Apologies up front for the long post. I have been off the board for a while taking an unintentional break, so I have a lot to share and catch up on. I took a trip to the Midwest to help care for my grandmother, who fell and broke her hip. I returned a few weeks ago, but was so behind in my work and such, I havenít had a chance to be involved much at MS. My life felt like a merry go round in a playground, spinning so fast I couldnít jump off to save my life. Iíve now jumped off and have landed, so I wanted to post about what came up on the trip and after.
My grandmother has been so nice to me, really a one-of-a-kind source of unconditional love. While there, I had a chance to reflect on all of the good times my grandmother and I have had together, all the things she has done for me, and all of the memories I have of her. It made me think about getting to a point in my life where I have to face the reality of a world without her in it. And the loss of such a special person, and a special place.
During my trip, I had a chance to dig through photo albums and mementos, really appreciate things in her house that hold such memories for me, and also experience the town that I came to love. I got to drive down to the river and walk the trails there that run under the old train trestles that we used to play under. Then, I drove out to the lake where we used to picnic with my grandmother every year and go fishing. Just driving around the town is so nostalgic.
In an old chest, under a mountain of my motherís old yearbooks, I ended up finding a picture of my biological father and my mother on their wedding day. He was my first perpetrator, who physically and sexually abused me from ages 3-5, then terminated his parental rights and left my life. In the photo, he was in his Army dress uniform, she was in a white wedding dress. I always have fuzzy memories of him, like looking at him through a haze or underwater. To see him in full, crisp color really took my breath away. He was handsome and smiling, my mother was pretty and smiling. I was struck by how happy and full of life they were. My fragmented memories of him are usually abuse related. But, I also have good memories. I remember playing with him on the beach, him stopping to let my brother and I pick up a turtle from the road that had been hit, so we could take it home and nurse it. Looking at that picture, I can see the man from my good memories. The thing that is tough is reconciling them with the monster of a man I see during the abuse stuff. That man looks nothing like the smiling and happy young man in that photo.
I brought up the subject of my biological father to my grandmother. I have not disclosed any of my CSA to her at all, so I was just looking for tertiary details. She said he fooled the whole family and that he seemed like such a nice man when he dated and married my mother. It was only a few years in that he started getting more and more moody and angry. When a violent episode happened at Christmas that resulted in my parentsí divorce, she said that she never would have expected that out of him.
She said she couldnít believe when he moved away from Kansas to North Carolina. Until then, he had my brother and I for weekend and week-long visits since the divorce and seemed like he wanted us in his life. Even after the move to NC, he had us for the summer and for holidays. But, later when he terminated parental rights, she was stunned. Apparently, there was some speculation about this decision being motivated by not wanting to pay child support. But, my father terminated his rights and I never saw him again. My grandmother couldnít understand how a father could just discard his own children like that. I'll probably never know his real motivation. I just know from experience that no matter how odd it sounds, it is painful to be given up by your own father, even if that father is abusive to you.
I spoke to my brother about this upon return. I was testing the waters a bit with him for an eventual disclosure of the abuse. We talked about when my biological father and he reconnected about 20 years ago. He seemed to have mostly normal memories of him, nothing like I feel. He knows I have no interest in establishing contact, but he just thinks it is because I am mad at him for leaving us. He said one of the things that always bothered him is that when my biological father and he got back in touch, he sent my brother a letter and called him, but he never once reached out to me. He didnít send me a letter, call me, or mention me at all to my brother. I didnít even remember he had sent my brother a letter. In his letter to my brother, my biological father told him that giving us up was the worst decision he had ever made and that he really regretted it. He said that he felt like he had really screwed up as a father. He said that his own father had been terribly abusive to him physically, and that he was worried that he was heading down that road because he was always so angry when he was married to my mother. This stuff has me so confused because I know my memories of the abuse are not made up. I know they are real. I was adamant throughout the years that I never wanted to have contact with him. I had a lot of intense fear and dread emotions around it, but never knew why. It wasnít until I started remembering my abuse recently that I started to understand.
My theory is that he targeted me because I was a quiet and sensitive boy (girly in his eyes)and he didnít like it. I suspect he may have been like me as a boy and his father tried to beat that stuff out of him. I highly suspect his father sexually abused him as well. And he took it out on me because I reminded him of him when I was a young boy. That may explain why my brother was not targeted and I was. The bottom line is that he did not have to terminate parental rights, but did. He did abuse me physically and sexually. I laid the groundwork for disclosing to my brother by saying I had some intense feelings about him and we should chat more about it soon. It could very well turn out something happened with my brother as well, so I am preparing for that too.
These pieces of the past have helped paint a clearer picture, but as always with CSA, they created a lot of new questions. Why did he decide to move away from us? Why would he terminate parental rights when he didnít have to? Did his parentage of me and my brother really come down to just child support and dollar signs? What part did his physical and sexual abuse of me have to do with any of these decisions? Why was I targeted and not my brother? Was he just a pedo and I had outgrown his tastes and he moved on? Was he an abused young man as well, and what is his story? Is he out there still, abusing other kids? How did his abuse of me set the stage for falling into the hands of the coach who was my other perpetrator? Lots of questions, and none of them with easy or comfortable answers.
Of course, after all of this, a lot of memories of the abuse from my biological father are surfacing, much like they did with my memories of sexual abuse by my gymnastics coach which happened several years after all of this. The memories have been awful and painful. In them, I am frightened, scared, in pain, and ashamed. But, the hardest part is that there is an element of pleasure and even attraction. Such a confusing mess of feelings and sensations. I am deeply ashamed of these memories. I realize in these memories that even with all of the pain and fear, I am trying to please him, trying to bring him pleasure, forgoing my own feelings. I just want him to think that I am good boy and will do what he says. True, I knew if I didnít do what he said, he would hurt me even more physically. But, I really was wanting to please him. Even in the intensity of the sexual abuse, I was wanting his love and approval. I was 4 and 5 when this abuse was going on. I see that young boy in my mind getting raped and abused by his own father. It doesnít feel like it could possibly be me, and there is a part of me that says it isnít. But I know it is me, and that it really did happen. This has really been challenging to deal with.
Since all this has been coming up, I have been having a lot of problems, obviously. My sleep is wrecked, I am having nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks. But, I have been working on it. My T has been helping me with the feelings that are coming up, owning my experiences and memories, talking about how abuse can cause arousal particularly when your abuser himself becomes aroused during the abuse, discussing the sexual associations made during these acts that impact me even to this day, how the physical abuse adds another layer of issues to the trauma, and just generally coping through this mess.
In the end though, I have been managing and coping. I really have learned so much about myself. My history, my abuse, my life, and ultimately my own strength. Strength I had as a boy, and strength I still have now. It is hard work, and I have really down days. But, it has made me more completely me than I ever was before. As I have said, I am sadder but stronger. I really donít think the pain will ever go away. And I am not sure I really want it to or need it to. What I want to diminish is the immediacy of it all. I have heard from other survivors that eventually it does get better. That despite occasional flare-ups, that once these painful memories are processed, they will retreat to some extent. That is what I am banking on. That is what I am working toward.
Anyway, thanks for letting me share and get this out. It feels good to post again and be part of this community again.
"Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds."