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Message in a Bottle (part 4)



It’s times like these that I doubt everything. It’s times when my husband is lying in bed asleep, the dog has his head under the bed (I have no idea why he does that but he does) asleep, and I am the last one awake.

It’s moments like these when I think – I have so much to be grateful for. I’ve come a long way. No, my life hasn’t been easy but then again, who’s life has been?

It’s nights like these after I’ve made dinner and we’ve watched a show on VUDU or Netflix that I find myself content to just be. Just being in the moment. And I find many moments like that. In the morning when I take Kaiser (or Stink depending on how long it’s been since I’ve bathed him) for our walk and I put my headphones in and listen to an old Fleetwood Mac album. Or when I’m doing yoga – which has been a wonderful outlet for me to center myself mentally, emotionally, and physically. Or when I am sitting down to add words to a page in one of my books.

And I think to myself, “Why not let things be?”

So often I’ve been told that I have to get over what happened. That I have to move on. And those words have come at the precise of the moment when I am not at my best as I am now. They’ve come when I’m so low I could do a snake a favor and scratch his belly for him. It’s in those moments when something comes across in social media, or I see something on television, or an old memory flares up in my mind and I beg the universe for deliverance to that land of ‘move on’. And I think to myself, I’ve lived with this stuff for so long – will there ever be a day I can say, “I’ve arrived.” I am fine, now, I’ve moved on.

I went years without knowing what was wrong with me. Yet I knew something was. In college, I was given a diagnosis of extreme ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). I scored off the charts even to the point where the health profession said that I may have Bipolar disorder. So I did what I thought I should have done and went to a psychiatrist with the diagnosis and got on medication. And while the pills worked. My concentration was such that I could hear a mosquito fart and be able to describe it to you – it kept me up for days on end.

ADHD medications aren’t supposed to do that.

But I didn’t know any better. I thought they were just supposed to help you concentrate. And another thing I wasn’t aware of was that the symptoms of ADHD look a heck of a lot like the symptoms of PTSD  (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). And even at that point I thought PTSD was a soldier’s illness from being in war. Well, I had deployed to the middle east for Operation Iraq Freedom but the unit I was with was in Kuwait. And that was an experience that was long, and hot, and I missed home, and yes it was a little intimidating – but nothing bad happened there. We were never involved in any firefights, no I.E.D’s went off, and even though we got there when Saddam was still bombing Kuwait (Sharq Mall got hit (If I remember correctly), it had been a couple of hours prior to us showing up.

So there was a part of me that was unable or unwilling to see what was in front of me. Or maybe there was a part of me unwilling or able to associate my PTSD with something that hit very close to my heart and was personal. My family. My life growing up. And the idea that a church or a doctrine of a church could be the culprit was something I was again unwilling or unable to put together.

Church is supposed to be a place you feel the safest. Our Family is supposed to be the place you feel the safest as well. And neither place was safe at all. Added on to the stress of living in a war zone like Detroit in the 1990’s, it’s a miracle I’m not a heroin addict. Or not permanently locked away in some psych ward somewhere (although I did do a stint in Detroit Receiving Psychiatric Ward an indigent care facility, at one point after I returned from the service, but that’s a story for another time). I can’t just put event after event on here, because like I mentioned in blogs before – I’m afraid there would be so many that no one would believe me.

For fifteen years of my life, the physical abuse starting at an early age, the slaps, punches, beatings with extension cords, belts, switches, watching my older sisters get hit and/ or kicked out of the house – things that I’d witnessed and was powerless to stop- at young ages went on like clockwork. Saturday nights before church were always hell on earth in our family. The explosions in tempers, the skanky inner workings of the church that thought it was appropriate for a sixteen-year-old girl to marry an almost thirty-year-old man, the lies, deceit, the cover-up of a rape, the usury of another sister to pay bills as she killed herself working whilst dealing with an eating disorder…all of that was inside of the house. Detroit would be and do other things.

All these things were ingested like poison to a child scared out of his mind waiting for what was going to happen next. And it was pure insanity. It was all based on a fucked up version of Christianity. It was all enforced with rhetorical flourish, emotional manipulation, spiritual manipulation, fear of the wrath of God to stay quiet, and physical violence.

And maybe its self-preservation in moments like this that tell me to stop. To let sleeping dogs lie. Or maybe it is cowardice or fear that says I could be stirring up a hornet’s nest. But I know the moment i see something that triggers a memory – I know I’ll wish I’d have started something like this. Started talking. Some kid will get killed, some young lady will have to apologize to the wife of her rapist for him taking advantage of her.

I know I am pussyfooting around the main event. The actual diving into the heart of what happened to me and my siblings. And I think that too is based in fear. Not fear of anything I may cause, but fear of all those emotions rushing to the surface and me descending into expletive-laden rants about what fuck shits, what cowards, the people involved were.

I don’t want to do that.

But what I have learned is my reaction to those things that happened is not unusual. As a matter of fact, as research is expanding in the field of psychology concerning what’s called Adverse Childhood Experiences (or Aces). I’ve come to realize just how much an impact what had happened had on me. Aces is a way for doctors to test how adverse experiences can effect a child over a lifetime.

(Watch Nadine Burke Harris give an approx. 16 min talk on the nature of ACES, here)

(Read up on Aces and take the quick test:  here)

So it’s the realization that even though this happened fifteen years ago it is still impacting me in a very serious way today – even physiologically. So I’ll take a moment, at fifteen minutes past the Witching Hour, to be grateful for some clarity and some peace.


I’ll write more when I can