Almost eight years ago, I packed up my few belongings and moved out of my childhood home. I was nineteen years old, so if that was the whole story, it would seem pretty normal. I wish that was the whole story.
Eight years seems like a long time, doesn’t it? In eight years I’ve moved eight times, gotten married, earned two degrees, worked three jobs, and learned how to wear colors other than black. After eight years and all of those other things, you’d think I’d be over it, wouldn’t you? The nineteen years of abuse. But I’m not.
There are whole days sometimes when I have to have music on from the time I get up because if I take the headphones off, I hear screaming. My own, my siblings’, my mother’s. I flinch when I hear train whistles because there was a train in my back yard growing up. Late one night when I was fourteen, I got out of bed, went outside and laid down on the tracks, hoping a train would come before I lost my nerve.
There are days when the only memory I can summon to convince myself of my own strength is the memory of the last time my father physically assaulted me, and how for the first time in my life I stood back up and looked him in the eye instead of staying on the ground or running away.
I often feel ashamed because I can’t seem to shake it off and move on. Some days I don’t know who I am apart from a three-year-old little girl being thrown into a wall in her best Sunday dress. It was black and white with red roses on the front.
Sometimes my whole body fills with rage, but as soon as I register the white-hot fury, it melts into a dense sorrow. I carry around a sea constantly thrashing with tidal waves of wrath and mourning.
There has been some healing, of course. I can hold a stable job, I don’t have panic attacks every day, and I haven’t seriously contemplated suicide in years. That being said, even eight years, hundreds of miles of distance, and thousands of dollars of therapy have not erased the trauma of two decades. It isn’t over yet. I don’t know when or if that thrashing sea will calm, but I can learn to ride the waves.