On Darkness, Negativity, and Other Broken Things

Okay, I had intended this blog to be solely my writing blog, something to help keep me motivated in my endeavors to write… But after quite a few responses offline and conveyed to me by TMiYC (The Monster In Your Closet) about my previous post (When you know a friendship is toxic), I now realize that there may be some merit in actually posting my own personal musings. Or perhaps all that internal dialogue may be useful to others… (And, yes, I used “dialogue” intentionally – it would be a monologue if it was one voice, instead of a myriad clammering simultaneously:”Why did you say that?” “Why did you x?” “Should you have done y instead?” “What if this choice has z effect?”)

Perhaps this blog can help quell those doubt-filled voices in my head. Or air them out to dry, so they’re out in the open and I can see them for what they are and not let those niggling doubts drag me down. Especially since I am a mom and my choices now effect that precious squealing ball of happiness that is currently napping spread-eagled in her crib.

Since I posted about NPD, I have felt as if this huge weight has been lifted from my chest. But that has more to do with my being open and acknowledging that I have negative feelings about someone. And that’s okay. For some reason, I have always hated speaking negatively about anyone. Whether they deserve it or not. I do want to be really clear about something – the friends I have, the real ones who are not NPD? You will never meet a more amazing, loving, thoughtful group of people. These are the people who banded together to bring me and my family food when my mom was dying, who took me to coffee, went on long walks, or just hugged me and let me cry during that period and YEARS before that when I finally confronted the fact that my mom was struggling with a mental illness that could no longer be ignored. Some of these friends may be a generation or two older than me, but that age difference does not change the fact that they have my admiration, love, and respect. Nor does it change the fact that they rock my socks off.

My discomfort about “rocking the boat” was really my fear of making a messy, awkward situation for my friends. Combine that fear with my discomfort saying anything negative about others? There is so much darkness and drama in the world, and I hate to cause any drama unnecessarily.

Perhaps it may help if I laid all my cards on the table. I was the victim of abuse. Sometimes, it seems so long ago and far away, I feel like it happened to a different person. A different little girl.

I watched my dad beat my mom on several occasions. I hid under the bed when he broke the bedroom door down to get at her. On one occasion, my cheek got cut when my mom tried to grab a wire hanger from the closet to defend herself (and she didn’t realize I was hiding in the closet at the time). I witnessed her get beaten while she was pregnant, and only later learned that I would have had one more brother had it not been for that attack. I am 32 years old and I still cringe when I hear people raise their voices in anger. 

Add that to watching my mother slowly lose her battle with a mental illness that made her increasingly paranoid such that I often lost friends because they looked at her wrong… Well, you can bet that I will probably be the last one to speak up if something is bothering me. I am so used to compartmentalizing, because, heck, how the hell was I supposed to know what was normal growing up? I got used to playing the peacekeeper with mom – stepping in and telling her that her long-time friend and my godmother was not trying to insinuate she was a second class citizen by saying or doing x, y, or z. No, the pastor didn’t intentionally look at her at x point in the sermon. He was looking at everyone. It was gut-wrenching stress for a child, but it was what I knew.

Then there was the other thing – the thing I used to never mention for fear of people finding out just how broken I was. Starting in the 3rd grade, I was molested by a family friend. For years, I told the court and my mother that he had threatened to hurt my mom and siblings, and that’s why I didn’t tell anyone that it was happening. This man came into my mother’s house (before the mental illness had really even done more than make her unpredictably irritable) and pretended to be a friend to her while assuming the role of the gentle father to me. My mom was elated. Finally, a father figure was taking interest in her second daughter ! The daughter whose actual father never remembered her (the same father showed up on her 7th birthday to take the older, favored daughter shopping for My Little Ponies. (Thank you, TMiYC for sharing them with me!). This guy, hereafter dubbed “Pervert” (as an homage to my mom who yelled this loudly while pointing at him whenever she ran into him on the street, in the library, or at a restaurant), used my mom’s brokeness against me. After that first time, when he touched me (and I knew it was a “bad touch” because my mom had told me about it), he asked what it would do to my mom if she knew what he’d done? How would she feel if she knew just how unwanted she was, that he chose me over her? Wouldn’t it hurt her, break her to know what she had let happen to her child?

I was very good at putting on a game face. My mom didn’t suspect a thing for years. Pervert and mom drifted apart naturally, and I couldn’t have been happier. I got to be a kid and do kid things without feeling like I was living double lives. My mom had finally kicked my dad to the curb, and he had finally been forced by the State to pay child support, so my mom wasn’t terrified of losing the house.

It wasn’t until I was 10 and at the Country Fair when Mom went to go get me lemonade and returned to find me sitting cross-legged on our blanket, looking up at someone with absolute terror etched across my face. She dropped the lemonade and dragged me and all our things immediately back to the car with no more than a “Get away from my daughter” as a greeting to the Pervert. Over a course of several days, she asked me repeatedly and quietly, “What did he do to you?” When I insisted he didn’t do anything, she refused to believe me. I had no idea what to say – what was I supposed to say? When I was 7 I started lying because I was afraid to hurt you? You were happy for the first time, and dad wasn’t hurting you anymore and all I wanted was for you to laugh and smile, because when you were laughing and smiling the world could be whatever we dreamed it could be?

In the end – I broke. I told her everything, with the slight tweak on my own little lie. And I watched with a broken heart as her world crumbled and shattered around her. She had given up everything, worked multiple jobs at the same time, buckled under her own feelings and accepted food stamps (she hated charity), pushed to get each one of us into alternative schools so we could have every opportunity, and then this. The Pervert was right. Where Dad had failed, he had won. She broke and she broke hard. Did she hit me when I finally confessed, like somehow the D.A. convinced her she had? Hell, no. She held me, cried and said “I’m so sorry, my poor baby” over and over again. The crying didn’t stop for several weeks. The number of times I heard “I’m a terrible mother” coming from her room, sometimes punctuated by a dull and rhythmic thud as she hit her head against the floor, well… That broke me. For many many years, I carried a guilt around with me. I blamed myself, not the Pervert. I should have told her after that first time, my so much smarter ten-year-old self tried to tell my seven-year-old self. It was the years of letting it happen that was what destroyed her. I had broken my mom where my dad had failed. Little me and my big lies.

Counseling helped, and boy did my mom choose a good counselor. But nothing helped quite so much as the entry into my life of one person who believed in me so fully, and whose gentle support and guidance helped me learn to believe in myself.  I don’t know how a 17 year-old boy possessed the wisdom, grace, humor, and comfort to bring the solitary Rambler out of hiding, but he did.  I am forever grateful to the love of my life, my husband, for that.

As a sidenote, I never did tell my mom about that big/little lie. Even as I held her hand and she breathed her last breath., there was always that lie between us. The guilt created a huge gap that I didn’t know how to bridge. Right before she succumbed to a three year bout where she gave in to her mental illness completely, and barely recognized us, my mom had walked up to me and begged me for forgiveness. I blithely hugged her, laughed and told her she didn’t need my forgiveness. She was my mom, I loved her, and she had done nothing that needed forgiveness. She looked at me with such sorrow, that it haunts me still. She begged that someday I would find it in my heart to forgive her, and everyone who hurt me, because forgiveness was so important. I wish I had said the words she so needed to hear. I didn’t understand what she wanted me to forgive, but she needed it. How hard is it to say “I forgive you”?

Anyways, this is a rather dark post because I have, like so many people out there, lived through some dark times. It has made me who I am. Am I emotionally scarred? Sure. We all have our scars, whether we choose to hide them, bare them, or flaunt them. I used to cling to positivity like a lifeboat. I had to believe people could change.  I hated how much people talked about my mom, and rather than lending a helping hand, they pulled her down with criticism. I hate to feel like I could be one of those people, standing on the sideline and judging someone as they struggle. It just feels ugly to dwell on anything negative. Add to that all the doubt of “is this just me being sensitive because of all this baggage?” The simple truth of it is that there is ugliness out there. Just as I try to deal with in my novel, there is darkness out there. It hides within us all, and we get to choose how much of it we let in and influence who we are and who we will be. While I may often choose not to comment on those glimpses of shadows I may observe in others, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s there. It doesn’t change the fact that I know it’s there.

I know now that speaking about it won’t make me a worse person. If anything, it makes me a stronger person.

 – The Rambler laid bare

43 thoughts on “On Darkness, Negativity, and Other Broken Things

  1. I am so proud of you, Sis. So, so proud. To be clear, it's not like I wasn't wildly proud of you before, but . . . my heart is just swelling as I reflect on this post and all its implications.

    I know now that speaking about it won't make me a worse person. If anything, it makes me a stronger person.
    Amen. As I read this, I had the feeling that you finally understand just how strong you really are.


  2. Oh, girl. You are extraordinary. So is your family.

    Here is something I believe about death: whatever your mom wanted to hear from you, she knows it now, with her whole heart. And here is something I believe about forgiveness:

    you too. You are so forgiven, and so loved.


  3. and in the speaking the words, the horrific times may become smaller and more manageable. and the village will hold the words with you….

    it sure as hell wasn't your fault. it was the Pervert's.

    I so wish I could share this story with an old friend who endured the horrors you describe, but I can't find her. She tends to drift away…. but she comes back, so maybe one day….

    (I came here from your sister's blog.)


  4. I'm speechless. I have these big tears in my eyes that won't fall, because I was always too tough to cry, and years of therapy haven't changed that. I don't know you that well, but I know TMiYC very well, and through her, I feel like I know you. And for all that you've been through and all you've become, I love you.

    Several things struck me above. First, you writing is smooth and elegant. The writer in me smiled.

    The little El shivered, because she was hiding with you in the closet all of those years. And then she tightens her jaw, and whispers, “We're free.”

    The line about not knowing that our childhood was not normal. Yes. THAT.

    Forgiveness. I hope that does not torture you anymore.

    Your baby. Ah. A chance to nurture helps–you will give that child the childhood you could not, and through the eyes of your child, you will experience a lot more healing. Some of it will be bittersweet.


    Our novels sound similar. If you need betas, I'd love to help.

    Much love to you.



  5. Reading this stirred so many emotions in me. I am without words. You are an incredible person and thank you for sharing these dark days. I hope you continue to throw more light on them. You will no doubt be stronger in the process.Forgiveness is something I struggle with in my own life (like so many others) For me, it's key to my peace of mind. Still hoping to find it and embrace it.


  6. Thank you so much, MeLynda. I am so sorry you went through what you did, but heartened that you are talking about it. Thank you for sharing and relating. *hugs*


  7. Thanks for sharing your story. Your courage and strength are evident–as is your forgiveness. I am so impressed with your caring and sharing. As someone else already noted, your mom knows your love and forgiveness. Don't forget to forgive yourself. I am o proud of you.. .and thankful to your sister for pointing me to your blog.


  8. Thank you for opening your life and your heart to us all! More strength comes in numbers, and we can only fight against such things when we hear from those who've endured and grown in strength and love. You and your sister are stellar examples of this. Keep sharing, keep writing, and know that those of us who took the time to read this, care. XOXO-SWM


  9. Thank you for visiting this blog and for sharing. I am finding that I do indeed feel much freer for having written the words. I am amazed at the wonderful, supportive online community! I wish I had started this earlier, but I am so glad to have found this forum, and the voice to use it. Thank you!!


  10. Thank you so much, El! For the most part, I feel like Mom (the REAL mom, not the one plagued by illness) is with me and forgives and understands. My husband told me I did right by keeping that secret, because it would have broken her even more. Wherever she is, I think she knows I love her so profoundly, I will never be able to put it into words. I know now that I do forgive her. More than that, like I told her, I have found it in me to forgive myself. Errare humanum est.

    And, oh, how my little girl heals me! All my worries seem so insignificant compared to her laugh, smile, or discovery of some new object she can throw on the ground…

    As for the beta reader comment? Hell, yes! After reading a lot of the publisher's requests for “Crisp, clean” drafts, I'll take all the betas I can get! I'm about to start editing my draft this weekend, so you may be hearing from me a few months!


  11. Thank you so much, LME. Throughout everything, I have always felt so incredibly lucky because, in spite of everything, I had a mother who loved me so fiercely, she would fight to get me anything she thought I needed. I promised her that I would share her light with the world, and I hope to continue to do that with every breath I have!

    I am also so grateful to my sister for pointing you here. Thank you!


  12. Oh yes! Do you realize in sharing your story that you have given voice to many people who cannot say their own words? What a gift… opening yourself to your agonies to heal others!

    Do keep writing about this awfulness. I will hope that in the telling and re-telling, good things happen for you. It's OK to tell your truth, nay essential.

    Best to you,


  13. You know, reading this prompts me to tell you (as I have told your sister before you) that I love you and I love your mom. As hard as it has been through everything, as hard as it was for years for all of you, there is not the slightest shadow of a doubt in my mind that she really was an awesome mom and someone that I would have loved to know.

    Keep writing. It's good for you and it's good for us.


  14. I was raped when I was 17. I couldn't tell. I just couldn't. Even now, only a small handful of people know — and I have heard they don't believe me. The irony is that he KNOWS what he did and he apologized. Profusely. It doesn't make it all better, but at least I got some affirmation.

    I think when parents are involved things become much more confusing, and I agree with everyone who says that you are brave to post it. But beyond that , this post is nicely crafted.


  15. I came here via your sister's blog while cruising the internet for stuff to read while sipping my morning coffee. I have spent what feels like a lifetime working with kids who have been abused and saw many kids I know in your post. Congratulations on speaking out both as a 10 year old and now as an adult. I wish you the wisdom, courage and grace to make peace with your past since it is a part of who you are and from what I've read, I'm sure it will help mold you into an amazing person as you move forward in life.


  16. Thank you so much for sharing, and thank you so much for the work you are doing. While I write from a raw place, writing certainly is helping to heal the old wounds.

    Thank you!


  17. Oh, Renee, I am so sorry. I struggled a long time with the fact that half the jury didn't believe me. I assumed for the longest time that it was because of the little lie I told. Or maybe because I was a child and confused, and had a hard time looking up in the courtroom because HE was sitting right there.

    Anyway, it is devastating to have something horrible happen and then to go through what you are going through. There are so many people out there who will believe you and be there for you – not the people who aren't friends enough to have faith in you. I am sorry, but thank you for sharing.


  18. Hon, I'm proud of you for sharing your story and your insight. I think you're absolutely right to not hold it in and keep silent. It's unfortunate that it is so hard for us to stand up and call someone out on something when doing something horrible… It's in our nature to try and justify their actions and blame ourselves for something horrible that THEY CHOSE to do. You were brave to stand up in court and face your abuser, even if the jury made the wrong choice. You're brave now to not suffer in silence against the crap NPD has been pulling.


  19. I believe very strongly that the circumstances of our lives matter less than our perception of those circumstances and what we choose to do with them. The best of who we are isn't necessisarily caused by the most fortuitous life events. It is caused by the wisdom, the resilience, and the perspective we bring to those events. Because of who you are, and because you choose to share authentically of yourself, you bring strength and clarity to countless others. Deborah sent me here, and I will be forever grateful.


  20. I have my own sordid past but reading yours reminds me of my son. He was brutally abused for month before he told me and even after he did, even with the police and the counselor on our side, the courts refused our case bcs it wasn't an adult. It was another child. A child who no doubt was a victim himself. The abuse was cruel and sophisticated. He threatened to harm my other children if my son told. Nothing has ever hurt like that and my son lost his innocence. BUT, you give me hope that he can become a better person, a stronger person and someday share his light with others. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart.


  21. I applaud you for telling your story and have great sympathy for you– what trauma you had to deal with and still do. You tell your story with such a warm and open heart–your mom must have been so extraordinary to help you be who you are despite the horrors you experienced as a child. Fortunately, I have gotten to know your sister by following her blog, http://deborah-bryan.com, and I am smitten by your writing/thoughts as well!


  22. I applaud you for sharing your story and sympathize with you for the horrors you endured as a child. I feel so fortunate to have gotten to know your sister through her blog, http://deborah-bryan.com, and now I'm smitten with your writing as well. Your mom must have been truly extraordinary to raise such warm and open children especially given the traumatic circumstances you all experienced.


  23. I applaud you for sharing your story and sympathize with you for the horrors you endured as a child. I feel so fortunate to have gotten to know your sister through her blog, http://deborah-bryan.com, and now I'm smitten with your writing as well. Your mom must have been truly extraordinary to raise such warm and open children especially given the traumatic circumstances you all experienced.


  24. Make sure to forgive yourself. I also know what it's like to carry guilt and shame. It's an anchor that never lets go by itself. You have to release it in order to be free of it. And you definitely deserve to be free of it. Much love. ❤


  25. I am in awe and filled with gratitude to your sister for sending me to your blog. Your post moved me to tears, not just because of the hurt you bared but because of your courage, as a 7 and 10 year old little girl desperate to protect her mom,and 32 year old woman looking to heal for her child. The Lucky Mom (above me) is right, not only do we need to forgive those that have hurt us, we need to learn to forgive ourselves. Often that is much more difficult than offering forgiveness to others. It was when I became a mother myself that I finally opened the boxes of shame and hurt that came from childhood abuse and a rape when I was in college. I knew I had to face the past honestly and deal with the shame and guilt if I was ever to become the mother I wanted to be to my daughters.
    Your honesty is inspiring! Wishing you much love and continued healing.


  26. Thank you so much for this comment – I think you are absolutely correct. I wouldn't change one thing that happened to me. I wish sometimes that I could change the events in my mom's life, since she suffered so much, but then… She was who she was because of the life she had lived – she didn't have much, but what she had, she loved fiercely and gave freely. So, while I wish my mom hadn't experienced the hardships she did, I am so grateful for the person she was and the strength she gave me. Thank you again. ❤


  27. Thank you, lucky mom! This is a lesson that I am slowly learning. As a new mom, it seems like it is much easier to learn this trick, because I don't want my little girl to grow up with the guilt I did. Thank you so much for your words. ❤


  28. This is a write about many open wounds that you have come to terms with. You eloquently describe the situation and express yourself with dignity and grace. It was difficult to read but necessary. I commend you on you strength. May you continue to heal and be free.
    Namaste …


  29. wow!! this touched me so very deeply. had me bawling from beginning to end… tears of understanding (far too well), tears of pain and sadness (for you, myself, and so many countless others), but mostly, tears of comfort (in knowing that I'm not so strange, lol). your comment in the beginning, “Sometimes, it seems so long ago and far away, I feel like it happened to a different person. A different little girl.”, I have ALWAYS felt this way… so detached, and unable, to recognize “the child” as ME!! the fears of not wanting “to rock the boat”. and the inability, or unwillingness, to judge; for knowing the pain of “judgement”….
    thank you for writing this ❤


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