Much of the content may be a bit dark, but it is not necessarily in chronological order. There are no dates, because I don't think it matters if I wrote it 3 years ago or yesterday. I decided to write for me and I know most of the time I feel like writing is when I have something I need to process or work through; this is really my only place to come to and release.

I am not miserable, I am just healing.

something that we suffered

I am reading a book, one that a friend thought might help me on the journey I have embarked on. I’m not sure it’s the book for me just yet, but I am pulling from it what I can… partly because I paid $15.99 for it and I would like to get something out of it worth roughly $16 or more, and partly because I would like a book that is for me, so I figure I should give all applicants a fighting chance. 

As I was reading today, I came to the part where the author talks about admitting that you were abused. I don’t think I had given it much thought before then, whether I could say it out loud or the feelings attached to it when I did. I am pretty outspoken and forthcoming with what I am feeling, generally. I suppose you could say it is a handicap. I am sure I accidentally alienate people sometimes or give TMI, but it is me. Maybe it is over-compensation for growing up in an emotional vacuum, but that’s another day’s work. At any rate, there are plenty of people I might accuse of knowing me well, and they would attest to the fact that I am rarely embarrassed or scared to tell you that I am hurting, mad, confused, or excited. I learned while young the power of words, so I try to express myself with others’ feelings in consideration, but I definitely express myself.

So, when I stopped to think about how I feel admitting I was sexually abused, I was kind of shocked to realize that I feel embarrassed. In fact, the thought of just saying it as a declarative statement makes me feel naked and exposed and like I am part of some group that everyone stares at, pities, and whispers about. Of course, I have discussed it before, though never in full detail and almost always as an answer rather than a statement. There is some embarrassment when the answer to a question asked is an affirmation of my past, but the thought of just saying “I was sexually abused” makes my stomach turn. It is too real, too defining… too permanent. It lets the abuse become something big enough that it has to be acknowledged and given a sentence. It has to be given a moment, part of my life that was supposed to be free from it.

To declare it is to say that my mother was wrong to ignore it and to deny it. It means I can’t wish it actually didn’t happen anymore. It means that the things I told myself were not abuse were and that the magnitude is, in fact, worse than I was trying to tell myself it was. I am no different than so many other people. We justify it so we can keep it small. We call it something else, play it down, or deny it altogether. We say we do it because it isn’t important, but really, we just want to keep it little… not so bad… keep it okay. It is easier to let it be something that just happened than it is to let it be something that we suffered.

So, my step today is to make it real, to take the power from my mother who wanted it to be my fault, and to take the confusion from Bill, who wanted me to think it was okay. I need to take it and make it what it is and nothing less. No more limbo or misguided hope. Just truth.

I was sexually abused by my adoptive father.


Linda used to be nice when people were looking. She smiled, laughed, and acted involved when there were witnesses. My mother knew how to be nice and knew that it was what others expected. I cannot excuse her by saying she didn’t know she was being mean; she knew enough to only do it in private. I cannot say she was just unhappy nor had a short fuse; she controlled her mood just fine when she had to. She had the presence of mind to think “I am around people so I can’t call my daughter a slut.” This was obviously a very self-centered rationalization. She cared about the opinions of others, not the actual effect of her actions. She knew it was wrong, but the why was misconstrued. If it was no longer hurting her, then there must not be any pain to consider.  

And if her methods were questioned of she felt the need to justify herself, she would not hesitate at all to throw her children under the bus. She gave reasons why we deserved it, lists of things we did to her, and talked about how unfair we were to her. Often, this trash-talking to other people was knowingly said within earshot of us kids. We could hear her talk about how bad we were and how unhappy we made her. We could hear her lie, exaggerate, and attack us. And I am not talking about older children (not that it matters), but young… very young. I was in elementary school when I remember distinctly listening to my mother putting me down and talking about how bad of a kid I was when I was sitting just down the hall from her and whoever was with her. 

How does a child’s self esteem survive listening to their mother put them down to save her own image. How does a child hold onto the thought and feeling that their mother loves them when she throws them to the wolves to be chastised and disciplined rather than defending them. My mother was that mom who, instead of questioning the problems a school is giving her child after a deadly illness caused absence from class, decides she is more concerned with looking bad and therefore helps blame the child during the conference that is held with teachers and the principal. She is the mother who not only does not question why her daughter is being treated unfairly, but adds her own lies to jump on the band wagon to take the heat off of the fact that she is unsupportive, uninvolved, and has no clue who her daughter is or what is going on in her life. She lied to save her reputation with no regard to the fact that she had just assisted in the destruction of what had been a promising education and record for an intelligent and hopeful child.

The sense of abandonment in that moment that I felt cannot be put into words. I was not only alone, but cornered, and my mother was there backing me in. The frustration… the loneliness… the helplessness of that moment is still tangible. I can still put myself in that seat and feel like the most lost child in the world more than 10 years later. You do not just forget or get over it. It is profound and defining when you realize that you do not have an advocate. Your mother will never tell someone to shut up for putting down her kids; she will join in with them. She will not tell teachers to go to hell; she will nod with them and lie to hide her uselessness. Your mother is not that mother bear, she is a snake in the grass.

I catch myself being short with my son sometimes. I catch myself acting in a way my head tells me later is not how I want to act. Of course, my moments of frustration are minor in nature, but I have no desire to welcome even a hint of irrational impatience into my relationship with my son. No matter what I know, I never learned how to do it differently. I never learned how to be a parent who understands children’s imperfections. I had no well of knowledge to draw from, so I have to teach myself. I work hard to talk myself through not being what I have seen. The way you do thing without thinking, I am predestined to have a short fuse. But unlike my mother, I am concerned with the pain other than my own. I do not want my son to hurt or be scared or be ashamed. So, I try to learn. I monitor my own actions and change course the best way I can when automation tries to take hold. I see myself getting impatient, but I have no intention of letting that be me. That was Linda and it does not have to spread to me. The thought of making my son hurt makes me nauseous. So, I put in the work. Because the thought of abandoning my child emotionally is terrifying, and the thought of my son thinking he needs to defend himself against me is unimaginable.

We all, as parents, have moments were we later look back and wish we had handled things differently. We are human and have days where things annoy us more easily or where that question does actually bother us the third time it is asked. We all have things about our parents we want to change in our own parenting styles. Obviously, in some cases, breaking cycles means more work and more vital changes, but we all have those lessons we have to learn ourselves. I will forever wish my parents had given me even a remote foundation to build on when it came to being a good mom, or even a decent one. But the love I have for my son is what sets me apart from them... it is what makes me think of his little heart before mine. I make mistakes, but I will never stop being a mother bear.


Photo by Angelina Williams
We think we have moved on. We think we are strong. We think being strong means that we are not affected, we are not hurt, we are not damaged. We think surviving means never looking back… never hurting for the past… never crying over spilled milk that is 20 years old.

I spent much of my late teens and early twenties thinking I was amazing because I had survived and had done so while remaining strong and positive and… unaffected. I could not think about it. I could separate myself from it until thinking or talking about the events of my life felt like a surreal story of some stranger and not myself. I still feel that way sometimes, but I have come to this point where things are starting to feel real, and mine. I am still strong, but I cry out of nowhere just driving down the road or thinking about what I want for breakfast. I don’t have breakdowns over driving or avocados, but little bits of ownership sneak up and kick me in the heart for not acknowledging them and dealing with them before. It’s like the memory that I have had a million times all of the sudden comes with an emotional companion other than anger or self deprecation. 

I have talked about my story, but I always feel like I am talking about someone else. I can't look people in the eye when I talk about it because I feel like I am lying.  I shake. I shake so hard I can’t make myself stop. And it doesn’t stop for hours. But it still doesn’t feel emotional. I don’t feel like crying or in pain, there is just that physical reaction as evidence that it is in fact my story.  Talking about someone else’s abuse does not make your body shake violently. It doesn’t. There are times when I question whether I am pretending it was bad when it really wasn’t and that shaking is my only conformation to myself that it was real, and it was not ‘not that bad’. I still feel disconnected; a coping mechanism I am sure saved me from some serious problems more immediately during and after my younger years, but more and more every day I am realizing that I didn’t make anything go away, I didn’t forget anything, and I did not get out unaffected. I am starting to connect dots and accepting that that voice screaming in my head has all rights to do so. I know I am at the doorstep of what can only be a lot of pain and hard work for the rest of my life, but I am clearly not sitting with my back to the door anymore. And that isn’t to say that disconnecting that way was all bad. I am not sure how I would have dealt with things had I not been able to smile and compartmentalize and cut connections. But it can’t last forever… not if I want to be any different than the people who put that pain there to begin with. That voice has a right to be screaming, but if I keep not listening to it then there is no telling how mad and unhappy it will make every other part of my soul.

In a way, I have felt so disconnected that I felt like a fraud if I acted hurt or talked about it as if it was horrible. How do you talk about something you know people will tell you is terrible and NOT feel like a fraud if you don’t feel the pain you should if it was really that terrible? How do you feel like your story is worth anything, believable, or profound if you can’t put the emotion with the story that you think should be associated with it? You can’t. But I am starting to make associations that show me that I am not a fraud and that pain is there… and that story is real. Because I dream of not being able to move. I nearly lose it in my foster parenting class. And because I cry driving down the road.


Sometimes I dream about Linda, my mother. I don't call her that anymore, though. Not unless I am explaining to someone new who she is in relation to me. My mom is Debbie, my dad's wife. I feel her love more in the first 5 minutes of my visits than I ever did in a life time of being Linda's child. But I digress... my dreams...

Just like many things in my life lately, this is another thing that has been screaming at me to think about it, but I have somehow missed the intent. I brushed them off as products of past pain and never thought that they might be telling of the present. But then again, until just a few months ago I was still lying to myself about being unaffected. Of course I didn't think the dreams meant anything about now; I thought I was fine right now. They are, however, my present. Every single dream that includes Linda plays out the same way. The stories are different, but the progression of emotions is the same. And let me tell you, these dreams are one of two types of the strongest dreams I ever experience. One type is for discussion some other day. But these dreams, my god, I FEEL them. 

Regardless of the story playing out, eventually Linda enters the dream. We are getting along at first but it quickly becomes some situation where I am doing something that I think she will like or approve of and she either ignores is or dismisses it. I can feel the need to see her smile at me or touch me or acknowledge me in a positive way. It isn't like most dreams where it is like you are watching a movie. I feel the ache like I am awake and standing there in the flesh. Then things turn. She always says something that hurts or does something terrible and I begin to try to tell her how mad I am, but she doesn't hear me. I mean, she hears me but she acts like what I am saying is the equivalent of telling her the time of day. She is completely unrattled or unmoved by my expression of hurt and sadness. So, I progress to this level of anger that becomes hatred...pure hatred. There is no other word for it, and I feel it like it is happening in real time. I hate her through every part of my body and I feel like I am going to explode. My stomach is in a solid ball and I can feel the pain in my fingertips. I am always just trying to get her to see that she has made me hate her. I am screaming at her and feeling this hate and all I want is for her to see what it is and realize how strong she has made it. But in every dream she is oblivious and nothing I am saying is getting in. Every single dream with Linda in it happens this exact way and has for years. I always wake up still feeling that hate, that need for her to just hear me and not just hear the words. For her to see me, not just look at me.

Waking up from a dream that strong, you can't describe it to other people who have not experienced it. Even nightmares don't feel that real. Emotions don't normally run through straight to your bones and your gut when you are dreaming, not like that. I have woken up scared before, but I would trade a million nightmares for one of these dreams where I wake up trying to make someone see that I hate them. Or that all I was ever trying to do was love them. Trying not to be invisible.

I struggle with why my mother never protected me. It makes me hate her more than I hate the man who put his hands on me. Don't get me wrong, the woman was abusive as well, if not worse so. But the reason that I seem to keep coming back to her is because she left me to the wolves more than once. I don't ever dream about Bill. Never. But I dream about Linda a couple times a month at least. And she still doesn't see me or the pain. I just wish I could stop screaming at a ghost. I just want her to understand, to feel. I want all this weight I have to come down on her so she can really know it. It is impossible. Linda will never understand or feel responsible or truly see the carnage she left behind. She will hear blame and refuse to listen to the pain. How do I get my dreams to realize what my head knows... that Linda is never going to be my mom in any other sense than a name on a birth certificate?

Forgiving her is suppose to be what will save me, but how do you forgive someone who can't acknowledge what they have done... who can't apologize with any amount of actual sincerity... who thinks they have done nothing significantly wrong? How do you stop hating someone in your dreams?


I am not sure why I am here or what I am going to say, I just know I feel like I need to talk... to tell someone how much I hurt right now. No one is going to understand it, so there is no one to talk to about it anyway, but it doesn't stop me from wishing it wasn't 1:31am so I could at least unload to someone, regardless of whether they understood or not. I feel like I can't breathe. For a few minutes I couldn't, but now I just feel like I can't. I have no right to feel this way is what my head keeps saying, but my gut and my heart, and my lungs, and every inch of my body is not in agreement. It's like a death, or a loss of some sort. It is like a life time is taken from my hands, only it wasn't actually in my hands anymore... I am talking in circles. I don't know how to put this into words. I am not sure I have been in this kind of pain before. I am not saying it is the worst pain I have felt, but it is the only pain of its kind I have ever felt. Knowing what that means and what that says just makes the pain even stronger. It makes me scared that nothing else will ever get so close to me that it would hurt this bad to finally lose it. It makes me scared that this is the only thing that will ever hurt me this way because nothing else will be able to be this... vital. I have fallen in love once in my life. Just once.