I told my dad how triggered I’ve been lately because of how physically abusive he was to me as a kid, and he swore that it never happened, that I’ve created it all in my head. [Eyeroll.]
As much as I’d love to believe that…
- I never forgot it after it happened. I didn’t just wake up one day remembering–it was in my mind forever forward.
- How could you be traumatized by something that you invented yourself, and/or why would you invent something so horrific?
I tried to explain to him that he used to be meaner, but he flat-out insisted that he’d never have done that. Huh.
It’s tempting to want to believe him. But I don’t… not fully. I was there, for crying out loud. I tried to explain to him that he was married to a bitch (my narcissistic mother) at the time, which was stressful, and he must’ve been in over his head; and he still said he’d never have done it.
I said, “What if you die and go to Heaven, and they tell you, ‘Hey, guess what? You did it, and here’s the film reel’?”
He said that would never happen.
“I understand,” I said. “Guilt can be powerful.”
“I don’t feel any! It never happened! I have no reason to feel guilty.”
It got me to wondering about how I used to imagine things the wrong way as a younger child. Now, when my dad abused me, I believe I was nine or ten. And by that age, I’d reached the concrete reasoning phase wherein I no longer saw things that weren’t there. Prior to that age, I saw a lot of things that were wrong. A kid in my preschool class tipped back in his chair, hit the floor, and his brains spilled out and his skull separated into all these different chunks of skull that the teachers quickly tried to put back together. In reality, I suspect he bumped his head.
Another time, I saw a girl peeling off her skin. She was really taking off her tights, maybe for ballet class.
A third time, our spaniel, Allister, got hit by a truck. I saw his tummy flattened in the middle where the wheel had driven over him and squished him. But in reality, he was hit, yes, but not run over. And he wouldn’t have still been walking around if his tummy had been flattened.
And oh my God, there were gremlins.
My brain saw things in a literal way that I believed to be true. My God, I am schizophrenic. There was no abuse during that younger phase of childhood, and even my narcissistic mother was happy then. No, my brain was hallucinatory all of its own accord.
But how or why would I have invented my dad doing that? I want to believe I made it up, but that doesn’t make sense. What he did caused me to dissociate to the ceiling, feel humiliated, and lose all respect for him until I was much older. An argument could be made that I exaggerated the incident in my head, but I remember the details with such clarity that there was no room for exaggeration.
I don’t know. Maybe I’ve never had a grip on what’s real and what isn’t. As an adult, I’ve dissociated a few times and “lost” time, and something would’ve gone wrong and I couldn’t fill in all the gaps. Like the time I noticed my hair had been chopped off (this might have been seven years ago, I don’t know), and I searched my memory and the house for clues, and I never figured out what happened. Maybe my default view of reality is shaky.
I want to believe my dad, but I don’t. I was there. I know what he did, and I could name the details: my pink robe, my sister’s bed, the fact that I was using the bed next to her crib because my room was being repainted from brown to yellow, how I was positioned on the bed, exactly what he was doing, how I played the piano rather distractedly later that day, what the scene looked like from the ceiling, his hand, the windowsill, and so forth.
“You have these dreams you tell me about,” my dad said, just now, while I was talking to him. “They seem so realistic, like they have full worlds and people. You must’ve dreamt what you think I did. With you, there’s no difference between a dream and reality.”
I don’t know what’s real. I tried to convince him that he used to be different, more violent, and he said he was never that violent, nor very violent at all. I think he’s wrong. Guilt can be powerful. It can block out a lot of sins. He doesn’t want to remember the way things were.
He did say I didn’t deserve it (even though he didn’t do it). That was nice to hear. He said I didn’t deserve it at all, and that I need some therapy to get the wrong memories out of my head. I’m just not a believer, though. I’m too nice to push against his guilt and convince him he did it. In my heart, I think he did it. I’ve never doubted it until today, and the only reason I’m doubting it now is because he swears he’d never do that. But, come on. Who can answer for who they were over thirty years ago? No one!! He doesn’t want to face what he did to me and how it destroyed me. I can understand that. I sensed he blocked it out that same day, telling himself, “I never should’ve done that. It didn’t happen. It didn’t happen. I’m separating myself from what I did.” That’s what I sensed, and I still sense it.
But what if he’s right? How could I be traumatized by pretend? It makes no sense. I was traumatized at the time and every day after. There were some delayed reactions, but there were also immediate reactions of humiliation, dissociation, and feelings of worthlessness, like I was a disposable whore–used in a dark alley and thrown away by someone who was supposed to protect me.
I’d love to believe it didn’t happen. But it can be scary to stare into the gaping maw of my surreality. Like, really scary. How could I invent something that was that traumatic? It’s not possible. Is it?
I don’t know. It sounded like my dad just wanted to pretend he was never a monster. That’s what I think. He’s not the same person he used to be. I’m the person who raised his energetic level to who he’s become. I urged him to quit being violent. He was threatening to spank my sister one day when I was in college (or thereabouts) (my sister is eight years younger), so I spanked him, and we all had a good laugh. The truth, I’m afraid, is that he’s shit-deep in denial. I’m just not sure where that leaves me.