Because I Didn’t Matter, part 2

There is a little girl in white who sits in one of the white rooms along the corridor, hands tightly balled into little fists. So much anguish being released into those hands, with the nails digging into her skin leaving half moon marks that hurt in a satisfying way, as she clenches and unclenches them.  She is seven years old, and I only recently discovered her, that tiny version of me with the reddish brown curls that fell into her brown eyes because she was usually looking down, playing with paper dolls and singing songs with nonsense words, which she knew never mattered because nobody heard her songs anyway.  That’s how I see her, in that room.  I feel her with me more lately, and I have noticed, as I wake often through the night, that my own hands are clenched into fists while I sleep, making half moon marks in my skin. My forearms ache through the day, and it reminds me.

I found her when I was walking through the story of my day in court in one of my EMDR sesssions. She helped me remember playing with my paper dolls. I loved them. I played with them every chance I got, and used them to act out all the dreams and fantasies I had, and to make everything else in that world disappear. The day after I had to let the five year old take my favorite one, I sat on the living room floor, playing with the only girl paper doll I had left. I wanted the doll to sit on a little chair I’d made out of a tissue box, and tried gently to bend her stiff legs so she could. I wasn’t trying to break her. I just wanted her to be able to sit.  Mom saw me doing that and grabbed the doll out of my hands and ripped her in two, saying, “You destroy every goddamn thing I give you.” I hadn’t remembered that before, and as I did, I felt a sadness wash over me that made me remember how alone and ashamed I felt, all the time, as a seven year old. I was the one ashamed, because I simply didn’t understand that bending my paper doll’s legs wasn’t the right thing to do, and I no longer had any girl paper dolls, only boys. Nobody ever bought me any more, and I never really wanted to play with the boy ones, because I couldn’t pretend I was any of them, so I never played with paper dolls again after that day. I miss them.

My seven year old girl in white also helped me remember the day she left me. I’ve always been confused about where I was sitting when my mother was driving me back home to live with Bruce again after court that day. I sometimes saw myself sitting on back seat next to my Barbie doll. But, sometimes, I pictured myself on the floorboard of the backseat curled up in a ball.

During my session, after I said, in my mother’s voice, “We are going to have to be extra nice to him, especially you, because you hurt him the most,” a long, anguished wail came out of me, and I saw her, my little seven year old in white, on the floorboard, and I cried with her, my entire body seized with her pain, hot tears flowing, fists clenched, curled into a ball, crying, over and over and over, “I don’t want to go home, I don’t want to go home, I don’t want to go home…” She knew that every bit of hope was gone, that nobody was ever going to help, and had the innate sense that things would get worse, and she simply could not live knowing those things.




Because I Didn’t Matter, Part 1

When I was seven years old, one of my mother’s friends brought her five year old to my house. The five year old grabbed one of my paper dolls from me, and I tried to take it back. Her mother gave it back to me, and the five year old cried. My mother made me give her the paper doll, and said, “she’s only five,” and everyone smiled at the five year old. I understood that five year olds were little and that people protected them. It didn’t occur to me that nobody had protected me as a five year old. I didn’t seem to have that kind of logic, or maybe I needed to find a reason why nobody protected me. I just wished I was five so I could have my paper doll and that someone would help me if I cried.

When I was seven years old, my mother was home when I got home from school. She told me we were going to the station. Bruce was a policeman, so I thought we were going to see him. She grabbed my hand and held it so tightly it hurt as we walked into the station. I noticed she started crying, just as we got inside. She hadn’t been crying at all on the drive over. As officers gathered around her, calling her by name, she started talking and crying harder, saying, “He put his hands between her legs,” pulling me tightly to her, and “I didn’t know; he told her that if she told me, I wouldn’t love her.” I was confused. He had always done that to me, and more, and she had always known, and he had never said that, and she had never cried about it, only acted mad at me about it. The policemen were looking at me and I could tell they were upset that Bruce had done things to me. I told one of them that I was only two years older than five because I wanted him to know that I was still little enough for him to help.

Afterward, we went home, and my Aunt Pauline and Uncle George (actually great aunt and uncle) were there, ready to take us to their house. I loved them so much, and wished it was just me going with them. My Aunt Pauline used to let me brush her hair and made me sandwiches and told me my songs were pretty. Uncle George gave big hugs and never yelled. I loved their house. Mom was mad at me all the time, but as long as Aunt Pauline and Uncle George were up, she pretended she wasn’t.

One day she picked me up from school and told me we were going to see Bruce and his lawyer who was going to help us. I was in a room with them, and they were sitting away from me talking. “I can’t ask her to lie on the stand,” the lawyer said, “but if she doesn’t tell the judge anything, that could work.” They were talking about me, I realized. They walked over to me and told me that they didn’t want me to lie about what Bruce had done, but that if I wanted to help  him not be in trouble, I had to not say anything at all, not about the things that he did to me, or even talk to the judge.

“Don’t tell him your name, or how old you are, or what grade you’re in, or even nod your head at him,” the lawyer said to me. My mother said, “if you can just be really quiet, and not talk at all, I’ll get you that Barbie you wanted and we’ll get chocolate ice cream.” That part wasn’t even necessary. I did whatever I was told. I was always afraid of them.

I told them I would pretend I was at the library, because you’re not supposed to talk at the library. They all smiled at me, and I felt good that I was so clever.

The judge was very nice, asked me my name, waited…nothing…how old I was…nothing…several more questions, and finally, “Did your dad touch you between your legs?” I was so sad because I wanted to tell him, not because I believed he could help me, but because I wanted him to like me. But I was silent. He looked at me sadly, and talked to the grownups, and we left. The lawyer patted me on the head and winked at me. Mom and Bruce kissed in the parking lot, and they took me to get the Barbie and the ice cream, and got mad because I didn’t eat it, and it melted.

On the way home, my mother looked at me in her rear view mirror as I sat in the back seat. “You know, I love him so much that I risked my soul to eternal damnation by lying under oath. He is my husband. We are going to have to be extra nice to him, especially you, because you hurt him the most.”

That was a turning point in my life. From that day, and for forever, I  knew beyond a doubt that nobody would ever help me, or even try to see me, not even the people who were supposed to help little girls, and not because I wasn’t five, but because none of what happened to me was about me. How could it ever be about me?  Because I didn’t matter.




Corridors: Little Girls in White Rooms

I have been in therapy for several years, and when I began, was well able to recount horror stories from my childhood, but through a filter of sorts, the safe haze of dissociation, which had served me well as a little girl. I am grateful for that safe haven, but as we know, that kind of haze doesn’t forever protect us. At some point it no longer serves us. The numbness in my spirit ever present as I began to walk through life as an adult became maddening, a silent scream that echoes through corridors of places within that were at once familiar and unknown to me.

When I was 9 years old, I remember vividly a “dream” in which I died. It was a night that my stepfather was in the next room beating my mother, and I was lying so still even my breath barely made my chest move. There was always a silence that fell after he had beaten her. In that silence, I waited. In the silence, I imagined he had killed her, and that he would come to kill me. Often he did come to my room, sometimes to punish me, sometimes to touch me. The night I was sure I had died, I was waiting. I saw myself floating away, a small girl in a white dress, with tears that flowed down her cheeks that I could almost feel on my own face. Hot, fat tears that seemed they could flood my room but dissipated before hitting the floor. She looked at me and I felt her anguish as she slowly shook her head. She didn’t speak to me, but her eyes kept flowing with those tears and bore into mine and I knew she was telling me that she died, and couldn’t come back ever again. I am not sure at what point she was no longer me, but when I finally was aware of the footsteps coming down the hall and my bedroom door opening, she was gone.

I now know that she lives in a white room, where she sits, facing a white wall, a pure, lovely little girl, who only glances over her shoulder when her door opens. She believes she is dead. She is one of many little girls in white rooms who exist…where? In my mind, my spirit, as a part of my soul? I became aware of each of them at different times as I began walking through the stories of my childhood and connecting to them, the little girls who carried the burden of the pain, terror, shame, rage, of those times until they couldn’t any more, and they left.

During an EMDR session, I often walk down the white corridor and somehow know which door to open for the little girl I need to help me tell the story through her eyes. I know that these little girls are me, the parts of me who couldn’t stay. They absorbed all the pain they could, and took their leave, to stay within those rooms, white, pure, safe. The work that I do in this healing journey is to connect to them, see them, hear them, and do my best to assure them each that they are safe, and that I honor them, and will keep them safe.

Some of the doors will have to stay shut, as I tuck them each back in and leave them, but some have been left ajar for me, and some of them now have windows and sunlight streaming through, which is promising. It is my hope that one day soon, after I’ve met them all, that all of the doors will remain open, and the little girls in white will be free.




It Was Never Love


December 4, 2018

Another day, another scar. I burned my hand this morning. Nothing dramatic, just accidentally poured the boiling water from the electric tea pot over my hand instead of into my hydroflask while making my tea. Probably an accident, but I also believe that sometimes spirits hover round in mischief, and as I passed my mother’s ashes, in a plastic box which sits atop my garbage can to keep my dogs from getting into it, I glanced at her and acknowledged, again, that it is beyond time she was released. What has held me back this 9 years since she died is not the dark satisfaction I get from giving her a garbage can as a throne, as is, I feel, befitting, but that perhaps I still need something from her.

I am reminded of a night, when I was 9 years old, in our kitchen in Cambridge, Ohio, when a frying pan full of grease, on a gas burner she had forgotten to turn off, suddenly burst into flames. She grabbed it to put it in the sink and her hand caught on fire. She dropped the pan on the floor, and I stood unable to move as I watched her put her hand in dish water in the sink. My stepfather took her to the hospital, leaving me home alone, with orders to clean the mess in the kitchen. She showed me her burns that night, and made me help her with the dressing daily. I heard her tell everyone who would listen how she had rushed in to push me aside to save me from being burned that night. Funny thing is, I was nowhere near the stove when she grabbed the pan. She didn’t do it to save me from anything. She told me her love for me was so strong that she had gladly caught her own hand on fire to protect me, and that would bear the scars to prove it the rest of her life. Ah, the scars of mother “love.”

The scars she bore, of her own stupidity and poor decision making, (much like my own this morning,) were also nothing compared to the scars she inflicted, most notably the very visual ones…the big, fat, prominent, ugly scars that ran across the top of my left leg, just underneath my butt. I was 2 1/2 years old, and I don’t remember what I did, but I remember the switch and her fury as she grabbed my arm and hit me with it, over and over and over until I could no longer cry, or even see anything but dark shapes swirling around the room and even after she let go of my arm, and I collapsed on the bed, I was vaguely aware of the rhythm of the switch continuing to lash into my legs and butt. I don’t remember her stopping or anything much except waking up with blood dried on my legs and searing pain as I wet the bed and it went down my leg. I remember her putting me in the tub without a word. I remember crying as quietly as possible so she wouldn’t notice as she washed off my wounds and wrapped toilet paper around them.

As she tucked me into bed that night, she told me she loved me, as she always did. I believed her. It would take years before I knew that was a lie. Notably, when I became a mother at a young age, and understood what love was. The woman who beat me badly enough to leave such scars, would go on to allow her husband and others to hurt me as badly, and manipulate me into silence, would tell me daily that she loved me. As I grew up, she often recounted the many things she had done for me, taking credit for all of my accomplishments, and beamed when others reminded me of my how lucky I was to have a mother who loved me so much.

As I wrapped a cold wet cloth around my hand and headed to work, I said goodbye to my dogs, and as always, “I love you!” My sweet little dogs, whom I would protect with my life, and whose well being and happiness are so important to me, watched me as I drove away, and a flood of love, real love, flooded my heart. Oh, Mom…you said the words every day, and maybe you even believed them, maybe even had some feeling of need or cheap affection for a very good little girl who actually adored you, but I promise you, whatever it was, it was never love.