Back in the day, when the place still existed, my grandmother Luna’s home was my safe haven.
Almost everyday after school, I would walk from the bus stop, across the grassy noll (which is now a church parking lot), across the old church parking lot, onto the sidewalk that led to Grandma’s house. Some activity often took place there that involved the children my 80 something year old grandmother babysat for various citizens in the neighborhood. I wondered where the hell these kids came from, but most of them were nice to some degree. And most of them were younger than me, so I bossed them around whenever I could. In retrospect, I was only doing what was done to me, but at the time, I was just the bossy kid with the Coke bottle glasses.
Grandmother Luna’s house is also where the sexual abuse began, but I still felt safe because that space remained relatively untouched by Mom’s hostile presence (a least the majority of the time). As I grew older, though, Grandma’s house slowly morphed into a war zone for my uncle Tito and his crack addicted girlfriends. He one time beat his girlfriend in front of us, breaking her ribs and her eye vessels. This all happened at 4 in the morning.
Battle lines were being drawn in my own home. I grew tired of my mother’s booming voice and we began physically fighting one another. I felt I was living with the female Mike Tyson on the regular and I never knew when she would pop off. Between being a verbal/physical punching bag for Mom and witnessing drug induced death matches at Grandma’s home, I began to feel paranoid, anxious and depressed. I was now afraid of loud noises and my face grew hot whenever I heard someone even raise their voice (even today I would tell people not to argue in front of me because I don’t want to catch a flash back). With all this drama going on in my life, it is no wonder I ripe for molestation.
With that being said, thoughts of being unsafe and unprotected rolled over into my adulthood. I could never relax, always looking over my shoulder and thinking someone was going to rape or beat the hell out of me. Even sleep was my worse enemy because I was having nightmares about getting jumped by Mom or having sex with various family members. Until I sought therapy, I was afraid of older Black women. I always thought they would want sex from me eventually. After a while, I realized that they reminded me of my aunt Jean and had to tell myself these women are not her.
As I write this, I know that what I was suffering from is Post traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. Williams and Poijula (2000) states that this disorder “is best known of the long-term consequences of trauma” (p. 5). According to the authors, some of the symptoms are the following:
- You experienced, witnessed, or were confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to your own physical integrity or that of others
- Your response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror
- You feel numb, detached, or emotionally nonresponsive
- You persistently avoided any stimuli that led to your remembering the trauma
- You had marked symptoms of anxiety or increased arousal (problems sleeping, irritability, poor concentration, increased startle reaction, and body restlessness)…
(2000, p. 8)
Sorry about this, but the grad student in me arose, but I need to point out at least some of the symptoms of PTSD and Complex PTSD because these disorders can cripple us survivors if allowed. Many survivors of child sex abuse (or any other kind of severe abuse) are most likely to experience PTSD or Complex PTSD. What I learned over time that one has to know the block in order to crush it. Now I am not saying that everyone has PTSD or Complex PTSD due to child sex abuse. However, if you have some of the symptoms I posted, please speak to your therapist and find out more about these devastating disorders. With your support system handy, you can work towards living your life without ducking and dodging people who cannot even hurt you anymore!
Believe me when I say this: the war in your head can be over, but only if you want it. You can do this–you’re worth the peace and quiet :o)