I am editing my memoirs, a manuscript I began twenty-years ago. My plan is to download it as a Kindle on amazon.com as soon as I get it copyrighted. Every time I begin working on it I find myself traveling back to the family life of an incest victim. Excerpts from my book illustrates what it was like, how it began and what it produced from the day after the first rape.
“My nightmare world began. For more than thirty years I was to wake up repeatedly, screaming as I relived obscure horrors, each time with the same terror of suffocation, causing me to hiccup with fear and tremble for hours upon awakening. They always resurrected a dread I was unable to understand, a pain that strangled me with its intensity. My inability to identify its source or to see the dark shadows surrounding it only compounded my fear.
From that night on, I never called for my mother. When the “nightmares” happened, I grabbed my rosary and sobbed with a pillow over my head hoping no one heard. Soon afterwards, unfamiliar, black moods hid me in a cave of sorrow and I began stumbling through my days as if crippled by some unknown force. Most of that time, I heard cries for help coming from deep inside, a childlike voice screaming, begging to be heard. At times, her cries reached a mighty roar, deafening me to most joys life might present. It would be many years before I discovered that adults who had a child screaming inside of them were an exception, not the rule. During those early times, I grabbed pen and ink and wrote at a rapid pace, the words pouring out as if someone other than me were saying them, echoing from chambers buried inside my soul. While my heart lay heavy with grief and bottomless pits of depression I did not understand, I tried to sort out the monumental task of comprehending what was wrong.”
And how it impacted my family;
“My family life reminded me of a camp of mutilated and injured soldiers from some obsolete war, indescribable in its agony. All the figures were shadowy and disoriented, as if only half alive and that half living in a well of misery. We moved in and out of our days appearing to wait for some catastrophic happening, all of us knowing that once it did, we were ill prepared to handle it.”
And my years in high school when I was so thin that people used to think I looked like a concentration camp victim, homely, with crooked teeth and so shy that I never spoke without my hand in front of my mouth and my eyes down.
“I watched other students at school as they jabbered about dating and wondered how it felt. No one ever asked and I was grateful, not knowing how to explain that I wasn’t allowed. School dances and football games came and went as I lived on the outskirts of a teenage girl’s social life. I heard talk of slumber parties, nail polish, new hairdos, and trips to department stores to buy fall wardrobes. All of it was alien to me.”
Even now, many decades later, reading about my life during this time remains painful. A part of me is still angry that I had to miss out on so much, a social life I was excluded from that I can never recover, dating in a healthy environment, parents who encouraged me to go to college after High School, something I wanted desperately. I was told no, I had to help support my family. They chose my job, chose how I would get there and decided whether or not I could have any friends. Eventually their decision was no. Loneliness and despair were the only friends I had. I have no idea what it feels like to be a happy teenager with a mom and dad who love me. When I think of my mother, I remember her shrieking to my father as he beat me with his large leather belt, “Hit her again! Hit her again”. When I think of my father, I remember the terror of laying in the bottom bunk fearful of the door opening and the suffocation, the shame and the pain that waited for me.
Out of this shambles I eventually emerged sane, whole and healthy but not until many decades had passed; time spent in psychiatric wards after two failed suicide attempts, years of despair and depression, three domestic violence marriages, time spent in a women’s shelter and finally five years of recovery. I must have done something right. Today I am the mother of four of the finest human beings I have ever known. Today I am the happiest person I know, married to a wonderful husband, one who is my own personal entertainment committee. Who would have guessed it?