Friday, August 6, 2010

Where I've Been

I've come to the conclusion that little can be gained from rehashing the past over and over to try to pinpoint where a life went astray.  After all, we don't get a redo.  I think therapy works more as a function of having that one person we can trust to not go away because we pay them not to.

Nevertheless, uncovering destructive patterns is the first step to healing.  After that I really only have faith in behavioral focused therapies.  You can't change thinking patterns, literal neuronal pathways in the brain, by reactivating them over and over again.  

But for this to work, this blog, this story-telling, it seems like it would be useful to start at the beginning, wherever that is.  

Unlike many codependents there was no addiction or abuse present in my family of origin.  My mother was preoccupied with her crafts and her work, she made some mistakes, but she was also a pretty sane mother who looked after my health and well-being and was neither lax or too tight with her discipline.  My step-father was a strong and present presence in my life from very early on, and while aloof and stoic by nature, I never doubted his fierce love for me and his family.  

My mother and biological father divorced when I was only two, and because of their irreconcilable differences, he was gone.  Poof.  Vanished.  Until I was 18 and the spotty and rare contact between the divorce and our reunion.

Unquestionably that divorce and my father's absence was a source of pain.  I remember longing for him, imagining a life full of unicorns and rainbows and no pain if only he would show up on my doorstep to reclaim me and his role as loving father.  

But when I have to trace back to the source of pain that would lead me to marry a binge-drinker and rager - I can't find that source in my father's absence or the largely innocuous mistakes of my well-meaning parents.  

It was a series of unfortunate events and circumstance that bled me out.  

There was the physical defect that lack of expertise medical care left me with.  I had a mostly undetectable lazy eye at birth and the doctors didn't take my mother seriously.  Then when I started walking into things in my left field of vision -- doors, tables, various other obstacles -- my mother returned me to the doctors who were baffled that the optic nerve in my left eye was deteriorating, and rapidly.  

The lazy eye became a blind eye, and noticeable enough for fodder of the cruelty of children.  I was teased, ostracized, picked last for games, and bullied.  This would not change from elementary school to high school except that the rejection from boys during adolescence was added.  

There was the heinous emotional abuse I suffered at the hands of childcare providers that my mother entrusted my care to when she was a single mother working nights.  In her defense, she had no idea.  I never peeped one word about what was going on.  How one woman who my mother paid extra to feed me dinner was secretly feeding me only cereal, leaving me to sit alone in a darkened kitchen at the table.  How I had to sleep in a top bunk at three years old and was so scared of falling in the dark I would wet the bed and have to sleep in it all night long, only to be shamed in the morning and be forced to hand wash the bedding.  I remind you, I was three.

How another woman paid to look after me took the money to go play cards next door while I was left to the care of her cruel daughters who delighted in finding ways to torture me.  Forcing me to watch horror movies, threatening to have their boyfriends tie me up in the basement and beat me up, cooking the one food I couldn't bring myself to swallow and not allowing me to leave the table until I ate it.

I was the opposite of a tough child.  I was a tow-headed, thoughtful and sensitive virgo child who refused to ride my big-wheel because I couldn't bear the carnage of crushed ants underneath the fat tires, and who gave dead animals a proper and dignified burial under the Willow Tree where my mother planted bulbs in the Spring.  I was imaginative and bright and adventurous, but I was not tough.

My spirit had no defense against such cruelties.


  1. This is amazingly honest and I admire the candor with which you've shared.

    The image of you not wanting to ride your big-wheel brought a smile to my face. I can imagine such a sweet and precious child and the care with which you put the ants first.

    I have found that the really bad stuff in life just seems to happen, with no real rhyme or reason that I can see. I'm sorry those bad things happened to you.

  2. Kelly, thanks for finding me and for the kind words.

    I'm still rather uneasy about this whole blog. Afraid that this first trickle is going to lead to a busted dam and I'll be powerless to stop the flow. Equally afraid of integrating this person into who I am -- accepting it. If that makes any sense. Also afraid that I won't be able to handle the pressure of the potential discovery of this blog for, you know, when my life suddenly becomes so smooth and important that it would matter to someone to discover that I've got a whole river of pain inside.

  3. Okay... I lied...:) I went back and read some of your earlier posts because I am trying to understand things better. Actually, I'm a firm believer in reliving the past, for only when we get away from it, can we see it clearly and learn from it.

    In this post you stated that there was no abuse in your family of origin, but that is not true honey.

    "There was the heinous emotional abuse I suffered at the hands of childcare providers that my mother entrusted my care to when she was a single mother working nights. In her defense, she had no idea."

    Her DEFENSE? Ignorance that she had left her precious daughter in the hands of psychopaths is not a free get out of jail card.

    It WAS her responsibility to care for you and she was NEGLIGENT whether she knew it or not.

    Then... she left you to stumble into things left and right and didn't get a second, third, fourth opinion, until you went blind in one eye?

    Sweetie... that IS abuse!!! All of it and she is your mother and it is her job and responsibility to protect you and care for you or to provide APPROPRIATE care in her absence!!! She did not do so and even though I'm sure that she meant no harm to come to you, the end result was the same. There is no excuse. none.

    I admire you a lot Briar because you're a very strong woman to have been able to survive all of this. very, very strong and enormously sensitive; that's a wonderful quality to have.

    I'm sure that you get this intellectually, but not sure that you do, internally, and I struggle with this too. Not ALL people are abusive cretins. Many are, but not all...

    I didn't realize it until just now, because our kids are of a similar age, (I think... mine are 21 and 16) but I'm about 15 years older than you are. You're very young. :)

    Please hang in there... I'm going to keep praying...

    xo ~ L

  4. Lexie, my mother DID take me back for 2nd, third, and fourth opinions. By the time I was stumbling into things my optic nerve was deteriorating, and fast. It took 6 months to deteriorate completely, and all the while they were running tests and trying to figure out what to do.

    As for the people my mother entrusted my care to, do you think that they advertised to her that they were cruel? I said nothing about it so how could she know?? There were no physical signs. My mother was busting her butt working to take care of me. My FATHER, on the other hand, was not paying any child support and that was neglect. But my mother? No, she was not neglecting me or failing to pay attention. Was she perfect? Of course not, but she was doing her best to care for me. And the man she later married, my step-father, ended up helping my mother to pay for all the medical bills from my eye. So my "parents", and when I say that I mean my mother and step-father, did the best with what they had.