Taken part 2

First, there was food. Or rather the lack of food. As I had mentioned, my father expected us to follow a macrobiotic diet.  Brown rice, vegetables.  Plus, admonitions to eat your drinks and drink your food. One hundred chews of each bite. No liquids at meals or for a time afterward.

And fasts.  My father was a huge proponent of fasting.  Nothing but water, sometimes for multiple days.

This is one time I actually got lucky.  When I was seven my father had run out of juice in the house.  He told me to drink water, instead. I got rebellious and stubborn. I didn’t drink.  For 2 or 3 days. Finally, he became concerned I would get dangerously dehydrated.  So, he took me to the local 7-11 and got me an enormous slushie.

For that day forward, I would not drink water, no matter what.  Therefore, my father left grape juice for me to use instead, during fasts.  That juice tasted more wonderful than anything you can imagine.

It is hard to know, in some cases, whether They were too busy getting high to think about us, or whether they were simply sadistic. There would be separate food for my sister and me.  Rancid brown rice. Over ripe fruit. Rotting vegetables. Anything. I think, that they felt they could get away with.

When there was simply no food, I would scoop snow from outside and pour maple syrup over it, telling my sister and Moses (the other child) that it was ice cream.  Other times we would eat frozen orange juice concentrate out of the container. It was sticky, and very sweet.  We ate it with a spoon, on the sly.  My heart raced every time.  I didn’t know what would happen if they caught us.   I knew, however, that it would be something awful.

This alone was enough to give me serious food issues. My father added to the confusion by bringing food, especially Chinese take-out, home when he had been gone. He told me to eat my desert first because life is to be savored.  So, I would eat and eat.  Perhaps trying to store it up in my stomach for the inevitable drought to come.

He was my savior.  That food was a tangible expression of love.  I never allowed myself to think that all the deprivation was on his command.

Perhaps it seems strange that I did not question all of this.  Why I didn’t try to get help.  Why I didn’t tell someone. 
We were completely isolated.  We didn’t go to school.  We didn’t see people of any kind, other than Them and, sometimes, families having a baby.  It may as well have been a cult.

Next, were things that violated my mind and my body.

My father taught me to do guided relaxation, tensing and releasing each muscle group in succession.  He also coached me to Astral project.  To imagine myself somewhere far away.  To leave my body and fly to there.  He would have me sit in one position, either cross-legged or on my knees. To would coach me to go within.  To ignore the discomfort.  I would find a place filled with lights within me and float along with them.

That, along with the lessons on how to do sex acts, certainly served me well.  I spent most of my life blaming myself for the levels of depravity to which They sunk.  I was sure my father knew nothing.  I didn’t even wonder if it was a coincidence that they demanded or required skills he had created.

Still, it seemed he was gone more than he was there.  When he was gone it was a whole different world.  They loved to get high, drink, take drugs, and experiment with all things sexual. Between parties and overly sexual activities they enjoyed small tortures.  A soapy hot enema. Or, sometimes, as a douche. They would scream and hit. Knowing we would never tell.

At the parties I would bring a joint around the room or go fetch drinks.  They thought it was funny to blow smoke in my face.  I would try to hold my breath.  That didn’t go over very well.  Once, one of the women got tired of me holding my breath.  She forced me onto the bed and spread my legs.  She ran her tongue over what she found; then blew smoke into me.  “one hole is good as another” she fairly crowed.

 Sometimes, they would bake pot brownies.  They didn’t taste very good, being filled with crumbled leaves and the occasional seed. But they were sweet.  They were food.  They didn’t have to tell me twice.

I have this picture in my mind.  A picture of me, kneeling at the side of the enormous waterbed.  Watching the water undulate as they coupled in every combination you can imagine. That picture allowed me to survive.  To pretend that I was merely an observer.

The truth is far more complex and far more depraved.

It began with me on that side of the bed.  Watching.  But soon I was enlisted to be a part of their party games.  I would sit on the bed, in the middle of the tangle of bodies.  A touch here, a touch there. They especially thought it was fun to make me aroused, with angry shots of electricity that made me need to pee. That feeling always made me cry.  I soon learned not to give them the satisfaction, however.

It was a slow, long road to my capitulation.  To get to the point where I believed I was a black and ugly as they were. To the point where I would not just watch, would not just do as ordered.  A point where I would initiate sexual activities.  I have been assured that I had no choice.  That, in my mind at the very least, I was doing what I had to in order to survive. To protect my sister and Moses.

It wasn’t a pretty road.  I witnessed Buffalo raping his wife.  Heard him say time and again that soon I would be big enough and that would be me.  They degraded me. Touched me and made me touch them.  I don’t know which was worse, the men, or the women.

It was as if, with no contact with others, stuck there is our own bubble of a world, they lost their moorings.  Every indignity, every shameful action, emboldened them more.

I had only two choices, live, or die.  Accede to their desires or fight back.  I supposed it was inevitable that, sooner or later, Buffalo would rape me. 
The memory is fuzzy, feelings more than thoughts or visions.  I was face down on the waterbed, his weight focused in his hand on my back.  It hurt.  Of course.  But it also made it very clear that he could, and would, do anything he like. 

I decided then that I would take control.  If I initiated sex acts, I would be the one with the power.  I would be safe.  I could guide the game, keep me safe and the other children, too.

I began to push myself. To force my body toward pain.  To take joy in hurting and shaming myself. I hated me as much as I hated them. I deserved to suffer.  I wanted to suffer.

All of this was hidden, behind that frozen memory, until I was well into my 40’s.  Because I couldn’t afford to know I had been that person. 

I was already suffering from severe depression.  I spent years fascinated with death.  Longing for the release. But I couldn’t do that, either.  I knew I had to be there. There for my sister.  There for my father.

So, I did what I had been taught.  How often did I abandon my body, once I had approached them sexually?  Hoping against hope that, somehow, I would be freed.  I feared them far more than I feared death. 
I couldn’t imagine ever leaving that house. Going back to my mother was out.  Because my father needed me.  Loved me.  And because she frightened me.  Around her I feared this deep, dark blackness. Something so horrid I couldn’t even imagine it.  Something far worse than death.

Interlude

I think, when people treat you like a burden, like a throw away, you start to live down to those expectations. There were occasions, when we were in that house, of downright defiance.  Of taking my life in my hands, just to spite them. Because it was taking my life into my hands.  With the things they had done, and would do, being killed did not seem out of the realm of possible.
The physical and emotional pain was intense. There was nothing to compare it to.  There was no release.  I didn’t believe I would make it out of there, many days.

This was not one of those days.

Moses, my sister, and I were thrown in the bathtub.  Something that was not, sadly, a daily experience.  Still, we were children, and even in the middle of any horror children will find a way to be children.  We were splashing and laughing. They were no where around, so we were ignored.

Moses got out of the tub to go to the bathroom.  After he had sat there for a few moments he stood up with a mischievous look in his eyes.  He put the seat up and reached down into the pot.

We shrieked. He laughed and put his hand down into the water.  Amid the squeals and laughter, he covered his belly in the stinky. When They still didn’t appear, we also got out of the bath.  Still dripping water, we all reached into the bowl, using every bit of the stinky. We covered ourselves as best we could.

Someone used a handful to wipe it on another.  Soon, we were laughing and chasing each other around the upstairs. 

Of course, that much fun could not go unabated. Soon enough, an angry mother came up to see what was going on.  Somehow, we decided we would not stop.  We ran from her.  Down the staircase and out the door. An act of defiance that usually would be far beyond me.

They were dangerous, there was no question.  Any such display should have been impossible for us. Normally, we were too cowed for such behavior.  Perhaps it was because he had joined us.  Perhaps it was so outside the expected that she didn’t know what to do.

Soon enough, the laughter and fun were going to have to end.

In that moment, however, we had the upper hand. A feeling I was going to transfer to other, far more dangerous, situations before too much time had passed.

Taken

So, I talked a little bit about the shame I experienced as a little girl.  It left me feeling that I was defective.  I didn’t have a right to be here.  I wanted to not exist.  That feeling continued through most of my life.  Although there were plenty of things that happened in-between, next I am going to tackle the precursors to the biggest contributor to my toxic shame.

When I turned 9 my father took my little sister and I on a visitation. (My parents had separated when I was 6). We went to Florida to visit my Great-grandfather.  On the way home my sister got sick from flying, so his girlfriend was with her in the bathroom.

It was New Year’s Eve. While he and I were sitting, waiting for them to come out I was thinking about my mother. There was this hard lump in my chest and I could feel the prickling of impending tears.  I turned to him and said something to the effect of, I don’t want to go home.  Or maybe it was, I want to stay with you.  My mother frightened me.  She always had.  But since the separation it was worse. She was intent on preventing me from growing up to be like my father. I read it as more proof I was Wrong.

Anyway, my father looked at me with an inscrutable look on his face.  “Well,” he told me “it isn’t in my plans, and it will be very inconvenient for me, but since you asked, I will keep you.” Did I see a flicker of triumphant glee?

That hard lump plummeted to my feet. I had been looking for attention and approval. To remind him I was on his side.  Now, instead, I had a premonition of bad things to come.   Because of that very brief exchange, I blamed myself for everything that happened in the six months that followed.

Much of went on before we ended up in the house where we would eventually stay is fuzzy in my mind.  I remember sleeping on someone’s floor. I remember visiting several houses, mostly of pregnant women.

 My father, a MD, had forgone the head of surgery appointment in exchange for working as a home childbirth practitioner.

When we finally arrived at Shirley (the name of the town where the house was) I remember being tired and scared.  The house was supposedly haunted.  The first night there, while my father made whatever arrangements he made for them to care for us whenever he was busy catching babies.  I remember playing with the fire in the fireplace.

The logs sputtered and spit out plumes of sparking red embers. Then there were the candles.  I would stick my finger in the gooey wetness, then watch it harden into a slippery tip.  Only to melt it back down in the flame.  I would slowly run my finger through the flame, thrilling in the possibility of pain, of damage. 

So, for the first time I can remember, I sought pain to comfort and ground me.  To make the inexplicable somehow not.  I was going to live in this big, beautiful, but haunted house?  At least I’d be with Daddy, I told myself.  He would make everything ok.  That was his purpose.

Then I met Them.  There were five adults in the house, a single man who lived in the attic and two married couples who each had a 6-month-old baby.  One of them also had an 8-year-old boy.  I say Them because they became largely interchangeable in the light of everything that was yet to transpire.  

The women are a blur.  A flounced skirt, perhaps?  A sense of hippies. A thick smell of marijuana smoke.

Buffalo stood out in sharp relief. A huge presence with a scraggly beard and nauseating body odor. I could tell I wouldn’t want to get on his bad side.

I longed to run and hide behind my father.  However, thanks in part to my mother, I was adept at suppressing fear.  Never let them see you blink.

I was shell shocked by the entire situation.  I wanted to be with my father desperately.  I knew I would have a great deal of autonomy.  By which you should read neglect. My father tended to treat me as an equal.

He was secure in his imagined role of savior to society. At home childbirth.  Macrobiotic diet. Free love.  Hyperactive sexuality. Part of that role involved documenting for posterity every precious thought.  Sometimes he would take me out.  Though I don’t know where we went, I remember him recording his conversations while he explained it all to me.  I felt honored. I felt scared.  Some of it didn’t make sense.  Other parts did.  I felt this awesome responsibility as his protégée.

I felt responsible for the other children in the household. Taking care of the babies was fun, initially. Eventually, however, if became simply a chore shoved at me by parents that had better things to do. Or worse, depending on your view.  They all were heavy pot smokers, and other things I don’t know for sure what they were.

  I know one of the things they liked to use was LSD. I know because, much further into this journey, my father taught us to finger spell the alphabet.  He spelled out the letters, and when I repeated them aloud I though, for a moment, he might actually kill me.

He was severely paranoid.  Later diagnosed as schizophrenic or severe Bipolar 1. People watched him.  Went through his things.  The government was out to get him because he was changing the status quo.

The adults in the household were in a band. My father loved to play guitar and write songs.  It was up there with practicing medicine, for him.  They would take us out on gigs.  I remember one time when they played in a hotel.  They got a room for us kids. When the babies were asleep the rest of us snuck upstairs to listen to them.

overall, it wasn’t too terrible—yet.

The more my father was away the more they came to abuse me. They were cruel in both big and small ways.  They took away our stuffed toys to give to the babies.  One day, one of the women was mad because our room was a mess. So, she took away my precious baby doll and my tattered security blanket. It was a later incarnation of a small, pink checkered crib quilt. I curled my 9-year-old body up into a tight fetal ball and slept each night with it pulled around me.  It was a magical protection.  A thick layer of cloth that made me invincible while I slept.

It was my blanket, and not the heavy dresser that we pushed against the door each night before we went to sleep, that allowed me to lower my alert enough to sleep.

 My father got Heben (my doll) back for me.  The blanket had gone directly in the trash.  All that remained was the ribbon that had gone around the edges. I feared I’d never sleep again.  I feared someone, somehow, would find me in the dark of night and destroy me.

That was not nearly enough for them, however.  There were intrusive actions, like giving us hot water and soap enemas. There were also thigs that are harder to define.

One of the women would make me stay in the bathtub after the other children were done.

I had to lie in the bathtub with my butt against the front of the tub and my legs straight up in the air.  She would run a thin flow of hot water over my genitals. It made me feel like I had to pee.  It also made me angry. I couldn’t afford to be angry.  There was no question in my mind They could cause grievous harm.  The squirmy feelings I got made me want to explode.

Meanwhile, my father was teaching us lessons. With his girlfriend showing us the exact steps and actions, we learned how to perform oral and manual manipulation of his genitals.  I can’t really express how bad that made me feel.  I was responsible for us being there, after all.  I knew it made me feel awful, it was one of the first times in my life when I dissociated.

However, my father was all knowing, to me.  So, logically, I believed the bad feelings I felt were the result in something wrong with me. I couldn’t think anything bad about my father.  I needed his “love” to survive.  I was 9.  I knew, despite all the responsibilities they placed on me, I could not survive on my own.  So, I decided that what he did was good, and natural, and right. The problem was with me. If I could just feel the way he said I should, everything would be ok.

All of this is simply the prelude to the true horrors.  The days and nights that left me owning evil as my own.  The horrors that left me feeling so black, so fundamentally tainted, that I was sure there was no possible coming back.  I thought me behavior was up there with people that had become cannibals to after an airline crash to survive. Feelings that frightened me so I would do anything not to know they were there.

All of this was like a kindergarten education to the PhD level experiences that were yet to come.

Eventually, They upped the ante.

Willingness

Why willingness? I have the good fortune to be part of a wonderful weekly support group. Over time, I realized that I was resisting making the very changes I desired. Although I desired that change, there was something that I was not ready to give up. I wanted my life to be different, but I didn’t want to suffer through the process of change. A lack of willingness was, as much as anything, the result of the desire for comfort. I wanted change to be comfortable. I wanted to recognize whom I saw in the mirror. At the same time, I wanted to change.
Changing my beliefs about myself was, and is, one of the hardest things I have ever done. Willingness stripped me of my excuses. I wanted to change, but I was not sure I was willing to give up my former patterns. I would have to face my demons head on

The only way to do it is to do it.
There is no magic answer, no special pill, no tool, no word, no original technique that will make changing our lives easy. Reading a book, talking to friends, attending a seminar can’t guarantee us success. We’re looking for guarantees, but we will never get them. We cannot achieve our dreams through the work of others. There is never just one way to do something. We seldom have the comfort of a road map. Even when we do, the first move is always hard to take. You have to start at the beginning. You have to do something.
Change is hard. Often all we have is faith that it will work out. All too often, we are a little short on faith. We want to hold out for the sure thing. Seldom do things worth doing come easy, however. There is always the chance that we will fall down on our faces and break our noses. It doesn’t matter if we believe. To change we have to try. That can be the most frightening thing of all. There must be 1000 ways to say it, but in the end, the only way to do it is to do it.

So, you haven’t gotten started. Not to worry, most people haven’t. We are all full of excuses. It’s too hard. I don’t have enough time. I’m not strong enough. I’m not brave enough. I’m not smart enough. We will keep having excuses, until the pain of not doing something is greater than the pain of doing at. Excuses are irrelevant. When we are ready to do it, we will find a way, but as long as we listen to the excuses, as long as we shirk behind the fear, we will keep treading water.
We may say, “I don’t have excuses, I have reasons”. Yes, they are reasons, but they are also excuses. It may be hard, it may be painful, it may require great sacrifice, but when we get the point where we want it badly enough, we will find a way. The excuses are simply our reason not to try.
To “do it” we have to put ourselves out there. We have to be willing to look stupid. We need to be willing to have the people we love disapprove of us. We have to keep trying in the face of failure. Taking action makes us vulnerable. When things fall apart, it hurts. It can hurt financially. It can hurt our pride. It can do damage to our lives. When we live our dreams, we are showing people where to hit, if they want to hurt us. Making major changes isn’t for the faint of heart.
The problem with “the only way to do it is to do it” is that it is so easy no to do it. There may be a great show on TV, a new neighbor down the street we want to meet. Some people hide in an addiction. So long as we drink, or smoke, or obsess about food, or any of a myriad of vices we don’t have to think about what we really want. In fact, obliterating that addiction may be what we need to do. Just as long as we stay unwilling to give up time with the family, money from our pockets, or the same old comfortable way of thinking about things we stay stuck. Everyone would be his or her ideal self if it came with no cost.
What we need is permission. Permission to be selfish. Permission to fail. Permission even to try. We need to know we can’t be everything to everyone, and that is ok. We need permission to say no, sometimes. We even need permission to whine and complain, sometimes.
So, I’ll bet you’re thinking this sounds like a rotten deal. Why would anyone want to put themselves through all that mess? Once you realize that the only way to do it is to do it, you create a whole world of possibilities. From the very first step, fear becomes something controllable. Fear hides in the shadows, the unknown spaces in our heads. Fear tells us that first step is far too risky. Take the step, and you strip away that illusion. I won’t suggest that everything will be easy from that point forward. Because that is simply not true. But taking that step is the only way to create change. The only way to do it is to do it.
This concept will help reduce your regrets in life. Wondering what may have been can stay with us for a lifetime. Failing or being embarrassed, while not fun. Does not hold the same sting. When we face challenges in life, rather than procrastinating, making excuses, or finding excuse after excuse, we don’t have to wonder about what we could have done. It takes courage to take action. When we do, we answer the question “what if”. We can live life looking forward, rather than trying to forget what is in the past.
Often times we know we have to take action eventually. When we spend our time making excuses, we waste our precious time. When we (metaphorically) spend our time walking around in circles we tie up time and energy. We may take time away from our family or from fun activities. We may find ourselves up against a dead-line. We have to scramble and rush to meet our obligations. The quality of our performance may suffer. We may find we are constantly letting people down. There is no magic formula for getting started. The only way to do it is to do it.
All of this is nice and good, but how, really, does it apply to the real world? I am going to give you examples. Real examples from my life, in the hopes that you come to agree with me. These are powerful ideas. I must say I spend much time walking around in circles, learning and relearning these lessons. Life is a journey, and I learn more every day. I continue to relearn these concepts. When I live by them, I am happier and more productive. I was an expert at putting things off. Most of my life involved not feeling, not doing, and not facing my limitations. At times, I found the pain and fear of moving toward my goals overwhelming.
“The only way to do it is to do it” can be so empowering. For most of my life I suffered from terrible shame. It got to the point where I suffered from shame every time I was less than perfect. In other words, most of the time. This shame seriously hindered my efforts to develop relationships.
All of this is a lead-in to this brief synopsis.

Willingness

  1. It always comes down to “just do it”
    No matter how much support, stability, or relief you have. No matter how small the first step is, it still requires you to take it
  2. Realize you’ll have to make healthy choices over and over again
    What you intend to do, or have done yesterday doesn’t really count as progress today
  3. All you need to do is get it right more often than not
    Perfection is impossible. Setting a goal of getting something right at least 51% of the time enhances the power of the smaller, beginning steps. Progressing even very slowly is better than not at all
  4. Change can feel really bad
    Do it anyway
  5. You must give up something to grow
    Change will never be easy, painless, and have only positives. Often the cost of something becomes its value
  6. Actively challenge “absolutes”
    Pay attention to the language you use to define your own expectations
    “Can’t” usually means “won’t”
  7. Expect setbacks, back slides are part of the process
    They are a chance to practice
  8. Whose fault it is doesn’t matter
    Self-esteem comes from how you respond to what happens to you, not what happens to you
  9. It will never be easier then right now
    Maintaining bad habits only reinforces them
  10. There will never be a better time than right now
    Waiting for better conditions is procrastination
  11. Be selective about “support”.
    It is usually the people who challenge you (rather than the people who understand you) that most help you to change
  12. Insight alone does not create change
    Understanding can only take you so far. Eventually you must act

Daddy’s suicide attempt

When I was four the second early shame trauma happened.

I was standing on my yellow stool washing the dishes.  It was one of my favorite things to do.  My Mom had gotten a set of plastic dishes, so that I could wash them unsupervised.  My Mom and little sister had gone over to our babysitter’s house.

My Dad was in the bathroom.

I was having a great time.

Then I heard my Dad’s voice.  I didn’t want to be disturbed from my task, so I kept on washing, hoping he wouldn’t call again.  But, of course, he did.  I turned off the water. He was definitely not talking to someone on the phone.  He was calling my name.

Reluctantly, I climbed down from the sink and walked over to the bathroom door.  I called to him.  In a raspy voice, he ordered me to come in.

I hesitated.  My tummy felt tight. Somehow, I felt it was vital that I did not open the door. Still, he called me again.

When I stepped into the bathroom there was steam billowing through the air.  It felt heavy.  Through the mist, I saw Daddy reclined in the tub. But there was something wrong.  There were red swirls in the water. His mouth was covered in tiny white bubbles. He was sunk down in the tub so that the water nearly came to his mouth.

It was scary.  My Dad’s cry battled with the panic inside me.  My Dad won.  I came closer to the tub. He told me that he was stuck and that I had to help him out of the tub.  That didn’t make any sense. He was very big, and I was so little.  I stood frozen. 

In that funny, raspy voice he commanded that I take his hand.  When I did, he told me to pull. So, I did.  Water splashed all over the floor. I pulled again.  He grabbed the side of the tub and gave a mighty push. 

Soon, he was lying on the bathroom floor, like some sort of grounded whale. Cuts on his wrists were still oozing blood, diluted by the bath water.

In that same strange voice, he told me to come and sit on his chest.  When I did my panties and dress got all wet.  Next, he ordered me to bounce on his chest.  He told me it was the only way to get him to breath. 

I did it, over and over, until my little legs were shaky.  He was depending on me.  Feeling both validated and afraid, I dared not stop.

The rest of the story I must guess at.  I remember my Mom coming back and taking me to my room.  I have a sense that there were flashing lights and lots of grownups talking.  My mother says he doesn’t remember it.  I know he was hospitalized for suicide attempts.

In the end, what really matters is how this incident affected me.  I felt so important.  I had saved my Daddy. But I also felt empty and confused.

Why had my Daddy done that?  Why would he want to leave me?  If he could do that to himself, what might he do to me? What would happen if I made him mad? If I made a mistake.

The only thing I could figure was that I must be perfect.  That mistakes could be fatal.

I was convinced that I was not only bad. I was flawed.  Why else would such a thing happen?

These early events did more than create a deep sense of shame and inadequacy.  They set me up to accept anything my Father did, no matter how bad it might make me feel.  Later it would turn into suicidal ideation.

No matter what my father did, I accepted the responsibility for it.  Because there was more to come.  A lot more. 

The fate of the puppies

When I was four years old our family dog had a litter of puppies.  They were these cute, snuggly fur balls.  It was so much fun to play with them. They stayed in our screened in porch off the kitchen.

One morning I woke up early.  I was eager to play with the puppies, so I put on my slippers and creeped across the cold linoleum floor.  Very carefully, very quietly, I opened the door to the screened in porch. Ever so quietly, I made my way over to the box where the mommy dog lay.  Lucy, my favorite puppy, was lying in the box next to her mother. 

I went to pet her, and she didn’t stir.  A sudden coldness grasped me.  I tried to pick her up.  She didn’t stir.  Her little eyes stayed closed. I put her down and made my way back to the kitchen. 

I didn’t know what to do.  I wasn’t really supposed to go out to the dogs by myself.  Still, I felt certain there was something terribly wrong. I was so scared I wanted to sink to the floor.  I wanted to disappear. 
I forced my little body to move. I half ran, half tiptoed my way to my parent’s room.

Mommy and Daddy were sleeping.  I went to Daddy’s side of the bed.  I tugged gently on his arm.  I half wished he wouldn’t get up.  Nevertheless, I tugged harder.  “Daddy”, I gave a loud whisper. Then again.

Daddy stirred. His eyes opened. It took a minute for him to focus on me. When he did, he looked annoyed.  I wished I could crawl back out and go back to my bed. Lucy needed me, though.  So, I stayed.

He asked me what was wrong. I tried to explain about Lucy not answering me, not feeling soft and fluffy.

Suddenly, he threw back the cover and grabbed his robe.  I struggled to keep up as he raced to the covered porch.  I stood in the doorway while he went out to investigate.  He told me to go back inside and help mommy make breakfast.

I heard the screen door open, shut, and open again.  I was crouched on the kitchen chair.  Daddy came back inside.  I saw him give my mother a look.  He put up his hands in an “I don’t know” gesture.

I very quietly asked him where the puppies where.  I wanted to know when I could play with Lucy.

He sighed and sat down on the kitchen table.  He explained to me that someone had left the screen door unlocked.  The puppies got out of the door.  They climbed through an open space under the porch.  There they found broken glass. The puppies ate the glass.  The glass cut them inside and they were dead.

He told me we were going to have to bury the puppies.  He got a large box and gently put the puppies in it.  Then he put on the lid.

He was going to take the puppies up to the forest behind our house and bury them.  I didn’t know what bury meant. I didn’t really understand dead.  I was sure I was the one who left the door open. Surely my parents weren’t that careless. It was my fault the puppies were going to be up in the forest, cold and alone.

Daddy put on his shoes and picked up the box.  He asked me to come with him, but I refused.  I climbed up on my yellow foot stool, the one I used to reach the sink, and watched him climb the hill behind our back yard. 
Suddenly, I wished I had gone with him.  I longed to race after him, to yell for him to wait.  Because I knew I was a bad person, a careless person.  Because I couldn’t even remember to close a door the puppies would be gone forever. They would be stuck in the wood, cold, lonely, and scared.

Now, frightening as that experience was, there is obviously as back story.  No child takes on that level of responsibility unbidden. So, what was life like for little Debby before the puppies died?  What made me vulnerable enough to wish I didn’t exist?

Well, one of the earliest memories I have was of being unsafe.  My mother took me for swimming lessons.  I was about 2 ½.  In the dressing room there was a huge window that showed the pool.  The only thing was, the water line was above the window. I saw other children diving and swimming under the water.

I was no dummy. I knew I couldn’t stay under the water without breathing. Of course, I could not have told my mother that. I just knew that I couldn’t go in that pool under any circumstances. 
I did what any smart kid would do.  I threw a huge tantum.  I didn’t believe that my mother could keep me safe. I did not trust her, somehow.

At another time, perhaps even before that, my mother left me alone in a shopping mall. It was time to go home, but I didn’t want to leave. So, I dragged my feet. I sat on the ground.  I refused to go.  I don’t know why my mother didn’t just pick me up. I do know she said something to the effect of get going or I’m going to leave you here.

She did.  Much to my surprise and dismay.  I saw her walk away. I don’t know if I could see the car. Apparently, she drove around the block, then came back for me. My life was definitely not safe.

I did mention that there were two major contributors to my sense that I shouldn’t be.  Stay tuned…..

Start at the beginning

Hello.

I’m Debi. Shame has been my companion since I was very small. There were two incidents that really framed my early years. Both occurred when I was about 4.

But before I get into that, perhaps you would like to know what you are getting into, before you invest your precious time in my words.

My life has been pretty chaotic. The first 5 years involved repeated traumas. When I was 6, my parents separated. That was something odd, and it made me odd. Divorce was still relatively uncommon.

Then the sexual abuse started. Nine was an awful year. But we’ll go there another day.

Like some other survivors of sexual abuse, I found an inappropriate man and let him make me his. Within a few years, we were active in alternative life styles. For those who don’t follow, that was a variety of atypical sexual activity. OK. I’ll say it. We started by looking for someone to have a threesome and ended in a cozy swingers group.

After my marriage ended I drifted through life. I tried desperately to find some meaning, some purpose. When I failed I landed myself in a psychiatric day program.

That was the start of a whole other life. I started to want to want to get better. From there to here is a whole other story. It has been almost 22 years. I have built a life for myself. A life with little drama. I have friends, and a part time job. I am on disability. I had to truly struggle to find acceptance of that. Things are good, now.

The thing is, I feel that there is something in my healing that could benefit others. I want to write about my journey. To offer a smidge of hope to others.

I hope you stick around. Comment if you like. Help me to define the changes that can happen when I let go of the shame. Letting it go (though I am by no means a finished project) is incredible.