Tuesday, October 23, 2012
My parents loved me. They didn't beat me. I had a bed to sleep in, food to eat, toys to play with and clothes to wear. I got a hug and kiss every time I saw them. I also had a big empty house to myself almost all of the time.
My dad was a police officer, owned a welding shop and was a volunteer firefighter. After snowstorms he would go around looking for stranded and stuck drivers and pull them out with his winch truck at no charge. He spent a great deal of time helping and caring for his parents that lived down the street from us. A heart of gold and the most generous man I have ever known. Needless to say, he wasn't home much and when he was he was sleeping. (He also does not know about this little Blog of mine.)
My mom worked, kept the house and had undiagnosed and untreated PMDD. She was doing the best she could to get the daily necessities taken care of and didn't have a lot of energy or time for mothering. There are good memories, of course, trips and holidays and family gatherings. She would joke and play around when she had her good days. But I wasn't really parented directly. I was doing all of my own bathing, dressing and tooth brushing, etc. by myself without supervision by the age of three.
At the age of four I awoke from a nightmare and went to my parents' bed for comfort and it was empty. I went downstairs and it was dark. I looked everywhere and could not find anyone but the dog. I went outside and the car was gone. I stood in the driveway for hours with Skipper hoping they would come back. That someone would come back for me. I ran out of tears that night.
I believe that was the night my brain was broken. I am trying very hard to get past that parenting choice. My dad had to go to the hospital with a migraine and my mom didn't think she needed to wake me. In the panic it didn't occur to her that I may wake up or need something. As a parent this is unfathomable to me but I am working on forgiveness and who knows what she was going through at the time. They came home, the ER had taken longer than expected, the house didn't burn down and everything was fine. Except for me.
Something had gone off in my head. I had been abandoned. I was on my own in this world and I had to take care of myself. I had learned you can't trust anyone, not even the big people who are supposed to take care of you. The four year old brain is very impressionable. It became an absolute in my mind and the synapses were cemented demented.
If you don't expect anyone to help you then you can't be disappointed. So, I stopped asking. At the age of 6 or 7, I started teaching myself to cook. By 11, I was cooking at least half of our family meals and all of my own breakfasts and lunches. I often rode my bike to the store to buy the groceries after school and made dinner before homework. I still had time for tv and playing. It wasn't necessarily a hardship as much as a sign of what was happening inside my brain. My play often consisted of barbie getting abandoned or lost in the woods and having to survive. I always kept a stash of nonperishable food hidden in my room and an emergency bag (aka a pillow case with crackers, a pocket knife, some loose change and a jacket) packed under my bed. Outdoor survival skills became a bit of an obsession, almost like I was preparing in case it happened again and they didn't come back.
I did not do any of this consciously. At the time I didn't think about what happened when I was four, I was just compelled to think about these things. It is only looking back now that I can see the pattern and the cause.
The defense mechanisms and survival skills that children in dysfunctional families develop are the same everywhere. The common ones are super responsibility, putting the care of others before oneself, humor and self deprecation. The same list you get if you read a codependency book or attend an al anon meeting. There is a great spectrum of messed-upedness, of course. As with most things. A lot of that depends on the age, severity and repetition of traumatic events.
How do you fix a misaligned network of synapses, you ask? There are a lot of theories. I have tried many forms of therapy over the years, counseling, hypnotherapy, gestalt, eastern medicine, western medicine, chakra alignment, past life therapy, kundalini yoga, reiki, to name a few. Each one helped me in the way it was meant to. They were each baby steps, exactly what I was ready to deal with at the time. Each step has brought me closer to where I am now - the happiest and most fulfilling time of my life.