Sunday, December 18, 2005

Feliz Navidad

My Mom and me ran away to Mexico for Christmas. I hate Christmas because of the abuse, and my Mom dislikes it because of my brother's death. Yeah I know, they have Christmas in Mexico, but at least it was in another language that we only barely understood. We flew back on the 25th, with a layover at the Houston George Bush airport. Every time someone at the airport said “Merry Christmas”, my Mom replied "happy holidays!" If you get that joke, you are a news junkie too.

While I was there, I finished reading Invisible Girls by Dr. Patti Feuereisen. About half the book is Dr. Patti sharing her expertise on dealing with the affects of sexual abuse and rape, and the other half is girls and young women telling the story of what happened to them. This book was the inspiration for me to tell the story last week of my sexual abuse experience. I've never actually given a detailed account of what happened to me, and one of the premises of the book is that's how you start healing. I did notice that for me, writing down what happened made me realize how hard I tried to make it stop, and that it wasn't my fault.

This book had a strong emotional impact on me. In the stories that the young women told, I struck by how sadistic, cruel, and dehumanizing the perpetrators were, how long-lasting and difficult the emotional scars were, and how much I related to their stories and their feelings. I felt a lot of sadness and anger over what they went through, and maybe for the first time, what I went through.

I asked my mom if she believed me when I told her and my dad about what was happening. She said they did, but she didn't realize it was serious and thought that I just didn't like being touched. It's true that I don't like being touched, but that came from the sexual and physical abuse. Up until high school, I would flinch if anyone touched me at all. It started to get socially weird because I wouldn't even let my friends hug me. One of my friends took it upon her to drag me over to her whenever she saw me, put her arms around me, and stroke my hair, I guess as some sort of therapy. It was kind of like when I was in junior high and I couldn't say the word “cinnamon”, so my friends made me say it over and over every day until I could say it right.

I went along with my friend's efforts and even forced myself to let people touch me because I certainly didn't want to have to explain every time why I felt physically ill whenever someone tried to touch me. I also was completely committed to the idea that I could just repress the affects of the abuse and it would go away, and I would be "normal". My desire to be something close to normal is in part a rebellion against my abusers, as a refusal to let them get to me and ruin my life. The other part is deep-seeded feelings of humiliation and shame over what had happened to me and how I was treated.

I talked to my mom about how I felt like everything bad had happened to me because I was a girl, that dad hated me and I was treated differently because I was a girl. She said, you're right, that is why.

That is really one of the most difficult things for me. The fact that I was terrorized throughout my childhood, demeaned and humiliated, prevented from making decisions about and expressing myself, not because of what I did or who I was, but because of my gender, is so hard for me to accept. It's wrong, and unfair. My abusers taught me that all I'm good for is to take anger out on, as a scapegoat, and a sexual plaything. My intelligence, my creativity, my humanity doesn’t matter. I may not think that about myself, I may think that's wrong, but I still feel that way. I also feel afraid and distrustful of other people; I'm uncomfortable about my body, and I still tense up when people touch me.

I try to end on a vaguely positive note, but I guess all I can say is that it does help to write about this. I cry while I write, but for someone who’s been holding this in for so long, it feels good to let it out and stop keeping up this fa├žade that nothing is wrong. Obviously, a lot is wrong and it hurts to feel this way about myself.

The book refers to the story of Pandora, and how after all the misfortunes escape from her box, hope flies out. I know, I know, it’s cheesy, but if you don’t open the box, there’s no hope.

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