I sometimes struggle with how much of my past I need to divulge. I feel there's a fine balance between blogging about yourself for the sake of writing about yourself and having people pay attention to you and blogging about yourself so that others might find a certain sense of camaraderie and not feel alone, possibly gaining some ideas on how to deal with their own issues. In the case of today's topic, I'm writing because I literally need to. I'm also apologizing to any of my family who may read this and wish I'd just kept it to myself. This is not about gaining pity or casting blame, but rather dispersing some of the pain that's been weighing me down. I was, what you would call, an unplanned addition to the family. From the way the story goes and has been told to me, the time my mother spent in relationship with my birth father was less than the time I was in her belly. She'd married him to get out of my grandparents' house, but when she realized she was having a baby, the reality of who my father was and what he was like started to sink in. She left him, which led her right back under Nanny & Papaw's roof. Part of me has always felt as if this is her primary reason for resenting me. One may never know.
As soon as I was born, my aunt tells me, I became the center of Nanny & Papaw's world. Mom had to work, and Papaw was a full-time pastor, so Nanny basically raised me. After Papaw died in '90, Nanny started working, but I still remember spending more time with her than with my mother. We were practically inseparable. Then life took a drastic turn. Mom remarried to my current stepfather, and we moved away to western Indiana. Shortly thereafter, she was in a pretty bad car crash which, the doctors told us, caused frontal, temporal, and parietal lobe damage on her right side, causing short-term memory loss, increased auditory sensitivity, and what I refer to as severe emotional disfigurement.
According to some statistics I was looking at provided by ChildHelp, there are nearly 3.3 million reports made of child abuse every year involving nearly 6 million children. Of this number, 78% suffer neglect, 18% suffer physical abuse, and 8% suffer psychological maltreatment. These are just reported numbers. Starting in the fall of 1993, I became part of those whose abuse was never reported to or acknowledged by the authorities.
Despite an awesome yoga class last night, while sitting on the back deck, I found myself breathing heavily, all of a sudden remembering image upon image of those instances of abuse. Having a standing oscillating fan thrown over on me. Being hit closed-fisted on the crown of my head with a force that instantly dropped me to the ground. Being kicked, slapped, punched, and pushed. Having my mother's fingernails dug so deep into my forearms that I bled through the bandages that night and wore long sleeves to church the next morning. Being called fat, lazy, stupid, worthless, selfish, pathetic, meaningless. Having her look me dead in the eye and tell me I would never amount to being anything more than a fag.
I sat in my chair on the deck, and try as I might, this mental YouTube playlist would just not shut down. I tried to pull up happy memories, good moments. Ultimately, I ended up laying down in bed, curled in the fetal position, arms grasping tightly to Miro, the Build-A-Bear monkey that Frankie bought me on the day we said our vows to each other in the comfort of our living room, witnessed only by two dear friends and our two feline counterparts. Frankie told me this morning how cute I looked. I couldn't find words to reveal just how much pain I was in, and honestly, still am.
This doesn't happen often. Most of the time, when I end up sharing part, most, or all of my story with someone, I'm able to recount these events with little to no difficulty. This is part of who I am. And the truth is, as painful as it was, is, and probably will be for a very long time, my experience with abuse has given me a level of empathy that most people will never experience in life. When a friend is struggling with depression, I feel it. I feel the fatigue, the lack of motivation, the desire to just curl up and disappear into nothingness. Today however, I'm not dealing with anyone else's pain. I'm dealing with my own.
Times like these, I understand why Jesus talked about forgiving 70 x 7 times. When someone wrongs you, the scars of that don't go away. It's like crumpling up a piece of paper, stomping on it, and then unfolding it. It will never be the same, not without being recycled, reformed, recreated into something new, something more beautiful. I feel like that piece of paper right now. I feel as if there are gaping holes, cracks, rips and tears that I just can't straighten out or mend. When you see yourself in that state, loving yourself often feels difficult, maybe even impossible. It's in these moments of being surrounded by the reality of my wounds that I must rely on and recount the solid facts of just how much I am loved by countless people who are probably more aware of my faults and flaws than they might like to be.
It's the long, standing hugs Frankie gives me when he knows. It's the texts, emails, phone calls, or Facebook messages I receive. It's the cards. It's in the small, often short conversations I have at church or at school when a friend asks how I'm doing, and I can tell they really want to know, and they want to know the truth. It's the memories of that last week with Nanny as we sat in the living room, me reading The Shack and her watching the Cincinnati Reds play the Cubs, knowing that I really didn't care who won — I just wanted to be there with her. It's the memory of that moment where I was the last one to touch her before they closed the casket: leaning down and laying my head on her cold, stiff chest, gazing on the face that looked nothing like it had several days before, kissing the forehead and telling her I'd see her sooner than either of us would know.
I miss her desperately today, and I bring her up really for one reason alone: in the midst of the pain I dealt with (and I know others have had it worse, but when it comes to abuse, it's hell for anyone who suffers from it), Nanny had the gift of loving me in a way that never led me to doubt it. We all have pain. We've all been hurt. On those days where it all seems to surface, for whatever reason, often the best remedy is not to think about those who have it worse, but to think about those who have made it better. Think about those who love you... the pain will still be there, but my hope and prayer is that each time it comes, it will be less daunting, less damaging. May we all find peace, and may we all feel loved.