Have you ever talked with someone who shifts reality around as they speak? Have you tried, desperately, to bring up something from the past that you know they remember but they spin it around and make it mean something else? Or worse, they deny it, saying it was only your overactive imagination?
I had vivid dreams as a child, and yes, sometimes it was hard to tell dreams from reality. During the worst of my depressions while growing up, there were times when I woke up from nightmares only to live a nightmare, and to go back to bed just to dream another nightmare. Most of the time the days were only more tolerable than the nightmares. I wanted to read, safely in my room, instead of going to sleep because I was afraid of the nightmares, where I would try, futilely, to run away from dad.
When I was about 5, I once dreamed that my dad hit me over the head with a lightweight blue plastic baseball bat that belonged to my brother, as an explanation for the dent that was permanently carved in the bat.
I made the mistake of telling him that dream once. It ranks up there with the time my dad put a large mirror right on the driveway where I was riding my tricycle, and I couldn't stop and I crashed into it, breaking it. I'm pretty sure that happened, but it happened when I was very young, so it retains dream-like qualities while simultaneously being very real. However, dad takes these... dreams? realities? to dismiss anything I remembered. If I remembered something he didn't (or didn't want to) he would bring up the baseball bat and mirror stories, and it would completely discredit anything I said.
"Remember when Cameron nearly burned down the house when we were really little?"
"No, I don't remember that."
"I had a paper jewelry box that he was playing keep away with, and put it on top of the lightbulb on my lamp, and we forgot about it, and when you saw it, you said it was nearly catching fire, and would have burned down the house." (and I didn't mention the part where he was very angry and spanked Cameron angrily for a long time, and grounded him.)
"Suuuurrre, it happened, just like when I hit you over the head with the baseball bat. Or when I put the mirror in front of your trike so you could run into it."
And so it went.
I eventually began to completely doubt my memories, which I think contributes to the fact I remember so little from when I was little.
Like after dad's rages. It occurred in predictable steps. Tension, which could snap at any moment; Rage, which was relatively short lived compared to the following stage; Aftermath, when we're still reeling from the rage, when dad either continued doling out the punishment or gave us the silent treatment; Bribe, which isn't quite the right word for it, but he would take the family shopping and buy a lot of crap for the house, and the crap was "proof" that he cared for us; Forgetting, when we would forget what had so recently overwhelmed us for days, setting the stage for the following pretend normalcy, the Eggshells.
It is the Forgetting that is so insidious. It allowed us to minimize what had happened. It allowed us to pretend we were a happy family. It allowed us, in recent years, to convince ourselves that dad was doing "better" than he used to when my brother and I were younger. "He's not that bad, because he takes care of us" (while motioning or referring to specific things he bought.). "He's doing better." And the lie which I used to tell myself, "If I don't remember, it must not have been that big of a deal"
It is the Forgetting that makes me afraid that people won't...well, believe me, or minimize things. It sounds so stupid, but it's a real problem. It's like saying, "she asked for it" in rape cases. Or "What do you mean? It's not abuse! He never hit you!" Or saying, "But she's your motherrrr," as if legal parenthood excused abuse.
It's the Forgetting that makes me still hesitant to say anything, for fear I misremembered something. "No, I never got that email," I might say in all honesty, and then I often start panicking. "What if I'm wrong? Maybe I did get that email. I should check my inbox. And outbox. And spam. And trash. It's not there. Maybe I deleted it without knowing. Crap, I must have lied accidentally! I can't remember!"
It's the fear that perhaps I know that the grass is green and the sky is blue, but someone comes along and says, "oh no, it's been the reverse all along, you must be crazy." It makes me wonder, as the coldness of fear flows through my limbs...am I really the crazy one? Am I...the one who's so severely disordered that I'm out of touch with reality?
When I ask this, people tell me that simply by my asking, I've proven my sanity. The truly crazy believe themselves to be sane and everyone else insane. (In other words, the sky is green, the grass is blue.)
You know what? If I'm the crazy one, then I don't want to see what sanity looks like.
Filed under: Abuse