Day 57: Abandonment (--Trigger Warning--)
Oh boy, this one is long. I apologize to anyone who reads this. I had a lot to get off my chest.
Last week I had an exercise I put off related to talking about the things I still never talk about. This is an ongoing thread for me. Many of my postings have been from that question. It's actually what caused me to look for a place like Pandy's.
I am coming to understand all of the items related to things I never say make up the central themes of my story. About a week ago I decided I have now told my entire story. I have gotten it all out of my system.
But, something was nagging me deep down. This nagging might be contributing to my insomnia. I realized there might be one or more threads I have not plucked. Here are the threads I have addressed (or at least mentioned in passing) so far:
- physical abuse
- digital rape
- rape by a health professional
- child sexual abuse
- child on child sexual abuse
- homosexual sexual abuse
- self injury
- substance abuse
- lack of authentic relationships
- inability to trust
For tonight there is a new thread I want to explore: Abandonment.
It's a particularly difficult word for me. It ranks up there with Neglect in terms of things I don't want to talk about.
I think abandonment entered my life when I was a small child left with baby sitters where abuse happened. The first violently painful abandonment, the one that scarred me for life, was when my dad (my real dad - the dad that wore a navy pea coat with toys in his pockets, who smelled of Old Spice, and had a big Santa Claus laugh) dragged me out of bed in the middle of the night. From a deep sleep he carried me to the living room. I was all of seven or maybe eight years old.
I remember the living room having a fuzzy, out-of-focus golden glow to it. The lights were low and it was pitch black outside. He said to me, "If you don't stop your mother, you'll never see me again." He then set me on the floor in front of her and I became instantly, completely hysterical. I screamed and clung to my mother's legs, pulling on her, pleading and sobbing for her not to make daddy go away. Somehow I knew he was saying she was going to make him go away. Maybe he said that to me. I can't remember clearly.
I remember my head filling up. It felt like cement.
My cries did not result in changing her mind. My parents got divorced. And, within weeks (or maybe months) my mother was remarried to our dad's friend. We had a bunch of new 'siblings,' kids that scared me, actually. They were mean. They were selfish. They smelled bad.
Truly. They smelled bad. Me and my blood siblings all have a nickname for it. I'm sorry I can't repeat it here, because I think it's really funny.
Some of the worst violence that happened in my early childhood happened when those children were in our house. When they arrived, so did the Hotwheel Tracks and the arrow sticks. Before them, a spanking in my house was with a hand. And, it was rare. When the step father and step siblings arrived, there was a new constant layer of furious discipline hanging over everything we did or said. We had to become very quiet. We had to keep our distance from our mother. She was his. She was his alone.
My father and two of my siblings moved away before my mom married my step dad. I remember nothing after the night when my dad dragged me out of bed until the day they drove away. Losing my siblings was even worse than the terrible night of the golden foggy light in the living room. It was burning, stinging, glaring sunlight. The sky was clear blue, deceptively perfect. We were not allowed to show our grief. I wanted to grab them and cling to them and keep them with us. All I could do was sit silently in the window holding onto the pine window sill and watch the road pull them away. Around the corner and then gone.
The next summer the others of us who remained behind got to go for a visit for a few weeks. While we were out of state visiting our father and siblings, my new family moved from one city to another. This was the fourth time in my life I had moved. I had lived in another country until I was five, before we came to the USA. But this move was different. This move meant leaving the place where I had memories of my father and brothers. It was the final cut to complete the removal of a limb. That year life felt like a limb was being hacked off. When we returned from the visit with our father, the incision was complete. No sadness allowed.
It's ironic to me to think I felt such deep loss when leaving that home. That was the place where I was raped the first time. That was the place where I experienced homosexual child on child sexual abuse . . . twice.
The move to a new city with our new family was a definitive nail in a coffin for me. It closed off any hope of feeling connected to other people ever again. For many years I believed the divorce was my fault. I didn't try hard enough to stop it. As a result, I formed a deeply held belief that I am responsible for preventing bad things from happening.
The sexual abuse by my step father started not long after our arrival in our new city. Then, they moved us again, under the same circumstances as the previous time. They sent us away to visit our father and siblings. While we were away, they moved us. This time when they moved us they got rid of our dogs. From this move, I learned that people who are supposed to care for you and love you will betray you in indescribably painful ways, taking away the only source of love and affection in your life. This move is the one that happened after I got into two violent fights and was nearly committed to a mental health facility. It was the summer after seventh grade.
So, similar to our prior move, I should have felt relieved. I was leaving a place where I experienced incredible violence. This was a city where I was molested by a bum in a park. This was the city where we would go on trips that would require us to be naked for him to watch. This is the city where he began taking pictures of me. This was the city where my step-father began programming me. This was the city where I had sex with a boy voluntarily for the first time (I was twelve). But, this time, although I felt sad to leave, it was almost no emotion whatsoever. I didn't have anything left to give to such pain. I hung my head internally as if to say, "it is done."
Not long after arriving in our new city, when I was twelve years old, our mom sat me down with one of my siblings. She told us our step-father was, "done raising children." She put us on notice that we would be responsible for ourselves. She was no longer available to us at all. Up to that point we could get some of her attention. She might play cards with us on Thanksgiving. She might listen to us talk about something from school. She might attend a school play. But, as of that day, no more time for us. We would have food provided, and clothing. That was it.
They would leave for weeks at a time. I have some hilarious stories of adventures we enjoyed as children and teenagers raising ourselves. Many riotous moments occurred, some of which we were lucky to survive. But, we laughed and played and experienced extraordinary joy on many occasions. In part, I think we were compensating for the hollow feelings we had because of neglect and abandonment. It was those joyful moments that helped us retain our sanity. At least we could still laugh.
I have always thought the literal abandonment expressed by my mom to us when I was twelve, was one of the best things that could have happened. Because, in that moment I realized something was wrong with them. I knew it was messed up to leave your 12 year old daughter with three younger children ranging from six to nine years old. Additionally, having less exposure to our step-dad was a good thing. It meant the beatings became rare. The level of violence of the beatings reduced. No more Hotwheel Tracks or arrow sticks.
It didn't interrupt the sexual abuse. But, it was still better than facing the daily onslaught of his violent temper in addition to the sexual abuse.
So, in the end I learned that being abandoned was the best thing for me. It was not only what I deserved because I didn't keep my mom from divorcing my dad, it was what I needed.
I refuse to continue believing I deserved or needed to be abandoned. I'm trying really hard not to let that belief retain any tendrils.