As if a Jack-in-a-Box opened its lid, the fragments of a young girl’s life were now being exposed refusing to stay dormant and silent. Therapists far and wide have seen enough to identify the Lady Jayne, part of me as the “Child Within”. A young girl, so damaged she had forgotten to grow up was trying to be heard. When I started the AA program and was offered literature from a friend on the subject, I must admit I foo-fooed the idea. Child within? Nonsense! Well before you foo-foo it, allow Lady Jayne to tell her tale.
The abuse had started in a pre-verbal time of Lady Jayne’s little life. Most early experiences present emotionally and physically-not verbally. At times, the session would end with me on the counselor’s floor with a blanket, in the fetal position, coming back to the present embarrassed. Why would I behave this way? Having enough self-awareness I knew I could not wish this away, any of it, and would need to continue with the counseling. Embarrassment and being self-conscious hindered my progress, I believe, but hey I was new at this. Embarrassed or not this battle is worth it. There is freedom in the future.
But for now, driving home from a session, I was overcome by a deep desire to run my car into the upcoming bridge embankment. My dreams of babies being thrown were intense. I was careful to not hold my son unless I was in the room, meaning, I felt connected to my surroundings. Home I felt humiliated, of no worth to my children, unsteady and unsure of myself. Anger was my main concern now, ideally, I would have turned my anger towards my mom and dad but I was too afraid, so it came out sideways. I was on a short fuse with my girls and was so overwhelmed that if I dropped something in the kitchen I would smash things. In business. Pay bills, buy groceries, go to AA meetings, and attend my children’s school and sports activities.
A year later, while in a counseling session and attempting to make sense of my predicament. I become terrified and disoriented, directly in my line of vision, a form like a hologram appeared leaving no room for my present life to penetrate. I saw atrocities done to my mother and my brothers. I smelled orange blossoms, bacon, country gravy, and biscuits. The moist smell of dew in the mountain air. Mashed potatoes mingled with the blood on old graying wallpaper. I heard fear in its deafening silence and then a brown pair of trousers coming at me. Physically, I was left feeling moist, cold, and exposed; breathless with unbelievable pain in my throat. But who was in the brown trousers? I was filled with a terror-the kind that makes silence hurt in your ears when breathing stops. I heard screams, then finally in an agonizing moment, I knew that the brown trousers were my dad’s. I knew now these episodes were of my father’s homecomings, the screaming was mine- I dazed out.
I had a “psychotic break” as labeled by the Cleveland Psychiatric Institution, CPI, affectionately known as the Nut House. Many of you reading will have a diagnosis that does not hold up later, once the abuse is reckoned with. Perhaps I pushed too hard so I could be back in control of my life or perhaps it was just time for the veil to be opened. Sadly, at the intake exam, while disoriented and fearful, the doctor made a pass at me, grabbing my knee. I had to snap out of it-push him away. I did not tell him he hurt me. I did not tell anyone that another trust was violated. No progress would be made here. Now instead of getting any benefit out of this misfortune, my job was to stay vigilant for the next few days of my stay. The halls were not safe and they did not allow me to stay in my room. Enough is enough! I am not safe anywhere! I had to stuff it all down again and take control. To survive I started helping other patients plant small potted plants. If I had been truly psychotic I would not have had the ability to pull myself out. I like some of you would have been re-victimized. I thank God for my survival skills.
The next year, on Valentine’s Day during a session at the counselor, while speaking on something else, I was hit by body memories then again the hologram visions of my dad abusing me. I was hysterical, extremely angry, and did not feel safe going home to my children. I may hurt them who knows? My counselor asked me if I was homicidal or suicidal. I only knew I could harm someone now! Anyone! I was placed on a lock-down mental health floor of a local hospital. I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder; PTSD. No one discussed my soul-sickness.
Some engage in extreme sports or each year brave themselves against the highest-fastest roller coaster, while others view horror films to drive their adrenaline to full acceleration. The journey I and other survivors trek has all of these attributes: the rocky crags, spine-tingling fear, and intrusions of shock; that we have no need for outside stimulation to be fully charged with racing heart-sweaty palm anxiety. So much so that the physicians see a rise in blood pressure. We feel weak and feverish as if our immune system is being attacked. Physical pain is evident with seemingly no point of entry. Some stay in a sustained melancholy never able to appreciate joy. Others may lose their appetite while others eat endlessly. Many such as I will do drugs, drink, gather money, or possessions to try and squelch some of the overwhelming feelings of fear, nausea, and anger.
It would take me years to recognize the lies that attached to my mind, body, and soul; either told or conveyed to me since infancy. Of course, I was not aware of how damaged I was in other areas. At this time, the lies about who I was were so believable that I often felt they had the power to swallow me up, I would cease to exist if I were to venture too close to examine them. I would have preferred ceasing to exist but had a strong resolve to keep going for my children.
Towards evening, after the sedative wore off, a kind nurse took me into a meeting room. She told me I could yell-hit-cry-whatever. She would not allow me to get hurt and she would not be hurt. She wanted me to understand that these emotions were HUGE for a baby and toddler but could be managed in my present adult reality. Oh, No. My mind was quick to remind me of the violent outbursts I had over the years. One such episode, I smashed up dishes, cups in the kitchen of our dreary house when I felt overcome by anger. Memories of fighting with other teens surfaced, I existed in a world of self-doubt not knowing myself, leaving me as surprised as anyone, when violence erupted. The shame and self-loathing of these memories only allowed me to ration out a bit of emotion; grief and anger. How could a father do this to his sweet little girl? Why wasn’t mom mad about what he had done to me? Why did no one tell me? Why was she making me feel guilty all the time for what he did to her and my brothers? When the nurse instigated a bit, a surge of courage came to rip open a wound to feel wronged and angry that these adults had so manipulated me. I was safe enough here to be angry.
I want to scream, scream, scream. I want to shout, shout, shout. I want to scream, I want to shout praise the Lord!
I was exhausted-no one got hurt! That was a first! I held onto this new insight, reassuring myself over the years that there is a safe way to be ANGRY. Counselors speculated that I was now strong enough to allow things to be revealed. I agree that these episodes will surface when a part of us feels safe enough. Father had passed, the threat was gone, and Lady Jayne got tired of waiting on me, so did not ask permission. Today I am grateful for her bravery and gutsy-ness.
The next years would bring intense sadness, fear, and a need to over-eat the end of October to January each year. Why the same time of year? A fall breeze leaves rustling on a sidewalk or a holiday greeting from a store clerk, and I would be gone, hoping to stop existing. A few counselors explained that in a child’s mind one day is much like the other. However, holidays are more prominent and so memories can hold on to that time period more easily. I knew by now that this syndrome of my father’s abuse did not just occur on the holiday season, but the memory was more intense.
The general societal view at the time was to tell your story once, if needed, then move on with your life. Further investigation was simply dwelling on the past. My dad’s wife, after his death, did not want to believe it. My mom did not want to believe it and for once had no opinion. My half-sister did not want to believe it, I suppose because Father was slightly different with her and did not abuse her. Her mother had been more watchful of these things. Scott, my brother did not believe me and told me he was not abused-just disciplined. Women were being challenged on TV shows and ugh articles that it was a false memory syndrome that we somehow conjured this crap up. Who on earth would want to go through this lonely hell? Certainly not I.