I am slowly healing, and that is something wonderful I need to remember as I have these days when I become triggered again and feel the setback. Know that I am far enough in my journey that I can control my emotional reactions.
I was brave and shared my survivor story with one of my brothers, something I've been wanting to do for a long time. I felt strong. I felt relief at speaking my truth, at making my voice heard. It was an empowering feeling. Maybe I let my guard down too much.
There's one person who still has the ability to make me feel like a helpless child again -- my father.
We were getting along fine. I mean, I'm aware of my emotions and how I tend to slowly shut down around him. He has always had a habit of telling me things he knows about myself that aren't true of myself. Like he could know me better than me. Maybe that's true to a certain extent, or at least one perspective of many, but he says things in a way to make me feel like the way I see myself is wrong. There is nothing wrong with me. He treats every conversation as a debate/argument that he has to win. I treat it as constantly having to defend myself, and that is exhausting. So usually, at a certain point, I go silent. Just let it go. I know who I am and I'm beyond seeking external validation at this point. If people don't like me, awesome. I don't have room for negativity in this life anymore.
Two days later, my Dad's mood shifts a little. He's not easygoing. I wanted to drive, he doesn't let me (he's too old to be driving sometimes okay he's pushing 80). We get to a bakery and my mom and I start looking at all the stuff. I walk around a case, and he grabs my arm hard to pull me out of the way of a man: "Watch it, you're in his way." "Don't touch me," I spit back. There's confusion in the queue. "Go ahead," he says loudly to the group of women standing in line behind us, "they (my mom and I) don't know what they want yet." Belittling. Condescending. Embarrassing. Triggering.
I sit in the back seat, staring out the window and the tears set in. Dad is oblivious. Looking around, making comments about the town as he drives. It felt familiar, staring out the window. Oh yeah, this was always me growing up. Treated like a child always. Like a nuisance. Like I'm wrong. But this time I can't let it go and I let go and start crying. Something I never would have done as a kid since he would have called me a cry baby and asked me what's wrong, like really wrong. I was a burden to him. An annoyance. A hindrance. Something to be dealt with. But I let it out and my mom hands me a tissue.
I head straight upstairs to my childhood bedroom upon getting back. Sitting on the bed looking around the room, remembering this feeling all too well. What did I do back then when I didn't have the emotional toolkit I do now to calm down? I bottled emotions. I made them go away. I made myself dissociate so I wouldn't have to feel this pain of being unwanted to my father, unloved. My mom tries to comfort me, but she doesn't have the emotional toolkit yet either, since she's been suffering the same emotional abuse for years, too. But she tries, and that matters.
I don't like being around him. I don't like feeling unsafe. I don't like feeling like I can't be myself. I don't like feeling like I'm not free. Because I'm not. I have to be on guard around him always. Because his mood changes so drastically, and he has no empathy, he will cut me to pieces with his words if he is not feeling happy.
I hate that someone can still make me react in this way. He knows I have PTSD. He knows I was raped. He knows, and yet still watched Law & Order: SVU around me.
I live 8 hours away from that house I grew up in. The one with all the ghosts and demons. The dark secrets.
I'm home, safe in my own apartment. I can't go back there. It's haunted.