Tuesday, July 9, 2019

not one, but two

PTSD fucking sucks.  I have it, but I wasn't officially diagnosed with it until I was 48.  This is my story.

"Not one, but two" refers to the people that (my first impulse is to write "ruined my life" here, but that's not the whole truth, it's just my first impulse) molested me before I was ten.  It's significant because for a lot of my life I was unaware of the second.

The first was a judge.  I don't know what kind of judge he was, I don't know really how to accurately spell his name, but he was known in the (white, suburban, upper-middle-class) neighborhood as a bit creepy. An older neighbor friend of mine told me he always made women uncomfortable at neighborhood functions because of his "open-mouthed kisses."

What he did to me I will not detail here because the thought of providing wank material to pedophiles on the internet makes me physically ill.  But a point that a lot of people like to make is that I was not technically raped.  It is often repeated to me by people who learn what happened. Therapists, friends, family. They all like to point out that I was not penetrated by his penis, therefore I was not raped.

I was a child of six.  The distinction is fucking meaningless.  I'm glad I was not brutalized further, but trying to box my trauma into being not so bad because he didn't force his penis inside me is sickening.  What he did to me has obviously scarred me for life, so the idea that I should be fine because that specific thing did not happen is, plainly and simply, wrong.

He's dead now.  Neighbors called me the moment he died.

And I got on.  I moved on, I built a life, got married, got (almost immediately) divorced, I roved from place to place, I got a degree.  I moved a lot.  I've lived in five different cities.  I never grew moss.  I never committed to anything - friends, lovers, locations - for long.

Then, when I was thirty-eight, on a trip back to Pennsylvania to visit with the family, all hell broke loose in my mind.

We - my immediate family and their various spouses and children - were at an Elvis impersonator show.  I remember how much fun we were having and how great the impersonator was (I particularly loved when he changed outfits - which was often), and how great it was to be out with my family - of which most members are ridiculously hilarious, so being with them is always a great time.

I remember.  I remember the sun shining, the shirt I wore (a loaner from mum), I remember sitting with mum, my sister, my older brother, and maybe dad... I think my younger brother was corralling the kids.

When my sister told me a friend from childhood had committed suicide.

What happened next was like a explosion in my mind.  My mouth barked, "I know why" even before I knew what I was saying or what happened to me.

And the memories, what her father did to me, it all came like a punch.  Not like a flood.  It was all there, suddenly, all at once, everything my mind had shut away for thirty years.

What her father did to me.

How when I looked around for help, they had all turned their backs on me.

I was at a sleepover.

Her name was Lynette.  She was new, and I was always a sucker for the new kid.  She wasn't always nice, but I was naive and forgiving.  She had me and another friend over that night.  We had pizza, I think.  I don't remember much about the night itself - I don't, to this day, remember much about that particular time in my life (my sister has informed me that Lynette had two older sisters, but to this day I don't remember them at all, not their faces, not their names, nothing) - but I remember now, doing the dishes.  I remember him coming behind me and pressing his erection against my back, over and over as my chest bruised on the sink.

I was doing the dishes.

I looked up at him and smiled because my little eight-year-old brain did not know what was happening other than what could I do? What could I do? What could I do?

Looking behind him to see everyone in the room with their backs turned.

The smile, and the backs, and the pain, I remember.  I hate myself for that smile.  I have never forgiven myself for that smile.  I have locked this entire portion of my own life away inside my own psyche over that smile.

And the backs.  I looked for help, and there was none.  It was worse.  Not only was there no help, but I thought help was in reach.  It was right there, but it turned it's back on me.


Mental health is stigmatized.  So much so that I still battle explaining wanting to spend money on therapy to members of my family.

I learned that certain types of abuse in childhood stunts portions of brain growth.  Brain damage, essentially.  Learning this was woeful - will I ever learn to use parts of my brain that might be lost?  Are they lost?  Will I ever trust?

But I still haven't had proper therapy.

I'm looking.

I do have a psychiatrist, but he's more about the prescription than about therapy.  And I need that prescription.  I spent most of my life in an inexplicable rage, and I was lucky enough to find a drug that worked (without wooziness or fogginess or feeling like a robot) almost right away.  It released me from almost fifty years of rage that I didn't even know I had.

Finding someone who can treat PTSD caused by childhood sexual trauma has not been easy.  But I continue to look.

Every day, every single day, I am happy that I finally got on the medication that removed the rage. It's not enough, it's not nearly enough, but I am trying to get the rest.

Mental health impairment can happen to you - to you - it's not necessarily what you are born with.  And those cases are important, too.  But my story, my mental health, that was done to me.  By not one man, but two.

Now that I know it wasn't one, but two, I want help more than anything.  I want therapy more than anything.  I want to know how to deal with this, how to trust people, because I am holding the world at arm's length.

What I want, is to state that what happened to me isn't unique.  Repressed memories happen, that's what my brain did, but other brains are different.  Nobody's journey is invalid or less than anyone else's.

And mental health isn't to be stigmatized.  There are many, many, people out there that need help.  Not vilification, not condescension.

It is far more common than you think.

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