Thursday, October 18, 2007

Where There's Smoke, There's Fire

"There is no doubt that you have been shortchanged as a result of the way you were treated during your traumatic events. You deserve better than that, like any person who has been fortunate enough to have parents and friends who supported her and showed their love openly. You did not deserve to be abused, put down, humiliated, or neglected. But you were. When a person is shortchanged, particularly by someone who was supposed to love and protect them, they usually get filled up with rage and a wish for revenge. It is usually manifested by uncontrollable anger and rage attacks. That is understandable; the problem is that it leads to problems with relationships and eventually leads to isolation. If you can accept the fact that you were shortchanged and you are not to blame for the abuse, then you can forgive yourself. This forgiveness will allow you to move on, to be less bitter, and to be less angry."

Picking up a purple marker from the white board tray TGD turns to the group once again and presents her questions. The same scene from last week repeats itself. We all sit in our same chairs with the same scared look on our faces. The only thing different is the clothes we wear from week to week.

"What problems do you have with your anger and rage and could you please share with the group how it manifests itself"?, TGD scans the group and asks. Once again no one comes up with an answer. This is the moment TGD calls on a random group member to be the first to respond.
"Carla", TGD says to the student, "can you think of any of the times you've shown your rage and anger either lately or in your childhood."

Carla, munching on a bag of trail mix suddenly seems to twist like a kite stuck on a tree in the wind. The bag she is clutching seems to suddenly become a stress ball. The crackling from the bag sounds like a roaring fire in the quiet room.

"I don't know. I guess I throw things and swear. Like I had a fight with my boyfriend last night and like, he just wasn't listenting, and like I had to get his attention to like, pay attention to me, so I like threw a book at him and he got pissed."

"So your boyfriend not listening to you triggers an outburst from you, correct"?, TGD inquires. "Yeh," Carla responds.

On the board with the purple marker TGD writes the words,

Not getting attention you deserve.

"Does this remind you of any experiences in the past," TGD asks.
"Yeh, well sure," Carla adds, "my parents like never listened so I guess I would act out and do stuff that would make them pay attention to me, like break something or swear, steal things and finally I started taking drugs to get their attention and that would work."

Other members then began to respond with their experiences of how they manifest their anger. Other words and phrases join Carla's contribution to acts of rage on the spindly legged white board.

Saying hurtful things to/about others
Being judgemental
Angry at someone else's success/jealousy
Pulling back and not communicating

As the list grew I sat there and thought about my own rage and where it was. I was depressed and sad about things, but rage, I don't think so, unless it is so well hidden I was missing it.

Suddenly I heard my name. "Suzy," TGD said,"can you tell us about your experiences with rage and anger."

Shit. Here we go again.

I thought for a bit and began explaining that rage was something I tried not to have.
"All my life, my mother was in a constant rage. I spent all my childhood just doing what I was told and trying not to rock the boat. Actually I have spent my entire life trying not to rock the boat. Rage and anger are the two things I don't want to see or deal with- anything but that. I will do anything to make things peaceful at all costs."

"Suzy, can you explain to the group what experiences in your childhood led you to being the "peacemaker" that you are?"
Damn it! This was a setup. We touched upon this in therapy. Now I have to spit it out here.

As I heard myself recount these stories, a slow motion video was playing in my head, the kind that slows down when the really awful part hits the screen. What I saw was a little girl standing on a old kitchen chair,matching the 1950's formica kitchen table, cheap plastic seat and metal legs,crying, sobbing. She was maybe 6 or 7. She had her 2 arms bent at the elbow and her mother was screaming at her. "Stand still or I'll give you something to cry about. Hold your arms still God damnit!" The little girl had contacted empetigo, some sort of skin infection that kids got from playing in the dirt outside.
It had already blistered and festered. Calamine lotion had been applied to it and now it had crusted over and large scabs had formed. The mother was removing the scabs by scraping them with a butter knife. But the child was in pain and couldn't stop crying. The mother finally smacked her in the head with the back of her hand and told her now she had something to cry about.
That little girl, for the 2nd time in her short life wanted to hurt her mother back. Punch her, kick her, shove her. But she couldn't. Her rage would get her nowhere except another beating.

Interesting that this infection is known as a "trauma of the skin."

Trauma, inside and out.

The first time rage entered this little girl's mind was on Christmas Eve when she and her brother had been innocently counting the wrapped Christmas presents by the cardboard fireplace, below the white artifical Christmas tree. Santa had long since been phased out. The little girl was 6, the boy was 12. Innocent enough game for Christmas Eve, but the mother took offense.
The screams of the mother actually made the little girl jump. The brother knew immediately to run and jump into his upper bunk bed and squeeze as close to the wall as possible as to avoid being beaten.
The little girl wasn't as swift and before she knew it, she was being dragged by the neck of her pajamas, smacked and thrown into bed. All the while the mother screaming," What the hell do you think you two little bastards are doing? Not enough presents? I work my ass off for this God damn family and this is the thanks I get? I'll show you two little ungrateful bastards."
The mother picked up the presents, dropping some on the way out the back door to the back yard. Seconds later, she came back picked up the rest of the presents and went out back again.

Minutes had passed when the little girl decided to get up and go to the kitchen window and look out back. Opening two slats of pristine venetian blinds, the little girl was able to see what the mother had done.
At first all she could see was smoke coming from the 4 ft hole incinerator dug into the ground in the back yard. In the moonlight, the mother was striking match after match and throwing them in the fireproof concrete incinerator. Flames began to were leap out, with sparks flying everywhere . Her mother's face looked like one of those faces in the dark where a person puts a flashlight under their chin to scare you. The little girl wanted someone, anyone to come and make the mother stop any way they could- hit her, smack her, yell at her. But that wasn't going to happen.

The little girl went back to the safety of her bed and fell asleep wondering just what was in those presents. Christmas Day was just another day. The mother went to work, the brother went to see his friends and the little girl stayed home and watched TV.

I wonder about the irony of it all and when it will finally come to rest.

The fire has spread.

My brother, a fireman who was/is a pedophile, and me hoping to heal so many scars in this renovated firehouse.

As the forest blazes, I know that TGD has come to the rescue, like a fire fighting plane swooping over the terrain to prevent the fire from spreading.


Blogger Michelle O'Neil said...

Suzy, Sweetie, I am so sorry this happened to you.

You were no bigger than Riley. No less innocent. You didn't deserve this.

Big strong hugs from me to your little girl.


8:25 PM  
Blogger Jerri said...

This breaks my heart, Suzy. Breaks. My. Heart.

A butter knife? to impetigo? Jesus, sweetheart. I wasn't there and didn't feel that knife scrape my skin and I'm still filled with rage right now. Filled.

And you know how I feel about Mary burning your Christmas presents. Yeah, we're talking rage again.

These are such powerful stories, powerfully written, dear friend.

9:54 PM  
Blogger Deb said...

Oh, dear Suzy, I want to take that butter knife and scrape every inch of skin off your mother's body! And then I want to burn her in the pit where she destroyed your Christmas. That poor little girl deserved so much better.

I continue to marvel at your courage, your spirit and your ability to be like funny no matter what.

I love reading what TGD teaches you. I love getting to read your words regularly again. I love you.

10:57 PM  
Blogger Carrie Wilson Link said...

I fucking hate that Mary Martino, but not as much as she hated herself.

TGD, wow, she gives you your fucking money's worth each week, huh? Key-rist!

11:21 PM  
Blogger kario said...

It is no wonder that this little girl decided to do her best to become the flame retardant for this volatile group of people. What other way could she find to survive?

I hope, for your sake, that your rage finds a vent, a safe place to burn high and hot and melt those horrific memories until they are pure and rendered impotent.

So much love coming your way. Your courage knows no bounds, my dear.

12:04 AM  
Blogger Casdok said...

Yes you have incredible spirit.

7:00 AM  
Blogger dgibbs said...

Mary really did hate herself didn't she?

You deserved so much better.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Terry Whitaker said...

My little brother was hospitalized for Impetigo, it is so incredibly painful, he still remembers it. I can't even imagine what you went through.

Kario said it perfectly--let some rage of your own burn out those horrific memories; and know that you are safe now; and very very loved.

4:20 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Your words burn the page Suzy. Like everyone else, I'd like to push her straight into the fire myself.

9:54 AM  
Blogger grammer said...

I know that story, the one about not being fast enough to dodge the parent. I'm sorry you were beaten and thrown.

Know that feeling, too -- nothing to be gained by burning back at what's already too hot. I am sorry you had to stuff it.

Know that damning language raining down from an angry adult. I'm sorry you had to hear it.

But I forgot I knew all this till you told me again.

I'm grateful you took the time to write it, and write it so clearly and heartfully. It's medicine, just like the others have said.

Sending love, tg

10:59 PM  
Blogger Self employed mum said...

Hi Suzy, I have gone back and read loads of your posts to catch up on why your having councilling etc. OMG no wonder. Heart breaking. I can't believe any mother could treat a child this way. I am in shock. x

12:17 PM  
Blogger s@bd said...

I'm sort of just weeping right now.

Suzy, how could ANYONE do that to a child?

2:22 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

Oh Suzy, I am crying the same tears I did the first time I read this. I don't know why it's taken me so long to comment. This breaks my heart too, and I am sending you so much love.

I think that as I am in a little bubble right now, focused so much on parenting my own little girl, it is almost impossible to swallow that a mother could treat her daughter this way. Knowing that that innocent little girl--you--had to feel so sad, so scared, so terribly alone--makes it a little more painful to live in this world.

But knowing you, now--the incredible woman and friend and wise council and gorgeous writer you've become--makes it so much better to live in this world. Like so many others, I am thankful that you survived this childhood and grateful to you for sharing it with us now.

I love you Suzy.

7:18 PM  

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