The men in the camper

I was having nightmares again, that is when I could sleep. I felt anxious, hypervigilant, and swept the bottom of the depth of despair since I heard the news about my dad. My husband wasn’t sure I would make it through this time.

I felt triggered. Ancient memories were stirred. I couldn’t outrun my demons. The old coping mechanisms didn’t work. I started thinking about things that I didn’t want to think about. I was drowning in the flames. Nothing made sense.

I remembered the camper that was parked under the big tree next to our house. I remembered a man saying if I was a good girl I would get a soda out of the camper fridge. I always remembered something bad about the camper. But I didn’t want to think about it. If certain bad things happened, I wouldn’t have the will to live and I wouldn’t survive childhood. So certain bad things didn’t happen.

The camper under the big tree had a screened in porch. It sat on a big concrete slab. There were other things inside the screened porch such as firewood and bikes. It was only there for a summer or two. Around the time I started kindergarten only an empty slab remained.

I knew the men involved. There were snippets of blurry memories. One of the men I rather liked. He is dead now. The other man I secretly hated. There once was a picture of that man in a frame on the dresser with the fish tank. I hated him so much I crumpled up the picture and threw it behind the dresser. My mom would think Matt did it because Matt always wrecked things. I will never mention his name because I don’t want to make accusations of things I am unsure of. Maybe nothing happened. Or maybe I’m in denial. I can’t remember clearly, nor do I want to.

Then there was my dad. I think he might have been there as well with a camera. I was afraid when the police searched my parents house that they would find pictures of me. But what was I paranoid about? Nothing ever happened. Right? Were my fears irrational or grounded in some warped reality that I could barely remember? I couldn’t understand why I was so worried about it. It was similar to feeling guilty for a crime I didn’t commit.

For some reason, though, I couldn’t rest until I heard what my inner child was crying about. The more I tried to hide, the more it assailed me. I had to accept that maybe something happened to me in there. But there will always be a part of me that doesn’t believe any of it. I was too young to remember anything in vivid detail. Decades later I’m not even sure why my mind wanders back to the camper that was only there for a summer or two.

I don’t want to remember, yet somehow I can’t seem to forget.

Guilty!

One thing I wasn’t expecting was to feel guilty for my dad’s crime.

I felt paranoid. I worried that the police were going to come to my house and confiscate my computers. Maybe they were going to investigate me. I knew the fear was irrational since I’ve never done anything the police would take an interest in. All other family members that I talked to about it felt the same way. It was like his dirt rubbed off on the rest of us. We all felt familial guilt for a crime only one of us committed.

The bar was set low. It didn’t take much to step over it. I wanted more for my children, for my brothers and I. I wanted a family name they could strive to live up to. Would we be looked down upon for the sins of our father?

Would they take our foreign exchange students away? I would feel a moral obligation to report a conviction to our coordinator like she told us to if the case should arise. She did have an exchange student that wrote letters to an exchange uncle in prison who was removed from the home she was placed in. Maybe they would get removed since they saw my dad once or twice before I knew of his crime. I was not planning on having them around my dad again. My brother Luke was also not planning on having his pre-teen daughters around their grandpa ever again. Do you know how difficult that was especially around Christmas time? I hope not.

I didn’t want to see my dad again either. The children were what I was living for. Otherwise I might not have bothered getting out of bed. I had to have them up and ready for school in the morning. I had to force myself to be excited, to give them a memorable Christmas. The kids are really what kept me going. I had to be alive for them. What if they were taken away? How would I explain things to their parents? Was I going to be punished for his crime? Does the trauma never end?

I felt like I received a life sentence for a crime I didn’t commit. All happiness and joy were striped away. I was guilty for a crime I didn’t commit. Guilty until I could prove to be innocent.

Gratitude week 53

  1. Yeah, 2020 is finally behind us!!
  2. I’m grateful for my best friend. She had her birthday this past week and I did something I haven’t tried since I was a teenager. We went to a shooting range. I was really nervous about it, but it was a lot of fun.
  3. Paul decided to quit drinking. Here’s to 5 days sober! Yes, he made it through New Year’s Eve. I’m grateful for the positive changes he is making in his life, in our life together.
  4. I’m grateful for the snow that blankets the ground. We had our first real snowfall of the season this week. It is really beautiful.
  5. I’m grateful that my routine mammogram came back normal.
  6. I’m grateful that my daughter Arabella will start attending outpatient tomorrow as we wait for residential care. I’m hoping this will be beneficial for improving her mental health.
  7. I’m grateful that my son will be getting his wisdom teeth removed tomorrow and will no longer be in pain.
  8. I’m grateful that I have all the holiday decorations cleaned up and put away.
  9. I’m grateful to get out of the house and go to the movies with my daughter and her boyfriend. We watched Promising Young Lady and it was pretty good.
  10. I’m grateful for clean sheets and warm jammies on these dark cold days.

Gratitude week 52

  1. Here’s to a whole year of gratitude! Cheers!
  2. Everyone in our house thought this was one of the best Christmases in years. The kids were happy with their gifts, everyone worked hard to get along, we played games, and there was even a dusting of snow on the ground.
  3. This has been a crazy Christmas season, but somehow we made things work. We didn’t get together with the extended family this year, but there was less stress and busyness. I’ve heard a lot of crazy things…some friend’s family members were invited for the holidays and others were not because some were a higher risk of COVID. Other families weren’t getting together because others couldn’t afford to have a gift exchange because their income was cut due to COVID. How petty! It seems this year that more people celebrated the holidays with their chosen family instead of their given family.
  4. After my son went to the ER and had a lot of testing done, he still has neck pain. Well, the weekend on call dentist was wrong saying it wasn’t his wisdom teeth over the phone. Maybe I’ll send her the bill for the ER visit and CT scan. My son went to the dentist this week and the pain he is experiencing is coming from his wisdom teeth. So, thankfully we found out where his pain is coming from. Now he just has to wait another week to get them removed.
  5. I’m grateful to spend Christmas Eve with friends having a good meal and going to the candlelit Christmas service.
  6. I’m grateful to be able to help someone in need this Christmas. A mom of one of my son’s friends is having a hard year. Her husband left her for a younger woman, then she lost her job. She is struggling with kids at home while we have food on our table. Paul and I decided to give her a gift card for the grocery store. I said it is not real giving if we give pocket change. True giving should make you feel a little uncomfortable. I feel grateful that we were able to find someone in need and help them this Christmas.
  7. I’m grateful for the gifts I received. I really needed a new pair of slippers.
  8. I feel grateful for Christmas lights.
  9. I’m grateful for great Christmas food. I did tons of baking this year…two pies, four batches of cookies…plus my other favorites like deviled eggs. I think I need to do a detox diet in January in the years to come. I’m afraid to step on the scale.
  10. I’m grateful that all my kids are living at home. It’s always so busy. If they all move out within 6 months like they all want to, it’s going to be way too quiet. Thankfully they all want to stay within the area.

Activated

I had a really good appointment with my counselor yesterday. I posed the question to her about how come I feel more anger towards my mom than my dad. After all my dad could be described as cruel, mean, and at times a downright evil man. My mom has nothing but good intentions and most would view her as a genuinely good person. What was wrong with me? It just didn’t seem right.

I was starting to do a lot of healing work before my daughter turned my dad in to the police. After that I was a real mess. I really didn’t know if I would get through it. But here I am today not all that upset with my dad anymore but still angry with my mom. Why is that?

My therapist said I did a lot of healing work. Some of the healing work allowed me to de-activate my triggers. The memory of the trauma is still there, but the buttons don’t work anymore when people try to push them.

When my daughter turned my dad in to the police, it re-activated my dad button. It’s taken me almost a full year to de-activate it again. Here’s the thing. After I moved out of the house, my dad was no longer cruel or mean to me. My relationship with him went from horrible to neutral, from hatred to pity. But once my daughter turned him in, the switch was re-activated. I remembered every terrible horrible thing he did. It even brought up memories protected by my inner child deep within. Then everything started back up again with the insomnia, nightmares, anxiety, hypervigilance, and depression. It was like I was stuck being a kid again and it was very frightening.

But since everything has happened with my dad, I’ve only seen or talked to him a handful of times. He seems sorrowful and downright pitiful. He lost weight. I can only view him as a weak sad old man whom his family has pushed away as a result of his own behavior. You can’t outrun reaping exactly what you sow. I’ve seen it tear him down into a broken elderly man. As a child I hated him so much I wanted him to burn in hell. Now that he is in hell, I don’t seem to want it as much.

But with my mom, I’ve tried to turn off the activation switch while she is using all her strength to keep it turned on. She has been a manipulative controlling martyr my whole life. Whenever I’ve tried to set boundaries she has marched right over them and made me feel guilty about it. She never liked my choices in friends, boyfriends, music, clothing, goals, etc…then she would take it a step further and try to change me into the person she wanted me to be. So of course I am angry. Her behavior has not changed. She is pushing all my buttons and I haven’t been able to de-activate the mom switch.

My parents are toxic people. They have always been toxic people. At this point I am not even sure what to do going forward. Therapy every day??!? I don’t want to cut them out of my life. I’ve had to take a few steps back though for my own sanity.

What my therapist said was profound to me. Now everything makes sense. I had to write it all down before I forgot about it.

Gratitude week 51

  1. Paul started working for a small family business. They had their office party at a hibachi grill this past week. It really was a nice time. Afterwards, Paul and I drove around to look at the Christmas lights.
  2. I finished reading a book on boundaries. I found out I have a lot of work to do. I find that I feel guilty setting boundaries with certain people (like my mom). Even blogging at times makes me feel guilty. Guilt is a feeling I need to work through to set boundaries and write about my life, but it doesn’t mean that I’ve done something wrong. I never realized that before.
  3. This is a big one. My mom apologized to me this week. Last Sunday she came by my house, even though we can’t have Christmas and she doesn’t ‘visit’ because of COVID, and asked me why I didn’t answer when she tried to call me. She has a tendency to call at the worst times like when I am in the middle of making supper. She said she was having a hard time and thank God her sister Jan was around to help her through it unlike me. If she left a message saying she needed to talk to someone, I would call her back. This time she came over and angrily asked me what I was doing that was so important I couldn’t take her call. Her visit left me angry and upset for several days until she apologized.
  4. Christmas lights! I love them so much I might leave some up year round.
  5. Baking Christmas cookies. Yesterday I made roll out Christmas cookies with icing. Today I made Amish sugar cookies. I found some of my grandma’s old recipes that I will also try out in the next couple days. We are getting together with Cindy’s family on Christmas Eve and I am planning on bringing a lot of the food.
  6. It’s only 5 days until Christmas and I am pretty much ready for it. Now we just need some snow!!
  7. Our investment from selling our business finally came through!!! The dividend check should get us through for awhile! I’m grateful to not have to worry so much about money. Arabella just got on the waiting list for residential mental health treatment. Unfortunately it looks like our insurance will not be covering it and it is very, very expensive. It will be worth it if she gets the help she needs and her quality of life improves. It helps to have options available for financing it if we need to. I was really stressing out about it.
  8. We went out to eat this week to celebrate the investment. We had a really nice family time with our two oldest kids. Of course my mom tried calling while we were out to eat and I didn’t answer. Can’t win them all I guess.
  9. I’m grateful that I now have over 900 followers. I never thought I would get to this point when I first started. I read a book a couple years back from a blog of a lady that was training to run her first marathon. I thought, wow, I want to try blogging and running a marathon. Now here I am writing about personal things I never thought I would be writing about. And here you are right with me!
  10. I never thought I would be saying this but I’ve reached the point in my life that yoga and meditation sounds better than pounding my body by doing marathons. While I still want to run, I have no desire to race anymore. What is one more medal anyway? I no longer want to be on stage. I’ve had my lead roles. I no longer want to sing in front of people. I no longer long for high stress hobbies. My body is tired and wants rest. My mind is ready to embrace a slower pace. It’s time to try something new. I’m grateful to be ready to accept the aging me.

Safe at shore after the storm

I had just clung to a lifejacket that was thrown in to help me out. Getting used to living with childhood trauma was not living for me. But I was being dragged underwater again. Were all my efforts up to that point for naught?

I was drowning but I didn’t know if I wanted to swim any longer. It took too much effort. The ocean was too wide, too deep. I lost the lifejacket in the waves that slammed down on me. I couldn’t see beyond the next wave that hit me taking away my breath leaving me gasping for air. I was frightened this time it would kill me but part of me didn’t care.

I was pulling you down trying to stay afloat with the weight I was carrying. Maybe it would be easier if I didn’t fight against the chains of the anchor that bound me. Why keep struggling with not even a rescue boat in sight, not to mention the safety and calm of a lighthouse ashore.

I didn’t care. I went back into the safe place of old inside of myself where there was no joy but most importantly no pain. I was so drenched and shivering that I didn’t notice your tears for me. I didn’t notice as you tried to set me free from the chains that shackled me. People marveled at how I was entrapped so. But their kind words and murmured whispers did nothing to set me free. They couldn’t help you help me.

If you couldn’t help me you might as well drown with me in the drink. Your cries never reached my ears in the eye of the raging storm. Yet somehow I remembered how to keep safe like I did so many years ago. Though trapped, the wall I built around myself was high enough to keep the storm surge out. Yet the water trickled in around me reminding me I couldn’t stay safe inside forever. I kept sheltered in its womb until I saw the clouds part. When I trusted I was safe enough, I pulled myself out of it.

You were waiting for me in your boat. The water was littered with lifejackets surrounding me. I knew how hard you were trying to reach me but I could not see it then. The sun shone on the distant lighthouse as we slowly made our way to shore.

Panic Sunday

That is how I ended up almost having a panic attack singing on the worship team in front of church on a joyous December morning.

I received a phone call from my daughter minutes before the service began. Grandma knows…the police didn’t arrest grandpa…guns in the house…a felon with nothing left to lose…depressed before…we need to get grandma and Matt out of the house…homicide?…suicide?

I received the two minute warning that I needed to go up and sing. I quickly said my good-bye as I threw my phone in my coat pocket and ran onstage. Maybe I should’ve taken some time off. When life goes to crap I tend to carry on with my plans. Maybe that was a mistake.

It was almost impossible to sing praises to God as I imagined my dad with a gun to my mom’s head. Singing may have calmed me in the past, but with each word my panic built to the point I almost ran off the stage mid song. I had a hard time keeping it together as the what ifs clanged in discord through my mind. It was agony to feel this way yet having to pretend that everything was fine. The service was being recorded and was live online. The whole world could watch me freak out.

I called my mom as soon as I could afterwards. She had tickets to see a show with Matt. She was going to pack her bags and come over after she took Matt back to his group home. With four teenagers in the house, I didn’t have an extra bedroom for my mom but she was welcome to stay here as long as she needed to.

I was still afraid of what my dad might do when she left. Should I go over there and try to talk with him? Was he angry with me because my daughter turned him in to the police? I called my brother Luke. He said if there was any chance that I could be in danger I shouldn’t go. It wasn’t like I had a car to drive anyway. The girls were in a matinee performance at the theater and needed to use my car since Paul’s truck broke down the day before.

Luke said he was going to give our dad a call and talk to him about Jesus just in case it was their last conversation. He said he could never forgive himself if he didn’t reach out. He also said it was time to tell our brother Mark and he would make that call as well. I decided it was time to tell my adult son Alex. Alex was very upset about the news and said he never wanted to see his grandpa again.

I decided we needed to keep the doors locked day and night just in case grandpa tried to come over and retaliate. I didn’t feel safe. We were on high alert. Later that evening my mom came over. I was relieved that she was safe. There was a lot of crying and whispered conversations behind closed doors. It was obvious that something was wrong. I told the children and people somewhat close that my parents were thinking about getting a divorce. It wasn’t an outright lie because it was possible, but it was far from the truth of what was really going on…

The day after the police came

The day after the police came was the large extended family Christmas party. We showed up a little late since we were having vehicle trouble. In fact, Paul dropped us off at the party while he tried to figure out what was wrong with his truck.

When I walked in I saw my mom hugging a relative and crying. I was looking for signs that she knew something was up with my dad. Crying at a family Christmas party was not outside of the norm. It happened so often as a kid that relatives prompted me to be a good girl and take care of my mother.

My dad didn’t show up to the Christmas party. That wasn’t out of the norm either. He didn’t show up for Thanksgiving at my house. He didn’t really take an interest in family gatherings. Sometimes he stayed home with Matt so he would have a good excuse not to go. He couldn’t use Matt as an excuse anymore because Matt was there and no longer violent thanks to anti-psychotic medication.

I wasn’t feeling very festive last year and really didn’t want to go. But it was important to keep up the appearance as if everything was normal. This was not unusual for me either. Trying to muster up some fake smiles while my life was falling apart. Yeah, just found out my dad is a pedophile which triggered traumatic memories but hey life is great because it is the Christmas season. I’m good, how are you?

On a quest to find vehicle answers, Paul’s truck broke down and we had to have the vehicle towed to a garage. Perhaps this could be my excuse for the forced smiles. Yeah, I’m worried about something else.

Something seemed a little off with my mom. She said she needed to talk to me about something important. Did she know?

We ended up getting a ride home from some relatives that lived near us. I tried calling my mom later but she didn’t answer. She called me back when she got home but didn’t talk about anything important. What was going on?

Gratitude week 50

  1. My husband got his braces off this week. Now too bad he has to wear a mask…
  2. I’m grateful for a warm fire on a cold day.
  3. I’m grateful for pajama days.
  4. I’m grateful for my new followers (and the ones who have stuck with me for awhile).
  5. I’m grateful that I was able to do a lot of writing this week. It’s been a rough week emotionally though. I’m not sure if it is because I’ve been thinking and writing about things a lot…or that this time of year is triggering…or a massive amount of stress…or that we are not getting together with family for the holidays this year. But here I am with the hope that things will get better…
  6. I’m grateful for my husband’s work Christmas party tomorrow so I have a reason to get dressed up and polish my nails. It’s hard to want to look nice when so many plans have been cancelled. It’s like, why bother? Pajama day every day…well not quite but you know what I mean.
  7. I’m grateful for Christmas lights.
  8. I’m grateful for my grandparents. Today it’s been 20 years since my grandpa passed away. 20 YEARS! I lit some candles for him and told my kids a few stories about him.
  9. I’m thankful that my son installed some sort of music app on my computer. I’ve always wanted to learn how to make my own music. I’m thankful that my kids can help show me how to use it because it seems very challenging.
  10. I grateful for a really good appointment this past week with my counselor.