I think the hardest part of living with PTSD is dealing with all of the gods and monsters. I don't mean the ones from my past, but the voices, the people who haunt my dreams and infect my waking moments. I am a strong, capable woman, but sometimes someone will hurt me or yell at me or abuse their authority, and I'm right back in my bedroom from when I was 6, backed against a wall, waiting for the next blow to fall. It would be easier if I could rationalize it all away, but the boogey man is tricky. He doesn't just wait for you in the dark, he inhabits you, curls around your heart, squeezes your lungs, and twines himself through your bowels.
Last year, maybe two years ago, a person I considered to be a friend exploded at me and my daughter. It was terrifying. And, as much as I wanted to be an adult about the situation., I wasn't. I'm still not. I had bad dreams for weeks, and the person became magnified in my mind as a monster -- no fangs and claws, but more like danger personified. When I finally saw him again, I was shocked by how normal he looked and how innocuous he seemed, but I couldn't let it go. I could see the anger roiling beneath his skin, and I kept waiting for him to shift and become the monster he had been the day he lost his temper. The worst part of the whole thing was poor little Lady Chatterly. She was terrified too, but we kept going back to his lair for lessons. I thought I was being a responsible parent, respecting her autonomy, giving her the option to choose to continue to stay or go. She would tell me that she hated going to lessons, but when we would get there to break it off with him, she allowed herself to be manipulated over and over again into staying with him. She would put on a bright smile and be a good soldier. She would babble and try to be charming so that the monster would know that she was a good girl. She was becoming me.
I have taught my daughter many things -- that she needs to stand up for herself, that she is intelligent and beautiful, that she is capable and resourceful, and that she is cherished and loved. I never anticipated or comprehended that I was also teaching her how to permit herself to be abused. It terrifies me how easy it is to fall into that trap. Awareness of time is not my forté, but I think it's been at least 6 months since we've even set foot in the building, and I can't determine whether or not I am giving my daughter permission to avoid a den of lions or if I am just teaching her that lions are too fearsome for her to confront even with me by her side.
As I have mentioned more than a few times, I was abused a lot. I can handle the dreams, the flashbacks, the memories, the complicated relationships, but it's hard to deal with the infiltration of me.
I read the novel 1984 when I was 7 years old, shortly before my first mental break and my first contemplation of suicide. I was miserable at home and school and had just learned that religion was a fraud and feared that God might be too, and then I discovered dystopias. These wonderful literary works helped me realize that, perhaps, the world was pain, but I was not the cause of it. At the time, I imagined that no matter what else happened, no matter how many times I was beaten or locked up or touched against my will, there was something inside me that was my own. I believed that there had to be something, a soul or psyche, that was inviolable, safe from corruption, safe from control. And then I read 1984. When Winston loved Big Brother at the end, it broke something in me.
I mention this only because, now that I am an adult, I realize that I have a version of my own beloved Big Brother: I have the voices, the scorn, and the hatred of every abuser inside my head to keep me company. My gods and monsters whispering their hate in a voice that is inflected to sound like my own.