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Following the Blood Trail

I wish I had a time line… most narratives make so much more sense when you have a time line… but my life does not feel ordered…not neatly arranged in a straight line from birth to now – no, my life feels to me more like a jumbled-up pile of events.  So, too, must this narrative be chaotic and jumbled.  There is no other way to tell my story without the chaos.  I cannot calmly and neatly arrange my thoughts – I can only offer events as they spring to my mind and heart and tell you what I know as I know it.

That being said… I guess I will start at the only beginning I can… I will start with who I AM…  I am broken, hurt, nearly dead.  I am wounded and bleeding – hemorrhaging from the inside… dying while most don’t notice.  I am living in agony and for many years I believed to my core that the only way to not be in agony was to be in … well, nothing… no feeling at all… numb.  Empty.  Void.  Vacant.  I walked around every day empty – a shell of a girl… a ‘happy little robot’.

So how did I get this way?  Well, that is the hard part.  I cannot point to one event… on catalyst that broke me… one singular thing that was my undoing.  It was more like a cascade, an avalanche, a downpour of events – some huge, some rather small… all adding up to me being – this.  Me being broken, robotic, numb, plastic, devoid of human emotion… sociopathic, un-empathetic… unable to recognize or understand the feelings of others without herculean effort.  Scared all the time.  Feeling lost and confused.  Afraid to relax.  Not at home in my own skin.  Not comfortable in my emotions.  Certainly not comfortable with the emotions of others… no, indeed- emotions often felt like a violation, like an intrusion. (Danger, Will Robinson!)  Emotions threatened my little sense of balance, of safety, of control.  They felt like intruders come to rob me of what little thread of sanity I was able to hold on to from my crazy past.

About that… so I was trying to explain how I got this way… following the blood trail…  So… here goes… Please know – these memories are a jumble of feelings and images and impressions and in no certain order apart from the order in which they spring to mind.

So I’ll start with the one that is easier for me to talk about since it is something I have spoken of often and feels like a familiar and safe place to start… When I was a little girl – ok… well, screw that – all of this will probably begin with “When I was a little girl”  so I will just dive in and hope this makes sense …

 

Memory:  It’s late (after dark, past my bedtime) and I have been tucked in and admonished not to get out of bed or I will be in trouble.  I am having a hard time falling asleep and I want the comfort of a teddy bear.  I know that I will get in trouble if I get out of bed, but I hope that if I am really quiet I can steal across by bedroom in the dark and grab a bear and get back into bed and not get in trouble.  So I steel my nerves, swing my little legs off the bed and touch the floor with my bare feet and tiptoe to my toy chest where my teddy bears are lined up on the lid and grab a favorite and tiptoe back to bed squeezing my bear tight and hoping that I won’t get in trouble for breaking the rule.  I am terrified that I will be punished for getting out of bed.  I am just falling asleep when my father, Gary Perry, bursts into the room.  He is so angry!  He is asking (yelling) if I got out of bed. I told him that I did – but only to get a bear and I got right back into bed.  I am so scared!  How did he know I got up?  My door was closed and I was so quiet!  I feel so guilty for disobeying him… now he is yelling about my brother.. He is asking me if I was watching my brother get dressed… I tell him no… I am so confused, I tell him that I only got up to get a bear and I did not leave my room … but it is apparent that he does not believe me.  He is out for blood. Mine.  He asks me over and over if I was watching my brother, if I was outside my brother’s door… watching him get dressed after his bath.  I tell him over and over that I was not, that it was not me, that I never left my room… I tell him maybe Mom (Sandra Perry) was bringing Aaron his laundry or a towel or something – so he goes to ask my mother and she says she was not- that she had not been in the hallway near my brother’s room – so my dad comes back all red-faced and furious with his belt in hand and is yelling and holding me down across my bed and beating me with the belt—he hits me over and over as he holds me down and by the time his fury is spent I am covered in welts and what will soon be bruises from mid-back to the backs of my knees.  I am sobbing hysterically and so lost…so confused… Just a few minutes ago I was happily cuddling my favorite bear, just about to drop off to a peaceful sleep…now I am drowning in pain, confusion, terror….  My dad stalks out angrily – clearly disgusted with me – and a few minutes later my mother comes in.  She tries to comfort me (I am inconsolable) and she tells me I need to go to my father, sit in his lap, hug his neck, and apologize – she tells me this will make everything better…. I have no direct memory of doing this – but I know that this is what I did… I went to him and apologized … still confused and so scared… knowing forever that my life can go from calm to chaos in the blink of an eye and there was nothing I could do about it.  Knowing I was helpless and weak… knowing that no one would rescue me, no one would fight for me – that I would just have to take it.  Take it and apologize.

Memory:  I have no idea how old I am.  I am being held face down on a soft surface (Bed, couch?) and Gary, my dad, is behind me anally raping me and it hurts so bad I think I am going to die.  I feel like I cannot breathe and I think (hope) I am dying.

Memory: I am a little girl… pretty short and very small, so maybe around 6 years old.  Cleaning the dishes after dinner is my chore.  I cannot reach the sink, so I have to push the bar-stool around to the sink to climb up on and sit on to wash the dishes.  We have finished dinner and Gary, Sandra & Aaron are going to go for a walk outside while I clean the dishes.  “Wash these dishes” is what my dad said to me before going outside.  So I gather all the dishes and place them to the left of the sink.  I push the bar stool around and climb up and set the stopper and fill the sink with water and soap.  I get my rag and wash all the dishes… I rinse them and pile them in the dish strainer to the right of the sink.  I am just finished when they come back in and I am feeling good about what I have done.  I am anticipating praise… that I have done well and will get a smile or a hug for my efforts.  This never comes.  Gary is furious!  He is screaming at me and I am so confused.  He says that I know that ‘wash the dishes’ means that I need to clean the table, wipe down the counter, wipe down the stove and sweep the floor…he thinks I am lazy and disobedient and manipulative and a liar.  He thinks I just don’t want to do the chore so I am making things up… again my world goes from peace to chaos… like *that*… Like a snap and then things are so unsafe.  And no one comes to my aid.  No one stands up for me… no one defends me or says that I did do exactly as I was told.  I did!  I washed the dishes!!  This makes me feel crazy and so unsafe.  I feel like even when I do exactly what I am supposed to do my world still can and will fall apart.

Memory: I am staying the night with my cousins, Krystal, Annette, Kathy, Geneva in Branford and we have played, gotten our showers, had dinner and it is getting to be bed-time.  I am sitting in my uncle, Eddie Perry’s (my father’s older brother) lap.  I think I came to the living room to relax… to just sit for a while in a quiet part of the house… He comes in and tells me (invites me?) to sit in his lap.  He is sitting in his chair near the fire place and a gospel radio station is playing on the old yellowing faux wood radio on the lip of the fireplace hearth.  The light in the room is yellow and the sliding glass doors are opened to allow a breeze to blow in from time to time and it billows the curtains.  My uncle is talking about God… I don’t remember what he is saying but he is grandiose and full of his own humbleness and self-importance.  He is like a magician – gesturing with one had in flamboyant movements punctuating his speech while feeling up my little thighs with his other hand… reaching beneath my nightgown, his callused hands scratchy against the soft delicate skin of my inner thigh… and fingering me – causing a ripping pain at the center of me… and it is all so confusing… so terrifying.. I cannot breathe, or cry, or cry out… I am frozen and confused and so, so scared… and once again feel that peace is dangerous… and can and will be shattered in the most horrible of ways at any moment…

I don’t know what to do in the day to day that is life.  I am so tired of it all.  So tired of feeling them dictate my life.  I remember countless times when my tenuous peace shattered.

Memory:  I am a teenager… maybe 16… and I am listening to a CD on our sound system in the Living Room… The stereo is top of the line and the equalizer allows you to strike the just perfect balance… you can make your music rich…tones deep… the pure joy of sound just sweeps over you and carries you away… you start to lose yourself in the pure joy of sound … and this is what I was doing… when suddenly, my dad is yelling at me… he seems furious and so offended… He seems so angry… he accuses me of ignoring him.  All I want is some peace… a little time for myself…  a little space for all the thoughts in my head.  I just wanted to enjoy some music… but since it did not involve him or revolve around him he has to shatter it… he has to rip the peace to shreds and create chaos.  Always chaos… always anger, hurt, offence… Always finding a reason to be personally affronted by our actions and in-actions… as though we had violated some unspoken rule or some code of conduct we were never made aware of.  We walked on eggshells… always on high alert – waiting for the other shoe to drop…waiting for things to get worse… things always got worse.

I remember countless days that I lived in extreme anxiety.  I lived in fear.  Even today my anxiety eats me up inside.  It torments me and makes it nearly impossible to live in my skin.  I often feel overwhelmed and want to shut down… shut out the world… lock myself away.

Not every day was torture.  We had some good days…but they were so unpredictable and my world felt so unstable that they did not take a foot-hold.  So many memories… they flood me – all coming at me at once… threatening to overwhelm me.

Memory:  I am 17… the truth of what my uncle, Eddie had done to me has just come to light.  I have kept this secret for over 10 years and I can barely speak the words…I cannot get them out – I cannot think, I can scarcely breathe… My mind balks at the memory and I cannot recall the words to my mind and force myself to speak them out loud.  I have just spent the weekend with my cousins and found out from them that Eddie had molested & raped them… that he had done so for years… I remember Krystal telling us so hesitantly, but in a way that made me think that this truth had to come out or destroy her… she told us like her life depended on it… I remember her telling us that she had been afraid to say anything because she did not think anyone would believe her.  I remember feeling like this puzzle piece just clicked in place inside me… I remember feeling relieved… I remember telling her she was not alone and that I believed her.  We swore each other to secrecy and went home to our separate houses at the end of the weekend with this secret burning in our chests…scarring our souls.  I remember the horrible burden of it all.  I remember the weight of it… the scorching, searing presence of this pain… my pain, their pain… my horror, their horror.  By Thursday the rumor mill had made the rounds and my parents were the only ones who did not know… to this day I cannot clearly remember how they found out – I may have told them…but I don’t think I did… I think someone else did… one of the gossiping aunts…  But they found out… and when I got home from school they pounced!  They were so ANGRY!!  I was surprised by their anger.  I was drowning in guilt and shame over what had been done to me – but for them to be so angry… this blew me away!  Why!?!?!?!?!?  Why be mad at me.?..  They kept trying to force me to talk about it… “Tell me EXACTLY what happened!”  and when I could not comply they took my traumatized silence as a sign that I had made it all up and that it did not really happen.  They tried every manipulative tactic to get me to talk about it.  They just did not try loving me.  “Are you sure you are not making this up?”  “Did you say this just to fit in with the other girls?” “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL US!???” “Did you like it so much that you did not want it to stop, is that why you didn’t say anything?” “You know if you had said something when it happened your cousins would never have been raped, you are no better than a child molester yourself!”  It was horrifying.  When I would enter a room, the conversation would stop and they would just look at me…  I felt like a freak.  I felt like a monster.  I believed my dad when he told me I was no better than a child molester.  I believed him when he told me it was my fault.  I believed him.  I went into a shame-spiral and redoubled my efforts to stay off the radar… to do everything just perfect so I would be beyond reproach and therefore beyond notice.  I renewed my vow to do everything right – so I could be safe and so maybe (Just maybe) they would love me.  I did slip up and ask to go to counseling/therapy a little while after this… I was, of course, forbidden to go – and they never spoke of it again… they simply told me there was nothing wrong with me and I did not need to go to a counselor.  I felt crazy… I was just starting to hurt myself from time to time to stay ahead of the crazy… not full-blow cutting at this point…but I was not beyond scratching my skin with a needle from time to time – or beyond pushing a straight pin slowly into the muscle of my calf just to watch it twitch with some curious detachment… All of this was a secret from them, of course… I determined that I would be fine… that I would not need anything at all from anyone – since, by my thinking, help would not come anyway – there was no point in needing help from anyone.

I felt like garbage. Disposable.  Used.  Ugly.  Tainted.  Forever marked.  I was afraid my abuse showed up like a mark on my skin… I was afraid that anyone who looked into my eyes would see it as easily as they saw that my eyes were brown… I was afraid it was glaring and obvious.  I lived in fear of people finding out about it.  I carried a brand (In my own mind) like my very own scarlet letter.  I was no longer pure.  Not a virgin.  Not white as snow… tainted…  I felt like my soul was burned to ash and that in its place was an oily, black, living thing… I worried that I was not myself any more… I felt like a monster…

Gary & Sandra- WHY!?!  Why would you treat a child this way? Why do you hate me so much?  Why would you even have children if you only want to hurt them?  Why do you lie and hide?  Mom – why didn’t you protect me? Why didn’t you see me? Why was Gary so much more important than the rest of us?  Why was he so much more important than me?  Dad- why would you rape me?!? Why would you hurt us – hurt me – like that?  Why would you ever let us be around Eddie and the rest of your crazy family knowing full well what they are all capable of?? Mom- why did you lie to my grandma, Mary, when she asked you if Eddie molested me?  Why did you not get me help?!  Gary & Sandra – you are monsters.  You – not me.  You are the monsters. Gary – remember when you told me that I was no better than a child molester because I did not tell…because I did not stop Eddie when I was a child?  You ARE a child molester.  You ARE a monster.  YOU DID THIS!  I will not be your punching bag.  I will not pretend that our home was happy or healthy or good… I will not pretend that either of you are good.  I renounce your lies!  I renounce you!  I refuse to live with your labels any longer.

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Following the Blood Trail

It is high time I followed this trail of blood, pain, tears…back to the origin.  Back to the pain.  Back to the thing that made me what I am… In this blog I will be exploring memories and delving into deep pain to excavate these defense mechanisms and disarm them.  I don’t want to live like this anymore. I don’t want to spend my entire life living in response to pain… especially pain over events that have passed.   I want to find a way to feel safe and at home in my own skin.  I want to be at home in who I am and in what I am.  I don’t wan to apologize for being wounded.  I want to be. I want to be free.  So, to move forward, I will go back… back through the lifetime of pain and disappointment… the beauty and ugliness and back to me.

Blood Trail

This blog will be my attempt to make sense of my co-dependent, crazy, painful life… and an attempt to find and fight my way out of the numbness and darkness and into the warmth and light of normal, healthy emotions.  I want to save my life, my self, my marriage.  I want to be free again.  I want to be at home in my own skin.  I will find my way.