when she went on vacation, I felt utterly lost. I was embarrassed to feel this about her and afraid of alienating her with my neediness. It was really hard. That was a long time ago, when I lived somewhere else. The therapist I have now I like a lot and learn from. Sometimes I want to see her more often, but it doesn’t have that urgent, desperate edge anymore. I don’t know if that’s because I am older or have a more supportive husband now so I’m less alone, or who knows why.
Anyway, I feel for you so much. the intensity of these feelings is so overwhelming, and it’s difficult to contain them. But you can do it. Imagine Kat being so confused and needy – you would be gentle and loving to her. If you can direct just a bit of that tenderness to yourself while you wait for Bea to get back, that might help. You certainly deserve it. Best wishes, Q.
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Thank you Q. I’m sorry so much of this resonates with you, but thank you for sharing and reaching out and making me not alone.
I know Bea is always encouragjng me to reach out to my hubby ans talk to him, but altough he knows about the abuse, he doesnt know who or much else. Its hard to talk to him when I feel so up in the air on what i believe. But Bea is always telling me that he could be a source of support and comfort. Maybe one day. Xx
I would feel so afraid to say all those things too. It is really hard to share such deeply-held and shameful secrets, even though the shame is not really ours at all but the people who hurt us. I think you are so brave to confront these painful memories.
Thanks Rachel. I don’t feel very brave right now. I feel scared. Thank you for being honest and saying you would be scared too. I did tell Bea I wrote this crazy long messy scary email and she told me I could send it. So I might. It depends how brave I get.
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Your story is similar to mine in many ways. A mother who left in 4th grade. Picture perfect family. Not being able to fight off abusers and being ashamed. Ugh. I am so sorry you had to experience all of that. It should not EVER happen. Bea will understand. Please take exquisite care of yourself just like you would your daughter if she was feeling so messy.
Its so hard to treat myself like i would treat Kat. I’m trying. Last week, i was off my routine and spent most of my time hiding. I’m getting back to my routine today, starting with taking hagrid for a walk and going to the grocery store.
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I wish I could have you read the email I sent to my therapist today. I had been writing it since our session on Thursday. In it I finally acknowledged what she’d been wanting me to voice but couldn’t . The thoughts , feelings and memories I expressed are somewhat similar to what you’ve written. I even say how juvenile I feel saying those things and sounding like a 5yr old. I apologized for the length and how I know she doesn’t read emails on weekends and she probably prefers I voice it so “maybe I just won’t send it.” Alice, hit the SEND button. Bea sounds a lot like my therapist and it’s YOU that gave me the courage to write what I couldn’t yet speak and it has made such a wonderful difference in my therapy and more importantly in my trust and relationship with my therapist. In her response to my email today she said “thank you for being so courageous and brave.” She also told me how honored she was to be a part of my healing. Bea will feel the same. Hit SEND.
I am so glad you wrote to your therapist and that she responded so well.😊 Really, truly happy. Its amazing how many of us feel like children when we write or say these vulnerable things. I did send her this email, but omitted the veey last paragraph. I just sent it this morning, so she hasn’t responded yet.
The funny thing about therapists is, (and we don’t it while there), but they have not been through life altering trauma. And though there for help, once you move through, you will see so many qualities about yourself the therapist does not have. And even more so, has no real clue about. They can act as if, try to be empathetic, etc. but did not go through the same anguishing upheaval and come out the other side.
So much is within you. You have much to offer, and somehow do offer it even while working through so many levels of destructive crimes by others. Hang onto Hagrid and know there’s much within you that can sustain you even though it doesn’t feel that way. Much more than you think. It’s been you all along anyway ever since you were a little girl; no one else but you.
That is all true– most therapists have not experienced trauma. I sometimes wonder if Bea did because she understands so well, but i would never ask her.
Thank you for saying i have so much to offer. And reminding me that it has been me surviving since i was 5; that a part of me will keep fighting to be okay. Oh, by the way, that song you posted (fight song) has become my theme song. I have it on repeat on my iphone. I have played it so much even Kat and hubby know the lyrics! So thank you for that, too. Xx
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I just love that song, straight from the gut. Thank you for letting me know. Seems it made quite an impression on twitter also.
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This is so raw. I can see why you’re hesitant to share. But this is your truth and it deserves to be heard xx
Thank you. I sent It to her this morning, but haven’t heard back. Which is making me so anxious. 😕
I am sure. I would be anxious, too. Try to sit with those feelings and maybe read back older posts that confirm how supportive and caring Bea is. She will respond if and when she is able because you matter to her.
You are amazing and brave and speak with such honesty, Alice. I hope you hear back soon so you can breathe easier. What you wrote had to be difficult, and you know your story so well. That’s half the battle. 🌷
Thank you. She did write back. She reminded me that I am safe now, that the little girl is safe. She normalized the fact that I am feeling so crazy right now, and said it made sense with everything going on.
It’s funny that you say I know my story so well. I feel like I have peices, and bits but not a coherent tale. It comes out in writing making much more sense than it does in my head.
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Absolutely I get that. It’s the power of writing out stories out. Yours reads very coherently. Glad she confirmed what you were feeling was normal. It’s easy to feel like we’re crazy when we have anxiety.
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Writing truly is where i have found my voice. I can write so much more than i can say. I don’t know why. It just works that way.
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I think there are many of us who feel the same way, Alice. Thank goodness we have this outlet 🙂