Sitting on the couch with my arms wrapped around my knees. Big fears and tall shadows tumble out of memories. Suddenly drowning in a current of panic. It can’t just wash over me, it pulls me down because I’m tiny.
I sit down to work and I feel as though I am falling into an abyss. Did I leave my depression in this chair? I have a communication dynamic with one of my main relationships that is driving me insane(r?).
I know why. It’s not their fault, even though they play their part. But I see character traits of mine mirrored in them. Things that I have conquered or are just being revealed that I want to work on. I look into this mirror they present to me in every interaction. I don’t like how I look. I don’t like how I have to squint through this distorted image of my own issues to try to understand them.
It’s so much easier to be angry at them. But, the anger is really masking the frustration and shame of my “features” shining back at me.
I need a rest from all of the introspection. Maybe later I will go swimming and move through this.
Dad has been dead for 54 days, of those I spent 38 with mom. I didn’t know that I could do that. My PTSD has manifested different symptoms since then. I am home now and the other night I woke up screaming. I am having dreams ranging from intense to terrible nightmares several times a week, even some of my recurring nightmares from when I was a kid are back.
I had two dads: dad 1.0 and dad 2.0. Almost everyone that was in dad’s life now, knew dad 2.0. Dad 2.0 had done a lot of healing and recovering personally from the experiences of dad 1.0. People should learn, grow and change. However, Dad 1.0 and I had a lot of hard times. I feel like such a jerk that I am feeling so much rage at Dad 1.0, because I knew Dad 2.0 was a different man. I honestly didn’t know Dad 2.0 very well. His community looks at me through the eyes of people who knew and loved Dad 2.0 (they never met the beta version) and I feel brittle and petty. What right do I have to be harmed by things that happened so many years ago? I feel like he helped so many people, why can’t I just get over it? I can’t because I can’t.
While I was in California, I missed a conference that I wanted to go to about cult survivors. The focus was on SGAs (Second Generation Adults), people who were born in cults and have no identity before the spiritual abuse.
I am just starting to really grieve, I have never grieved like this. I feel like a core sample of my body froze and fell out. Grief throbs like a tooth ache, from numb, to dull pain to excruciating. I didn’t realize that grief would be so physical. While in California, I was helping mom and now it’s my turn for me to realize that he’s really dead. Also, the fantasy of our relationship is also dead. The hope that we would ever be truly at ease and comfortable with each other is dead. Anything that we may have shared isn’t possible because we aren’t a we. The hope that one day I would have kids and he would be a fantastic grandfather. Dad 2.0 was an awesome grandpa, I was terrified to let Dad 1.0 around any of my potential children. Fantasy and those hopes are dead.
My fantasy world is doing much better than it should be. I am not here in this body, this state or this reality. The dissociation I deal with as part of my PTSD are fully active and engaged. I think I have almost been in four car accidents since I got home. Waves of the past wash over me and a part of my brain slams on the brakes and I miss a fender bender. I feel myself being thrown into a refrigerator or my head being grabbed and my hair cut off again. I am stuck in this nightmarish loop of memories. The echoes of letters from Dad 1.0 that I found in his filing cabinet while cleaning up for mom are haunting me. His words about how I have been subject to every degradation possible. I realize that so much of my negative self talk, these demons that fly around bashing into my skull are echoed in this writing. What I thought was my self loathing is fully scripted out in these writings I found.
It all came from somewhere, that is comforting and horrifying. Where did his self loathing come from? I don’t think I’ll get to know.
And I love him. He did so many wonderful things. And I feel robbed and angry. And now he’s dead. What am I supposed to do with that?
Well, I am trying to ground. Trying to let my feelings flow and not get into car accidents. I am moving to liberate the grief from it’s crevices. I’ve been talking and swimming and dancing. I am trying not to be numb.
This morning after a very frustrating phone call, I realized that I was stuck and numb. It was raining outside, pouring. I was told to do physical things when I feel emotionally numb and detached. I grabbed my bath towel and put it on the lawn and laid on it in my pajamas. My skin gets very sensitive when my adrenal system is stressed and I feels like nerve endings are shooting out my pores. It felt like the rain was stabbing me. I started to breathe and my system started to calm down. The rain started to feel like rain again and not a thousand razors. I stayed out there for a long time feeling the cold, feeling the rain, feeling the ground. Just being there and grateful that none of the neighbors were out and about.
I sat up and the sobs welled up in my chest. I cried and cried and watched a frog eat a bug. I cried and saw two bright red cardinals hiding from the rain. I cried and watched the raindrops follow a very complicated labyrinth to the ground and the little frog sitting in the perfect spot to have the rain miss him. I cried until I was done. I stared at my pajama pants and saw the freckles from my legs showing through the fabric. I did one thing at a time.
My tears pushed out the anger so that compassion was next in queue. Now it’s compassion’s turn for the next little while.
My dad was very human and so am I.
In the last two weeks, I have faced two of my biggest fears: the death of my father and being on stage again in front of members of my old cult. It has been so exhausting. In a lot of ways, I have been so busy planning the memorial and helping my mom transition that I feel like maybe later I can process. Just trying to put one step in front of the other.
Oh mom, what are we gonna do? I have had a lot of business endeavors, but now I am scalp deep in the business of closing down a life. TV is blaring, mom is sleeping and I am writing while trying not to freak out. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to care for my mom in this way. I wish that my brother and E could be here too. Today, I think it kind of hit us that he was over. I can chronicle the growing list of “he will nevers” or “I will nevers”. I make those lists when I can’t sleep. In the few moments where I am alone in the day, I break down.
It helps me to look at the next steps as a business…
Understand and lower expenses
Create emergency systems
I think it is good that my parents don’t live at the same house that I grew up in, there aren’t any ghosts here for me. Unless dad is lurking about, I don’t think he is. I think he would take a few trips before coming home first.
It has been extremely uncomfortable being surrounded by Christianity. I was the “emcee” at my dad’s memorial service and I heard someone say that it was the best church service they had been to. I don’t think they know that it was put together by two atheists. It was quite a balance to honor my dad’s faith and stay true to my boundaries. It was hard to be in a church. I know that it would make my mom happy if I went to church with her on Sundays, but I can’t do that. I won’t trigger and harm myself. Also, I know that she would be self conscious of my experience. In this time where she needs her community and her traditions, I don’t want to put my trauma and discomfort in the foreground. But I will keep myself safe from incurring more.
I am afraid of my boundaries and mental health. I am afraid to leave the house because I want to protect my mom. I should take breaks and take care of myself, but I feel like there is this giant mountain of work to do. I feel like if I don’t get something done every second that there will be peril and further loss. It’s ok to take the time to write this because I am simultaneously hacking into my dad’s laptop because we don’t know his passwords.
Looks like I’ve made some progress on the hack. Write you later.
Well, it’s been a week and a half since my dad died. I am staying with my mother until 5/3 to figure things out. But, leave it to my dad to remind me about my passion from the great beyond.
My mother, brother and I organized his memorial service (we organized it, but able 20 people helped us actually pull it off). It was amazing.I emceed the memorial and was reminded just how much I love to do public speaking. I feel totally at home in that space. Yeah, I know I’m a leo.
So much of my life is in transition right now, I am wondering if I can craft a reality in which I can reintegrate my love of public speaking and the stage. And can that love contribute to my livelihood?
I would like that.
I am starting to get used to the things people say when they don’t know what to say when someone dies.
The worst so far is someone asking my mom if my dad had started rigor mortis when she found him dead.
I left my home and church at the age of 17. The circumstances were negative. Very negative. It’s complicated to grow up in a legalistic cult. Leaving was the right thing.
As I left home, I grabbed my dad’s big giant blue hoodie. This was 20 years ago when they were sweatshirts. After dance practice, he used to wrap me up in it for warmth and modesty over my leotard. I stole it when I left. It was like stealing a hug that I could have whenever I wanted.
Years passed. I wore through this giant eyesore of a sweatshirt. I bought a new blue hoodie that was super giant. It took a long time to break in. It’s been 20 years and I am on my fourth. In the years we were seperated and not talking, it was the thing that made me feel connected and held.
It feels good to be wearing it now. And I will always have a way too big hoodie.
Years later I told him that I stole it, he laughed and said, “so that’s where that went”.
When my dad proposed to my mom, he didn’t have a ring. He took the top off a soda can and dropped to his knee and asked for her hand. She wore the pull tab from the soda can and then dad got her a ring.
On March 25, 2013 my dad died. He was alone. Mom went to work and then a prayer meeting. When she came home she found him on the floor dead. She was confused and tried to wake him. Eventually, she called 911 and they dispatched EMTs. They used a difibrulator on him. An EMT said, “he’s gone”. That’s when it hit her, sort of. This romantic dreamer of hers was gone.
She called me while the EMTs were still at the house. It was 2:30am for me on the east coast and 11:30pm her time. I was sleeping and my ringer was off. I sat up wide awake and looked at my phone. I had missed her call one minute before. When I called back she said, “Suzi, dad’s dead”. “OK” It wasn’t a shock, I mean it was and it wasn’t. When I was growing up the pastor would tell me that my dad was so fat that he would drop dead from a heart attack at any time. When I would cuddle up to my dad, I always put my head on his chest and would listen to his heartbeat. Just checking… The pastor always made me morbidly aware of my father’s mortality. I’ve always expected the call, just didn’t know that it would happen this week. This week my dad died of a heart attack, not his first.
Mom wanted his wedding ring and she was about to try to take it off. I told her not to and to hand the phone to one of the EMTs. I asked him to take off dad’s wedding ring for her when they moved “the body”. He turned from a man into a body. This man who could be my monster and my hero turned into a shell and became past tense. I got off the phone and tried to call my brother, couldn’t get through. I called his wife, she answered and then she got to my brother.
My brother got to her the next day and I got there two days later. Tonight, I was making chicken tacos for my brother. When I was a kid, I would eat my piece of chicken. Dad would look at me and ask if I was done. He would take my finished piece and clean the bone. I think a chicken leg would produce more meat just for him. I don’t know how that works exactly, but when I finish a piece of chicken I look at it and know that my dad could turn that into leftovers.
When I got to their home, mom, my brother and I were watching the sunset and having some wine. “Suzi, did you know that he left me a message, did I tell you?” “No, mom, you didn’t.”
She said. “After they took him, I noticed after a while that the room was disheveled. My nightstand drawer was open and a little box that I keep mementos in was on the floor. I found our college rings had been pulled out. I saw in the closet that two shirts were on the floor. The two shirts that he always complimented me in were pulled off their hangers. Then I saw the pull tab from the soda can that I kept all these years, my first engagement ring. In his last moments, he was loving me and figuring out how to show me. Suzi, he loved me well.”
There have been so many times where I didn’t understand their relationship. But, I never questioned that they had a beautiful love. They were married just shy of 42 years.
It is with great nausea, that I registered for the ICSA conference, in April. I am so overwhelmed and feel like this is something that I HAVE to be at.
I’ve been reposting a lot lately, maybe I don’t have anything original to say. I have been in such a funk that I am looking outside for things that will give me more resources. I feel very depleted. I am seriously facing down some demons right now (I never asked for any of my exorcisms but maybe I could use one now). There has been a lot about rape in the news lately, which is good. It needs to be talked about. We very much live in a rape culture and having been through three sexual assault experiences, the conversation, although good is – very triggering for me. I suspect many others are feeling the same way.
Read this, seriously. A Letter To My Sons About Stopping Rape
When I was younger the forms of defense I remember being taught were these: scream, pray, tell them you are Christian, show them your wedding ring if you are married, wear a whistle, etc. I remember being told that people did it when possessed and that praying in tongues and trying to cast out the demons would be a good way. And to stay out of alleys.
We have to teach all children that they get to have and need to respect other people’s boundaries. We have to teach that no and stop are sacred words. We need to teach them that if someone is too altered to say yes, that is an automatic no. We need to tell them to honor themselves and others and to bring that mindfulness into their social circles. We have to model good boundaries too, having them hug and kiss people they don’t want to is an awful thing. They should be taught to trust their intuition and physical boundaries.