6:15 a.m. - 2012-04-02
The secret has changed over time, but not the feeling that has always accompanied it -- the feeling of constantly having my stomach in knots, a feeling of impending doom, as though I have been stealing from the cash register and it's only a matter of time until someone figures it out. I try to act like everyone else, but I know I'm not like everyone else. I am waiting for someone to find out, and shame me, and shred me down to nothing.
When I was a kid, my secret was what it was like inside my house. The house was filthy, and my dad was violent and abusive. I was petrified that someone would see the inside of the house, and I was petrified that someone would find out that sometimes my dad made flat, tough, unemotional me cry hysterically and want to die. Or that he could make me beg him to stop hurting me.
When I was in eighth grade, when I had known her for about a year, my best friend Kate confronted me about my dad. The night before he'd dragged me from the house to the barn by my hair and twisted my right arm so hard I could barely move it and I couldn't write. The school nurse said it was probably sprained and put it in a sling. We were in line to go into social studies when she asked me what happened.
"I fell down the stairs." I got some small satisfaction from saying that when he banged me up because our house didn't have stairs. Nobody knew, though, because I never invited anyone over.
"HE did it, didn't he?" she said.
The world went silent. The boisterous kids yelling and pushing eachother in line, the clatter of feet on tile -- everyhing stopped. People were moving in slow motion and I couldn't breathe.
"Yes," I said.
And then the door to the social studies classroom opened and we all went in and life resumed as normal, except that nothing was normal anymore for me because SHE knew.
I think it might have been a year before we ever really talked about it again. Ninth grade; we were in the band room after classes let out, picking up our instruments or something ... just the two of us. She said, "You look like you're about to cry," and I burst into tears. I hadn't cried in years.
I don't remember what it was that made me cry, except that it was probably the feeling that I had every day, that I couldn't go home, that I was too tired to go on, that I wanted to die because it was the only way I would ever be safe from him.
So it was the three or four years after that that I didn't have any secrets. She knew that the house was a mess, too, because she was the only person I had invited over since probably fourth grade. She didn't tease me about it.
The year I was 17 I became anorexic, and shortly thereafter, anorexic and bulimic. That became my new terrible secret. The details of my eating disorder -- insane and disgusting -- became the secret I kept even from her -- and the secret I've been keeping ever since. Other secrets too... I was a cutter for 2/3 of my life and my arms are covered with scars; I don't drink anymore but for years my drinking was yet another all-consuming secret.
I quit drinking, I quit cutting, but the eating disorder still hangs over me. I still force myself to throw up sometimes. I'm still self-conscious about being too thin and I worry all the time that people are judging me as an unfit mother because I "clearly have a problem" ... I don't know if it's obvious but I always fear that someday someone is going to decide I'm too screwed up to be a good parent and take my kids away. I worry that they might be right.
And I feel really guilty.
(For the record, I'm 5'3" and about 100 lb, too skinny but not nasogastric tube skinny ...)
This morning as soon as I woke up, the creeping dread punched me in the stomach before I opened my eyes; I didn't want to be me again this morning. We walked down to Dunkin Donuts to get the kids Easter donuts; it was sunny and they were happy and I was abjectly terrified of everything.
Matt never really knew any of my secrets; he knew ABOUT them but we never really talked about them. I think I have wanted for a long time to tell someone the things I've never told anyone, but I haven't found that person yet.
My friend Brian I have probably told more than anyone else, but I separate the facts, which I tell him, from the emotion, which I don't express. I can't say, "Help me, I'm scared to death of life and I can't find a safe harbor anywhere" because what on earth does anyone say to that?
Anyway, as I write this cashy is pretending to talk to Grandma on the phone ... very cute ... he's been waking up at night, bad dreams, and I am flattered that he always yells, "Mama!" instead of Daddy, even if he's spent the weekend with daddy ... He then demands, "Sleep mama bed!" and I indulge him... I wonder what it is that he's scared of in his dreams.