There are very few holidays that my family and relatives did not celebrate. To be more American (I guess), my parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins embraced every major US, religious, and Chinese holiday they knew about as an excuse to get together, eat, and celebrate. Those gatherings were full of family members, family friends, neighbors, co-workers, and their children. And also full of danger for me.
Days off from school meant more time being abused by my mother and other perpetrators who came to the house. Holiday parties and family get-togethers were times I got bullied and humiliated by my relatives and their friends. Mostly verbal, sometimes physical, always emotional when I was compared to my sibling/cousins and found lacking. Sometimes physical, sometimes verbal, sometimes sexual, always emotional when I was taken to private rooms by adults.
Normally, I don’t remember anything that happens between January and May. Sometimes the memory loss starts as early as Halloween. Normally I start to have problems just after Thanksgiving. But always, by mid-January, I will wake up one morning and not remember what happened for 2 weeks or more. And the memory loss continues. Notes, reminders, calendar appointments are viewed with confusion.
Before this year, I would have said that not many holidays and anniversaries occur between January and May. So why do I experience traumatic memory loss, body memories, and severe pain every year during those months? Turns out, I was wrong about the holiday part. Here is the list of holidays I’ve participated in so far:
- January 1 – New Year
- January 18 – Martin Luther King, Jr. day
- February 2 – Groundhog day
- February 8 – Chinese New Year (lasts 14 days as part of spring festival)
- February 10 – Ash Wednesday (beginning of Lent)
- March 13 – Daylight Savings
- March 16 – St. Patrick’s Day
- March 20 – Spring Equinox
Coming up are: Christian Good Friday and Easter Sunday, Tax Day, Jewish Passover and Orthodox Easter, Cinco de Mayo (for Spanish class in middle and high school), Mother’s Day, and a variety of birthdays in May.
What this means to me
It means that I am always in physical pain from body memories. From my head to my shoulders, tension seeps in and causes migraine worthy pain that won’t go away on its own. From my shoulders to my hips, all of my joints, my stomach, and the muscles in between ache and knot up. From the legs down, my knees, heels, and and muscles swell, knot up, tighten and cause sharp pain. On a scale of one to ten, I am usually between 5 and 9 every day. On bad days, I get as far as 12.
And with the pain comes anger. Anger from remembering. Anger from frustration at my inability to get relief without causing more pain or damage to myself. Anger at the people who hurt me so badly that I still feel the echos in my body decades later. Anger at remembering the past and not forgetting. Anger that my alters have had to cope with this on their own for decades because they were too scared to ask the rest of the system for help. Anger at feeling helpless to cope with the pain in healthy ways.
So now everyone in the system is present and accounted for. No one is stuck in the past or trapped by the memories anymore. What we remember now will not be forgotten. That is the best part of these last few months. It also gives me hope that all of us will survive this and come out stronger for it. I will learn to cope with my part and be able to help the others with theirs. The other alters will learn to cope with their parts and be able to help me too. That is our goal.
But the anger is fierce. And with the pain and anger come the voices. The voices telling us to give up, give in, grovel and go back to our parents. I try hard not to listen and pay attention. Most of the time, I can tell they aren’t real. The other alters are not as lucky. They have a hard time discerning which voices are real and which are from the trauma. So many times, the anger wells up and thoughts of vengeance and killing tempt me to be reckless. I think about calling my family members and yelling at them. I think about going to their houses and killing them. I think about writing them scathing letters and mailing to their homes. And not just my family members, I think about doing this to the other perpetrators in my memory too.
Because Lent was a time when many Christians and Mormons gave up something for 40 days. And the perpetrators in my life used that as an excuse to beat me and sexually abuse me without skin to skin contact as punishment for tempting them to break their religious vows. The perpetrators; what a name for those men and women who paid to use me. And the more I remember, the more places I remember being abused. The more valid reasons I have for not wanting to visit churches, synagogues, religious houses, elementary schools, bathrooms, public recreation centers, etc. I wasn’t safe anywhere. And I wonder how I got into such a predicament. But then I remember: a well established pediatrician, an elementary school principal, a cult within a cult of Mormons soliciting people door-to-door with free babysitting and bible study classes, and a greedy mother.
Is it any wonder why I hate this time of year so much? Oh well. I am trying coloring books again. Maybe it will help, maybe not. At least the negative association is starting to fade, so I can add the coping strategy back to my tool box.
Thanks for reading my rant.