There is no time limit on processing emotional injury, let alone mental abuse #BillCosby #GianGhomesi #ptsd #alcoholism #abandonment #betrayal
December 3, 2014 § Leave a comment
Next month I will turn 59 years old. My face is creased with wrinkles, I have grey hair, and I need to get a prescription for orthotics. Last week I finally got my eyes checked and ordered glasses for distance and reading. Every once in a while I take a close look at my face in the mirror and am shocked by the wiry black hairs that have sprouted from my chin and under my eyebrows. Hey! Nobody told me this was going to happen!
I live with an insomniac. My husband enjoys the quiet time when the world goes to sleep and he can stay up, often until 2, 3 or even 4 in the morning. I fall asleep after dinner, soundly oblivious to the world until around 1 or 2 am, when I will wake up. If husband hasn’t come to bed, nine times out of ten, I will have this physical reaction to his absence, a sinking feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. My mind starts to churn up into wakeful worry thoughts: “Where is he?” “What is he doing?” “Why isn’t he here?”
I have been living with my husband for seven years now, and I still haven’t gotten used to this situation. In the past I would storm downstairs and accuse him of cheating on me with online porn (he’s often watching construction or woodworking how-to videos), of not loving me (even though he has stuck with me for eighteen years now), or of sabotaging our future. My most recent technique is to simply text him from bed, “Please come to bed now.” And he does.
But the other night I had a serious melt down at 2 am and this time I was able to describe what I was feeling, what I was thinking, and trace back the origins of the original injury. When I was in my early teens my mother had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and had a couple of violent incidents, as well as writing bad cheques, in her recent past. My father was working full time as a school teacher and working evenings, often five or six nights a week, playing music at a Shaky’s Pizza Parlour. He was rarely home and I missed him terribly. My older sister was out with her boyfriend most of the time, I was home with my four younger brothers coping with my mother.
A typical evening at home would include my four brothers holed up in their bedroom with their friends and my mother sitting in front of the television set chain smoking, drinking black, black tea and yelling at the actors and news presenters on the screen. I went through a period of deep depression at this time, often walking many miles in the evening before coming home and falling exhausted into bed.
On this recent incident with my husband, I was able to remember how I would wake up in the middle of the night and listen for the crunch of gravel that would signal that my father had returned home. It was a terrible, lonely wait. Eventually, he would come home and I would be able to relax enough to fall asleep. Perhaps the next day I would try to connect with my father, to get his attention, to get him to notice me. I remember his attitude toward me was indifferent, or worse, mean and cruel. I grew afraid of him, even as I continued to try to get his attention. Eventually I was able to get a boyfriend, and almost immediately started having sex with him. My father found out, and his only reaction was, “Are you on the pill?” That was it.
As I recounted that horrifying loneliness of being home with my mother and then my father’s later meanness and lack of interest, I was also able to put together information that I did not have at the time, but suddenly came into the story. During those years my father was having an affair with the woman he would eventually leave my mother for, to marry. I now wonder if those late nights playing music were made later because he was spending time with her. I have to wonder if his meanness and indifference to me were not coupled with his shame and guilt about his behaviour. I didn’t know it at the time, but in hindsight, it explains to me why my father was so unloving to me.
I think, now, on some level, that I sensed my father’s leave-taking long before he actually implemented it. It was a very painful, unspoken, experience of growing dread culminating with the ultimate shock of his abandonment and betrayal in reality. He did leave my extremely ill mother and moved in with his girlfriend.
All these strands of current and past feelings and thoughts all came together at 2:30 in the morning as I explained to my husband why I was having so much trouble with his nocturnal habits. I may never be able to forgive my father for being such a coward, a bully, and a manipulative deceitful person, which he continues to play out today. I can, however, start to understand how he acted out, why he acted out, and how my experience of those behaviours, which were so injurious to my burgeoning sense of being a woman, being female, being a daughter, and being a person in relation to men.
I can make a little sense of it today and take some of the pressure of myself and my husband. I am surprised, however, at the strength of the feelings, and the power of the thoughts that attend them. I would have thought that those long past experiences would be behind me now and I would be free of their affect. But it is not the case. That experience might be fifty or more years behind me, but the feelings are as fresh as they happened yesterday.
The difference today is that I have hope, I have friends who care about me, and I have a few family members that are kind and respectful toward me. The sun is clearing the horizon and I must get to work. I am grateful for the opportunity to put this into words and hope someone out there can benefit from my experience.