A letter to my family: I Love You

This whole piece started as a casual email to you, Mom, but it turned into a lot. It all started with this article, and a desperate need to explain my reactivity, my rage, my shut down – to mom first, then to all of you. As an explanation for how I have treated each and every one of you. A tiny amount of insight into why I am what I am, now.

Mom, Dad, Tash, Martin. Grandma, Tati, great Grandma, Grandmother, aunts and uncles and cousins and Java and Striker and Milky Way and Winey and Tiger.

Family, alive and dead, some well-remembered, some like tiny sparks on a frayed out electrical cord that is still plugged in, dangerously. All loved. So many precious memories that clatter around in the sunnier part of my psyche, disjointed:

  • the particular shade of mustard yellow that colors every memory of Tati – his sweater, his German-to-English dictionary, that magical triangular prism containing Toblerone
  • the smell of stale cigarettes and cookies (coffee?) at Grandmother’s house, bricks in the backyard
  • fingertips sticky with the scented oils of rosemary, gathered from the front garden, rushed into the kitchen, displayed on my outstretched palms, my father’s approving smile
  • the overwhelming aroma pencil shavings and my mom at school, when the ramp got put in, and I cried on the last day of school

Sometimes I feel like Tiger. Remember when he fell from the upstairs balcony, and you rushed me and Tash and Martin out into the backyard with popsicles – a sure sign something was wrong. But Tiger was okay, physically at least. He was a skittish lil cat after that to be sure, but his body never betrayed this invisible fear. Sometimes I wonder if November was my falling off the upstairs balcony. I rushed you all out to the backyard while I assessed the damage. Or, I thought I was assessing the damage. When I found my body intact, I hoped the rest was, too. Rapidly it became clear that it was not.

On Thanksgiving, I unintentionally delivered some news: when my words started slurring and my legs couldn’t tread a straight line, my mom expressed concern. I was crying, upset. I don’t remember well – “assessing the damage” had become a whirl of drunkenness – “This has been the worst time of my life,” I confided in her. “I don’t want to talk about it, but this has been the worst couple months of my life.”

What I was referring to, what she did not yet know, was that I had been raped exactly one week before Thanksgiving Day, 2015.

The next day, I told her. Tash knew – I called her from Philly, crying, numbly aware of the only thing I could nearly feel – fear, pain – but now my mom knew. Her eyes changed. I cried. She held me.

I told Martin when he made a joke that was triggering. His reaction was anger – pure and simple. Concern of course, and eventually overwhelming concern, but RAGE. He looked at his little sister and saw what couldn’t be undone.

And finally, my dad. Why was it so hard? Was it because I knew I was his little girl? Was it because I knew his eyes would harden, then soften into the saddest grey blue, knowing his knowledge came too late, that he couldn’t fix it? Was it because I knew he’d try? I didn’t watch his eyes when I told him. I stared straight ahead. I was getting a little bit better at choking out the words, ‘it almost sounds real,’ I remarked to myself somewhere deep deep within.

It has all been a mess since then – but not because of you all. It is interesting how trauma extends so far beyond the immediate victim. I want to one day share this with you all.

I never told you about the couple of months of drug abuse that followed, though I think you had your hunches. The weight loss, the unpredictability… I didn’t tell you I became involved with a 31-year-old who unintentionally gained from my nadir, who found a reckless 22-year-old to stay young with, to get back into drugs with, to mess around with. I didn’t tell you this made me a homewrecker – that he was kicked out by his girlfriend of 5 years. That I knew about her. That it has been a really hard to get back to self-love and thinking I am deserving of much good at all.

I didn’t tell you about the span of weeks that I still don’t remember.

I told you lies that I thought would make things easier on you.

I told you I was seeking a support group and maybe that I even went once. I never went. I drove there, I sabotaged myself into being late, I talked myself out of going inside. I drove home, where I downed half a bottle of wine and swallowed a xanax. I went to sleep. I can’t even remember what else I told you. That I was okay, that I wasn’t okay. Well, that part changes, neither is ever completely true.

I am sorry I never told you this, I am sorry I do not know when I will. Thank you for loving me through it. I love you.

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