There is this place in my mind where I place certain thoughts/memories/etc that simply refuse to go away or stay quiet, but I don’t want to have to think about all the time. I call it the junk drawer. Normally it is locked up tight. But occasionally, the dark things inside of it organize an escape and come barreling through my mind with dirty feet, marking up the walls of my mind with their painful fingerprints.
Occasionally, things come out of the junk drawer that I cannot recall ever putting in there.
That’s what happened several months ago, and I still can’t seem to fit these thoughts back in the drawer.
I’m not even sure where to begin, because everything is so intertwined. like some kind of diabolically spiked hedge maze. But, let’s just say I’ve been pretty depressed for a long time. I’ve known it, but I have kind of kept it on the periphery of my mind, held back by day to day obligations, and the need to just GET THROUGH. But, in the end, I could no longer hold on. I won’t really go into what the ultimate catalyst for the breakdown was, because if it hadn’t been that, it would have been something else, eventually. And honestly, what happened is way too personal a tragedy for me that I am barely even able to talk about at all yet to anyone. Maybe one day. What matters more is that I ended up in the psych hospital. It was almost surreal. I didn’t belong here. I didn’t actually take any of those pills. I just wanted to. That means I am in control. Right?
One thing being there did make me think is that maybe I needed to get back into counseling. I hadn’t seen anyone since my previous therapist left the state more than two years ago.I have so many trust issues that it is really difficult for me to talk to new people, and trust them, and then if I don’t feel like I can trust them, I have a hard time saying so, and end up miserable, and it’s that much harder to try again with someone else. It’s a vicious cycle that I TRY to get myself out of, but in the end I mostly just do nothing about at all. Which, in a way, is a decision unto itself. The hospital really didn’t help me any. I didn’t feel safe there. I wasn’t able to really deal with anything. But at least I got a little break from reality.
Even with all of that, I made an appointment with a psychologist recommended to me by a friend. It couldn’t really hurt at that point. Right away I could tell she was a little overwhelmed with me. Well, my entire being seems to be overwhelming for most people, which is why I hold it in so hard all of the time, but I figured I had to at least try and give her a chance to adjust.
She wanted me to go into a partial hospitalization program, which is an intensive five day per week group therapy program. I had been in one a long time ago, and thought MAYBE it could help, so I agreed. I took a medical leave of absence from work and began the program.
I’m pretty sure it turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes I have made in a long time, and I make a LOT of huge mistakes. Basically, the whole group setting was completely wrong for me, especially in light of my trust issues. Add to that the number of people who were constantly filtering in and out, people leaving the program, new people entering, people who were only there a few times a week, and it was just adding more to the general anxiety I felt. On top of that was the attempts to talk about what was going on, listening to other people talk about their things and relating, and having it bring up things within myself. Bad things. Things from the junk drawer.
I began having flashbacks of my childhood sexual abuse. Which floored me, because I had spent almost 25 YEARS processing and dealing and feeling OK with that part of my life. I’ve been at the point for a long time where I could speak confidently about those things happening. And I hadn’t even entered this program because of that in any way. Where was this all coming from? I had never had flashbacks before, even while I was in the middle of dealing with it all. Then the flashbacks started being about things I never remembered before. NO. This could not be happening. I remembered every single horrible part of those years. Didn’t I?
Evidently not. It seems like the junk drawer had been fiercely protecting my mind from certain events and feelings, but now the lock was broken and the floodgates were filling with blood and bile.
The flashbacks progressed to full-on panic attacks. One day I had a panic attack in the car so bad that I almost had an accident. I had to pull over and sit for almost half an hour, and I don’t even remember how I got home. The following week, I had a panic attack at the program. Something was happening outside and there were a lot of police, and we had been advised that we would not be able to leave the building until things were cleared, and I completely lost my shit. I couldn’t breathe, I was almost screaming, I had to GET OUT of there. Finally I was able to leave and made it home somehow, but I felt like I could never go back because I was so humiliated that I had broken down that badly.
My mind was breaking under what was coming out. That night, I was in a dark place. I don’t have a clear memory of what happened. All I really know is that one minute I was laying in bed, crying, and the next, I was standing in my room with an art cutter in my hand, and there was blood all over my arm and the floor.
I had cut in the past, but never anything crazy, mostly scratching words onto myself or a single small deep cut that I could cover up. But I’d never done anything like this. I panicked and cleaned everything up, then let myself go numb. It’s hard for me to recall a time when I ever felt as scared and alone as I did that night. The next morning I voluntarily went into the program and told them I needed to be in the hospital. Although, in retrospect, I think I already knew it wouldn’t help much. I was trying to figure out a way to be safe from myself. But there isn’t any place for that. And that therapist I tried to see? Wrote me a LETTER telling me that she can’t help me, that it was too much for her to deal with. WTF? If a therapist can’t help me, how will I ever be able to help myself? So basically now I am back to trying to deal with everything by myself.
So, I’ve said all of that now, still trying to get out what the actual flashbacks were about. If you’ve stayed with me this long, I appreciate it. In a way I feel like if I put these things down in solid form they will coalesce into real monsters. But I have to hope that maybe the opposite will be true. There’s only one way to find out.
The main flashback I had concerned a conversation. I was 11 years old. I was sitting on the patio beside our pool. He was sitting in the chair next to me. He turned to me, looked me up and down, and said “You’re so fat now. I don’t even want to touch you anymore. You should lose weight.” (As an aside, I had gained a lot of weight when I first got my period around age 10, who knows whether it was hormonal or emotional, I’m not sure it even matters, but the only response I ever got to gaining weight from my family/friends was “Wow, you’re so fat,” so the emotional part couldn’t have been far removed.)
Here was a grown man who had been sexually abusing me for well over 4 years. Telling me he loved me. Making me believe that sex was what love was. That my entire worth was wrapped up in whether someone wanted to have sex with me or not. And now he was telling me that I was too fat for that. I imagine that’s when the junk drawer was utilized. I took this conversation and buried it so deep inside of me that I forgot all about it, and internalized that message to the point where it literally defined who I was.
On the one hand, I was too fat to have sex with, therefore I was too fat to ever be loved. On the other hand, I was fat, so he stopped doing bad things to me that I knew were wrong.
I have always asserted that my abuse ended when I tried to tell my mother what was happening. Even though she didn’t believe me at first, I always figured that he stopped because he was afraid she WOULD believe, and that he would get caught. During these flashbacks, I realized I had been lying to myself all this time. The abuse didn’t stop because I told my mother. The abuse stopped because I gained weight, and he didn’t want me any more. I told my mother because I was mad at him that he had stopped. Mad at him that he didn’t love me anymore. I wanted to get back at him. I wanted him to love me again.
Oh my fucking god, who can process something like that? I can’t even process it at 40 years old, with a lifetime separating me from that little girl who just wanted to be loved, and thought that was what love was. I still feel literally sick to my stomach when I think about it. ALL of my work to get to the point where I knew the abuse wasn’t my fault, GONE. No matter how much I rationalize and tell myself that abuse is like that, that you learn to like it because it’s all you know, I can’t understand that right now. All I can think about is how I wanted him to keep doing what he was doing. I don’t know if I can even live with that realization.
Some things make more sense now, though. How I STILL equate sex with love. How I have allowed people to use my body because I thought that must mean they love me. How I still allow people to treat me badly because I can’t let go of this hope that someday they will really love me. How I gained more and more weight because it made me invisible, and I just knew that no one could love me if they knew what had happened, so if I was fat, that would ensure that NO ONE would ever love me in the first place, or even want to get too close to me, and I would never have to reveal that horrible dark part of me. Because I deserve to be alone.
Also I am fairly certain that losing so much weight has helped bring these things to the surface, because my mind is CONVINCED that if I get small enough, something VERY BAD will happen. It doesn’t matter how much logic I try to apply to this. That little girl inside of me cries out to not get too small, not let people get too close, to stay invisible, because people will try to convince you they love you then, but they will be lying, they always lie, they will just hurt you, and it’s better to be hurt because you are not worth it then to believe the lies they tell you and be hurt anyway. I used to think that if I were thinner, I might be worthy of love, but now I feel as if maybe I’ve never truly been worthy, or I never would have allowed something like that to happen to me when I KNEW it was so wrong from the beginning.
The monsters are loose in my mind. And I don’t know how to close the drawer.