Day 184: One Fear at a Time (Trigger Warning)
Pain. Deep and steady. It used to ride as a quiet undercurrent, an underground river flowing out of an aquifer. Now it is more of a wind storm. And, I really hate wind. I had some terrifying experiences with wind growing up. There was the wind blowing the camper around as we drove along treacherous roads in the mountains. There was the wind blowing the sailboat into a blind canyon against a 1,000 foot cliff wall. There was the wind in trees howling above as he took pictures of me, floating down the river. There was the wind almost ever present at our house, always blowing through our town. We lived along a gorge and it was windy with 30 mile per hour gusts just about every day.
I was afraid for my life repeatedly because of my step-father. These frightening moments were often caused by or accompanied by wind. We would go on forest service roads under terrible conditions into remote areas. The wind and rain would cause the truck to lose contact with the road and we would slide down an embankment. Or, the camper would rock back and forth, feeling to us inside it like we were in the Tower of Pisa. It was everything I could do not to look out the windows as we tipped precipitously back and forth over the edge. I often thought about how our bodies would be thrown across the inside of the camper as the truck rolled down the mountainside; and then the camper would separate from the little yellow pickup in mid-air. In my mind's eye as this happened, we'd (my siblings and I) be floating in the middle of the camper, able bodied and pain free for just a few seconds, looking into each others eyes, and then, SMASH, the camper would be obliterated along the rocks and trees, and us along with it.
At other times the fear was on water. I was afraid for my life in our sail boat many times. We would go out when people had no business being on the water. We'd go into thunder storms with 50 and 60 mile per hour winds. Once lightning was starting fires in the forest surrounding the lake. I remember one time in particular so clearly it's like it happened yesterday. We were in Arizona on a blazing hot summer day, putting the boat into the lake on a day when there were warnings posted to stay off the water. But, he was having none of that. The warnings were exaggerated. They're just for inexperienced boaters. Never mind this was our first summer with a boat!
We got out onto this huge lake that had many branches. And then a violent thunderstorm came in. It created waves that tipped the boat back and forth from one hand rail to the other. The sails were pulled in because my parents and older siblings couldn't keep the boat upright. There was the lightning striking all around us. They put the four 'little ones' (me and my three younger siblings) into the hold underneath the bow. I'll never forget having the grim thought that if we capsized, they'd never be able to get us out of there. We were pushed up into these tunnel-like spaces underneath the benches that made up the seating area on deck. If the boat turned over, there is no way we'd be able to get out. I wanted so much to go into the cabin, to have just a fighting chance of survival. I wanted to be able to swim for shore. I had a life jacket on. I believed I had much better chances by myself in the water than I stood inside the hold. I was petrified.
We lay inside the hold all night long, listening to the howling of the wind through the sail wires. That sound, I can't think how to describe it. It was like a ghost whistling. The boat rocked ferociously all night long. The motor drowned out and we were left without power, blown helplessly into a blind canyon. The boat ended up against a cliff wall. The force of the wind and the waves were clearly going to snap the boat like a twig in God's hands. My parents and older siblings climbed outside and put themselves between the boat and the cliff wall. They braced their feet and held the boat off the cliff wall for hours. We couldn't hear them over the wind. I didn't know if they were alive for sure or not. I held my sister and brother and just tried to stay calm. I didn't want them to know we might drown. They were scared, but didn't really understand what was happening.
The whistling of the wind in the wires is a sound that will probably always trigger me because of that night. Obviously, we survived. The sun came out the next morning and the cove we were in looked like a hurricane had struck. There was debris everywhere, giant tree branches, garbage, children's toys, rafts . . . all stuff that didn't come from our boat. I was sick to my stomach, violently so. That same day my step-father decided I needed to prove I could swim. So he removed my life-preserver and pulled me into the water with him. I guess I was 10 years old. And, of course, I could swim. But, he was furiously angry because I was so scared after that storm. I just wanted to get off the lake. So, he pulled me out away from the boat and then left me, telling me to swim back. "See. You have no reason to be afraid. So stop bellyaching or I'll give you something to bellyache about."
Whenever he took me rafting or fishing I was always conscious of the wind and the weather. It was always there and I worried what would happen next. We were in countless situations where we should not have been outside or on the water. And, then there was the camera. Always the pictures. I realize now he would risk anything to get me away from civilization in order to take those fucking pictures.
Nonetheless, I still love the water. I love rivers. I love being outdoors. I love being in the mountains. But, I hate wind.
For a long time now I have not been on a river. It has been probably 20 years. My H is not an outdoors person. I gave it up pretty much with my marriage vows. And, I haven't really minded. I have been too busy really to notice. But, I was invited to go rafting tomorrow. At first I didn't want to go. But, I thought about it and decided I would like to go, to try to enjoy the water again, to reconnect with something I love. I'm not sure I'll be able to go through with it. And, I am OK with changing my mind if it's too much for me.
One other topic: I have another friend I have brought into the truth of my life. She is someone I worked with in my former community. I'll call her Bad Ass Friend (BAF). One night a while back I was on Facebook. She messaged me and we got to chatting. I confessed I was having a very difficult time. We are close and I felt it was OK to tell her about this blog. I didn't know if she would read it and it was OK if she didn't. But, I didn't want to explain what was going on with me. It was easier to point her to the blog. We didn't chat again for a good while. She was very busy and I assumed she didn't have time to read it. And that was OK.
But then recently she got in touch with me in response to one of my postings. She wanted me to know she is there for me. BAF called me today having read these most recent postings and let me know she is another person I can call if I find myself in the depths of despair. She wants to also be a resource to me. She was in tears as she talked. She has known me a long time and was surprised by my story, by the pain I'm experiencing. She told me today my story explains a lot. She told me she has been on the receiving end of my anger and how deeply it cut.
I apologized. She said it was a long time ago. Still, I apologized. I wanted her to know I am sorry for the cruelty of my temper. She also related a time to me we took a drive across state when she thought I was dissociated. I didn't remember the drive. It was good to have someone who loves me affirm my perception about my temper. I feel bad I hurt her and I'm thankful she forgave me. It is an important affirmation for me that I need to complete this healing process. I don't want to have such a sharp temper any more. I know I have improved. I am doing better.
Now to address all these other fears and pain. One at a time. Gently.