My article "The Silence of Childhood Abuse follows in to Adulthood."
My article "The Silence of Childhood Abuse follows in to Adulthood."
When I was a young child, I was taught from an early age to not talk about what went on at our house. Ever. For years I heard those words over and over.
"You do not talk about what goes on at our house!" said Mom.
So that's what I did. I kept most of those secrets throughout my adult life without even thinking about it. That's just the way it was. Silence!
Sure, I talked some about all of the husbands and boyfriends my mom had, the moves and the number of schools I went to. Even when I did talk about the past, at times I felt some guilt. I was giving away family secrets.
I did not talk about the sexual, physical or verbal abuse. I repressed most of the horrible memories. File the ugliness away in the back recesses of my mind. Just don't think about it.
Until I turned 51. That's when the floodgate of my sickening childhood started spilling out. I will talk about my subsequent nervous breakdown when the memories surfaced. Just not now. Now I want to focus on silence.
When I started recovering my repressed memories, my friends tried to be very helpful.
"Just don't think about it!"
"Don't think about the past. Look to the future!"
"Forget about it!"
"So you're sitting home feeling sorry for yourself?" said an ex-friend.
As in my childhood, my friends were encouraging silence. Ouch.
For years I drank too much. I suffered panic attacks at night. I had severe insomnia. Depression. Anxiety. And the list goes on.
All because I didn't think about it. I couldn't think it. It was just too frightening and painful.
My friends, don't you see? In order to move forward with my future, I have to deal with my past. Facing the grief, the horror and the sadness of my childhood has helped me immensely, as hard as it is. For 18 years I was abused to varying degrees. Now, that's a lot to process. I will be dealing with that for the rest of my life.
Thankfully, I rarely feel a need to drink now. The anxiety and depression that were my constant companions almost on a daily basis for years have significantly decreased. Panic attacks at night are minimal to non-existent.
I still struggle with insomnia some nights. But it's much better.
If you know of someone that is dealing with abuse, whether present, past or both, please do not tell them not to think about it. That is one of the most painful and hurtful things that can be said to a survivor who has suffered in silence most of their life.
"No! NO! NOOOOOOO!!!!" I scream as I am violently awoken from sleep
I sit bolt upright in terror
as I feel my heart jump in my chest,
gagging and choking
I struggle to breathe
feeling my heart travel up my throat
watching in horror as it flies out of my mouth
bounces onto the bed
and out the window
What just happened?
OH, MY GOD, WHAT JUST HAPPENED??
- - -
...I am tired
So very, very tired
Please release me from your loving grip
Through the long, lonely nights of my childhood you tried to guard me from the many abusers in my young life,
the many states,
the many men,
the many houses,
the many lonely and scary rooms I slept in you watched over me,
worrying for me,
caring for me
You woke me up at the least sign of danger
You held your head in your hands and cried tears of grief and anger
body shaking with rage
at your helplessness to stop the horrors inflicted upon my young, innocent body
But it's okay, Beautiful Heart. You have done nothing wrong.
Please do not be hard on yourself. I know you did the best you could.
I thought you were my enemy when I recognized who you were. But now I know you were one of my greatest allies.
But, please, it's time to let go.
Your work is done.
In May of 2016 Mom and I took a road trip. Unbeknownst to me, it would be the last trip we would ever take together.
With the combination of stress at home with the ending of my marriage, a recent move to a different house and the pressure of my career, this was a much needed vacation. I was very excited to see Mom, laugh, relax and travel with her.
I arrived in Phoenix on a Thursday. My flight was due to leave the next Sunday, ten days later. Before I booked my flight, Mom repeatedly told me that to keep to our itinerary, we would need a full ten days for this trip, a trip that would take us from Phoenix up to Kearney, Nebraska and back down to Phoenix with stops in between. It was usually hard for me to get away for that length of time; but with my kids getting older, being gone this long was doable.
I arrived in Phoenix, excited to see Mom and her little dog. As usual it took me a little time to wind down from the three-hour time difference and the long flight from Ohio.
Me and Mom took off from Phoenix, not stopping at her house as we usually would do.
We had a nice time talking and laughing. Again, I was looking forward to the relaxation of this trip. Mom loved to drive, and I enjoyed being a passenger relaxing and looking around at the beautiful countryside.
It took me a couple days to finally hear what Mom had been saying since I got there - which I hadn't been paying attention to in my excitement at seeing her - that we would have to travel fast to be back in Phoenix to meet my flight on Friday.
"Yes. After I drop you off, I will have to do a lot of driving to meet Lamar," Mom said.
Mom's married boyfriend Lamar.
"Mom? You repeatedly told me I needed to take a full TEN DAYS to make this trip with you, and that would take us to Sunday. I confirmed this with you several times before I booked this trip."
"Oh, no!" said Mom. "You told me you couldn't take that much time off of work."
"Hello? Again, we had this discussion several times. You were very clear about the need for ten days. I was very clear I could make the ten days work."
Oh, I get it I thought. Typical Mom. Throw away anything and anybody to be with a man.
When I finally realized what was going on, that Mom was lying to me and making it look like my fault, which was a common theme in our relationship throughout my life, I turned to her and said, "You know, if you wanted to see Lamar and had limited time with him, you should have been honest with me, and I would have understood."
Mom looked down in almost shame and said, "Okay."
I looked at her in surprise. Shame? No, that's not the mom I know.
Looking at her I felt an uncomfortable jolt in my memory and a painful ache of intense discomfort in my body, and a little voice in my head that said Remember! REMEMBER!
Remember what I thought?
Remember the past! that voice said.
I certainly remembered Mom's physical abuse when I was a little girl, her constantly slapping me in the head when she got angry, which was often.
I certainly remembered her verbal abuse.
You little BASTARD!
I can't wait until you're an adult!
What do you WANT FROM ME?? I owe you NOTHING!
Someday you're going to be fat, and I'm going to be skinny!
You're not as pretty as you think!
Again, that little voice urgently said REMEMBER! REMEMBER!
I put it out of my head. I couldn't make sense of it.
But I felt a sense of unease.
We never made it to Kearny, Nebraska because of bad weather. Mom had warned me several times that if there was bad weather there that we would not go and take a chance.
I understood that.
Mom seemed relieved to be able to turn around and go back to Phoenix.
En route to Phoenix we stayed at a hotel. The next morning I went to work out at the hotel gym before we left.
Before working out I went in to the bathroom, washed my face and brushed my teeth. As I went to brush my teeth, I accidentally squeezed too much toothpaste out of the tube, and it landed in the sink. I took my wet washcloth, wiped the sink out and threw the soiled cloth under the sink for the maid to wash.
Then I went to work out.
When I arrived back at the room, Mom was sitting on her bed and ready to go. She was looking at me with a strange look on her face, a look that made me vaguely uncomfortable.
Where have I seen that look on her face before I wondered.
"Morrene, what was in that washcloth you threw under the sink?"
"Toothpaste that I accidentally squirted into the sink."
"Well, I rinsed it out," said Mom.
RememberRememberREMEMBER!!!! that little voice screamed in my head.
I looked at her with a sick feeling in my stomach. I always remembered my dirty underwear pressed to her nose in the laundry room at the house in Mukwonago, Wisconsin where we lived for a short time when I was a teenager. I knew without a doubt that Mom had smelled that washcloth and was imagining what was in it.
Mom, what did you think was in that washcloth? And more importantly, WHY would you wash it out?
I never asked her those questions. I was sickened. I did not want to hear what she had to say.
REMEMBER! REMEMBER! REMEMBER! flashed through my head. YOU MUST REMEMBER!!
We got back in the car and continued on our trek back to Phoenix.
We arrived in Phoenix on Thursday at the hotel I had reserved.
"Where would you like to go for dinner?" I asked Mom.
"Well, I might as well leave now," she said.
I stared at her in surprise. "Leave now"?
"What's the point in staying?" said Mom.
Well, to spend a little more time with your daughter I thought but didn't bother to ask. I already knew she had no interest in staying.
"I wanted you to meet my friend Dennis, another court reporter, who has been very helpful in finding me work when there was none in Ohio. I told you he would be here working."
"Well, you don't need me here for that."
Mom had no interest in anyone but going to see her boyfriend.
The lying, selfish, narcissistic Mom I have always known was rearing her ugly head. Again.
Men were more important to Mom than her kids.
They always had been.
Boyfriend to boyfriend, husband to husband.
Six men in my young life by the time I was nine.
"Okay, Mom, be careful on your trip. And, yes, you can have gas money to fill up your car for the quarter tank of gas that was used."
It took me several months to finally acknowledge the sickening, perverted and horrifying memories that Remember! Remember! was screaming at me.
Mom and her husbands were abusive pedophiles.
I always wanted a mother. Always.
And for that I forgave, minimized and repressed the horrendous abuse of my childhood. I just couldn't face it.
At 51 years of age I could no longer look the other way.
I finally remembered with sickening clarity, shock and grief the abuse I had suffered as a child.
Right after school let out for the summer from my ninth grade year, Mom, her fourth husband Emil, and I started packing for our long-awaited two-week horseback riding trip that would take us through the Dakotas and Wyoming. Emil was still off work due to an accident while driving his semi. Mom took a vacation from her secretarial job.
Mom and Emil's custom-built horse trailer with living quarters was hitched to the matching black and gray pickup truck. Our horses, Jazon and Quazar, were loaded in to the trailer. Along with our dogs, Spike and Muffin, off we went to start our trip. Emil stayed at the truck with the dogs while Mom and I rode.
The steep hills of the trails we rode our horses on in the Dakotas and Wyoming were scary but exciting. Straight up and straight down at times. We had to slowly and carefully guide our horses on the dangerous terrain so they would not trip and fall.
As I rode my horse, Jazon, I looked around at the beautiful country and felt the warmth of the hot sun on my back, I felt peace wash over me as I usually did when riding. I also felt an unusual happiness. The depression, guilt, shame, sadness, anxiety and loneliness that plagued me on a daily basis were not weighing as heavily on my young shoulders. The clenched muscles in my body slowly started to relax.
This rare sense of happiness was intoxicating. I wanted it to last forever.
Mom and I got along well as we usually did when riding. We exchanged small talk at times but mostly enjoyed the quiet and beauty of our surroundings and riding our horses. Absent were Mom's usual criticisms and anger about my appearance, my attitude and the way I cleaned the house.
It was a perfect trip.
Mom and Emil must also have felt the same peace and happiness because rarely did they exchange an unkind word with each other or with me. It was great to hear them laughing and see them smiling. I basked in the rare kindness and attention Mom and Emil showed me.
Mom took many pictures of me in my shorts and summer tops when we were not riding.
"Pull your hair all the way back and put your hat on. That looks really cute! Let me take a picture."
"Stand next to this tree. Turn to the side, fold your arms and smile!"
"Here, sit over by this tree with Spike. Smile!"
Snap, snap, snap went Mom's camera while she smiled encouragingly at me.
I loved the attention that Mom so rarely showed me.
Shortly in to our trip we met a man we called Early. Unfortunately, time has erased the memory of where and how we met. He just seemed to materialize out of nowhere.
Mom and Emil took an immediate liking to Early. In no time at all they were laughing and talking about their shared interests, horses and trail riding. Early told us about his ranch and the Quarter Horses he owned.
At some point me and Mom went riding with Early. He immediately took a special interest in me as I rode Jazon, watching and smiling at me and several times complimenting me on my riding ability.
Although I enjoyed the kindness he showed to me, at the same time I was uncomfortable being the center of attention. Each time I got a compliment from Early, I would say thank you and shyly look away. I had no idea how to handle such praise.
Mom proudly told Early that I had been riding all of my life. She explained to him that I started riding Jazon when I was nine years old, expertly handling my young and spirited Arabian with skill and patience that far exceeded the abilities of such a young rider.
After our ride Early invited us to his ranch. We toured the barns and admired his beautiful horses. I was very impressed with all of his animals and his property.
After touring the ranch, we went in to Early's house and met his wife. She seemed nice but was also very quiet. I caught her watching me at different times. Each time our eyes met, I would shyly look away. We did not see her again after our initial meeting.
Shortly after meeting Early, Mom, Emil and I were standing in Early's barn alone. Mom turned to Emil and said, "Oh, Early really likes Morrene. He would definitely try something with her."
I looked at Mom silently. I had no idea why she would say something like that, but I knew better than to question her. I did not want her to get angry at me. As with a lot odd things that happened while living with Mom and Emil, I had to put this out of my head. Again, I knew better than to ask questions.
Mom and Emil told me Early wanted me to come live with him and his wife on their ranch. He wanted to get me professionally trained to show his horses.
I was very excited! I absolutely loved horses, and this would be a dream come true!
Mom and Emil were very encouraging.
Morrene! What an opportunity for you! You need to stay and do this!
We are very lucky to have met Early!
Think of how exciting your life will be! said Mom.
Emil agreed with her.
Mom took me shopping and bought me a beautiful and expensive pair of brown boots with high heels. I had never owned such a nice pair of boots. I was very happy that Mom would buy me something so special for no reason.
Mom repeatedly told me that Early's wife would love to have me there and would buy me many things, clothes, shoes. Anything I wanted. That excited me since I rarely got new clothes.
As the time drew closer for Mom and Emil to leave, I could feel my resolve weakening. I did not want to be away from home, away from Jazon and my friend Lisa. The thought made me very sad. I made the tough decision to turn down Early's offer to live with him and his wife.
Mom and Emil's relaxed and happy moods slowly disappeared the closer we got to home. Soon their impatience and anger with each other and their combined criticism over my appearance and my attitude returned in full force, and the yelling started again.
It also didn't take long before Mom was looking at me with jealousy and hate in her eyes as she usually did. I looked at Mom in sadness and confusion when I saw her angrily looking at me. I had no idea what I had done this time to make her mad.
Once again, my constant friends, depression, guilt, shame, sadness, anxiety and loneliness descended heavily on my shoulders.
The first time I got drunk I was 14 years old. I was at my friend's house, and her brother had bought us a bottle of Tickle Pink. Her parents were gone, and we had the house to ourselves for the evening.
My friend and I did not have to drink very much of the syrupy sweet wine for the alcohol to work its magic.
First the giggles started. Then the uncontrollable laughter.
I fell to the floor, laughing so hard with my friend that my stomach hurt. My tight muscles unclenched. I was able to forget, for a short time, the ongoing sexual abuse, verbal abuse and physical abuse I endured at my house.
Laughter, which was so rare at that point in my life, came easily when I was drunk.
I felt truly happy! Carefree. My anxiety, depression and loneliness were temporarily gone.
I wanted this feeling to last forever.
Many, many times throughout my teenage years, my friends and I would seek out liquor. Too many drunken parties and fierce hangovers to count.
Fast forward through the years, college, career, marriage, children, drinking was always my go-to drug of choice to relax at the end of a long day.
As the years flew by with the increasing stress from my career, major financial concerns in my personal life and the ending of my marriage, and, unbeknownst to me at the time, I was suffering severe PTSD from my childhood, I always had my friend, a bottle of wine, patiently waiting for me at the end of the day to offer comfort and solace.
After the repressed memories came out and my acknowledgment of the abuse, and a lot of counseling, I have learned more about myself and substance abuse. Some days are good days, and those are the days that I do not feel like drinking. Some days are not so good, and I feel the painful depression and anxiety trying to rear their ugly heads.
I recognize the feelings and try to deal with them in a productive way, meditation, riding my horse, playing with my dog or working out. Sometimes I am successful; sometimes I am not and have a glass or two of wine in the evenings. Recovery is definitely a work in progress.
I have an amazing counselor who is helping me deal with my past. More good days than bad days now, thank God. I have no idea what life will throw my way as life progresses; but for now, I am looking forward to the future with anticipation and eagerness.
I have tried meditation on and off over the years to help alleviate the anxiety, depression and insomnia that have plagued me almost on a daily basis as far back as early childhood. Each time I started feeling better, I would quit, even though I knew meditation would help me during the good times and the bad times.
After a few years of sporadic meditating, I have finally figured out an easy way for me to incorporate it in to my life on a daily basis.
Basically I can break down the process in to five easy steps:
1. Meditate first thing in the morning before you get out of bed and start your day. Do not look at social media or turn on the TV.
2. I pile a couple of pillows against my headboard and rest against them while sitting in a cross-legged position with my hands in my lap. The pillows enable me to sit comfortably without getting a back ache.
3. Start off by setting a timer for five minutes. I found meditating for five minutes to be excruciating when I first started; but with practice I was slowly able to meditate for longer periods of time. I now set my timer for 30 minutes. Some days I can make it the whole 30 minutes, some days 15 to 20. I never get frustrated if I can't make it the whole time. I have found that any amount of time spent meditating is productive.
4. It's almost impossible to clear my mind the entire time. When thoughts enter my mind, I gently push them out without judgment. Some days are more difficult than others. Try not to get frustrated.
5. Meditate at night before you go to bed. Okay, I will admit, I am still working on this one.
Another good time to meditate is during the day when your thoughts are racing. That is also one I definitely struggle with because I want to keep working on whatever project I need to complete and not take time out.
Meditation is also great for middle-of-the night insomnia, which we all know is no fun. Many times I can go right back to sleep after clearing my mind.
Meditation has changed my life. Although I still have days or times of the day where the anxiety and depression rear their ugly heads, I am able to take an objective look as to why I am feeling those emotions and turn it around.
How many of you meditate? And, if you do meditate, does it help you with anxiety and depression?
We would love to hear your comments and any helpful hints for someone who is interested in meditating or someone who makes it a daily practice.