Donning the mask

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I struggle for authenticity.   There is a yearning for wholeness, for acceptance of self, for cohesion within myself.  Despite this, shame has always driven me to compartmentalize areas of my life; to stay fractured, splintered.

Only 3 friends know about this blog.  Still fewer know my dad signed his parental rights away when I was one and a half.  Few people who know me are aware that I swear like a sailor despite me having a good command of lexicon at my disposal.   My eating disorder is only known by my immediate family and 2 close friends.   I can count on one hand who knows this abbreviated story I recount here,  the abuse I suffered at the hands of my ex.  No one knows I am a survivor of incest as a child, but my shrink, my dying mother, and my fiancé.

It is still hard to say that out loud,” Isurvivedincest,” even in a therapy session behind closed doors where no one can hear.

But how to synthesize these areas of my life?  Would people be accepting of the “real me” after years of putting on a veneer and hiding the ugly things that I am ashamed which happened to me?

Me trading authenticity for acceptance began in early childhood.  Often doing what other kids wanted to do even if I didn’t want to, afraid I might lose them and/or their friendship.  I became a people pleaser at a very young age. In a desperate attempt for love and affection which were denied all around me.  Instead of getting love, I received the abuse, exploitation, and humiliation.

As a victim of incest, the first lessons I learned was that my home was not a safe place, and that my body was not my own, and that I didn’t get to have a  “no”.

As early as kindergarten I recall feeling shame, it manifested in feeling ‘less then’ the other kids.   Anxious and unsettled and wanting to sit near the teacher hoping she might like me or show me some approval.

As I grew older and the sexual abuse intensified and more violence in my home occurred, an irrational belief sprouted that the ugliness inside me may be transparent. I began creating a false persona to hide my shame.  Hide my tears.  Hide my emotions. Hide my authentic self.   I had observed first-hand that the girls who were quiet and sullen or melancholy got made fun of, got devoured like shark meat ny the mean kids.  So I immediately suppressed my feelings under a fake happy,  sunny,  disposition.   I realized that with my persona operating, that  I could “pass” for normal.   I could have friends, connection, some sort of meaning in an otherwise desolate life.

Because my older siblings were all poly-substance users, I too began smoking marijuana at age 12.  Took my first drink of vodka by 13 years old and never looked back.   By high school I could drink most guys under the table and had alcohol poisoning once.  I was not deterred by this.  At this point I believed that I couldn’t let the “real me” come through, the fake me had been operating for so long.  I’d lose everything, I feared. Friends were the only positive thing I had in my life at that time and I was petrified to lose them.  Even if their friendship was built upon knowing me, a girl who was hiding the pathetic, sad, depressed, nothing-to-offer loser who hated herself underneath this joke-telling, witty, charismatic confident false girl they came to love.

Using booze and pot helped me turn down the volume of the authentic me deep inside me, screaming for relief and accelerate the fake persona that I was creating externally, that was happy and confident.  As I was fast approaching my high school years substance use was just I needed to survive all the sharks who would eat me up.

I don’t remember much of high school due to all the alcohol and marijuana use.  My parents divorced and our house was sold.  I found myself looking for a place to stay as neither parent was financially capable of absorbing me after I graduated.

I had never told either of my parents  about the incest.   As I entered my freshman year of college, my eating disorder was so severe that I had starved myself down to an emaciated state.  I couldn’t think or read very well as my mental functioning had declined from being malnourished.  For many months I was harming myself, also called self-mulilation.   I used self-injury to push back any feelings of intense emotion with which I couldn’t cope.   Then things changed and my feelings simply left.  My depression intensified and I just felt numb all the time.  Empty, cold, void of any emotion had become the new norm.  I had persistent and intrusive thoughts of suicide.   This dragged on for 6 months or more.  I figured I may as well be physically dead too.  Seemed logical to me.  Finally one night I decided to end my life.

First, I asked God to forgive me, and then I went ahead with it.   I guess God had other plans.  After getting discharged from the regular hospital,  I was sectioned involuntarily into a psychiatric hospital.   This was the first time in a long time any of what happened to me as a child would surface again in my consciousness.

I find it interesting that had I not attempted suicide at 19, I may have well have kept that mask on.   My authentic self may never have had the chance to be re-born.  My then therapist told me, “sometimes we have to have a complete and total breakdown, so we can put ourselves back together in a more healthy way.”

It has taken many years in therapy and I am still only able to let down my guard and become vulnerable to a few.  Happiness? Real long-standing  happiness? Still elusive I’m afraid.  I do find moments of real joy though.  I’m told I can learn to expand those and they can grow.  Self-love is the one thing I have yet to be able to achieve.  I have been working on learning to set boundaries and learning what it looks like to truly care about myself.  Imagine, having to be taught that.  Most of my life has been spent caring for others and I do that really well.   Historically, I give and give until I am emotionally drained or financially bankrupt.   The goal for me  is to learn to put myself first and not feel guilty for doing so.

Though I have always had the ability to love others and deeply empathize, I find it strange that both myself and my pathological narcissist both employed “masks” to hide our authentic selves.  Perhaps we have something in common after all.

 

Of Mice and Monsters VII

Not long after he shared his fantasy of his torture chamber with me. I was in my home and received a call from him. He told me, “you should really check the unsolved homicides from 1995-1997 in Boston. 

So indeed I logged onto the Massachusetts State police website and told him, “I see X amt. of victims here. They are both male and female. They have a wide range in age and ethnicity. The manner of death varies as does both the manner and means in which their bodies were disposed.”

I continued, “I’m not seeing any identifiable pattern of behavior that would tie any of these victims together.

He replied, ” No, that’s right you don’t.”

So I questioned, “why did you have me go check on these specific unsolved homicides from these 2 years?

Nothing

Did you have anything to do with these?”

Silence

Then…..quiet laughter.

Then, “goodnight Lexi.”

Then the phone hung up.


The following day I phoned the Massachusetts State Police and asked to speak to a detective.   I ended up talking to one and told my entire story. Highlighting his sexual sadism and impulsive violence, the photographs I saw of the pummeled, black and blue woman, on through to the animal killing story, to the sexual fantasy of wanting to abduct a teen.

Sadly, the detective thought that my claim was outrageous, my credibility nill , and he consequently dismissed me as a crackpot.  He told me he would “ keep a report on file.”  This I knew to be a lie.  I felt like this sexual sadist was above the law.  I was pretty sure he believed he was above the law too.

I felt hopeless that day, but things were about to change and a Higher law would set things right.

Compass Rose

It’s still the same I suppose. Every spring as Easter approaches. I drive past the various Churches, with their steeples acting like beacons, sending their Celestial signal up towards the heavens. I pass there aching to go inside.

The ache rises in my chest as I pass, and then my heart sinks as I sit glued in my seat. My blood runs cold as I nervously think that ‘maybe I am unforgivable’.  How dirty I feel. Less than. Not quite good enough to stand next to any of the people donning their Sunday best.

I ache for closeness with Him like I once had. The only One who ever deserved my whole heart, who ever deserved my obedience and love.   He was the only One who would never betray me.

I can’t remember when I had stopped talking to Him.   Some call it praying.  But it was more than that to me.  It wasn’t rattling off a bunch of rote prayers, though that was how I had begun.  We were close back then.  It was like a friend that was sitting at the foot of my bed, just as real as you are reading this now.  I’d talk about everything.  Then listen.   Oh yes, He would answer.   He spoke through my intuition, I believe.  Sometimes I would ask for a sign.  Sometimes He would give me one:  a gentle cool breeze on a hot night or a small butterfly dancing at my window just as I would ask.

I had stopped going to church.  No one particular reason really and not in anger either.  Then a few years later I had stopped praying.   Other things had seemed to take precedence.  It was like one day He was just gone.  You see, it wasn’t an event, rather it was more of a process. Like most good things in life that slip away.

When I tried praying again?  it felt empty and perfunctory like I was running through mathematical computations.  Something was severed.   And I knew it hadn’t been severed by Him.   That pain of knowing what I lost has been unbearable.  The emptiness, nothing thus far can fill.

A thousand miles I have strayed off that chosen path on which I should have tread, maybe more.  It is easy to get lost out there in the darkness. Still easier to stay lost.

I don’t know how I will get back to Him.   I’m so far off course and a compass rose made only of hope in my grip.   I hope that He finds it in His heart, to forgive me.   Hope that this prodigal daughter can come home.   Hope that lost Faith will be found.

 

 

I could fall in love at a red light

That’s what my friend Al told us in an AA meeting the other day, and I chuckled as I heard him say it because it aptly described me.

Well at least that’s how it feels when I do fall in love.   It happens so fast, so forcefully.   The way “normal” people describe it, they tell their story of how they fell in love….as if they met at some random place and over many many times get to know each other.  Seems normal yanno.

Me, I end up finding my suitor at said random place but then end up telling them my life story in under 5 minutes and then falling completely madly in love in the next 5.

Yeah, I’m so relationship material.

I have such excellent fucking boundaries don’t cha know.

Then two weeks later when the guy cold calls me at 3 am to pick him up and rescue him from some dramatic crazy situation?

You guessed it, I am right there with my fucked up cape on, driving to east overshoe in some contorted Mother Teresa-esque fashion hoping to “save” him from himself.

And this would describe the “good part” of the relationship, if it even gets off the ground.

It usually only gets worse from there….consisting of me taking verbal abuse or worse.

nuff said.

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think I need drivers-ed, or maybe a total license suspension to drive on the highway of love.

SIDE BAR:  Mother Teresa is one of the greatest people who ever lived…….an awesome inspiration to me.  A real life modern day heroine.

Fairytales don’t exist

There’s no such thing as love at first sight.

maybe lust at first sight.

infatuation at first sight.

endorphin, adrenaline, oxytocin rush at first sight………

but that other bullshit that the Hallmark greeting card industry perpetuates……

just doesn’t exist.

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but I bought into it at such a young age.

from the very first fairy tales I read.

Snow White being awakened by her Prince Charming’s kiss.

Rapunzel being rescued by some valiant knight on a steed at the tower.

and how can we forget Cinderella, suffering at the hands of unspeakable humiliation and abuse awaiting rescue by a wealthy, handsome Prince, who only saw her for what like five minutes at a dance? Pfffftt c’mon.

******

Yet I fell for it hook line and sinker, like so many other girls do.  And our culture perpetuates it with movies like Pretty Woman, the same storyline, a modern version of Cinderella.  but it’s just not reality is it.

and for those of us who come from neglect and trauma, we are just hoping that we will find that love we so desperately didn’t get in that other.

the love, attention and affection that we were denied as children.

which, is a pretty goddamn normal thing to want…..yet an impossible  expectation to have of another person.

One person can not fill such a gaping void.

****

how then?  how to learn to give oneself that thing.   I have no fucking clue.

People talk about finding a Higher Power, God,  to fulfil this and intellectually I get it, makes total sense.

but at the end of the day there’s just a total fucking disconnect.

I can’t speak for others, but for me? I really need a God with skin.

My libido must be hiding behind the couch with Jesus

Sigh.

It’s official.

I’ve lost my sex drive and my faith in one fell swoop.

I think it’s the fucking Prozac.

or maybe the depression….

hell, maybe both.

I get down on my knees in the morning and say a prayer but there’s a disconnect.

In yesteryear I always I felt a strong connection with God in my life.  It was an awesome feeling.  I never felt alone,

no matter what kind of monkeyshit life was throwing at me.

This is the worst.   Such a painful horrible void.  I miss that relationship so much.  This, This is hell.

*****

Life’s pleasures are slowly being whittled away one by one.

These days, I am not supposed to drink alcohol, binge eat/starve and to top it off I have absolutely no libido.

It’s like some thief in the night stole it from me.  The girl who used to having sex at least 5 times a day,

Doesn’t even care if she ever has it again?

****

Sigh.  Me thinks it’s because I’m taking the Prozac.  Manufacturers insert reads:   “It is thought that the action of this medication is….”

So the powers that be, don’t even fucking KNOW what this shit does to my neural network? they are simply extrapolating from looking at

a bunch of rats?

‘Cause gosh rats and humans are ever so similar….

****

Hmmmm….. well that rat is chewing off it’s own tail….so people might get suicidal on this drug.

That rat is agressively biting the fuck out of the other rat…….homocial.

This one is bouncing off the cage…….irritability

This one doesn’t sleep…….insomnia

And when the rats stop screwing each other?

*****

Guess that’s me.

*****

I’m getting off the shit.

1970 something

Going to my elementary school, there were about thirty kids in my class.  Hell, my graduating high school class there were 562 of us.  Recess was always fun.  Our playground was pretty nice because I lived in an affluent suburb.  It had what most nice school playgrounds in suburbia do.  Plenty of swing sets, slides, see-saws. Box-ball and hop-scotch were even painted right on the hot top itself.

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I became friends with Jimmy in second grade.  We were in Mrs. Drapeau’s class.  There was a few unforgettable things that happened that year.  Like the time that Henry Altenwen puked and peed his pants at the same time in the front of the class.  The time that Eric Frobert puked all over his reading book.  And the time that Mrs. Drapeau yelled at me in front of everyone for helping a classmate pronounce a word when they were struggling, during oral reading.  Asked me if I thought I should teach the class.  I remember feeling my face felt hot and I felt ashamed. I was only trying to help him, my heart was kind.  It’s amazing the influence that teachers can have in shaping children.

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Jimmy and I stood next to the teacher aid at recess you see.  I didn’t get much attention at home, my life there was a living hell that no one would ever find out about.  Jimmy? well he was physically sick.  I didn’t really know with what.  His shoulders were always raised up by his chin because he struggled to breathe.  So we both had different reasons for hanging out with the teacher aid at recess while all the other kids frolicked about on a beautiful sunny day.

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Me being the little chatter box, and not really grasping at age 7 that Jimmy was so sick I treated him like anyone else.  I asked him all sorts of questions since he could not run or walk around much.  Why this, why that.  He laughed at my questions.  I told a lot of stories and a lot of jokes.  I asked if he was ever going to get braces.  I asked him all kinds of crazy shit.  (I used to ask my Catholic grandmother if I was reincarnated and maybe I were a rock in another life)

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Jimmy and I went to St. Mary’s Church together as well.  So I am sure that I yapped about CCD too.  I liked our time together.  Me, Jimmy, and the teacher aide.

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Jimmy had been out from school for a few weeks and one morning I came into school and the Mrs. Drapeau said that Jimmy wouldn’t be coming back.  That he was in heaven.

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Her words hung in the air like a garrote, choking the love in my little heart.
*****
Jimmy as I would later learn had Cystic Fibrosis.  I spent a good deal of time in my teens doing the Stair Climb, an annual event during the early 1990’s at the Prudential Center in Boston to raise money for my favorite childhood friend that I lost to death.

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Every year my dad would drive me to Boston and I would get people to sponsor me for each floor that I could walk up. I always made it to the top of it’s 52 floors. Course my legs felt like rubber when I got done. I have asthma, and  sometimes it was a struggle and I would get winded.  It would occur to me as I walked, how Jimmy struggled day after day. How winded he must have been.  That I get relief with an inhaler…. that he suffocated.  I cried as I climbed.

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Since 1965, the term “65 Roses” has been used by children of all ages to describe their disease because it’s easier to pronounce.

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*****
After Jimmy’s funeral, his mother sent me a card.  It read, “Thank you Lexi for being there for my son.  You were his only friend.”  Her words gripped me and I will never forget them. To this day I never realized that all the other kids, were frolicking around, never talked to him, never stopped to get to know him.  Strange, how because of the hell I lived and the horror of what happened in my house, God brought Jimmy and I together.
*****
2 weeks ago, I received a text from my mom which made me ecstatic! It read, “there is a new treatment for Cystic Fibrosis!”  So I ran over and googled it. Sure enough, there is.  It is a brand new FDA approved drug called  “Kalydeco.”

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It reminded me of Jimmy and I smiled, then cried.  Some 35 years later, the love for my friend still lives in my heart.

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~miss you Jimmy~ xoxox
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