I have been having trouble sleeping lately. This is nothing new in my world, but it's especially frustrating amongst advice of "sleep when the baby sleeps" and having a baby who actually sleeps through the night.
I can't sleep because I'm overwhelmed. The next month or two are absolutely packed, and I don't know if I have the stamina to make it through it all. Plus, I'm not sure I'm mentally ready to handle it all.
For years, I have been carefully censoring myself online in case family finds my writing and decides to retaliate. Here's the problem with that: I spend nearly half my rent every month working with a therapist to get over my past. Maybe writing it out will help with that. Maybe putting my story somewhere that it could be seen, even if by strangers, might give me some peace and let me sleep more easily at night. So, here goes.
I have PTSD. I had a traumatic childhood, and it has shaped every aspect of my personality.
I am obedient. I am kind. I am quiet. I am gentle. I am loyal. These are good qualities in moderation, but mine are much stronger than the healthy "dose". Mine are the result of years of abuse.
I talked earlier with Mark about the word "abuse" and how odd it felt. It's such a small word. So clinical. Saying "I was abused" does not even feel close to powerful enough to describe what I've been through. However, saying it out loud, where the abuser might hear, makes the word too heavy to bear.
I have lived in fear of my father for 20 years. Two-thirds of my life, I have hidden and protected the secrets of what my childhood was like. For half of that time, I have been 1,400 miles away – far from where I can be reached physically, and surrounded by people who love and appreciate me. But everything I say and share is always covered by a shadow of "what if he sees".
I have stories that seem "normal" to me and I often share them with friends in ordinary conversation, only to bring on awkward silences and confused looks. I've learned for the most part which stories are appropriate to share, and which ones are a little too real, too uncomfortable, for people to hear.
I have childhood diary entries with these stories. I have an entry from 6th grade where I am excited for a friend's surprise birthday party that weekend but I'm not sure if I'll be able to go. I stayed home from school that week with "the flu". In this case, "the flu" was bruises on my face, a fat lip, and a cut across the bridge of my nose where my father grabbed my face as punishment for an argument with my younger sister over Polly Pockets. I wrote this entry with the same casual tone as the one where I was excited to play Nintendo games with a friend. This was normal. This was one of the milder situations.
Shortly after I left home, I spent days at my retail job trying to work while fielding phone calls from my angry father who refused to stop calling until I would talk to him. Who insisted I meet his new girlfriend by telling me that he was going to wait outside my condo until I came home and "couldn't hide anymore".
A few years later, I left the country. I received a phone call one night that began with the phrase "so I hear I used to beat you". I hung up. I found out later that this was the result of a date with my previous job's HR representative who apparently didn't value privacy as much as you would expect. I had only told her that because I requested he not be put through on the phone if he called, or allowed to see me if he showed up at the office. I didn't want my past to ruin my job.
He took me out to lunch once. I ordered a salad. He told me that was a good choice. He told me that I "used to be hot" but "now [I'm] just fat". I thought the word hot was an odd one to use when describing your daughter. He told me nobody would ever find me attractive.
I had a kidney infection one year that I was afraid of having treated because I did not yet have Canadian healthcare and wasn't sure how much it would cost. After finally visiting the doctor, I received an email saying that he had heard I was pregnant (I was not; I was just sick) and he couldn't believe I was wasting my life that way. I was 21 years old and very sick. He didn't ask if I was ok; he just told me that the only way I would be a good role model for my younger sisters is if they learned to never be anything like me. I printed that email and carried it with me for months. I still don't know why I did that.
I visited my family for three days for my sister's wedding. He paid for my ticket, despite my saying I didn't want him to. I decided it must be a favour to my sister and went anyway. He danced with me at the reception and spent the entire song telling me that he could tell I wasn't happy and that I would never be happy. That I was just lying to myself. I was two years into a blissfully happy relationship (with Mark) and had never been happier in my life.
I have spent years trying to figure out what I did wrong. Why did I deserve this? Why was it all directed at me? Why were my sisters so loved while I was so hated? I must have been a horrible child.
I can't be around anyone who plays with their belt. If I hear a belt crack, I have a panic attack. I can still feel the fear and remember the welts on the backs of my legs because I dared to flinch or cover myself when I was being punished.
I'm visiting my family in a few weeks. Mark and I are taking Lucas to meet everyone and we are going to see all the sights – where I grew up, where I went to school, where I liked to go for dinner. In these places are the ghosts of my past. The place where I used to dream about where I could hide if he showed up uninvited. The place where I tried to call 911 with bloody hands because I thought I was going to die. The place where I hid in the bathroom and tried to get pictures of the bruises up and down my sides and back to show the school social worker.
I'm being told that I need to "make an effort". That my father needs to hear from me that I want to see him. That he wants to meet his grandson. Everyone means well. They just don't want uncomfortable situations and I can't blame them for that. But they also don't know the truth.
I don't want my son to meet the man who thinks I'm a terrible role model. I don't want my husband to meet the man who thinks that nobody could ever love me because of how I look.
Most of all, I don't want to see the man who has made me feel unworthy and unimportant for 20 years.