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3:35 p.m. - 2016-04-03
things I don't talk about
I have been doing a lot of talking recently about something I don't usually talk about -- growing up in a very violent home. I don't talk about it because -- well, hell, when do you talk about it? The dinner table? When you are bitching about your boss with co-workers? Therapy? Well, that might seem like an appropriate time but I never trusted those fuckers.

I trust the one I have now and ... well, it didn't all come pouring out. Not until she told me she wanted me to e-mail her. I am a writer, and I can write what I can't say. It all came pouring out in e-mail. Images mostly.

The worst part is not what was done to me -- I learned to dissociate and I really didn't feel much -- but what I did as the oldest of four kids to keep us alive -- like smothering the baby so he didn't cry and my dad couldn't find us -- and what I didn't do and what I witnessed. I didn't always get between my dad and the younger kids, though I usually did and I always tried. (My worst memory is listening to my brother scream for me to help him and inching and dragging myself trying to get there, and not making it because my legs didn't work.)

The other worst part is the number of people I told and the number of times I tried to get people to help us and the number of times I was called a liar and an attention-seeker and mentally ill. Maybe I should have tried harder, I don't know. I was not crazy or a liar or an attention-seeker and yes, I probably was mentally ill but that happens when you live with that shit.

I used to just focus on the good things that came from it and I still try to. It made me strong and a fighter. I got to raise a set of kids who I loved more than anything on earth before I ever had kids, and that's why the first time my daughter had croup I knew to go in the bathroom with her and turn on the shower, no parenting book consultation or frantic ER visit needed. I already knew how to change diapers and derail temper tantrums. I have always said that my babies were so easy and being a new parent was so easy -- it was because I was already a very experienced parent; it was just MY baby and not my sibling.

There are a lot of things I would never tell anyone, like smothering the baby. People would say, "How could you do that?" as though there was some other alternative (what was it, I would like to know). Mostly you don't talk about these things because it makes people uncomfortable and they see you as contamination in their lives. I am contaminating because I am contaminated. I was contaminated by facing choices that other people don't have to face, and making them and following through.

When I told the therapist about smothering the baby, and following up on our conversation that I still love my parents and see them as good people because if I don't, if I see them as "other," then evil wins, she said (via email)

"I hear you know the difficult and dark parts of being human. I trust you all the more because you know that part of you that part of us. What we do to survive and assist others to survive is scary and beautiful."

Which is why I like the lady.

You can't get rid of it -- the past -- and I can't become someone else although I tried for years (and to get rid of it). I just wanted to wake up and be someone clean who never knew what people do to each other, that people throw babies into walls, that I have been choked and dragged around by my hair more times than I can count, that I have lied and smothered babies and set the house on fire accidentally just trying to get us all through another day alive, that I am not the slightest bit pure because things happened that contaminated me.

I used to try to forget and I never succeeded. I tried to move away and be someone else and I never could get the me out of my skin, and all of my history. I tried to watch how normal people live and mimic it.

I think maybe I am slowly starting to be okay with it, as hokey as it sounds. It made me a good reporter and it makes me a good nurse. Every day I live is my revenge on evil, and revenge on evil is true compassion.

I reported to make the world a better place. I went to nursing school so I can work for Doctors Without Borders someday. I am determined to leave the earth having tipped the balance sheet a little in favor of good, and I have a lot of evil (mostly not of my doing, but that I witnessed) that I am trying to balance.

I thought that when my brothers all survived to adulthood and became good men with good lives, that chapter of my life was done and could be closed and vacuum-sealed and buried somewhere where they bury nuclear waste. I was wrong. It is not dead because it made me who I am, for better or for worse. I hate that I am anorexic, alcoholic, a (currently reformed) cutter, and all kinds of crazy. But at least I wake up in the morning with a mission, and I think most people just wake up and bumble through their lives seeking pleasure and not too much pain.

I am working again, as one would expect -- I guess I should have mentioned that, but of course I am and I love my new job and my patients love me -- life is good. I try to make it that way. Recently I have been doing a lot of wound care and some of them are smelly and rather offensive -- all of them are offensive to the patient -- but of course I have not just a poker face but a smile and news on how good it looks. In nursing school I wondered how anyone doesn't react to something that looks like that but in real life it is like anything else -- you see a patient and a project (the wound) and you are glad for the opportunity to heal both. God know I have had enough things in my life I can't heal so I am grateful for this.



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