(Disclaimer: Do not read unless you have read Part 1)
Darkness Falls Part 2
As the weeks went by after The Monster attacked, I learned how to function in society without giving away what was happening in my head. I managed to smile at all the appropriate times, use all the right emojis in texts and avoid talking about myself as much as possible. When somebody would ask how I was doing, I would respond with something like “Oh good, busy as usual,” avoiding any further conversation. Nobody needed to know that ‘busy as usual’ actually meant spending hours staring at the wall in my kitchen.
There were two friends at work who knew what had happened to me – one of whom told me months later that she felt as though I had blown things out of proportion. The other friend became someone who literally saved my life. She took me in and made me a part of her family when I needed family the most (more on that later).
There were a few months where I actually didn’t allow men into my home at all. The only man that I would allow to come into my home was my best friend, Mario – who was around quite often during those times.
One day in August, my hot water tank stopped working and my Dad came over to fix it. The entire time that he was in my house, I had to stand outside in the yard to avoid throwing up. I can’t even explain the way that it felt, but it was like my mind was slowly going crazy, and there was no way to stop it from happening.
To say that I was fragile during this time would only scratch the surface. It felt like my insides were being held together by a thread – one false move and it was all going to come crashing down. Which ended up happening a few months later, during a family cruise to Mexico.
This is what you need to understand about my family dynamic before you can understand what happened during the trip: my Mom and Dad are both devout Christians who believe that your spouse should always come first before your kids. And while I’m not here to place any kind of judgement on religious beliefs, I always felt particularly resentful towards this one. I felt like my Dad used this “rule” as a way to keep my Mom to himself, which seemed to be his goal in life. He didn’t want to share her time or attention, and if somebody else were to jeopardize this for him, shit would hit the fan. It happened quite often when I was a kid, due to the fact that my Mom and I were close – being that we were the two women in the family. My Dad and Brother were also close, despite the fact that my Brother has spent his entire life seeking my Dad’s approval (spoiler alert: he’s never going to get it). Me, on the other hand…I figured that if it was so unattainable my energy would be best spent elsewhere.
There we were on a cruise ship in Mexico, having a pretty decent week thus far, when I knocked on my parents cabin d00r one evening to ask my Mom if she would like to join me for a walk. I could tell that I was asking at a bad time, as she was torn over whether or not she should go. She told me that she could come for a quick walk, but that she would need to be back soon to spend time with my Dad. I wondered to myself why he wouldn’t just come for a walk with us, but I dismissed this thought and figured we would be back soon.
We wandered along the deck of the ship, making small talk and taking in the beautiful views. I honestly don’t remember why I wanted to go for a walk with her, but I’m guessing it’s because my Mom used to be my person. I mean that in every sense – she was always the first person that I would run to as soon as something came up in my life that I needed to mentally digest. She was a huge influence during my younger years, and maybe that explains a few things about me. She is a highly sensitive person who lives under an emotionless exterior – every move she makes is calculated, but the end result is always the same: maintaining complete and total control. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Mother despite how difficult our relationship has become, but I think that this story will shed some light on why our relationship has suffered so much trauma.
Our walk lasted maybe 15 minutes before we were back at her cabin. Again, the details are a little bit hazy, but for some reason she asked me to come inside her cabin with her, maybe to get something? It could have been anything, really. I found myself standing in my parents cabin and couldn’t help but notice that my Dad was looking upset, sitting in the corner of the room. I’ll never forget this moment, because this was one of those moments that happened in a split second but has replayed in my mind over a thousand times in the last 6.5 years.
I decided to make small talk with him, which is the only kind of conversation that he and I have had since I was a little kid. I turned to him and asked “are you enjoying the trip?” and realized immediately the error in my ways. He rolled his eyes at me and gruffly replied: “this isn’t the kind of vacation that I enjoy, no,” and before I could say anything further, he told me “I would rather be somewhere alone with my wife, with nobody else around.” And in that moment, I felt the old familiar, sick feeling that used to plague me when I was younger. It was the burning reminder that no matter how broken I was, my Dad always had the ability to break my heart even once more.
It took me back to one specific time when I was 13 years old during an argument that I was having with my parents. There was a lot of fighting between the three of us back then, and most of it came down to how “dramatic” I was, according to them. They just had no idea that what they took for drama was simply me experiencing my real life. It’s easy for an adult to call a teenage girl overly emotional, but how is that fair to say to someone who is more than 10 years away from having a fully developed brain? During that argument I started crying and told my Dad that I didn’t feel like he loved me because he never said it or showed it. His response? Anger. Just pure anger. And in case you’re wondering, my telling him that I didn’t think that he loved me never prompted him to tell me that it wasn’t true. And that was really all the evidence that I needed to know that I was right.
So there I was, in the middle of what had been a pretty great vacation, suddenly feeling completely and totally crushed. It wasn’t only because of what he had said to me, it was also the fact that both of them knew what the past few months of my life had been like. My self worth had never taken a beating as hard as it did that year, and I felt like my Mom and Dad should have been the people who would help build it back up, not tear me down even further.
My immediate response was hurt and upset over his comment, and I left their cabin room pretty damn fast. I stormed into the cabin room that I was sharing with my half-sister, immediately venting to her about what he had said. I remember that I changed his words when I told her what had happened, because I didn’t want her to be as hurt as I was to know that he would rather we weren’t there. She and I agreed “our Dad is such an asshole,” and had a drink.
Later that night, our family was seated at dinner when my Dad started chatting with our Waiter. He asked him about where he was from, and whether he had any time off to visit his family in between cruises. The Waiter explained that he had a wife and four kids in Mexico, but he didn’t see them very often as he has to work to make ends meet. When he found out that we were from Canada, he told us “we love Canada, it’s our dream to live there.” My Dad laughed and pointed at me saying “I have one daughter who can’t seem to find anyone, you could marry her.” And before the Waiter had any time to respond, my Dad retorted “but I wouldn’t do that to you, she’s not good enough for you.” I stared at my hands in my lap and said nothing.
The last days of that cruise were tense to say the least. My Mom and I had been officially separated since her duty was to my Dad – which meant that we spent no time together for the rest of the trip. My half Sister was empathetic, but also felt that I was being too sensitive. In a way, she was right – I was being sensitive, but that’s just who I am. From my very earliest memories as a child, I remember feeling and perceiving every little nuance around me. I’ve always been highly perceptive of what other people are experiencing, and this is probably one of my greatest gifts and biggest weaknesses. When I look back on my younger years (particularly my early 20’s), I recognize how damaged I was, and it’s taken a long time for me to develop the amount of compassion that I have for myself now. I’m able to look back on these days and recognize that I lacked the emotional nourishment that I so badly needed in order to grow. Back then, I was not equipped to handle this situation, and so I handled it poorly.
Instead of addressing my feelings with my parents, I let myself give in to the demons that waited to swallow me whole whenever life got tough. They sat on my shoulder and hung from my neck, peering inside of me and seeing the truth, then cackling back at me the horrible remarks that would swirl around my mind for months to come: “you’re worthless and defective, even your own Dad doesn’t want to be around you. Nobody loves you, and nobody ever will, especially after what happened with the Monster. This is exactly what you’re worth.” Every time I would hear those words repeat in my mind, a sick stabbing feeling would shoot through my heart, and I knew that it was breaking again.
My relationship with my Mom was failing miserably, as I’m pretty sure that I lost my mind on her at least once after the cruise. I often felt an immense amount of resentment towards her every time she took my Dad’s side on an issue, even when she knew that I had done absolutely nothing wrong. The fact that I was being separated from my primary support person was what hurt me the most. I could give you at least a dozen examples of this happening during my childhood, because it was the rinse and repeat cycle that we lived in. I could probably write an entire book on the subject of attachment and abandonment, and how profoundly it can damage us as human beings. On second thought, you might take my entire blog as being that book, in a sense 🙂
One day my Mom called me to tell me that she wanted to do something to help me, but she wasn’t sure how she could personally help me, so she offered to pay for me to start going to Therapy. She recognized how depressed I had become, since I had basically pulled back from everyone in the entire family and secluded myself as much as I could. For everything negative that I could ever say about my Mom, this is the one instance where I can honestly say that not only did she get it right this time, she ended up being the vehicle that delivered me to a place where I could finally experience some healing. For that, I will be eternally grateful to her.
The first time that I stepped into his office, I remember feeling a mixture of nervousness and curiosity. I had been to a Therapist a few times years earlier, but never felt that it particularly benefited me. He wasn’t what I was expecting, even though I didn’t know what to expect. He was of a smaller stature, maybe a couple inches shorter than me, and likely in his late 40’s or early 50’s. In a way, he reminded me of a Buddhist Monk, and I wondered how it could ever be possible for someone like him to relate to someone like me. But kids, that’s the beautiful thing about life that keeps it so interesting, and it’s true when they say never judge a book by it’s cover.
He spoke for a few minutes, telling me about himself, his credentials, and what makes him passionate about Therapy. There was a calm ease about him, as though the world could be crashing around his office and he wouldn’t even flinch. Then he turned to me and asked me to “tell him why I was there.”
For a moment, I had no idea what to say or where to start. I’d become so accustomed to maintaining polite conversation – where I would never dream of monopolizing the conversation to talk about myself. But here I was in this situation that required me to break down those barriers – if I wanted something to change. And I really really wanted things to change. I wanted my life back, to feel the freedom in my heart that had been stripped away from me a few months prior. I wanted it badly enough that I was willing to open up my heart that day and begin chasing my own freedom.
I started talking,”A few months ago, something really bad happened…” and then it began pouring out of me – the hurt that I felt from feeling violated, the strained relationship with my parents and the way that I feel innately defective. At one point the tears started to fall, but I didn’t even notice until he was handing me a box of tissues. It felt as though I had been suppressing the exact words that I needed to share in order to clear the block that I felt in my throat. The same block that had always prevented me from speaking my truth – but now it was coming out of me so easily that I barely recognized the words that were flowing through me, like someone else was doing the speaking.
Once I could feel my chest start to relax, I knew that I had lifted enough weight from it for one day, and I looked up to find him smiling at me with compassionate and wise eyes. “Thank you so much for sharing the way that you have today. I really admire your courage.” We booked another appointment for a few days from then.
Driving home that day, I reflected on the fact that I was going to have a lot of work to do in order to pull myself out of the shadows. But for the first time since The Monster, I felt a determination within me to do everything that I could to heal. And even though I had a long way to go and I knew it, I couldn’t help but recognize the flutter that suddenly appeared deep inside of me, and I knew it was a tiny flame rising from the ashes.