I had no reason to be ashamed of my scar. Once my hair grew back in, it wasn’t visible. But, that doesn’t mean it didn’t haunt me in other ways. In quiet moments, I would find myself running my fingers over the lumpy bumpy skin that now replaced what had been before. No one thought to help me actually see the thing, that came half a life-time later. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t aware of it and all that it represented.
The entire family had been traumatized on some level, yet we never really spoke of it. Back then, it wasn’t considered that perhaps we could have used some psychological help or, at least, some direct adjustments. Life simply went on and it wasn’t discussed. I was home and that was that. But it wasn’t, not really.
Although I was home, I was restricted from any and all physical activities, for at least the first month. That meant my Dad had to carry me wherever I wanted to go. If he was busy, I simply had to wait, or ask someone to get me whatever I wanted. There is a condition called “learned helplessness”, and I learned it quite quickly. And continued to use it, unwittingly, until my children made me aware of what I was doing. But, I still have a habit of collecting things around me, within easy reach, so I don’t have to get up and go to another room to fetch them.
And then there were the nightmares. I had no idea that individuals who are abused or traumatized, often have what are called “night terrors”. Scary dreams that can paralyze their ability to move freely and keep them almost frozen in place. I didn’t learn about that until I was middle-aged and working with abuse victims. It helped me to end a cycle of repetitive nightmares that had haunted me since childhood. By doing some research on dreams, dream work, and learning how to unravel those messages from my subconscious mind, I was able to halt their recurrence completely.
One of the repetitive dreams was about the bathroom in the lower apartment where we lived. To get to it, I had to go through the kitchen and into the bathroom, located at the very back of the apartment. There was a shed attached to that part of the house, and it often held creepy sounds and soft bumping noises. I’d awake having to go to the bathroom, but scared to be alone and that isolated. So, I’d wet the bed. Absolute no-no. But it was the nightmare, more often than not that awoke me. In it, I would step into that bathroom, only to find my own body on the floor, and the end credits (like those in a movie) rising to some very sad and mournful music.
The doctors had discussed the possibility of death with my parents. Perhaps even they thought I was too young to understand. What I knew of death was what I saw on TV. It was the end of the story, the movie, or the program. That body, lying on the floor and all that sad dreary music. Nothing, no more, it was the end. I did accept the punishment that occurred when I wet the bed, which was to remake it fresh from scratch. I didn’t tell anyone about the dream, it was just too frightening. And my person was under a microscope already, I didn’t need any more attention. We moved into a bigger two-story house, with a bathroom upstairs as well as down. That put an end to the dream and the bed-wetting.
One of the nightmares stayed with me well into adulthood. It didn’t occur regularly, but when it did, I would wake up screaming in a panic. In the dream, a strange monster, huge and inhuman, would stand at the end of my bed, slowly reaching for my feet, with the intent of rolling me up in the blankets. By then, I had done some research on dreams and dream content. And I suddenly knew where the dream came from. In an attempt to keep me quiet and still, while I was in the hospital, the nurses would frequently come in and “straighten” my bed. They’d fold the blankets over my feet, in an attempt to keep me still and quiet. It didn’t work well. As soon as they left, I’d sit up and pull my feet out from those tucked in blankets. And to this day, I prefer to go bare foot most of the time.
It all took time. Time to grow, to learn, and to become.