After going through much of my life privately pissed off yet publicly functioning as normal, I entered therapy to save myself from myself. Something in the way I was dealing with a childhood trauma was no longer a viable option and it was time to let someone who knew better help. Over time the individual sessions gave way to group workshops and one workshop was on ‘forgiveness’. I liked the idea because in my whole life there was only this one incident that I felt unable to offer forgiveness. The book used also incorporated writing so that was right up my alley. As I worked through the book, Forgiveness is A Choice by Robert Enright, Ph. D., I came across a writing assignment with the following directions:
As one step in confronting your anger, please take the time to review what you have written in your journal from the entries in Chapters 4 & 5. Write a one- to two-page letter to the person, one that you do not send. Try to express to the person the learning that you have gained so far. Let the person know why you are angry, how angry you are, and the struggles you’ve endured because of the unfairness.
I was shocked with what came of the assignment. And I still return to it as it and I both morph over time.
I am learning the extent to which your actions have harmed me and stilted the development of my life path. The anger of the initial trauma is not something I was ever able to feel since I was immediately thrown into a sense of shock at what was happening and have only later figured out the full extent of what happened. That may be why I am to this moment so afraid—to the point of physically responding—so afraid of my anger. It makes me nauseous to the point of wanting to vomit right now when I think about what went on when I was only six. My breathing is stilted and I get hot and clammy all at the same time. My knuckles turn white from the intense stronghold I have on whatever I can grasp at the time. I look around wondering where the next attack will come from, sure that I won’t see it in time. It is now in my 50th year of life that I am able to express the devastation that your actions have on me and my life.
Beginning with your strategy of sneakiness in whisking me away from the sisters and making me feel ‘chosen’ above them or over them is a manipulation beyond the years of a twelve year old. That in and of itself has made me wonder for years if someone else had the same impact on your life by doing the same to you. How could anyone at the age of twelve be so deceptive without having learned it from someone? Though I struggle with whether or not the answer to that question would make a difference in my dealing with this situation and moving on I am not interested right now in impacting anyone else’s life but my own. At this point in my life your traumas are not my issue.
I can remember all the moments of the trauma and how in the moments I would close my mind off to what was happening and go somewhere else. I knew it would be over soon because all the time was stolen time. Unfortunately, I can remember it all.
I can remember the moment I knew it was something that was not right and that what you were doing was evil; frozen in fear and knowing I was unable to do anything about it or even what to do. Just as I could not remove your hand from covering my mouth from uttering a sound, my brain could not utter the words later to tell anyone what was happening. If you deemed it a secret by covering my mouth, who was I the younger child to question my elder? I remember the discovery by others and knowing that trouble was coming because of it and I had no way to stop it but somehow it was my fault since I was the one on the doctor table. I remember the feeling, the sight, the smell, and the frightening experience of having my bladder punctured with a tube to release the urine I refused to release because of the pain. I remember the older nurse’s disgust as urine sprayed all over the room and the younger nurse’s compassion and tear filled eyes. I locked eyes with her until it was over.
I remember once again my mother outside the room unaware of the pain. She is still “outside the room unaware” today regardless of our very recent frank conversation. I remember her dismissive commentary and contradictory responses uttered in her inability to accept what I was saying to her. In that memory comes a new resentment that is born from an anger that can never fully evolve. She is too old; time is too short; no purpose would be served in going down that road. At this point in my life her denials are not my issue.
The most important aspect I have learned in my journey is the impact that ‘dismissiveness” has on my life. In the moments, I dismissed what was happening. In the reveal, my mother and father dismissed what happened with a simple “ask and ye shall receive” forgiveness notion. The reason I am having trouble with forgiveness now. In the aftermath that is the rest of my life it has been one dismissal after another. Starting with that event because I had to box it up and pack it away since no one else told me what to do with it; it just sat in a dark corner of my brain. Every time it tried to surface I dismissed it by pushing the lid back down on the box. Nothing I have done has been my own, has been good enough, or has warranted any attention by anyone. All my accomplishments in my professional life are not even on the horizon as an accomplishment by anyone else in my family. I am simply a ‘teacher’. What I do now that is my own is not understood and dismissed for some reason.
Keeping the lid on the box is something I did for forty-three years before finally being unable to keep the lid on any longer. In hopes of saving the next generation from the sins of the last it had to be shared. Afterwards, listening to a family doctor choosing to see someone to help the healing truly begin.
The shocking aspect that I have learned is how much I dismiss myself in my daily decisions and actions. While I know the value of the hard work my life has been to get to the point I have reached, and the accomplishments I have made on a day to day basis, I dismiss myself and my needs, thoughts, etc. to this day on a daily basis. I know and acknowledge how hard I have worked to get through school, get my degree, get a career, positions in professional organizations, and in my career path. I know how massive a decision it was to give up on a marriage that was doomed to violence and escape with a four month old knowing what price that would mean for my son. I know how wonderful my nuclear family of my son is and how raising him has blessed my life; being a little league mom and supporting him in becoming the best young man he can without male influence to depend on; what a great work ethic he has; and what a wonderful partner he is on most days to his wife.
I am saddened and newly angered by the notion of me dismissing myself.
So along with working on reacting appropriately in the moment to snide or critical commentary from others, I need to learn to stand up for myself with myself and be proactive in living my life and ceasing to just exist. Watch out world, here I come!