I woke up from a nap to something unexpected today. I was still sans glasses, letting my mind wander a little, when my brain stumbled over a memory.
We used to do something as a group called “Quiet Time” during the afternoons on school days. The rules were that you could do anything you wanted in your own room on your bed by yourself but you had to be quiet until time was up. Me and my sister had a bunk bed and I would stay on the top bunk and read or draw. I always liked quiet time.
I remember the feeling of safety. Everyone mostly was awake, the adults were up and doing things unimpeded and the children were all easily caught if they tried to leave their own rooms. I know now that for the child I was, this was the only safe time to sleep. I felt supremely safe compared to any other moment of the night or day because it made attacks impossible.
I would be able to fall asleep for a nap and the confidence would let me sleep unworried. I remember a few times experiencing a little bit of panic upon awaking to find that I had slept past time and it was not “quiet time” anymore. I would then cling to my Blankie and run down the hallway to check on my mother. I remember these feelings of fear and panic and guardedness but child-me didn’t understand them.
This is why I have insomnia. This is why I always get the best, deepest, most confident sleep in the afternoon when others are around doing a quiet activity. I knew it had to do with feeling safe because someone else was acting as lookout, but I didn’t connect it with “quiet time” or abuse (fully) until today. This makes so much sense now.
My behaviors that seem dysfunctional and strange to me are actually very normal and logical reactions to abusive and unsafe environments that I grew up in. I had to deal with them and learn to live in that house with those people. I had to depend on them and I loved them.
The reality of this abuse was multidimensional: I loved my brother. I loved my parents. I loved our family as a unit. I knew there was expectations from inside and outside the family unit that we stay together and look out for each other. But this did not extend to safety for female-presenting bodies. We children (all of us) were property and someday Those Whom God Has Chosen To Have A Penis would be able to hold their own property so their training was different than mine.
I was expected to protect them: even at the cost of my own body and my own self. I knew every time I was attacked that I would be committing treason by reporting it; child-me was terrified that I would be responsible for their punishment. My child-self knew (through careful grooming) that if my body was the reason a male was punished or hurt, then it would be better for my body not to exist. I was not worth enough. I was not valuable. I knew every time I was abused that my loudest fear (the one most understood by child-me) was of being thrown out of the group identity. And the Narcissist knew that. He wanted it to be so. It was “love” to him. Control, Abuse, and Shame were all “love” when he wielded them.
This is also why I feel incensed whenever anyone tries to say that children and women are illogical, hysterical, or not-believe-able. It’s an extension of the Patriarchy; it’s the same damn grooming and abuse that I used to experience at the hands of my Father the Preacher. F*ck that noise. It turns out we are reliable, logical, and as calm as anyone because the abuse we have endured is that bad.
Patriarchy says that nothing could ever justify the strange behavior exhibited by women. My abusive childhood tells me unequivocally that, yes, our behavior is warranted; yes, our reactions are justified; yes, our minds are capable; but Misogyny has no tools to deal with any of our terrible experiences being true. The emotional capacity to recognize any level of pain or harm is trained out of male-presenting people ASAP (as soon as possible). And AMAP (as much as possible). So I find myself encountering less-developed pocket-sized versions of my Pastor Dad’s Patriarchy all around me as an adult.
No wonder I was falling apart. My body and mind were crying for freedom. I am so glad I got professional help and I’m equally glad I’m uncovering new (old) memories. I don’t know what to do exactly about all the anger I feel at manifestations of the Patriarchy in my birth-family, the court system, racism, etc. I don’t quite know what to do about my sleep.
I do know that pursuing the truth is still what I want. It is really sh*tty but it’s worse to keep it hidden. I want to bring to light all the secret deeds of darkness.