Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

KING: Comes to mind, Patty, most of us, most viewers watching don't know any evil people. Maybe there's some people they don't like, the boss, somebody's (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But evil, most people don't know evil people. You have spent a lot of time with evil people.


KING: What was that like?

HEARST: It's something that affects you so deeply that in a way you can never really trust people again. You know that you have to and you know that not everybody is like this, but it changes your perception of people for the rest of your life. And in a way it's sad to lose that kind of innocence, but on another way, you get a strength from it. And you can help other people.


CALLER: Hey, Ms. Hearst, I would like to know, have you ever felt guilty being a part of the SLA and how do you handle the fact that so many others think you are just as guilty?

HEARST: You know, when I first was arrested and first going through the therapy with the psychiatrist because I did feel really horrible. And I -- it was the kind of guilt that was -- a lot of it stemmed from feeling so horrible that my mind could be controlled by anybody, that I was so fragile that this could happen to me.

And because really we all think we're pretty strong and that nobody can make us do something if we don't want to do it. That's true until somebody locks you up in a closet and tortures you and finally makes you so weak that you completely break and will do anything they say. And there was the feeling of guilt and self- loathing and despair and pain that was just overwhelming.


KING: A brain-washed person doesn't know from time element when they're being brainwashed, do they? They don't wake up one day and say, I have been brainwashed?

HEARST: No. No, they don't. They -- I know for me, I thought that I was kind of fooling them for awhile, and the point when I knew that I was completely gone, I'm quite convinced, was at the Mel Sporting Goods Store when I reflectively did exactly what I had been trained to do that day instead of what any sensible person would have done or person still in control of their senses and their responses, which would be the minute the Harrises had left the van to have just run off and called the police.

At that point, you know, looking back, I can say that I was gone. I was so far gone I had no clue how bad it was.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Patty Hearst on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

My biggest practical problem related to my PTSD and recovery is my ongoing sleep problems. Like so many of the PTSD symptoms, I have been living with this for so long that I don't really know life any other way, but I still know there's something wrong. I dread going to bed. It doesn't matter how tired I am- in fact, the more tired I am the more I resist. It is like part of me really doesn't want to let me sleep so the more tired I am the more dangerous it is. I wake up sometimes feeling terrified, like I can't move and I'm suffocating, and the first thing that I think of is my dad. I don't remember having nightmares usually. I do have nightmares about my dad, but this is more the feeling and body sensation of fear. of freezing. It is that sensation when you are trying to run but your legs get heavy and you can't pick up your feet. You are yelling at yourself to MOVE, but instead you just stand there, staring blankly. In my case, I keep telling myself to get out of bed, walk around, walk into my living room and realize that I am not in my parents' house, my dad is not waiting there for me, and I am an adult and perfectly safe. As much as I tell myself I could just break the spell over me if I just got out of bed, I can't do it. My mind is prodding, pleading with me, but my body is acting like the blankets on me are restraints and my legs are paralyzed.

Terrifying. Terrifying that it's been 20 years since I've lived with my parents, and that long since my dad posed any real threat to me, and the survival part of me sees him as dangerous as he was when I was 8 years old. It seems odd to say, but the worst thing he did to me was not when he hit me. The worst thing he did was to threaten me. He kept me in fear of him from as far back as I can remember, and I never knew what or when he was coming for me. He described killing me in such detail that I was sure my death was always a possibility. I knew there was nothing I could do to predict or prevent him from doing what he wanted. He made me feel entirely helpless, entirely at the mercy of his whims. He could be laughing and joking one minute, and as cold and hard as death the next. I really believed I was going to die the last time he beat me. I still don't know how I got out of that alive. I believed that he was capable of things I couldn't even imagine. I seriously considered poisoning him when I was in junior high because I was so convinced that it was him or me. I talked myself out of it for several reasons- he might not die and then I would really be dead, I would be sent to jail and separated from my brother, killing is wrong and I didn't want to be like him. More than I didn't want to die, I didn't want to be like him and I didn't want to abandon my brother.

The job of a kidnapper, an abuser, a torturer, is to train you to do their job for them. To get into your head so thoroughly that even when they are not there, you fear them and do what they want you to do. So you totally believe in their power over you, their omnipotence, so you will be convinced that there is no point in running. They will always find you. You can't get away. You see them everywhere. You carry them around with you, the weight on your back, the shadows in the corner, the sourness in your mouth, the poison choking your lungs in the air you breathe. Your despair, your nightmares, your fears have their face on them.

I am tired most of the time. I feel weary. Yet when I go to bed, I see this chasm open up in front of me and my dad hanging me over it by my legs, laughing, while I grasp at my brother's spirit, wispy sadness floating away from me. I scream and scream, and even though my throat is burning no sound comes out. My mom's face is a distorted mask. What if I get stuck here? What if I never wake up?

In my mind, he is not just my dad. He is evil. He is all the torture and pain and hopelessness in the world. He is my brother's killer. He is the sum total of all of my fears, of abandonment, isolation, loneliness, helplessness, of being lost and wandering and not knowing where I am. Of falling and falling and not ever reaching the bottom. I am 8 days from the 13th anniversary of Jeff's death, and he is still lost to me. We are still lost and trying to find our way.

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