Murderer

Like wind blowing across hot dry sand my memories are fleeting

But the stones so heavily in place keep the things I want to forget 

As if branded like cattle before slaughter

They are always here

When I thought like a child I had two abortions. 

When I felt like an adult I made decisions that scarred my womb, my heart, forever.
The thought of what I was about to do, the life I knew I was about to end, made me ill. I threw up all the medication they gave me, and because I didn’t show them my vomit and flushed it, they refused more meds and told me I’d be fine. I wasn’t. I felt the life they took on my behalf. I felt the tearing as my eyes welled, and tried to get away. They held me down. They did an ultrasound, and found more of my unborn, and held me down again while they leaned up the mess I had made, and vacuumed out what was left of my aching heart. 

I lay there, and imagined what my birth mother chose not to do to me. For the first time in my life I was truly thankful for the life I had, and thankful that she didn’t have to endure the same pain I was in. 

I was alone.

I took a pill that was meant for abortions at under seven weeks. I went in for an ultrasound. The nurse took my lies while looking at my womb, grey and alive. She took them and made them her own and signed papers giving me permission to abort at home. 

I took the pill, alone, on a spring morning. I sat on a toilet as my body spasmed when the medicine kicked in. I cried. I held my body close. I was alone with my choice. Alone with yet another life I CHOSE to take. My body bore a tiny life, in which I gathered up in a specimen jar, and placed in a bag, in a freezer, in a doctors hands, in a trash can for human waste, in a burning pit, deep deep in my soul. 

I knew the lives I took. I felt their end. I love them even now. 

Alone.

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Stuck at the Gate

I arrived home, realizing I’d been avoiding my mailbox like the plague. My life has been busy lately, and busy tends to be translated as anxious x10 to my worrisome mind.

I killed our lawn mower. My husband killed our SUV and my van nearly died. All in that order over a three week period. While I’d like to say I handled this and the heating element of my dryer also dying with grace and patience…I did not. (But I sure thought I did!) It’s was all well and good until I showered a few nights ago. Then the tears fell – over my inability to use the soap dispenser with my ‘write’ hand. I sat down and sobbed, which made it worse, which made me sadder still. (Holy shit it’s been a ride. So glad I can’t repeat the past.)

Air drying towels and jeans should be a sin. There’s nothing I hate more than crispy towels and crunchy jeans. I can only compare it to stale cereal. Just yuck.

Anyway. That’s not what this is about.

In my mailbox was a letter…from my mother. Her cursive writing that spelled out my name and address made me feel heavy, like a laundry basket full of wet towels. I just placed it under my arm, walking inside feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders…

As I opened the envelope and pulled out the card I could see through the light blue background more cursive, more wordy thoughts, more glaring, dead references about my life, because judging is what she has always seemed to do best when it came to me. There wasn’t a bit of space left. Words were everywhere.

Not now I thought. I just can’t. I put the baby to sleep. I did dishes, folded clothes. I could not forget I’d gotten it.

Mom wrote…

Dear Bits, I was in a car accident in December in Portland. I was on my way to see my friend, my best friend since preschool. She took her own life. I didn’t know. It happened in October, but her husband hadn’t told anyone. He sent my Christmas card back, writing on the back that she’d passed. I called him and he told me everything. Just so sad.

I felt like the world had swallowed me up. 

I felt like an asshole.

I felt like a selfish asshole.

I read the rest. Out of guilt, out of remorse, and because my shame compelled me to.

Deep breath. It’s just words right?

My mothers parting lines – 

I want to ask your forgiveness and begin the restoration of our mother/daughter relationship. Let us cross over the bridge together that has kept our relationship apart, and move forward.

In my 35 years of life, not once has she said ‘I’m sorry’ for the things she’s done. Though she raised me to say it, believe it, bleed that forgiveness from every sorry pore.

I’m not ready

Deep breath

I don’t want to put away that list

The one filled with pain

Of abuse and manipulation

That one that keeps me here

Standing at the gate

My mother, filled with religion, with blame

The abyss I see just before the bridge she asks me to cross with her

I can’t

I know I should. I know that. Everything I have ever been taught, by her no less, has shown me it’s better, easier, right to cross that bridge. Everything , every Thing she’s ever done has only led me to a road void of love, and laden with the pot holes of her heavy hand, my burden to lay bare here.

Here is where I admit I hate the things she did/didn’t do. My own seething anger for all the times she beat the shit out of us because she wasn’t stable, able, willing to love – it leaves a taste of bitter fruit. The thought of letting go is at first so enticing, until a bite is taken and the drip of reality hits my palette. I can’t…

…But I will.

Banana Milkshakes

When ever I was sick, or hurt, or happy my mom would make me banana milkshakes. She made Texas sheet cake EVERY year on my birthday…because I loved it. When I moved away from home as an adult she brought me homemade chicken noodle soup. My mom, for all her failings, and mine, has tried to mend the broken bits. For me though, the pain and indifference she had made me feel often out weighs her kindness. Perhaps it is because I see so much of her own issues in myself.

My best memories of my early childhood are surrounded by the pain. The ups and downs, her love then her screaming. It wasn’t easy for her. She raised us on her own even when my parents were married, and after my dad left we really gave her a run for her money. Catching snakes and bringing them inside. Stealing her change to go buy rats from the local pet store. My mom never complained about her lot in life, not about my father and his shitty lifestyle, the women, the drinking. She prayed every day for my dad…until the day he died she loved him and still does. She knows more about suffering than I can begin to describe and even though I will never name her…some things are never meant to be repeated.

My mom ‘Que’ was in special ed until her sophomore year, and back in the 1960’s that was very different from today. Retard was a formal word and not an insult, stupid was accepted and belittling of those with special needs was part of daily life. She wore glasses and had a speech impediment. And they left her there until her sophomore year. She married my father and after years of trying to have a child and fostering they adopted me….

I don’t remember very much of my childhood honestly, but I know there was good, I just know it. My mom truly tried to give us everything she could, but you don’t know what you don’t know…

I remember the banana milkshakes. The cold sweet taste in my mouth. The joy of feeling loved in a cup. (Perhaps a look in my broken mirror…why I have such a detestable view of food.) The smell of cake being made. The bitter cocoa filling the air, as I sat in anticipation, excitement. Knowing that with my cough the warmth of homemade goodness was forth coming.

Que is not evil, not hatred personified. She is but one stitch in the misunderstood world surrounding mental illness. She is loved no less for it. She is my mom, and nothing changes that. She is the one I cried out for with heart break, each child I brought into this world. No matter the distance or time not spent will take that from her, me.

Someday she will find herself whole, as will I, and we can meet, mend the fences, for a little bit of heaven.

Answers

Many many times I have stayed up all night with my children. Sickness, new teeth, heartache and loss. My fondest memories are always of them after they fall asleep. Even now, seemingly unneeded and often feeling unwanted by my son Jay, I peer into his room and for just a moment I watch him sleeping. He’s so calm, not a bit like the teenager I see briefly wander down the hall to and from his junior man-cave.

I have made a lot of mistakes in my life as a parent, and I’d like to think that I have learned from them. I keep reminding myself that this too is merely a season, all be it a really rough one.

Jay has anxiety (GAD). It’s a thorn in his side and an ache in my heart. We butt heads constantly and I am forever trying to reach out, let him know I’m here. His symptoms are so similar to mine at his age, but unlike my mother, I have refused to give up. I will never disown him. I can’t begin to describe what it feels like to be told that I was owned, and then thrown out time and time again….

I was given to a family at around 9 years of age, just down the road from my mom, and my brother. I remember the family very well. Both of their girls were adopted. For the first time since my dad had left I felt whole again. It was for lack of a better word ‘normal’…how I thought a family should be. I know my mom would stop by, usually to start a fight with me, eventually with the mother and then she would disappear again. Then after about six months I was back home – devastated. I remember thinking how bad I must be if they didn’t want me either. Then again at 11. When I was twelve I ran away from our tiny home (or as it was once called ‘the servants quarters’) to the home next door where my friend lived. I stayed there two nights, in her closet. A window in her bedroom faced the walkway to our door. Hearing my dads voice I crawled slowly from the closet floor and listened…

“What the hell is going on?” He said.
“She just wants attention.” My mom growled.
“I don’t have time for this shit, I have a life.” He walked away.

I was right there. Heart broken. Too afraid to say what had happened, what had been done to me as a child, I was frozen in time. Lost. Alone.

I left the closet a few hours later and walked through the alley-ways to my school, terrified I was going to jail… Or possibly to burn in hell. I walked straight into the office. The counselor greeted me. (I had talked with him a few times.) My mom arrived soon after. They disappeared into the back room and I was left toiling over the infinite possibilities for punishment. I knew it would be bad. A door ripped open, and my mom stormed out. She didn’t look at me once. Not even a glance. I was sent to class after I gave the counselor my reason for running away.
I didn’t want to go back. Home wasn’t home for me.

Again I was told I had no right to feel, and that I wasn’t forgiven though I pleaded with her to do so. She told me the school counselor was a fraud, a fake, and stupid. He had told her she was a terrible mother. Her anger grew and I felt this immense need to flee. Run. Anything. She swung at me and I hit her first. I was in shock having never hit anyone other than my brother…which usually led to mutual destruction. She froze. I screamed as loud as I could in her face…

“Don’t ever fucking hit me again! Evvvvverrrr!”
She didn’t.

After a few months of battling with her, watching her turn her anger for me to my brother, I stepped between them so she would stop smacking him, so hard, so loud it sounded like paper ripping, with a wet cloth, cornered behind our front door. Once again I shouted for her to stop. Face red, eyes filled with both rage and fear, she grabbed one of my arms and threw the cloth at us. It was fall, my favorite season. On Thanksgiving day she kicked me out.

This was my childhood, and eventually my brothers, although he seemed to be accepted more as a human being instead of a worthless, dirty piece of trash. I know our mom loves us, and she has taken steps to get help, taking medication for depression (possibly). To this day she stands by the claim that God told her to let me go, that it’s my fault. She has told my son she hates him. She had told me to send my son away.

Through the years, I have asked myself how I could not know I was suffering from Anxiety, OCD, PTSD. Why didn’t I see it. I suppose it’s hard for someone to wonder why I had a family at all. My answer is this –

You can’t know what you don’t know…and I thought, with every bit of pain, every heart beat, every skipped meal, that I was normal. It’s all I knew. It’s all I had.

I have a family because I’m worthy of one, and I love deeply and forever. Unfailing, unfaltering…My little bit of heaven.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…and my family is the most chaotic, loud, beautiful masterpiece I will ever create.

Me, Myself, Anxiety….

If I move the couch here, I won’t feel like my world is imploding. I can fold my shirt like this and I will remember to wash his dress pants. I will intentionally stack my plates mis-matched and I will have peace in my kitchen. If I just pray enough my heart will stop beating out of my chest. I can’t do all our laundry today…so it’s not going to be done at all. Tuck my sheet like this, and I won’t wake up terrified. Place the lavender candle over there and I can breathe again.

I hope to God my kids don’t think like this. I pray I can wake up one day and everything will be just so, and I can be normal, peaceful, still. I worry my family will be irrevocably damaged by me. Me.

I make doctor appointments I forget, then have a panic attack thinking of a viable excuse to give them for missing it. I lose my keys daily. I lose my wallet all the time. I forget to check binders, homework almost every day. I look out at the mailbox and worry there’s a bill we can’t pay so I don’t drudge through the snow to get it. I try to budget when I shop but what if there’s a storm or a child gets sick, or my husband loses his job? Constantly in a state of hyper vigilance I look out the windows. When my husband isn’t here I always know the quickest route to grab a weapon if someone breaks in, and I know where I will hide my children if someone gets past our dogs. I wake up afraid that someone else has taken my place, and that I am unwanted…without a home.

I’m having a panic attack.

I distinctly recall as a child stealing pictures from our family albums, and putting them in a little red plastic wagon with my favorite Barbie, my brothers favorite toy of the moment, and whatever else was important for that night in case my house caught on fire. (It stayed by my side, always within arms reach.) My dolls were rearranged daily, redressed, hair combed, and even if my bed was only a sleeping bag it was just so, or I didn’t sleep in it, opting for the floor. I brushed my hair 22 times. I got older and that turned into 11, because it was too long to brush 22 times.

I keep having to stop. I have to remind myself to exhale.

I count. I count the leaves on the shelves in my kitchen constantly, in a number always totaling 22. I count the blinds over the tv, always to 33. The screws in the bathroom equal 44, the door is 11 and I wash myself in the shower twice, always adding what I wash to 22. I count letters on packaging to 33, and start over with each of these, until it’s right, until I feel that switch flip in my mind telling me to get up, look away, breathe.

At my worst I can’t control it at all, and if I try to change this cycle I become enraged and act like a child…which I then hate myself for. I yell, get snippy, lash out. I’ve gotten better about it, and now that I understand it’s an issue, I can usually stop it before it starts. At my best, I remind myself that this is not me, and I get up before I start counting, folding, imploding. My worst days are pretty rare now, but there is almost always an unhealthy reason for that. I just have to keep going, I’m not perfect, damn it.

I shouldn’t be telling anyone any of this. My poor kids. I’m such a fuck up. God, let them grow up unique, unlike me in every way.

I still get anxious talking one on one. I have a hard time speaking in the way I would like to and in my mind, I sound like a 13 year old child. I talk quickly, rambling almost, and I sweat…a lot. My palms sweat when I drive. It’s not as bad as it use to be, but if my kids are in the car with me it’s bad enough that I time wiping my palms on my pants by the intersection. At times I can’t watch a movie or read the news. It just makes me anxious. Ordering food is just a dance of avoidance, and I do the dance every time…especially over the phone.

Hi! The name’s Bits, and I’ve got issues.
– No shit.

I struggle with my personal health. I’m not unclean, I’m a 30 something mom with ‘disordered’ eating habits who, because I can, controls her mind by starving her body. It is something I’ve dealt with long before the anxiety. I look in the mirror, shattered and falling to the floor…I see something ugly, something and not someone. At my lowest point I weighed 100 lbs (maybe) and my body was dying. I would wake up gasping for air, very aware that my heart was not beating properly. By the time I realized what was happening, my body had begun to reject food. I would take a bite and throw up, almost immediately. I had hair growing in places it shouldn’t have been, and I wasn’t even eating once a day. I should have gone to a hospital. (Baggy clothes can hide more than just bones.) I had to pace myself to eat an egg a day. After a few weeks I started with bits of bread. (Words cannot express where I was at mentally, but I knew it was bad.) I have broken teeth because of the toll it’s taken on my body and some have fallen out or had to be pulled. I don’t think my husband knows. At least he has never said so, but I know there are times he makes me sit and eat, so maybe he does. (It’s never come up over the years in a conversation…but then again, who wants to talk about it.) I did drugs as a teenager, and not because I wanted to. For a little while it wasn’t even that I was addicted…it stopped me from thinking. Silence. A heavy price for ‘peace of mind’ as they say.

I have a severe anxiety disorder. Emphasis on SEVERE, just in case they miss it…..

I know when it all started, I even remember what I was wearing, what I ate that day. I remember the smell, the taste. The song playing haunts me. I also know what triggered it all over again as a teen, and as an adult. I have found that expressing myself about said ‘things’ or even acknowledging them as fact leads to a depth of despair and extreme panic that I can’t cope with so I just don’t. Not to mention the wrath, judgement and isolation. I am not psycho, nuts, inept, worthless, pathetic, warped or even delusional. I’m not a liar, a whore, or a bitch. I’m just me. At 30 something, I’m still trying to accept myself. I’m also absurdly aware of my thoughts, and the all consuming nature they have. I wish people would educate themselves and/or STFU.

My anxiety and my panic are two very different monsters. My anxiety puts me in a constant state of ‘holy shit my house is going to fall down on top of me’. It’s sweating, clinching my jaw to the point of migraines, curling my toes while I sleep. It is the thoughts that repeat themselves, repeat themselves. The need to know what is going on at all times with those I care for, a sense that something terrible is happening. My heart beats into my neck, and there are times I feel that if I could just find the perfect number, I could count it all away. I forget things, and what I don’t forget I avoid avoid avoid. My panic attacks are consistent with what I think dying would feel like. My heart beats fast and loud in my mind, but heavy, so heavy in my chest. My mouth gets dry, and I feel like I’m falling. I can’t breathe, and sometimes it’s all I can do to just say ‘Jesus’. I can’t form a thought, let alone a prayer for help, and it is usually followed by a few moments of extreme confusion.

I’m not always like the woman described above, and most days I really do manage well, although forgetfulness and nightmares are a constant, and I still have panic attacks but they aren’t every day, or every week. There was a time I remember having them 20+ times a day, and throughout the night. The inability to move, act, breathe, sit, sleep…that was my life. Every day, every hour, and the moments took far too long to pass.

I’m crying, why am I crying?

I have tried medication, but the doses required to find relief were so high that I opted not take them…the physical toll of the side-effects were not worth the benefits they gave me. Therapy was ‘therapeutic’ but for myself, it only allowed me to see how bad my anxiety was and what caused it to begin with. I needed help with the now, not the then. The bible has and continues to be a source of peace and love. (There was a time however, that reading the bible filled me with such guilt, pain, resentment that I didn’t read it for months, and forget my Christian radio station favorites. I just couldn’t.)

It’s hard to find acceptance in a world that has become very eager to push their perceptions on others, and more accurately that their perception is correct. I feel alone when I’m really struggling with my anxiety because my main effort is to maintain ‘the norm’ for those I love. I am not allowed to be anxious. I can’t be myself and therefore don’t know who I am. I don’t struggle with depression because of this, or to be honest, when I do, I now understand it’s a symptom secondary to my anxiety and I don’t let it take hold. Also, having this doesn’t make me a coward, and it doesn’t make me weak. Quite the contrary. I’ve been through hell, and I’m still breathing, heart’s still beating. More importantly, for me, is that it has given me the ability to find happiness wherever I can, and accept those who’s struggles are hidden, except to me. I know their pain, and my heart is their heart.

One day at a time. I feel like I’m attending an AA meeting and I’m the only one who showed. At least the coffee’s good.

I’m here. I’m here and I’ve gotten through another day. It’s not hopeless, empty and filled with deep regret and guilt anymore. Sure, I look in the mirror and see the cracks…oh my brokenness, but…I’m happy, and I’m healing. Clarity. Each day brings new blessings, memories made and cherished. I get to kiss my husband, and hug my kids. My shaking hands no longer hold my heart, God does. My desire to live through it for my kids does. I am learning to be still, even if it feels like it’s killing me. There is life beyond the infinite loop of anxiety, my aching and fearful soul. My life will continue and with each new season I feel a little more like who I was intended to be and less like a walking enigma. One day my story will have a wonderful ending, and maybe the Lord will use me, my life, to help others find their little bit of heaven.

 

A Tale of Two

Majčine poklon

Being adopted can be a blessing, especially when the family that adopted you is a wreck, or your mom and dad delight in the embarrassment of your disastrous teen years. It is also not without its hardships. It can cause a child to question their place in the world, their place in your heart.

My dad was the first to hold me. My mom was a nurse and though she got there as quickly as her car would take her, it was him that saw me pass from my birth mothers hands…and directly into his heart.

My adoption story is neither lavish nor cruel, it just is. My birth parents had an affair, I was the end result. My birth father was an addict and hit the eject button as quickly as he had uprooted my birth mothers life. Her marriage obviously suffered immensely, as did her family. I have a half sister, though we’ve never met, name unknown. I have only small bits and pieces of their lives, a name of a parent, a picture I have sketched in my mind of who they might be.

I’ve never had a desire to find my birth parents, and it’s been many years since Ive truly thought about it. I suppose it helps in having my own brood to pass the time.

I have never distinguished my adopted family as such. They are my parents, my brother. They are my all in this world outside my husband and kiddos.

I do remember as a child being told by my mother how special I was, that I was gift from the Lord. I was an answered prayer. I never felt as anything less than their flesh and blood and as luck would have it, they had a child of their own almost two years post adoption. A little boy that looked just like me. It’s remarkable really.

Ok….that bit up top was totally romanticized, though whittled with truthiness.

I am adopted. My dad was the first to hold me. He saw my birth mother as she handed me over. My birth father was an addict, and on assumption, so was she. They had an affair, her husband found out and opted to remain married if she gave the child (me) up. Both mothers had the same Doctor, and that’s how they found each other. My birth mother already had a daughter, which is all I know about their family even now. My dad said she looked like me.

I do not refer to them as my adopted parents because they are my parents. They earned it. My brother was born soon after they adopted me and we were really close growing up. I really was told as a youngster that I was adopted, and that it made me special, that I was an answered prayer. My brother and I really did look like twins….but to be fair they dressed me like a boy and I had the standard ‘bowl cut’. We were as close as any brother and sister could be.

My teen years were excruciating, as I’m sure you’re shaking your head just now thinking about how awful yours were. Thank you God that years 13, 14, maybe 15 never went viral. I searched for my birth mom using whatever means I could. Phone books, the computer at school and tracking down the lawyers, doctors, and snooping through my mothers drawers. When I turned 18 I got the name of my birth mother as a gift from my dad. Dead end.

Fast forward to my full time job as mom….

Never in my wildest dreams could I have known how much my adoption would affect my life as it does now. To be surrounded by all these amazing human beings that are half me is just miraculous!! Truly!! They look like me, talk and stand like me. My daughter sasses like I did, just so. They are talented artists, avid readers, and athletic. And they are mine. Mine mine mine!

Until I was surrounded by all my tiny clones I never knew what it felt like to fit in. My father and brother have the same gate when they walk, same bone structure. He has our mothers eyes, nose. I have none of those things. My cousins all look alike. They’re kids look alike too.

My older kids ask if I care, and honestly I don’t care that I’m adopted. At my age it’s just a very small strand in the weaving of my life’s story. But…I can’t tell them where my family hails from, just like I couldn’t when I was asked at summer camp as a child. The kids ask if I want to meet my ‘mom’ and I say maybe. And always, once they start asking it takes them a bit to stop asking which mom I am referring to when I’m talking.

Growing up adopted was hard for me. I always felt as if I was on the outside looking in. I longed to look like someone, anyone! I felt different. I was okay with being the black sheep and embraced it early on. But I also used it as a scapegoat to hide things. I hid the abuse. I hid the drinking. I hid the stealing. All of which I thought I did because of my rebel ways. And I was a rebel damn it. Deep down I was just a lost girl who’s parents got divorced, who’s mom went off the deep end, dad became a drunk and I was tossed to the side. The longing to find myself grew and grew. I realize now how alone I felt, and how very much I needed to belong to someone.

Now days it may be an entire year that goes by and I don’t even think about it. My kids know and it’s just the way things are, no big deal. They know all there is to know about their dad, his family, which land they hail from, etc. If I could find my sister I would like that, but I’m not reeling from the gnawing pain of the unknown. Would I like to know if my birth mother struggled with anxiety? No not really, because it doesn’t change that I do. I never tried finding my birth father. Some how, it just never mattered. I know many ‘adoptees’ search relentlessly for their birth families. I understand that desire. I don’t know how a parent gives up a child, but that is because of my own life experiences. I do believe it takes a love that is deep and unfailing to do so.

I lay next to my tiny ranger and watch him sleep. An immense joy, almost euphoria really, washes over me. He has my hair, my smile. And tonight, this is my little bit of heaven.