Thursday, April 26, 2007

Here There Be Dragons

I've still got a long way to go.

I've absorbed my mother's world. As a little girl, all I knew of the world was what my parents told me, showed me. All I knew was that there was something Out There so terrible that it even scared my Mommy. And over those formative years, I never saw any evidence to the contrary.

My parents were socially isolated - there was Work, and there was Home. Mom and Dad never had dinner parties with the neighbors, Mom never went out for lunch with "the girls", Dad never went to a bar with "the boys". My sister was nearly 11 years older than me - involved in her own life, very separate from my own.

Any other family we had lived nearly a thousand miles away. There were no "play dates" with cousins or neighbors. There were no neighbors even close to my age.

Is it so odd that I would take on my mother's view of the world?

Life in Mom's world had so many boundaries. Beyond the implication that if you wore That Skirt, you wouldn't look ladylike, you wouldn't look like my daughter, you wouldn't be worthy of my love, there was an even deeper, even darker implication. Girls who wore That, who looked like That, girls who didn't have her love and protection, were in Grave Danger.

Danger from what, I never knew. I just knew that my mommy thought that there was a very scary world outside our front door, and we had to be on constant guard against its evil. And so it must be so.

Here, there be dragons.

I am a bundle of fear, of anxiety. I live my entire life in my fortress, high on the hill. If I go Out There - without the protection of my mother and the safety of her rules - Evil might catch me.

Out There, there be dragons.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Emotional Abuse

There is a conversation going on in another blog that is touching on several themes close to my world. In the interest of not hijacking that author's blog, I'm taking my thoughts on emotional abuse over here.

No, with all due respect, you can't leave the emotional abuser any more than you can leave the physical abuser. Both demons control you, one with fear and one with love. They are equally powerful forces.

I'd like to illustrate the insidious nature of emotional abuse by going back to the example of the parent as the emotional abuser. It doesn't begin all at once. There is no "magic age" where a parent simply loses it and begins criticizing you, controlling you. It begins before you're even born; it begins with the parent. Part of their DNA, part of the tangled umbilical cord that connects you.

We're taught from the cradle that all parents love their children and all children love their parents. Every book we're read, every television show we see as children reinforces this notion that the bond between parent and child is sacred, everlasting, and beautiful.

The emotional abuser controls you by implying that if you don't conform with their standards, of conduct, of dress, of beauty, of brains, that you aren't deserving of their love. As a child, raised on the dram of "special bonds", how can you combat this? This bitter poison that taints the love you're given is all you've ever tasted, so how can you even know there is something better out there?

As you get older, maybe you are lucky enough to see that other people's homes aren't like that. So maybe you say something, to the other parent, to a trusted adult. Emotional abuse is rarely ever recognized, the pattern so subtle, few see it for what it is. The other parent is maybe already used to the abuse themselves, and afraid to rock the boat, so they'll tell you that it is easier if you just acknowledge that "it's a difficult time for her", "she's just that way", and "shake it off".

Maybe you tell a teacher. You'll hear, "Have you told your mother how much her words hurt you?"

So you go home and tell Mom that her words are hurtful. But the abuser doesn't hear that. Instead, she hears that you don't love her. How could you not love your own mother? How could you not believe your own mother loves you? What an awful person you must be. Not only are you not pretty, not attractive, not ladylike, too noisy, too dumb, but you're also an unlovable kid.

So, tell me, how does this child "just walk out" of that abusive relationship?

Monday, April 16, 2007


What does depression feel like? There is a song playing on the radio right now that says it well for me: "Into the Ocean" by Blue October.

...Now floating up and down
I spin, colliding into sound
Like whales beneath me diving down
I'm sinking to the bottom of my
Everything that freaks me out
The lighthouse beam has just run out
I'm cold as cold as cold can be

I want to swim away but don't know how
Sometimes it feels just like I'm falling in the ocean
Let the waves up take me down
Let the hurricane set in motion... yeah
Let the rain of what I feel right now...come down
Let the rain come down

Where is the coastguard
I keep looking each direction
For a spotlight, give me something
I need something for protection
Maybe flotsam junk will do just fine
the jetsam sunk, I'm left behind
I'm treading for my life believe me
(How can I keep up this breathing)

Not knowing how to think
I scream aloud, begin to sink
My legs and arms are broken down
With envy for the solid ground
I'm reaching for the life within me
How can one man stop his ending
I thought of just your face
Relaxed, and floated into space

I want to swim away but don't know how
Sometimes it feels just like I'm falling in the ocean
Let the waves up take me down
Let the hurricane set in motion... yeah
Let the rain of what I feel right now...come down
Let the rain come down
Let the rain come down....

That is what it feels like to me. It starts with a need to escape - to just walk into the ocean. Let the cold water wash right over you, make you numb. Buffeted by the waves, just body surfing to the rythm of the ocean.

And then the current catches you and before you know it, the ocean has pulled you past the breakwater. That's when you start to feel anxious, worry that you've gone to far. But the ocean is relentless, the current so strong now you can't break free.

Hypothermia sets in. You begin to lose consciousness, you see the ocean as a higher power. You aren't giving up; you're giving in to a greater force. Peace sets in. You know it isn't a real peace, but it could be the end of the pain, so you let go. Into the ocean. End it all.

Don't worry. I'm not in danger of jumping overboard. I'm actually on an upswing. (Or to continue the metaphor, the Coast Guard came along with good meds and a pretty decent therapist.)

It's just that I'm starting to see how I came to this place in my life. There is good, and there is bad, but it is time to swim out of the ocean and accept my rescue. I am worthy of this life.