Push Back

I don’t feel safe. When things are scary, I draw into myself. There is no one I can trust so I find safety inward. I don’t know when, but I have stopped being able to look at myself in the mirror. I will look at parts of myself: eyes, teeth, hair. Just enough parts to make sure I am presentable. I feel shame, I cannot face my reflection. The girl in the mirror asks questions. She wants to know why things are happening, and if we will ever find love. I try to convince myself that the relationship I have with Charlie is real. I know it is not. He is using me for his pleasure, and I feel like a tablecloth. Spread across the table for everyone to feast upon. At the end of the night I am thrown in with the dirty laundry. I am trying to balance between Ted and Charlie. I want to tell Charlie about Ted, the years of molestation and how it’s still happening. I know what would happen: Charlie would tell his Dad, Pastor W, and somehow it would turn around on me like it always has. I stay quiet, I hide, and when I cannot hide, I shut down. It’s better to stay quiet than to be exposed.

I want: to hold hands, to kiss, to walk around in love and unashamed. I do not have that. I have: hiding, groping, unwanted force, public ridicule, told that I am disgusting, and ugly inside and out. I believe them. I don’t know anything.

I have started spending a lot of time with the preschoolers since I am helping teach them during school hours and babysitting most evenings during Institute. I am using the children to avoid Ted and Charlie. I am so relieved to be away from my desk during the school day. I am free from Ted and his wandering hands under the desk. In the evenings the footsteps from upstairs signal a break in their bible studies. I will hurry up and run into the kids’ room if they are sleeping, or try to busy myself with them if they are awake. I hear Ted’s footsteps on the stairs and my breathing becomes rapid, but I try to stay calm. He will persist, hang around, become agitated. I cannot walk away from him, there is no escape.

One night I don’t hear the footsteps, I miss my cue. I was sitting on the couch alone when Ted walked in the room. I got up, he advanced. I tried to walk past him and he blocked me. I told him “no”, he didn’t seem to hear. We are downstairs in the basement of the church. In a room that only contains a door, not even a window to escape, and no one to hear me call for help if I wanted to scream. I pushed against him and he pushed back, harder than I did. I was back on the couch before I even knew I had been pushed. I realize my helplessness. I apologize, and he has his way.

He tells me that he won’t go “all the way”, because I’m not 18. But it is clear to me that when I am, Ted will have more freedom. The thought of that is terrifying.

I push forward. I stay busy with the kids. They look to me for guidance, care, safety. I do my best to provide this for them. I look at them because I can’t face my own reflection. I am lost, I can’t care for myself, and I won’t feel safe for a long time.

~E

 

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Half and Unanswered

“Maybe I have autism!” My eight year old cried out when feeling frustrated with his own emotions. He was relating his frustration and hesitance to share with the behaviors of his younger brother that has been recently diagnosed. It hit me then that we as a family have not properly communicated the diagnosis of our four year old son. We received the diagnosis, yet have been surging forward with our lives as if everything is normal. We have not stopped to address the diagnosis and make sure that we all have understanding.

I had a breakdown last week while on the phone with my cousin; crying so hard I could barely breathe. Starting sentences like “what if he never….what will happen if….I just want him to understand….” It is apparent I have not stopped to realize the depth of my grief.

With the birth of each of my children, the doctors and nurses confirmed my feelings that they were perfect, healthy, and wonderful. I have never stopped seeing my children this way. I have dealt with various diagnoses: speech delays, asthma, countless illnesses, and now autism. Each time we are presented with a “plan”; a “cure”. But the autism feels different. It is different. I have selfishly had dreams for my children. I want them to play sports, games, learn to dance, swim, ride horses, and graduate from high school. I look forward to them becoming successful individuals and valuable citizens. I want them to have friends and feel loved.

Autism is different. There are so many questions and unknowns. Hence all the half and unanswered questions that swim in my head all day long. I ignore the “why” questions. Anyone can read ridiculous articles on what causes autism. I read one last week that circumcision causes autism. I laughed out loud.

One of my therapists taught me not to worry so much about why things happen, but find out what I can do now. We have a wonderful support team for our son, I am so grateful. He is surrounded by love and comfort right now.

But I registered him for kindergarten. What will that be like? Will he have to go to the specialty class or can he be integrated now? The goal is to have him in a general classroom by first grade. What if he never gets to the general classroom? He might have to do two years of kindergarten. That’s okay. If he gets hurt or sad at school, will he be able to tell me? Will he understand? It breaks my heart to think of him being alone, overwhelmed, and scared.

“He will be okay.” I tell myself over and over. I don’t know what I’m doing but I trust the process. I’m grieving. He won’t be like the other kids, ever. He’s an amazing kid, but not everyone will see that. I appreciate those that see his light. He may be able to play a sport, we don’t know. He may be able to make friends, we don’t know. He may be able to learn everything he needs to survive. We don’t know.

I remind myself of what he has done. He is potty trained yay! He sleeps awesome, yay! He is healthy and happy yay! He is learning to spell his name and definitely recognizes it yay! He talks enough that we can understand most of the time yay!

My anxiety lies in the unknown. My peace resides in the present. The present contains love, smiles, emotional roller-coasters, and lots and lots of the mess that goes along with childhood.

~E