Self

I Lived A Lie Until I Could No Longer Deny The Truth

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Trigger warning: content contains discussion of child sexual abuse and assault.

No matter how complex or tightly woven the lies, they always unravel when confronted with the truth.

I don’t have my outside filter on today. You’re getting this straight from inside the gates. I’m not going to keep you out. You know it all. And I want to thank you, dear reader, for not flinching, not turning away, not tuning out my anguish. Hundreds of thousands of times my older brother raped me over the decades.

Whenever he could, whenever he wanted, aided and abetted by our mother. And I’m so sick of talking about this and writing about it. I want like hell to be free and be done with them. I choose to let them go. But here we are and letting go is not so easy.

I wonder if you’re wondering how I survived my past without cracking up, dying by suicide, or losing myself to drugs and alcohol. As far as I can tell, it’s simply because I refused to believe it was happening. Instead, I believed a fairy tale version of the truth.

My mother and my brother fed me the lies I needed to keep believing in our false family so that they could keep drugging and assaulting me.

And I had internalized my mother’s dismissal and diminishment of my feelings, so much so that I dismissed the innate warning signals that might’ve kept me away once I moved out. You can see that at work in my account of the last assault and how I was able to talk myself out of my terror that night.

RELATED: I Might Have Wanted You, But I Never Wanted To Be Raped

As a child that served me. If I had been able to see what was happening to me I’d never have survived it and I’d never have lived to tell about it. As long as I allowed my mother and brother to keep their masks on, I was safe.

If I had told anyone, including myself, I believe my brother would have killed me, or my mother. She’s in the habit of poisoning. I haven’t even begun to tell you about the ailments throughout my childhood. I mean, it hardly seems important given the severity of the sexual violence. And to be sure, making me ill was secondary to making me meet her and my brother’s needs.

A dead body with its face covered up often indicates that the victim knew the murderer well, perhaps intimately. I’ve thought about that.

I wonder if it’s that the murderer can’t look at that face directly because they’ll see their true selves reflected in the death mask of the face that perhaps once used to believe their lies. We all wear masks of a kind, but no one needs to believe in theirs as much as the one who cannot bear the shame of their true selves.

In my previous post, I detail how neither my mother nor my brother could look me in the face after that last assault. And it made me remember that that was always the case with my older brother. I can count on one hand the number of times he’s looked me in the eye. And as for my mother, well, I’ll leave that for another post.

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I’m suffocating under the weight of these words. I feel dizzy and slightly disoriented. I’m sitting in the sun as I write this. Its late afternoon rays warm the left side of my body and remind me that I’m here, with you, not there, with them.

Let me take some ice water and notice what’s going on around me. A mourning dove makes a chirping sound as it flies away. A helicopter flies low overhead. It’s the LAPD looking for a suspect. That’s happening a lot these days. I can’t hear myself think. It’s circling quite aggressively.

And the thing is, dear reader, I’m not trying to know everything, you know? I’m allowing these things to return as they will. I spoke with my physician about it and she said that though we can’t know what I was drugged with, we can probably be sure that I may never remember much of what happened.

Date rape drugs were easy to get then, but also, and I’ve written about this before, my father took benzodiazepines for anxiety.

Benzodiazepines are commonly used as an anesthetic before surgery so that when the patient wakes up, their bodies won’t remember the trauma of being cut open and their insides worked on. And I have to tell you that if there’s one mercy in this carnage, it’s that I won’t remember everything.

I don’t feel good. Why don’t I feel good? This may be too much for my body. Yes, it is. But at the same time, my body feels better. It’s sort of like I’m opening the wounds all at once. Who can blame me? I mean, if I don’t, we could be here for the rest of my life and I’ve got to get on with it.

RELATED: A Letter To My Past Self: We Survived The Assault

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So, let’s get on with it.

I didn’t do well in school. I barely maintained Cs. I remember my mother telling me that I should study when I was blow-drying my hair. Because after dinner I would try, but I’d pass out, sometimes fully clothed with the lights on. I’d often wake up, in my pajamas with the lights out and not remember how or when I’d done that.

Sometimes I’d wake up with the lights on and my clothes still on. I’d change and turn the lights out. I don’t know if that was before or after the assaults. But my head was thick and spinning and my stomach filled with nausea and inexplicable fear. I’d climb back into bed and pray for morning.

Morning brought a pounding head, sandpaper mouth, and a still sick stomach. I would push all of that down, tell myself a shower could make it all go away, and drag myself into it where I would sit, curled up in a ball, and wait to feel better.

I binge-ate my way into feeling nothing. I remembered that as I ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich today. I felt nauseous and kept eating and I remembered how I used to do that and then when I’d eaten everything I could get my hands on, I’d throw up as much of it as I could stand.

One thing no one tells you about bulimia is that throwing up is a lot harder than you imagine and takes a lot more work than eating. So, a lot of times I might throw up a little, or not at all and then it just became binge eating. It kept the shame down.

Shame. Shame. Shame.

You could have renamed me Shame and that would have made more sense to me but “Amy” meant the same thing to my ears. I think about changing my name now. I hate the name “Amy” because it never felt right anyway and still doesn’t. But I’m old now, too old to be changing my name and expecting anyone to remember to use it.

Let’s keep going.

My father helped me see myself as someone who could do things. He was a teacher of children with dyslexia and ADHD.

I did abominably on the standardized tests, but I wrote an essay that caught the attention of some sensitive soul at Hope College who saw something in me, something more than the sum of all my shattered parts. They accepted me on probation and I earned all As and one B in the first semester. When I’m not drugged and assaulted I’m capable of quite a bit of success.

RELATED: How Writing About My Rape Made Me Feel Used

So let this be a lesson to all abused children everywhere. No one can take our potential or rob us of our gifts.

We are born to fulfill a promise and fulfill it we must. I feel a force within driving me and no amount of rape or peer bullying — because I experienced quite a lot of that too.

Kids smell the blood on you and if they’re hurting, they want to make someone else hurt too. If you’re hurting more than they, they’re coming for you — but none of them have been able to make me lose faith in me for long. I’ve been delayed, but not destroyed.

Another memory rises from the darkness. Coughing, choking thing. I’m hacking hard without knowledge of where or how old I am. I know who and that’s enough today. I’m healing and she, nor he, can stop that. Can stop me. What were they thinking? That they could get away with it forever? Sure, why not? They always had. I always forgave and forgot. And forgot. And forgot. And forgot again.

Not today. Today I remember, much to my chagrin. I remember.

I believed a lie, lived as if it were true, and organized my life around it. The lie buckled beneath the weight of itself, while the truth simply was, like light and warmth and the sound of rushing water. No one can stop the truth. No one. It will out. The truth will always out.

Amy Punt is the CEO of Punt On Point Media with two Master’s degrees in communication/marketing + directing for film & TV. She writes at the intersection of trauma/mental health/culture.

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.