Hidden and Supressed Emotions - A Recent Personal Battle
My Heart's Cry
My breath is shallow. I catch myself holding my breath. Waiting for ... for what? My oldest - and my only girl -- begins her middle school career next week. My sister tells me I am experiencing bottled & suppressed emotions from when I was my daughter's age. It does make sense.
Rage has eeked from me over the past few weeks, intensifying as the school year approaches. My soul shakes. And I don't know why. I thought perhaps it was because of a postponed vacation due to my mortgage company failing to escrow an insurance premium of thousands of dollars that would have been spent on family vacation. But, really, I am thankful we had the finances to pay the premium. So then, what is it? The pressure of having five children in an ever changing world? Is my faith strong? Am I really who I thought I was?
Last night I threw a large drink at the front door -- livid that my husband dared to shut it knowing I was behind him. What was the source of that kind of anger? Ugh! I cleaned the mess... which happened to be red liquid running down my magnolia swag - staining the silk blossom. The glass cleaned nicely, and the frame, but the decor -- maybe the setting sun that beats on our west-facing home will bleach the beautiful blossoms back to their original color.
And maybe, if I leave my soul in the scorching heat of pain, the stains of my youth will finish fading. I thought they had. But when my sister suggested a parallel between my daughter's approaching school season and the year my life crumbled -- something clicked, and the shaking intensified. Even know as I write - wow, I am numb. My head hurts, and I shake. Have I truly suppressed feelings these 25 years?
Each year that I approached the age my mother was when we were "abandoned", I found myself thinking, "only five more, only four more, only three more, only two more, only one more year until I'm the same age. What was she feeling? Will I do the same?" Then, this past year, my age past the age of my mother when she, in desparation to survive, began pushing the kids away. I exhaled. Relieved I had not abandoned my own children.
My father had left my family for another woman my sixth grade year. My mother, unable to get support from the government or from her "faith support", turned to a man who eventually would become my stepfather. My father was messed up from the Vietnam War -- we now know it was Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Unstable but moving forward
We had lived very unstably (is that a word?)... moving, being evicted, etc. I never lived in one home longer than sixteen months until I was an adult. My mother, who brought home less than $800 monthly as a bookkeeper for Sears, was left with four children, over $400 in rent a month -- and told by the local welfare office she was not eligible for assistance. [Amazing, how generations of some families live off of a social program designed to help people in circumstances like my mother had been in -- yet, people choosing to sit on their duffs and breed to increase their monthly intake from other people's hardearned tax dollars received help above a woman left with four children and worked. She would have been eligible had she quit her job - but she couldn't wouldn't and didn't.] She sought other employment, and landed a job with a smaller company as an accounts receivable clerk. She increased her pay and hours. And then the President of the company took interest in her . At a time when she was oh-so-vulnerable. A man, wealthy and charming, who could at least take care of the physical needs of the two children in her custody. The other two had been "given" to our father.
My father -- whom I had thought perfect -- had left us, hurt our mom, and moved in with another woman, whom we'll call "Sally". I wanted desparately to meet Sally and to be included in Dad's life. But for the time being, would not be.
We moved in with my mom's boyfriend for the summer between my sixth and seventh grade years. Prior to moving in with him, my mom spent most nights at his home, with us children left at our home a couple of miles away. Our fridge was full and utilities paid, so atleast our physical needs were met. We were teased by neighborhood kids because they overheard their parents discussing our lives, I suppose. "Why''s your mom staying at that old man's house?" and such. He was almost 30 years her senior -- 29 years and nine days to be exact. His children were older than her. But, he met an immediate need for her... and somewhat of one for us. Our father was gone. He had left my brother and sister in an apartment across town while living with his girlfriend in a larger city over an hour away. I remember sneaking groceries to their apartment whenever I could get a ride there.
Even as I write this, I feel this open transparency may wound my father. Our relationship has greatly improved. I love him. But that does not nullify I am still sorting and seeking release from the past. Nor does it mean I haven't forgiven, because I have. You can forgive your child for wrecking your car -- but that doesn't magically erase the dented bumper or the crumpled mailbox!
We moved in with my mom's boyfriend. By summer's end, they found a smaller apartment for themselves and another 2/2 for me and my 17 year old sister. It was quite nice. We were taken grocery shopping every week, and school shopping for the first time in my life at regular stores -not goodwill -- and with an abundant shopping budget. But, most nights my sister and I prepared our own food and saw ourselves to bed. My mother and her boyfriend lived two blocks away.
When my sister graduated and joined the military, my mom & her boyfriend moved me in with them. After all, an eighth grader could not possibly live alone, right? As my eighth grade year closed, my mom talked with me. We'll call her boyfriend "Alex". "Alex is moving back to (another state) and wants me to move with him." I was torn. I had friends, a boyfriend, and was actually living with my mother. I wasn't sure I was ready for more change. A couple days later I told my mom, "I think I'll like it there. I think I could be popular there too." (oh, the things that were a priority to a 13 year old!) She then told me, "Alex has already raised his children, and doesn't want to raise anymore. He wants me to go with him, and is willing to support you down here." My heart dropped. I didn't want to be separated from my mother. But, I knew she was hurting and alone, and didn't want her to give up her happiness for me. I felt like I needed to protect her from further hurt, sucked up the rejection and its sting, "It's okay, Mom," I encouraged her, rubbing her forearm reassuringly. "I'll be okay. I'm happy here." I never cried even though I felt like throwing up. I felt discarded.
My brother (16 months older than I) and I (14 & entering ninth grade) moved in with three of his friends. Our house became party central for the local four high schools. My brother dropped out from school, seeking approval and validation from his friends. My grades slipped to Bs and Cs, but I still went to school. Social services were called on us by well meaning friends and neighbors, but the social worker who came was bemused at the thought of four teenage guys getting to live so freely. Amazingly, I retained my virginity and did not party -- or atleast didn't get drunk daily. I did drink a couple of times, trying to fit in with an older guy and trying to receive love and validation. Thankfully, I did not quit school. I had always dreamed of being sweet sixteen (at this point I was only 14) and going to law school, and those hopes kept me somewhat on the straight and narrow.
We rigged our utilities to keep them from being cut off -- well, they were cut off -- we rigged them to be back on to atleast have running water. We started fires in pans trying to warm our hands. Once I ate an ice cream cone with peanutbutter and mustard -- desparate to eat. Eventually, my father returned to our town, and I moved in with him. I do not know what happened to my brother at that point, or where my middle sister was. I slept on the floor of the bedroom of my dad's girlfriend's two year old son.
That summer, my brother and I traveled by Greyhound buslines to my mother's home... A lovely home situated on a large pond with acres and acres of forest land. We stayed for a week, and we did not want to go back to Florida. But, our pleas fell on deaf ears. We were shipped back. I lived the next year with my grandparents. Thankfully, I was able to stay with the same peer group at the same high school. Some stability. This was the one year of my high school career that I actually drank and partied. I still was abstinent -- one of the few at school who did not have sex. But, I drank, A LOT. I even stole my sister's i.d. when she came for a visit. I bought beer for my friends and me.
After that year, I stayed at my best friend's for the summer. I learned later that my mom had asked if I could live with them, and that she would pay them. But, no, that was not available. What was available was a couple - in their early 20s - who lived in the same town as my mother and Alex, was more than willing for me to move in with them. I had met them through one of Alex's employees. The employee's step-son and his wife were the couple. They came and got me from Florida. I moved in with them. I was taken care of very well. She was only 23, and he was maybe 25. They took in a 16 year old. They were very religious. But, they loved me.
At one point, I was forced to sign a restraining order against my mother because the young couple wanted to adopt me and were afraid she'd come get me. I was heartbroken and did what I was told. I didn't know what else to do. Where would I go if I did not acquiese? The couple had marital problems and divorced ... leaving me up for grabs again. The young lady's mother wanted to adopt me... and I would have loved it... but I didn't want to hurt my mother again. Nor did I want to cut off relations with my natural family. What I really wanted was for my mother -- who lived in the same very small, rural town with me -- and her now husband -- to welcome me into their home. I wanted the speculation and town gossip to stop about why my mother didn't let me live with them and how horrible she must be, or what possible thing could I have done? My first year at that high school was HORRIBLE. How I missed my Florida friends.
I moved in with my mother and stepfather in February of my junior year because of the young couple's divorce. This was to be temporary, until they could locate a boarding school. However, inflation and actual contemporary costs of boarding school was more than my stepfather was willing to pay. He could afford it, but didn't want to take that much money from his children's inheritance. So, I stayed with my mother and step-father until I graduated high school. Alex and I had a HUGE fight -- and from that point on our relationship improved. I pushed down resentment and questions, and was content just to have a home and my own room.
So, what's all this got to do with now -- August 2010? I'm not sure. But I feel better just having written about it. My sister suggests that we often supress emotions and hurts unaware of their existence... okay... her suggestion is not the suppression of those emotions, but what resurrects them. The cause for me being my daughter's age.
What do I do to heal what I thought already had been healed? I've gone through counseling. I've gone through spiritual retreats. Each time has brought healing. Is the healing ever complete? There is more crap from my early twenties that ensued my teenage years - including a marriage where my husband - to whom I had given my virginity, and for whom I left college to marry all in search of an everlasting love -- had multiple affairs, a gambling problem, and cocaine habit --
This hub is not meant to be a woe is me piece. I am writing from my free-flowing-conscience. I am seeking resolve. Are any of you out there experiencing similar emotions? Unexplicable sorrow, apprehension, rage? Where do we turn for help? What do we do when we don't know the source of our frustration? I have "coasted" through these past weeks and months almost in a "zone"... as if my body is going through the motions but I am not the pilot. How do I regain control of the stern? Not only for my sake, but my precious children... and even my husband -- who has offered more stability to me than any other man my entire life?
I have received help in the past through programs such as "For My Life" (see link). And even in Paula White's "Deal With It", and surprisingly in a book, "She's Come Undone."
I could relate to the girl in "She's Come Undone" after my divorce and subsequent "wild oats"
Is it safe to exhale?
I realize now that my first marriage was entered in attempt to validate my worthiness of love and acceptance -- another shovelful of dirt to bury the sting of rejection and neglect from my parents. When my marriage failed, I felt like a failure, and an eruption of volatile emotions occurred. I compromised myself and questioned everything I believed -- seeking love from men -- including one of my best friend's longtime exboyfriend (ugh) -- wondering time and again, "How did I get HERE?" -- oh, my life has greatly improved since my early twenties.
Is this the last layer of suppressed emotions relenting? I don't want to make great strides and then be ambushed each time my children reach a milestone. In three years my daughter will enter high school, my oldest son enter middle school, and my youngest son start kindergarten. Do I expect a season of oblivion cloaked with outbursts of rage and sadness at my daughter's wedding? Or when she enters college? Or can I really GET OVER IT? I thought I had. I cannot quit pressing forward, but I think I am in desparate need of a vacation - alone
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Our Maker LOVES us...
One thing I do know...
Not to sound religious, but just to be real -- one thing I do know, and am confident in, is that I have a Maker who knows my name, and knows me. He loves me. I take refuge and comfort in that. Our world is imperfect, not because He is imperfect, but because He gave control to mankind, and mankind is flawed because of misdirected desires and greed.
The "Buck" Stops Here
Both of my parents had "issues" growing up. My dad was raise in poverty, and his mother committed suicide when he was a teen. My mother had many things I am not free to disclose. Those unresolved "issues" affected their marriages, and were complicated by war, children, etc.
In all fairness to both of my parents, they have both sought help for their childhood and early adult year traumas. They have both repented, if you will, to their children about decisions made in the past, and sought forgivness restoration of healthy relationships. They have come a long way. I have good relationships with both my father and mother. I am truly thankful for this. Through the relationships my parents have with my children, I am able to see how they would have parented had they entered parenthood healed, unbroken. Watching them teach, love and participate in my children's lives is a good thing.
I mentioned earlier that PTSD affected my father. I have since learned PTSD can be "picked up" by family members, especially children... Hence, the "flashbacks" of suppressed emotions such as I have experienced. I am determined not to pass this along to my children. The proverbial "buck" stops here. I will resist, they, my children, will win.
Note: This hub was written late summer 2010.
So what now?
How do I gain complete freedom for my children and for myself? I don't know the complete answer, but I will endeavor to discover it.
Perhaps it is simply repeating the process I've journeyed, and prepare prior to milestones. The good news is that though these "seasons" of resurrected agony occur, the span between each occurrence has lengthened greatly. That, I suppose, is progress.
After writing this blog, my husband and I took our five children to the theatre. I took my daughter and two year old son to see Ramona & Beezus, and my hubby took our three other boys to see Despicable Me. $79 later, 4 drinks and two large popcorns later, I was refreshed. Kids were enjoying themselves. Amazingly, watching the movie helped.
Later in the evening a friend called. She and I talk a couple of times a year. She is my mother's age. She gave some encouragment to me without even knowing what I was going through. Amazing, eh? "Fear has torment," she said while sharing about an experience. Something broke on the inside. I didn't cry or anything. I realized I was living in fear of repeating my childhood in my kids. Afraid of not providing for them, afraid of not giving good memories -- or stopping the good memories abruptly and abandoning them. Fear was tormenting me. I thought about how when one of my children dart from me in a mall or parking lot, I get edgy and yell, "Come back HERE, NOW!" because fear cloaks me that if they don't "come back HERE NOW!" something bad could happen. Fear fosters frustration which fosters anger. Actually, I think frustration is anger and fear combined, but that's just my personal belief. Anywho.
Once I realized FEAR was counseling me through supressed emotions of the past - I felt FREE... and the temptation to become enraged dissipated. I happily prepared dinner. And even after my three year old skewed a large popcorn all over my living room, I was not angry, but calm. Like I used to be before this "fog" had enclosed me. Even when the three year old and two year old carried the two large sodas we brought home from the movies -- and spilled them in their bedroom, AFTER we had just cleaned the popcorn, I was NOT MAD or agitated. I calmly addressed the situation, we cleaned it. Yay!
Thanks for lending your digital ears and letting me vent and process. I believe a victory was won tonight. :)