I had a two-day meltdown last month, which seems to happen every July. I don’t know what the trigger is exactly, other than that most of the abuse I can remember happened during the summer months. It used to bother me, not knowing why it was always July, and now I think that maybe it’s a mystery that doesn’t need to be solved. Or maybe it is solved and I just want to make it more complicated than it is.
This meltdown was relatively short. It was two days of memories (mental and physical), sobbing, anger and fear that I would feel this way forever. At first there was disbelief. There’s no way these memories can be attacking me again. It must be PMS. Or food poisoning. Yeah, that’s it. I’m coming down with something.
Then, there was resignation that it was happening again. “It” being the reality of the abuse coming at me full force so that it can’t be ignored, not that it is ever far from my mind in the first place. It is a part of me as much as my eye color, my left handedness, my stubby pinky toes.
The elephant in the room was back, except that it wasn’t an elephant. It was a little girl. And she was determined to be heard. So I listened. And what she told me was unbelievable, even though I know it’s true because I was there. It’s still incomprehensible to me that someone wanted to erase me, to bleach me out of existence and who took such pleasure in making me feel alone, superfluous and unwanted.
I listened to her. I cried with her. I reconciled her to me so that our tears became one. I reached out to a friend and poured out my questions and doubts and she held space for me. My friend helped me to see that there will always be mysteries that can’t be solved and that it’s ok to not remember everything. It’s ok if I never remember. The little girl repressed these things for a reason. What’s important is to tell her,
I believe you.
My 6-year-old daughter goes to bed each night listening to Taylor Swift. One night, she was having trouble falling asleep, her mind too filled and body too restless so I curled up next to her and ran my fingers through her hair. The last song was called “Clean” and I silently cried as Taylor sang,
Rain came pouring down when I was drowning.
That’s when I could finally breathe.
And by morning, gone was any trace of you.
I think I am finally clean.
Clean has so many meanings for me. Clean is not feeling dirty, sullied and damaged. It is not allowing the filthy shame to cling to me like spiderwebs. Clean, to me, is not sobriety. I haven’t been sober for over two years and they’ve been the most healing two years of my life in many ways. But if I hadn’t taken three years to defrost, to learn what it feels like to not numb, to be sober, I wouldn’t be able to say,
I am finally clean.
Clean is knowing that I will have bad days when the emotion of everything that happened to me overruns the logic that it’s all in the past but I can still look at myself in the mirror and say,
Sweet girl, you’re safe now.
Clean is knowing that I will always be afraid. Fear is not the problem. The problem is when I’m afraid of the fear and resist it. That is when fear controls me. And that is why I pray. I need to know that I am connected to a positive life force and that I matter to God. Yes, I’m afraid but,
No matter what happens, I am not alone.
Clean is being proud of the fact that I survived. Not ashamed of it, not confused by it, not wanting to hide it. I’ve tended to focus on the life I’ve built while still feeling queasy about what I had to do to get here, hyper focused on mistakes and missteps. No longer. It was sometimes ugly and painful but there were moments of astounding grace and my greatest accomplishment is that I survived. I can honestly say,
I am so proud of myself.