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A Letter I Can’t Send: Littlest Sister

We all have letters we can’t send for a zillion different reasons. Maybe the person is no longer around, maybe you can’t actually speak your mind to them, maybe you’re just not ready to admit it.

Band Back Together encourages you to share your letters with us. You never do know how soothing someone else’s words can be. Click here to write your own letter.

Dear Littlest Sister,

I wish, for so many reasons, that we were closer. It seems that all your life I’ve watched you hurting, and I’ve never been able to help you. Either it was out of my hands or you wouldn’t let me close enough to be any good.

I know I’m a disappointment to you, and that there are times you wish we didn’t share a name. I’m sorry. As difficult as our relationship has been, I have always been proud to call you my sister.

When you were five and our parents were divorcing, I should have been more sensitive. I should have seen the Little Sister who needed reassurance. Looking back, I don’t know why I minded it when you followed me around – you were so darn cute!

When you were playing softball, I wish I hadn’t been so wrapped up in my teenage-self. I wish I’d praised you for all your hard work, told you how great you were. Had I praised you, would you have felt shadowed by our middle sister’s spotlight? Would you still have given up sports?

Maybe it would have changed your future to hear how proud I was of you.

When you were experiencing your own teen depression, I wish I hadn’t been thousands of miles away. I’d have held you as you cried. Maybe then you wouldn’t have tried to overdose. If I’d been there to listen, would you have started cutting?

When you enlisted in the military, did I tell you how my heart swelled with pride? When you came back from your basic training and tech school, I was, once again, wrapped up in my own stuff. Did I tell you that I loved you? Did I tell you that I missed you each day you were gone?

And now, when you’re hurting – when your life is spinning – the distance between us is more than the five-hour drive. I want to call you and listen to your tears. I want to tell you that broken hearts hurt worse than childbirth, but that you’ll heal and be stronger.

I want to comfort you and give you the compassion and support that I know you won’t get from our mother or our middle sister.

It’s silly, really. We’re so much alike, you’d think we’d be closer. But, as I look back, I can see all the wedges I drove between us.

And so, I’ll write this letter to you, a letter you’ll never see. I’ll keep you in my thoughts as I wait to hear news of you. And I’ll pray that this isn’t the thing that causes you to hurt yourself again.

You are such a beautiful person.

You give so much of yourself to everyone. You, who never wanted children, are my son’s favorite aunt. He glows when he talks of his time with you and he tells anyone who will listen that he wants to join the military, just like his heroes. Do you know you’re one of his heroes?

Do you know you’re one of mine?

I love you to the depths of my soul. And no matter what, you will always be a part of me.

I am so infinitely proud of you.

Love,
Your Big Sister

PTSD and Childhood Bullying – A Silent Suffering

I always thought that PTSD was something soldiers developed – I was naïve; had no idea anyone could develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. After my teenage son began to get into trouble, I assumed we’d become another statistic – a family with an out-of-control teen.

After we started family counseling, my therapist suggested that I try private therapy. About a week into it, I was diagnosed with PTSD. The therapist said were several things that led to PTSD.

PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, can occur when something horrible or traumatic has happened in. It causes stress every time you encounter a situation is similar to the previously-experienced traumatic events.

I’ve had a few types of traumatic events. I had a rocky relationship with my father growing up and then his death was both very sudden and very traumatic. An abusive relationship with my ex. I’ve experienced abuse from my son. Lastly, I was bullied by a girl from second grade all the way through high school.

My reactions to everyday situations can be more intense than they need to be – but whenever I am in a stressful or threatening situation, I relive past experiences. It’s hell, reliving the same horrible day over and over.

Once, when I saw my grade school bully in the grocery store, while I was there with my kids and we were checking out. The sound drained out of the store. My heart began to race. Blood pumped in my ears. My face got hot. As soon as I was able, I grabbed my kids and ran for the car. I must’ve driven break-necking speeds home, but I don’t remember getting there.

I had a panic attack after seeing this woman! We live in a small town and the odds of running into her are probably higher than in other areas, but I never see her. When I did, I hit fight or flight mode, and flew! That was six years ago.

Since I began therapy, I’ve seen her again. My daughters were with me, and this time I made sure to make eye contact with her as I turned to my daughters and said, “Girls, let’s go check out. I think we’ve got all we need now!” I turned and went to check out. As we left I felt so proud of myself for facing her, and not fleeing like a chicken facing slaughter!

Thanks to the ways she traumatized me, I always tell my kids, “Don’t take anyone’s crap at school!” Recently my daughter was getting harassed by a staff member at her middle school. I contacted the principal and reported her. This woman has not bothered my daughter since I reported her; threatened to file a sexual harassment suit against the school.

Since starting therapy, I stand up more than I used to. Despite all the reasons my therapist thought that I was traumatized, I think the bully and my father’s sudden death were the two that really affected me.

I was a victim of domestic abuse, but I came to terms with it, and took a stand. I left my then-husband and married the man responsible for making me feel like I was worth more. I call him my White Knight because I was considering suicide when we met – he saved me.

My son and I have resolved many of our issues and are working on our relationship; things are getting better.

I still have issues with my dad’s death.

See, I was blamed for him dying. He died from cancer 14 years ago and afterward, I was told that being around stressed him out – caused his cancer to return after it had been in remission.

Being blamed for his death is a hard thing to overcome. But this year, I was able to make it past his birthday and the anniversary of his death (exactly a month apart) without being a total mess!

To all those out there who have been bullied, abused, or lost a loved one, don’t assume you are strong enough to deal with it on your own.

PTSD snuck up and took over my life. I’d been miserable for years because I didn’t know what I was trying to cope with on my own. I suffered for years without understanding why, until I didn’t want to live any more.

Now, I cannot imagine having missed one day of my kids lives. Good or bad, I want to be there for it all. When they graduate from high school, when they get married, go off to college, when they start their own families. I want to be there, protect them from the problems I had. To tell them, “You’re better than this!” Or smile for them after they avoid bad situations entirely!

Don’t hesitate to get help for PTSD. It really does make a difference.

I never wanted to go to therapy every week, but I am, and I am doing much better. My therapist told me last week that he thinks I am nearly ready to be done. I think that’s a remarkable thing to hear – I am better, I can do it.

My therapist told me recently that I’m a remarkable person for dealing with what I’ve experienced, and still managing to smile. I told him that despite any issues I’ve had, I have great kids and a loving husband.

That’s all I could ask for!

Ask The Band: My So-Called Life

It all started when I was a teenager. Or maybe that was the end. I still don’t know.

Before that, life was good. I had a great mom who took good care of me and my brothers.

Then she married a monster.

He molested me, scared me so much that I couldn’t tell anyone, especially my mom. She went to her grave thinking life was good and fair – and I’m glad for her.

But I paid for her peace of mind. God, I paid.

I lost track of how many times he molested me. There were just so many. Three years of that man forcing me to do things I’d never heard of, threatening to kill my mom if I told anyone he was abusing me.

It took me nearly three years to do just that – tell someone.

Then I married, and acquired an instant family. I thought life was going to be better.

That’s when it started.

At first it was little comments, “That swim suit shows too much,“ or, “You shouldn’t wear that, because your legs are too fat.”

Then, the rapes started.

He knew what I’d been through with my step-dad, yet he was doing the same thing – he raped me.  I felt like this was just how men treated women. I was afraid to leave, and afraid to stay.

By then, I had another wonderful daughter. She was, and still is, my best friend in the world.

But he was still raping me.

And, yes, I took it.  No one told me I didn’t have to.  I am just now figuring out that I deserve better – and I am almost 53 years old. So much wasted time.

He finally found someone else.

I pray for whomever he ends up with, but I can’t turn him in. He is the father of my children. I can’t go through the public humiliation.

Divorce sucks, but it has to be better than my previous life, right? But I’m scared. I’m scared of another man doing this to me.

I will not let that happen. I think I’d rather stay single. I may be broke, but I won’t be controlled by anyone else ever again.

Maybe, in time, I can let more of this out. Right now, this is a huge stretch for me even writing anything about any of this.

How am I supposed to cope with my past, while living in my present?

This Is Why We’re Not

This, tonight, is why were not married yet, Love.

I tell people it’s because we both want to finish school first and don’t want to risk a long-distance marriage, but that’s not the whole truth.

It’s your temper.

I rarely see it, but when I do, it’s explosive. I can’t handle that after living with my mother.

Every few months or so we get into a disagreement about something and you explode in anger, yelling at me. Usually after your outburst I just sit there in silence, scared that it’s going to escalate like it always did with her. It never does, it’s just an awkward silent time.

After every fight, I apologize first, because I know I’m very opinionated and sometimes I talk over you, which means you feel like I don’t respect your opinion. I’m trying to fix that, prefacing my statements with “in my opinion” or, after you’ve told me your opinion, I’ll say “I see where you’re coming from” to let you know that I do hear and respect your thoughts, even as I keep my own.

Tonight, you hit my cat for scratching you. I warned you that if you started playing with him you’d probably get scratched because he’s still a baby; apparently you ignored me. When he did scratch you, you hit him, and I grabbed him away from you and got onto you. I had warned you about him several times and then you exploded, yelling at me about how the cat should know better. A few moments of silence ensued, we started talking about other things, and as you left, I apologized.

I always apologize.

You. Never. Do.

This is why we’re not married yet: you’ve never learned to swallow your pride and apologize, even when you know you’re wrong.

I hope in the next couple of years you get better at expressing yourself so you don’t get frustrated and yell at me out of nowhere. So you can let me know when you feel slighted before it ends up exploding out. I know you have issues communicating your thoughts and that’s why I still happily wear this ring on my finger. I hope you learn to apologize, not necessarily for your actions, but for what your actions caused.

We’re young; we’ve got some growing up left to do. I know I’m to blame in this, too. But I’m not going to marry you when your temper explodes like that. I lived 19 years with that, and I’m not doing it again. You may think it was just a little hit to teach the cat that was wrong, but you did it in anger; if you hit a cat in anger, who’s to say you won’t hit a child in anger?

This is why we’re not.

I love you.

I can’t wait to walk down the aisle and finally take your name as my own. But I will wait. I can wait as long as it takes for you to realize that this is a problem that we’ve discussed before, and maybe now is the time to figure out some strategies to deal with this.

Because, let me tell you, I will NEVER live in a house where I am afraid of outbursts again. I’ve lived through the bruises from my mother when she exploded in anger. I’ve lived through locking myself in the bathroom as my brother exploded, punching through the wall, and breaking the windows out of his car, and I will NOT do it again.
You’ve never hit me, and you probably never will. But every time your anger explodes out of nowhere like that, I’m taken right back to those days living in fear that the yelling is just the first step. I’m not going back.

I love you. Ninety-nine percent of the time you are the greatest guy I could ever ask for, but this has to stop.

Why?

Why does my father brag that it only took a few tries to knock up my mom with me, when, according to my mom, I was a planned (on her part alone) accident?

Which lie would hurt less?

The lie that my father didn’t want me because he knew he couldn’t be around as much as he wanted, but my mom got pregnant anyway?

Or…

The lie that my mom manipulated my father into getting pregnant, when they’d actually tried for me?

If I can’t know how I got here, what luck am I supposed to have knowing why I want to stay here?

Freedom And My Dragon

Every night I dream of escaping… getting out of this self-made prison.

It isn’t always the same, but I always make it out. It’s… so sweet… freedom. I seem to have traded it away so easily while awake and I yearn for it in my sleep.

My own double life.

It makes it easier to deal with the reality I’ve chosen.

Sometimes I fashion my own escape. I win the lottery or I write a great screenplay or book. Then I wait, I say nothing, patiently, quietly, until he is out. I take every trace of me from this house.

EVERYTHING of ME and I DISAPPEAR!

GOD, I love that dream most! I fantasize about where I will go, where I’ll live, how I’ll take care of the people I love and how they will love me back.

I play the lottery sometimes, but I’ve never won more than $50.00. That isn’t going to get me very far. I always tell myself that whomever won needed it more. I try not to think about it too much. Or I’ll cry.

Do you think you can run out of tears? You can’t. I read somewhere that tears are toxins leaving your body, so it’s good to cry. I must have a lot of toxins.

I’m making up for lost time.

Growing up, we weren’t allowed to cry. Someone should’ve told my Father that factoid about tears, although he’d probably have smacked you. So yeah, you would’ve had to duck or send him a note or something.

Really, I don’t think he would have given a damn about toxins. He had a very rigid, narrow view of children and their place in life. It’s painful to admit that I married someone who is a lot like my Father.

It’s tragically predictable.
———————
That’s difficult for me to read, and it was excruciating to live, but I found my freedom.  I had my freedom the whole time. I simply didn’t realize that I had the power to change my life – I thought I had to be rescued. In the end, I guess, I was. It was the best gift I’ve ever given myself.

How I got into that mess is no mystery. I read a long time ago that an abused person will find a way to abuse themselves long after their abuser is gone.

I never saw the cues. The little red flags. I was oblivious to the ones that whispered, “This man doesn’t really love you.”

Honestly, I never thought I could be loved. I had no tools to discern between a good or bad relationship. I grew up with no relationships to speak of – alone is all I knew. Saying “I do” was a way to not longer be lonely. I didn’t realize how much more there was to it.

Life has a way of teaching us the things we need to know. It’s made me much wiser in many ways, yet there’s so much I still don’t know.

How to trust, how to let people in. But, I will show up EVERYDAY. I will be friendly and OPEN. I will be open, I will be friendly… I will not push people away… I will I will I will!

That is my new mantra, which sure beats the hell out of the ones I was raised on.

As a child, I was raised in isolation. My family’s slogan was “nobody in, nobody out” and “you’re not a person, you’re property.” My parents wanted no one to know what went on in our home. They created an insular existence for us.

As a result of the emotional damage of their actions, there were other bits of damage: mistrust, an inability to let others in. This is the dragon I am battling now, TODAY…

I must be brave and try.

Those who grow up in an abusive family know the counting game. You count the days until you can get out, not unlike a jailbird doing a stint upstate. You mark on your inner calendar: three years, forty-two days and I’m outta here! Those sad, painful days marked the beginning of my dream for freedom. What I didn’t know; what I might not have been able to cope with, was that I would never really escape.

I carry my past with me like an ugly scar. Every time I think I have finally healed it, it gets torn wide open. And I see how far I have yet to go.

Every time I push people away, I’m reminded. I have done – and continue to do – more years in counseling then I care to recall. I believe in therapy – I’ve done the work, put the time in. I’ve come to realize how much my childhood defines me. It is a battle that I fight everyday.

Sometimes I win, sometimes not.

Usually the day ends in a draw.

As long as my mother doesn’t call, or some well-meaning stranger doesn’t ask the nosy questions they don’t want the answers to, I’m fine. I try to remember that they’re making small talk, trying to find common ground. They have no idea the pain the well-meaning questions cause. The way it makes my scar itch and burn. I try to skirt the truth to save them the uncomfortable reality, because I will NOT lie.

I’m trying to make peace – peace with memories, peace with a mother who facilitated abuse, with a family that turned a blind eye. Mostly, though I am trying to make peace with myself.

I’m the reminder and I need to learn to let go.

To accept that I am damaged; that we all are a little damaged.

To live in this moment, this life.

To enjoy my existence, rather than mourning what was and what was not.

That is my goal.

I will show up, I will be open, I WILL TRY.