It was with a loud crash that she hit the floor, her knees gone weak with fear. “Help,” she cried, to no one in particular, a sort of mangled prayer to a god she never once believed in.
“Help me,” she whispered, hoping to see someone there, yet there was nothing but vast darkness, her hands clenched tightly.
There was a hollowness in her soul, an icy chill that ran through her veins when she hit this point. The bottom, again, a place she promised to stay away from, spun so quickly up to greet her. “Help me,” again she whispered, desperate.
The cold steel seemed to awaken in her hand. It was so strong, so faithful, and so delicate. She closed her eyes, tears falling hot and fast, such opposition to the cold running through her heart. One line, then another, cutting across her flesh.
“Help,” she whispered, partially to her ever trusty blade, partially to the blood now trickling down. It was warm like her tears, and safe, a reminder that she was real.
Exhausted, she wept.
This was never how it was supposed to be.
Take a long hard look at my beautiful girl.
She will be 9 years old in a few weeks. At her next doctor’s appointment she will be given the HPV vaccine, even though she will never be able to consent to sexual activity.
Look at her as you think about that.
Abby’s 7 times more likely than her non-disabled peers to be a victim of sexual assault. She would never be able to tell us what happened. She would never be able to tell us who did it.
And now, laws are being passed in many states—and it won’t be long until Utah tries it here—that would force her to carry the product of her rape to term. How would I ever explain to her what was happening to her body? How would I ever make her giving birth okay?
The truth is I absolutely would never do that to her. Never.
Look at her and tell me you would subject her to that. Tell me in what world would it be okay to do that to her?
If you think so, you’re wrong and I don’t want you in my life or hers. Period.
It doesn’t seem like a big number, does it?
I guess it depends on what you’re counting. Thirty-six jelly beans? That’s a decent amount. Thirty-six grains of sand? Hardly anything. Thirty-six seconds? Probably already gone since you started reading this.
Time is a funny thing, you know. As I get older, I swear that it moves faster and yet each day itself feels like slogging through quicksand. I look at that number, that 36, and my mind denies it. It cannot be. It can’t be that long, can’t be that many. Thirty-six months.
Thirty-six months of hoping and then having each of those hopes shattered, one by one. How many times can a person have their hopes smashed before they themselves break? Before hope abandons them completely?
Thirty-six months of “trying to conceive.” That’s three whole years. Three quarters of ourmarried life.
In thirty-six months, not once has that damn pair of pink lines appeared. I am disappointed. I am angry. But mostly I feel despair. I feel like an idiot for getting my hopes up for two weeks every single month, only to have them dashed again and again.
My doctors remain positive. I’m still young – at least compared to many other women at the fertility clinic. I’m only thirty years old. The treatments are working, at least on paper. But not working well enough, because I’ve never conceived, not once in my life. “Close” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
A few months ago, my psychiatrist asked me, “What does the future look like?”
I froze. He was asking me to peer right into a dark truth that I’d been avoiding with all my might. A dark truth that coats everything, blurs everything, muffles everything I do.
“That depends,” I managed to whisper, “on whether I ever get pregnant.”
“And if you don’t?” It was a gentle prompt, without malice or indifference.
“If I don’t… I don’t know.” That’s what I said. What I was thinking was: I can’t see that future. I don’t want to see that future, I refuse to look at it. My mind shies away from thinking about it.
What if it’s all been for nothing?
One of the weirder phobias I have–aside of my fear of tomatoes touching my food–is that I’m terrified of fish. I don’t mean that if I see an aquarium, I’m going to break out into a cold sweat and start crying, no, even I’m not THAT insane.
But since I can remember, my parents have been taking us to tropical places–I know, poor baby, right?–and along with tropical places = snorkeling.
When I was 4 or 5, my parents bravely took us to Mexico and in a stunning fit of idiocy on their part, they left my brother and I to swim alone while they leisurely relaxed in a cliff-type thing above us. Out of sight, out of mind, I think, was the idea. Having three kids of my own, I understand the urge. But I’m still unsure what the fuck they were thinking to leave a 14 year old in charge of a 4 year old in the ocean.
Because my brother promptly ditched me to go and strut his lack of muscles in front of a couple of bikini clad babes.
I could swim, though, so I just waded into the water.
What happened next has been replayed over and over in my mind for the next 24 years.
The fish, accustomed to friendly humans who might feed them delicious treaties, swarmed me. Since I wasn’t underwater myself, I couldn’t see their beautiful swirling colorful fins. Instead, I saw a bunch of black THINGS just swarm me.
I screamed so loudly that pretty much everyone at the beach–including my lazy parents– came running. Maybe they thought I’d been half eaten by a Jaws-like shark, or perhaps I caught sight of a fat hairy dude in a Speedo. Who knows.
All that I do know is that for years after this, I had to force myself to go into the ocean, shaking and terrified, every time we went on vacation. The fear would subside the moment I was under the crystal blue water, but up until that point, I’d be silently shaking in my swimsuit.
Our last family vacation happened in 2000. My brother–recovering from a nasty divorce and full-on taking every bad feeling out on me–was 30, I was 20. My parents made the grave error of leaving us alone to share a room where we fought like it was 1999.
This is likely WHY this was our last vacation as a family.
One of the days that we were there in Cozumel, we went to some renowned beach to get some snorkeling done and generally laze about the beach. By this age, I can assure you, I wasn’t upset that my parents didn’t watch me swim. In fact, I welcomed the opportunity to get the fuck away from everyone else and have some relative solitude in the waves.
I’m a decent swimmer, so once I got past the rocks and coral at the mouth of the beach–where, of course, in my normal good gracefulness, I fell and cut the shit out of my foot–I got pretty far away from the lip of the beach where I could get in and out of the water. This beach wasn’t really full of sand, you see. It was more the coral and other stuff that will cut a bitch (like me) up.
But I relished the soft whooshing of the ocean in my ears as I snorkeled about, following a family of yellow and blue fish around and trying to forget the hysterics of the morning. My brother had called me a worthless piece of shit for the 437th time that hour and I crumpled into a pile of tears outside of our villa. The 5,000 feral cats who’d been following me about swarmed me as I cried. It was strangely comforting.
It was wonderful to feel so free. There’s something so comforting about the soft lull of the waves, the ability to be a voyeur into another world, and after my initial fear, I am always reluctant to get out of the water.
Out of nowhere, as I was admiring a particularly delightful looking puffer fish, my body caught fire. I was electrified, my body searing in pain and I began to hyperventilate.
I popped my head above water to see if I’d run into some electrified fence (I was in pain and terrified. I know how dumb that sounds now), nothing. I forced my face down under the water to see what I’d obviously run into. If it were a school of jelly fish, then I’d do well to make sure to swim AWAY from it rather than into the swarm. Still, I could see nothing.
I swam choppily back toward shore, hyperventilating and panicking, now noticing just how fucking far away I was from the beach. I looked down at my arms and legs and saw with horror that I was now a mess of criss-crossed red welts, from my legs to my arms and my chest.
Finally, after what had to be at least two hours (read: 3 minutes), I grabbed hold of a ladder and hoisted myself shakily up to the beach. I sat at the edge of the cliff-type, surveying the damage and trying to catch my breath, crying heavily. I was breathing so shallowly that I was starting to white out, and using the last bit of my common senseI crawled back away from the edge, lest I fall to my watery death below. This time, I really could have used a chaperone.
I passed out for I don’t know how long, and when I woke up, the welts had turned to bleeding blisters and I had uncontrollable goose bumps without being cold and a good case of the shakes. I was now officially fucked up.
Eventually, my mother found me and helped me back to a towel and gave me a medicinal Pina Colada. The rest of the vacation–including the following day which was a snorkeling boat cruise sort of thing–was uneventful by comparison. If that horse bucks you and all that good boo-yang, right?
What’s attacked YOU, Internet whom I love beyond compare?
Post originally published on Mommy Wants Vodka
When I began counseling for childhood physical and sexual abuse, I was broken.
A broken heart, a broken spirit. I had carried the guilt and shame of my childhood abuse for so long that it was like an old winter coat. So heavy to carry around each day. So hot that some days it was stifling. And yet it had the comfort of the known.
It was scary to throw off that old heavy coat of guilt and shame and face what else was under there.
I thought we would begin slowly. I thought I would share just a bit at a time. My counselor agreed to go at the pace I set. But once I began talking, I kept right on talking. I told her EVERYTHING I could think of. If I thought of something in between sessions, I wrote them down so I could tell her next time. It seems that once I felt a crack in the dam that I’d built to protect myself, the floodwaters couldn’t run fast enough.
I let it ALL out.
It was scary. I shook like a leaf in a hurricane the first session and sometimes after that. But the overwhelming feeling was relief. My need to let it all out was greater than my fear of what my counselor would think of me (of course, that was my insecurities and had nothing to do with my counselor). It was such a RELIEF to release all the secrets I had been carrying.
Once the rush of information was over, we started working on issue after issue.
At some point in counseling, my shame and guilt turned into anger.
ANGER that the abuse occurred. ANGER at those adults who knew and did nothing to protect the little freckled girl with long braids that I had been. ANGER that I carried the guilt and shame of the abuse for so long. ANGER that my stepfather never was held accountable for his actions. ANGER at the days and nights of fear and pain and abuse I endured as a child unable to protect herself. ANGER at the bruises, welts and blisters I had to hide outside of our house. ANGER. ANGER. ANGER.
My counselor encouraged me to feel the anger, but I was terrified of the anger. I remember one conversation where my counselor asked my what about the anger made me so afraid. My reply was “I am afraid that the anger is so huge and so overwhelming that if I tap into it I won’t be able to control it.”
She asked me what I thought losing control of the anger would look like.
I told her I was afraid that the anger would take over and I would just scream and scream and scream until my throat was so raw I wouldn’t be able to scream anymore or that the anger would take over and I would break every single thing in my house. I truly was afraid to let myself feel the level of anger that I knew was raging inside of me.
Then she told me she had a plan, if I was willing. She took me out to her car in the parking lot. She opened the trunk. There in her trunk and in her back seat were huge plastic garbage bags of glass bottles. She had been saving glass bottles for a month or so. Not just hers, she had also asked friends, relatives, and neighbors to save their glass bottles for her.
Her idea was for me to find a place and time where I could be alone (or have a trusted person with me if I chose) and break the bottles. I could scream, cry, or “talk to” the people who I was angry at with each bottle I threw.
Her only “warning” – wear safety glasses.
I won’t lie. It sounded kind of corny to me. But I really trusted her by this point and I was aware that I really needed to deal with this anger before it exploded in some uncontrolled way.
My husband took the kids for a Saturday to go to a park, out to lunch, etc. I went into our basement and set the stage for a safe anger experiment.
I wanted to be able to contain the flying glass so I could avoid anyone being cut later on an overlooked shard. I hung up some plastic sheets so the glass would stay in one area of the basement. I lugged bag after bag of glass bottles to the basement, knowing there was no way I could break all of these bottles at once. I put on long sleeves to reduce the chance of me being hurt by flying glass and donned the ever-so-lovely safety glasses.
I felt stupid. I felt ridiculous setting all of this up. Do “normal” people have to go through all of this just to deal with some anger? But I soldiered on. I wanted to at least be able to say that I tried.
I threw the first bottle. It shattered, but I felt nothing. I threw the second bottle. Again, nothing. I threw the third bottle with some real gusto. Oooh, that felt GOOD! I started throwing the bottles as hard as I could. I eventually started yelling things like “THIS IS FOR NOT PROTECTING ME” or “YOU BASTARD, ROT IN HELL” or “YOU SHOULD CARRY THE GUILT AND SHAME” as I threw the bottles. IT. FELT. AWESOME.
Oh, I was ANGRY. REALLY, REALLY ANGRY.
But I can’t even describe how it felt to have an outlet for that anger.
Bottles were flying fast and furious! There were clear bottles, green bottles, amber bottles and blue bottles (the blue ones had the most spectacular shatter for some reason).
When I had thrown EVERY. SINGLE. BOTTLE. I was breathing hard and exhausted. But I realized I had felt my rage, really felt my RAGE, and the world had not stopped turning. My house was still standing. My family was fine. All was well. Better than well. Not only had I started my anger work in a very satisfying way (I can not describe the satisfaction of yelling out “YOU ARE A SICK FUCK WHO TOOK ADVANTAGE OF A LITTLE GIRL ” and then hearing the shattering of the bottle) but I had also proved to myself that I could handle the anger without losing control.
I know it sounds a little “nuts.” I know it sounds kind of corny. But I am here to tell you – this exercise opened the door for me. It helped me get past my fear of the anger and bring it out in the open so I could work on it.
So thank you SR for being such an awesome therapist that you collected bottles from far and wide for me. Thank you for showing me a way to tap into that anger safely.
I saved a little glass jar of the multi-colored shards of glass. Blue, green, amber, clear. I smile when I walk past it now. Beautiful reminders of my righteous anger and SR’s lesson that helped me release it.
My husband hasn’t been himself lately. He’s seemed down. Distant. Very grumpy. He gets angry a lot. Things have been very unpleasant. Finally, after putting our daughter to bed the other night, I broached the subject.
“Honey, is there something that’s been eating at you lately? You don’t seem very happy…”
“I’ve been grumpy, haven’t I?”
“Well, yes, you have. And it’s not like you. I’m concerned.”
I desperately wanted him to tell me my instincts were wrong. Reassure me. Say I had misconstrued the situation, and there was nothing going on. Instead, he sat down and let out a long, heavy sigh. His shoulders sank, and his body language told me something big was coming. I was terrified of what I was about to hear.
Then he used the words I don’t think a wife ever does want to hear: mid-life crisis.
We talked for a couple of hours, during which he outlined all the things about his life he is unhappy about:
- The status of his career and the lack of opportunity for advancement with his company.
- A feeling he has not accomplished enough (particularly in comparision to others).
- The lack of other job options.
- The fact that having a child later in life means he will not be able to retire anytime soon.
- Our financial status since we decided I would quit working and care for our child full-time until she starts school.
- The things he can’t do because of the above.
- His physical state – the signs of aging he is noticing.
- Our lack of a social life.
- All the issues we are dealing with concerning our own parents. And how much worse things are going to get. Soon.
I was relieved to not hear him listing our relationship or family life. He said those are the things that keep him going and bring him the only happiness he has. Although he is not able to enjoy them as he once did.
He is not enjoying much of anything these days.
I calmly pointed out that some of the issues concerning him are under his control, and some are not. I asked what he thought he could do to change or improve the former, and how he could learn to let go of or accept the latter. Furthermore, what could he do to invest in himself? Carve out time just for him, to engage in something that will truly make him happy? He has a number of hobbies he loves, but he hasn’t been devoting any time to them recently.
It was a good conversation. He seemed relieved to be able to get it all out and that I accepted his concerns without judgment. He hadn’t thought about some of the things I brought up and seemed somewhat encouraged.
Since then, however, he continues to sink deeper. Grow more distant. I fear he is becoming severely depressed.
I’ve been through a major life transition myself. In fact, I’m just coming out of my own period of discontent. The transition to motherhood was not an easy one for me, but I am finally in a good place. I’ve made changes and taken control of my own happiness, which has made all the difference. I have a better outlook on my life – our life. But have I been so focused on myself I haven’t given him enough? Or could my recent experience help me help my husband through his difficult time?
What was most noticeable and concerning to me during our conversation was the tone of his voice and the pained expression on his face as he talked. He was a man deflated. I hurt for him.
I’m going to admit I had a selfish reaction as well. What does this mean for ME? My marriage? Will it survive? I want to support him, do everything I can to help him, but I also feel a strong desire to protect myself and my daughter in the event this ends badly.
I fear there is a storm coming, and I don’t know what to do. I am so scared. I want to help my husband get through this. Most importantly, I want US to get through this.
Please, The Band, help.