The Real Stones in the Road

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In the fall of 1995, I was a sophomore in college and I felt like I had a lump in my throat. ALL THE TIME. I swore there was something wrong, returning to the old fuddy-duddy doctors at the college health center over and over again. Tension was building with my college benefactors (my great aunt and uncle), my best friend had left after attempting suicide and I was heading down an ugly path of one night stands. I was turning into a woman I clearly did not recognize.

I guess one of the crotchety doctors got tired of my throat complaints after making me eat another tongue depressor for what seemed liked minutes on end. AAAhhhhh…..eeeeehhhhh…..Really Dude (in my best California accent) don’t you see that cancer growing in the back of my throat? I am dying here!! He stops, sighs BIG, looks straight at me and says, “I think we need to send you upstairs.” WHAT! Upstairs!! That is where the crazy people go. I am not crazy, I just got this thing- growing in my throat! The third floor of the Student Health Center was the Counseling Center and I did NOT want to go. I rolled my eyes at him, snatched the referral slip and slid off the scaly lizard green exam table pushing past him.

Days, maybe weeks passed and I stayed mad at that crotchety ass hole trying to tell me I needed a therapist, not a tonsillectomy or an MRI– Something!! Finally, after another tawdry night of God knows what with whom will remain nameless and possibly faceless, I made the call.

This particular counseling system required a consultation to find the best fit. I met with a woman who had the wildest long black hair. I occasionally tilted my head like my neurotic cat does wondering if she actually designed it to look that way. But really, I was about to lay some shit down that she could not handle- or at least that is what I told myself. I spewed onto her my complicated and difficult family history, the sexual abuse and how, although I had many difficulties in my relationship with my own mother, I did NOT want to see a boy therapist.

She actually had the audacity to ask me, “WHY?” I remember thinking, ‘Whatdaya Mean, Why?’ The idea of being behind closed doors with a MAN I knew nothing about and then having to share my darkest secrets with made me more nauseated than I was already feeling. In the end it didn’t matter who it was, I was certain no one could really handle me or what I had been through. I was going to bitch slap this therapist around with every tactic I had and wear her out until she cried mercy.

I don’t think I have ever been so armored up in my whole life. I remember the consultation room felt so tiny and all there was was me, a wild, black hairy nest of hair and her white, white paper with the scribbles of my life. Sitting with a difficult decision is like having a sweaty, hairy stomach slide, –slide, –slide down your face…over AND over again. I left wet and sticky and all I could do was take a nap. Me and the wet hairy stomach rubbing its smelly self on me.

Watch this for an Excellent Visual:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enJJeOqHbqE&feature=youtu.be

 

Her name was….Well, I really don’t remember….But let’s call her Kathy or Karen or one of those normal names. I remember her as being all kind of orange and red with short frosted hair. She smiled a lot and watched her digital clock. I used to caress the edge of the arm of the textured couch. Other times I dragged my nails through it just to hear something else make noise besides myself.

Our first session was like standing in knee deep mud. I gave her my best devilish stare and like a howler monkey- made screeching noise to the tune of chaos that was my life. I had planned to torture her with every word until she put her hands over her ears and begged for me to make it stop.

But instead, she breathed in and out, in and out…… and just looked at me with deep set puppy eyes. What THE FUCK was the matter with her? She was not freaking out like I had been ALL MY LIFE!! She listened. She heard me. She seemed to act like she understood. She did not judge or shame me.

Over the next year, so many things unfolded. But one thing that has stayed with me was that she suggested that I seek out and find my two half brothers whom I had only met one once when I was eleven. Before leaving from my work with her, I had not followed through with this; I am sure for many different reasons. If I knew where she was today (hopefully enjoying peaceful retirement not being emotionally pummeled by college students) I would want to tell her that when I was ready, I finally did and although it is not the kind of relationship I wish for, it does exist. I suppose in a way, I hope that she is proud of me. These thoughts are really about wanting her to know that I am grateful that for the very first time in my life someone knew how to hold space for with the hot mess I had become.

You wanna know what is really HI-LAR-IOUS? That lump in my throat? That choking cancer I swore was killing me? They turned out to be tonsil stones- a real problem that is often just as stinky and ugly as the one I fought upstairs in the Counseling Center. But, both the doctor and I were right. I did have a cancer. Shame was metastasizing in my mind and he could not help. I needed a higher power- or at least the one on the third floor. 

 

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LIVE.OUT.LOUD 

 

 

The Telling: The First Moment the Universe Heard the Story of my Sexual Abuse

It is honestly difficult to remember the first time I spoke the words, “He hurt me” with out the memory being encapsulated in a snow globe. I watch it play itself out; nothing exists except for my house on Mosswood Drive, me, my mother and a Strawberry Shortcake suitcase. It is not uncommon for a trauma victim to have memories that can only be remembered as if you are a third party, a ghost, entering into the memory watching your physical self play it out while you loom overhead. Your emotional Self hangs out above, floating and separate from you. For what ever reason, this particular memory is even more distant, yet at the same time, in a snow globe’s tomb, immortalized in my mind.
I was eleven or twelve years old. We had moved from a condo in my home town to a rental house, now renting with my mother’s boyfriend and children. This was the second one following the separation of her second husband and as usual, I was having a difficult time adjusting. Change was like a stabbing knife in my chest. I knew I was supposed to ‘get along’, but it was this boyfriend that I finally readily rejected, tired of being told indirectly to roll with the flow. That day, I had reached a breaking point, weary of the angry tongue lashing that was not uncommon, especially if there was no one around to stop it. I packed my bag and I was leaving. Listen, I packed my STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE suitcase. What in the hell was I thinking?!! Clearly a person honestly capable of leaving would have a black leather suitcase. Every time I flip the snow globe and play out the memory in my mind, I stop dead when the childish suitcase is being packed. But I honestly was carrying heavy, grown up weight with no where to put it, except into my flimsy childish life.
My mother laughed at me while I sobbed, stuffing various clothes into my little girl life. It just made me hurt even more. Could she not see this pain? She was clueless…. even more clueless about the bombshell I was about to drop on her. My day bed faced the window out onto the front porch and was covered with a bright white bed spread, stuffed animals and flowery pillows. I originally bunked with my older soon-to-be step sister, but I was used to having my own space. I had white antique furniture, it followed me into every house I can remember, even in the houses of abuse. I had plenty of clothes. I always had plenty of stuff. But my soul was slowly dying.These words about soul loss may sound like drama, something Scarlet herself would mumble, but when we keep secrets, it rots our soul and each traumatic memory is wrapped like bacon in a thick layer of shame.
My hair was short and puffy. I remember wearing gray cut off Levi jeans with a white shirt that had hot pink and black geometric patterns on it. It was the 80’s in California. I am sure I had high top Reebok with multiple pairs of socks too. And I really was leaving. Anything. Anything to get away from this life. Anything to escape the indescribable pain of the past mixed with the emotional pounding that I was once again receiving from my mother. She seemed relieved when I was broken. This time I was desperate to use Strawberry Shortcake as my shield.
I went towards the front door, first turn to the right out of my room. She grabbed up my arm, became frantic that I was really leaving. Somehow I managed to get out on the porch, but never any further. I absolutely cannot remember how I made it from the porch with leaving in hand to the kitchen table, telling her, telling ANYONE for the first time.
I have no memory of my mothers face that day. She is a blur. I can remember the color of my shorts, but not her face. I cannot remember any consoling words except a vague idea that I was going to get help. I was at least heard momentarily and had some visions of seeing a therapist. But I cannot remember how the day ended. My snow globe goes blanket white and I want to remember if I even felt relieved. Did she hug me? Did she say she was sorry? I wasn’t even sure if she believed me.
Jump several days. I am watching myself talk to my first step father on the phone. His son was my perpetrator, my step brother. It was one of those old style, heavy, manilla colored phones with white plastic push dials. If you pushed just right, all the buttons would dial together and lord knows it was so heavy you could easily knock yourself out just trying to answer it. I am in my mother’s room alone, me and the phone to the right of the bed. My step father starts to ask me if what I said to my mother was true. He tells me as adamantly as he possibly can that “IF” this is true he will disown his son. I am grateful, but I also realize that this is the only person my mother has told and not to protect or help me, but instead help herself. He alludes to how my mother threatened to use the abuse against him in the divorce proceedings. I am betrayed all over again. I disappear into thin air in that moment, my ghost self sees the phone hang in mid air while I die from this sick pain that hollows out my chest. It will be years; Really, YEARS before it is ever brought up again. Now only my mother, my step father and I know the pain and we all bury it further away. I seal it up, like the snow globe and carry on with life, pretty, puffy and pink like Strawberry Shortcake.