I turn this thought over and over in my mind. It’s like a fossil that I have to handle carefully but I can’t stop examining it. It changes everything; it goes with everything. It is the joint that bends the knee, the bellwether that marks the storm, the figure that zeroes the equation.
Little by little I feel the pain. I don’t always know why or where it’s going to be. Right now it’s a deep ache right in the middle of my chest. It hurts all the way back as if the middle of me was punched out with an apple-corer. I know that my body couldn’t experience the pain as it was happening because I remember many times that I knew I was hurt but it overwhelmed me and settled in for later. I remember that feeling.
And as I examine this, I see how so many things that I do are done to cope with this trauma that I didn’t understand. My whole life is built out of ways to deal.
I hate showering but I do it anyway. When I do shower, and I have to close my eyes to avoid the soap, I get very frightened that someone will come for me. In showers that have a shower curtain I get scared much more because I can’t see the room and the door to confirm I am alone. I have used my strong will to muscle myself into many things that I feel frightened about and the shower was just one of those things that I needed to force myself to do in spite of my feelings.
I’ve always had trouble cleaning the bathroom. I always thought it was the fumes and my allergies, but finding these lost memories from childhood where I experienced distress over cleaning the bathroom has connected some dots for me.
I forgot that I went through a stage of hand-washing around 9 1/2 years old. It was brutal. I remember being threatened, told that it was evil to wash my hands so much, so I have his memory of standing in front of the sink NEEDING to wash my hands but frozen in place terrified of the wrath of God if I did wash them. I remember just abject terror and staring at my hands.
I forgot that I had a terrible wetting-the-bed and wetting-my-pants stage around this same time. One of my clearest memories of this was at a special occasion hosted at our home and I had a complicated outfit on. I remember this particular time I was very scared of the evil of wetting my pants and feeling very ashamed that I was so so bad.
But I was a 9 year old. I was being abused. My body was crying out for help since before I can remember. Of course my religious father would threaten me with God’s displeasure at any sign that our home life was not perfection! Of course he would taunt me about any allergy I would manifest because he didn’t believe they were real! Of course he would lock me in a pitch black garage, refuse to turn on the light, and force my mother to ignore all my screams for help. And I was screaming because, of course, I have a terrible fear of dark spaces and nighttime.
Huh. Nighttime fear. Of course.