I was trying to read.
Go away, thoughts!
The news is bad everywhere. The newsprint is inky and thin. My body starts to shake.
I remember being around 5 or 6 when it happened. I felt intense terror while my oldest sibling chased me. Both of my older brothers, actually; Instigator and Sidekick. I was holding a pencil that I had just sharpened in our new-fangled electric pencil sharpener. I don’t know why. And I don’t know why I was so scared. I was against a bookshelf, maybe in a corner? I actually don’t remember how it happened. I just know that the pencil was forced into my hand and now I have a piece of graphite inside of me. I have one other memory of my Grandmother putting salve on it a few weeks later and it is puffy and red and white and angry and very painful. But no, I know we are never going to the doctor for it. All the adults around me tried to convince me that they got the tip of the pencil out when they pulled the pencil out but I know the truth. I saw the pencil. And maybe it’s symbolic but I need to get this out of me.
I’ve only ever focused on this incident as a point of pride: Look at what I have endured! And with no adverse effects!
I hadn’t thought of it in years. Not once since my recovery began in earnest. As I started shaking, I thought of that piece of graphite and that story and I was afraid. I trembled and tried to believe there was nothing there in my hand. Don’t look at it, it’s not there anyway! Just a dream, just a dream. Not real, not real! But I made myself look and sure enough, just as it had been since it “healed”, deep inside the heel of my palm was a small black triangle. Visible. Definitely there.
And so, in the middle of the night just a few nights ago, decades removed from the actual incident, I sat in the bathroom shaking and seriously considering using kitchen knives to do some minor surgery on myself right then and there.
Avoidant. That’s the word for this. For encountering a traumatic event from the past and wanting to ignore it forever. An event so awful that my brain has worked very hard to protect me from the experience when it was happening. An event I don’t want to be real. An event I was ‘perfectly happy’ to remain in denial about. Except I wasn’t happy; perfectly or otherwise.
My brain has filled in correlating phobias and fear responses that I had been at a loss to explain:
Fear that insects will lay eggs under my skin.
Fear that insects/worms/maggots will live inside of me, multiply, and destroy me.
Fear that my heels and palms will be perforated and segmented, hollowed out and infested or used for a different purpose than just being part of my body.
Perceiving insects or other animal threats unreasonably; perceiving mosquito bites or the presence of spiders all over me where there is only wind or a stray hair or nothing at all.
Fear of snakes biting me or grabbing my feet or ankles while I am un-guarded: in the shower or using the toilet (through the drains), from under the toilet or under the bed or under any piece of furniture.
Fear of something growing inside of me: Swallowing a seed from a watermelon or a cucumber or any seed and it growing in my stomach. Similar fears from swallowing a marble when I was 5 or 6.
It’s easy to see the way these all agree thematically that I have an intense fear of my very body being colonized. What could be more indicative of sexual and physical abuse?
Lordy, when I think of all the gas-lighting the men in my life were able to sustain … Vicious! Callous! Sociopathic! I wish it was unfathomable. I wish people were not capable of such villainy. But they are.
I think I itch my skin because I’m still trying to get the poison out. It doesn’t work. It’s never worked. But for some reason, my subconscious would rather do something than nothing. Doing nothing is unbearable.
I know it doesn’t make sense to continue an activity that actively harms one’s body and mind. But when the alternative is nothing, what am I to do? If you’ve been following along, you would note how difficult it would be for someone with my history to be still, and accept that there is no way for me to fight the offender off, no way to remove him even though he’s inside of me. I think my body still thinks I’m being raped and immobilized. Like, every minute of every day. And since I was completely immobilized and utterly and directly under someone else’s control, I’ve been trying to remove my attacker one molecule at a time. I’m trying to bleed him out of me. I’m trying to get free.