The Monster In Me

Posted on: June 19, 2012
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By Anonymous
 
 
 

Inside, I trembled like a child caught in a bitter, winter wind. A numbness was spreading rapidly through my hands, arms, and across my face. We were still a few miles from my uncle’s house for the Christmas party, but the iron fist around my lungs was closing tighter, cutting off more of my air supply. I could already hear the chatter of 20 people buzzing like a swarm of locusts in my mind. I also knew that when I arrived, I would be pulled into it, and have to fight for the next several hours to save myself. To get back to the surface for air. I knew relatives would corner me and ask how I am, and what have I been up to lately; they could not handle my truth, so I would lie. I would smile and say, “Great!” And then hide in a back room, hoping no one would miss me. I would find the nearest bottle of wine to numb my pain.

As we sped along the freeway, I watched the trees rush by in a blur. My vision was changing, marking the familiar descent out of the present where the anxiety was overwhelming, and slipping backwards into a more protected place. My surroundings became a haze, my focus narrowed, like looking through a tunnel. Sounds began to fade away.

“You okay?” My husband, Mike, asked. He knew these social functions were hard for me. Even if it was family.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Yes, I’ll be fine.” I wished for once I could just be completely honest with him. I wish I could scream, NO! I want to go home! But I can’t bear to make anyone sad, or even worse, uncomfortable around me. I tapped across my arm with my index finger, stopping when it caused a painful ripple effect of pins and needles. I still wasn’t used to the numbness.

“Mama?” The sweet voice called from the back seat. I turned my head and put on a smile for Lacey, her six-year-old charm bubbly and irresistible. “I’m glad you came this time.”

“I’m glad, too,” I lied. I looked to the seat next to her, where her two-year-old sister, Jordan, sat transfixed on a toy in her tiny hands. As if feeling my gaze, she looked at me and smiled with her whole face, flashing two rows of widely-gapped baby teeth. I chuckled at her goofiness. My girls were beautiful, that was certain, but I wondered how they would fare this disorder of mine. I turned back towards the window, feeling the sting of tears in my eyes. Tears because I didn’t want to go to our family Christmas party, and tears because I hated what I was going through. But I pushed them back as I always did, trying to hide the agony swarming and tearing at my soul. Trying to prepare myself for the act I was about to put on for my loved ones.

Jordan started singing. Jordan, beautiful and joyful Jordan, was oblivious to the fact that her birth had triggered a destruction in my life called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Though I recovered from the trauma of her birth within a few weeks, it had opened up Pandora’s Box, forcing me to relive the years of abuse I had endured as a child. I never saw it coming. The life I had envisioned for myself and my family did not include PTSD, nor the symptoms that came with it. Fear, panic and anxiety became like a second skin – I walked in it constantly. I could not shed it.

The beginning stages were the worst, when it flooded over my mind, body and soul like a tsunami. After fourteen years of peace with my past, my mind was suddenly plagued on a daily basis with vivid memories of rape and abuse – and not just memories, but reliving the events, where terror and pain consumed me mentally and physically. For weeks, I kept this to myself for fear I was going crazy. Memories and intrusive thoughts that I could not control, that flashed across my vision like I was being attacked all over again. I lived on edge, jumping at any sudden sound or voice. But the anxiety became the most difficult to conceal. My level of patience existed at my throat, and anything at all could set me off – a 180 degree turn from who I used to be.

A squabble between the girls, people talking over each other, or repeated phrases – something kids come by naturally. The anger and rage that suddenly existed inside me shocked and horrified me, and there were times I wasn’t able to diffuse it. Even if I ran into the bedroom and screamed into a pillow, the kids still heard. They still came running in, even if I begged to be left alone. I wanted to protect them from myself, and I never wanted them to see me hurting. I never wanted to hurt them, either, with a roar or a shout that regrettably escaped my lips when they pushed me over my short edge. But I did roar. There were times the rage sat weightlessly on my tongue, and I would not know it was there until they pushed my tolerance too far. It would spring out in a frightening howl before I could snap my mouth shut, and then there would be tears. Tears from them both. And just as quickly, I would be enveloped with massive regret, and I’d scoop them into my arms with profuse apologetics.

“I’m so sorry,” I’d cry. “It’s not your fault that I yelled. It’s not your fault. I’m so sorry.”

Like filling a glass with wine, my entire being was hastily being filled with guilt and shame for this thing I could not control. The thing I grew to call the Monster Inside Me. For the first few years, I grieved deeply the woman I had been: softhearted, patient, and kind. Led by dreams and ambitions of being a singer and a writer, having my own business, and a house in the country with a white picket fence. I smiled, a lot.

Not now. Not anymore. I was tortured daily by flashbacks of frightening things I wanted so badly to forget, but I could not. I felt like Jekyll and Hyde, and there was no peace in my heart. No joy, and certainly no understanding of why this was happening to me. But it would get worse – much, much worse – before it ever got better.

PTSD is like a Caterpillar front loader, scooping its victim helplessly into its claws, pushing, pushing, pushing, while tumbling them over and over like a rag doll. I couldn’t escape it. It took time, though, to figure out the crisis that was taking place. The typical stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance took seven years; but through each stage, I continued to deal with the symptoms of PTSD, as well as panic disorder, agoraphobia, general anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder. I lived in a bubble, and the plunge I took into depression and despair was so deep, I nearly took my life.

The tiny green pills were in my palm. I had said a heavy-hearted, sobbing good-bye to my daughters while they slept, but I knew I had to go. I had taken on the shame of 12 years of abuse all at once, and in my shattered, numb psychological state, did not believe I could be a mother. I did not see an end to my pain. It was the same every day, worsening, devouring me. PTSD took the light that radiated in my spirit and crushed it into the ground until it was silenced. My husband deserved a wife without baggage. A wife who didn’t bring him pain. Who wasn’t a burden. A wife who could take care of herself. I could not. I couldn’t even shower in the morning. I couldn’t clean the house, or cook anymore. A shame….

In my tormented, delusional mind, I believed my daughters deserved a mom who could be there for them all the time. Who didn’t hide in the bedroom and cry. A mom who could take care of them like they deserved. The pills were in my hand at 1:00 a.m. They were a hazy, green blob through my tears, and just as I was about to toss them in – a certain death, my doctor had warned – my cell phone rang, and the pills went flying across the couch. I reached for it in a panic, not wanting to wake the house. It was my best friend. She’d had a feeling… so she drove over.

She saved my life that night, and soon after, I faced a life-changing question. How would you feel if your daughters experienced the same pain you have right now? Even the idea of one of my daughters ever going through my pain of abuse clawed my heart into shreds. And from somewhere deep inside a righteous anger rose, as if the proposed threat was very real, and I knew I needed to protect them. I knew that only I could. I knew that sexual abuse is a generational curse, and if it is to ever stop, someone in the cycle must dig their feet into the ground and face it. Face it, fight it, and heal from it. Become strong enough and angry enough to speak about it, especially to their children. To my children.

I saw a flash of their future in two different paths. One path of me giving up, and the consequential burdens they would face. The messages they would learn; for instance, that giving up is the answer, and that they had a mom who abandoned them. Or the second path, where I’d claw and fight until my fingers bled, and even then, I would go on until I’d conquered PTSD and its effects on my life. I’d fight and grow stronger, and I’d tell my daughters about sexual abuse, and wrong touch, and that they have a right to say NO. I’d live… and by doing so, I’d teach my daughters that life is worth fighting for. That they are worth fighting for.

I chose the second path, and I have never looked back. I will never again be the woman my husband married, because now I know I will be even better. After all, I know who I am now. I know what I am capable of. I know that by doing hard things – especially when it feels impossible, or it feels like it will pull me under for good – I grow in leaps and bounds. By choosing to live, I have developed courage, perseverance, and an iron will. My faith is stronger than it has ever been, and I have not only educated my daughters about childhood sexual abuse, but I am determined to help as many people as possible by sharing my story. I am a new woman already, even though I am not yet completely healed. I am getting better every day.

You’ve bounced back, you might say? Ha! You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

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