From the Journal of an Incest Survivor
My head is thick today. Cottony. My focus is off although somehow, by sheer force of will, I have managed to get a lot accomplished. Even still, it’s not the level of productivity that I expect from myself. I spend time, perhaps more than I should, on wondering what my life would be like if “the abuse” hadn’t happened. Who would I be? What would I be doing right now in that other life, that parallel universe? Would I be a doctor? A lawyer? A policewoman? Maybe a philosophy teacher. At any rate, this is where I ended up and by some miracle I have created, with my partner, a beautiful family. An enchanted life certainly- if you asked a bystander. The sexual abuse I experienced at the hands of my father has not prevented me from being smack dab in the middle of an incredible and wonderful life. I am blessed and grateful.
I’m also pissed off. I’m mad that every fucking memory I have of high school and learning and classrooms and structure is overshadowed by the cloud of shame and trauma I was carrying around and still do carry some days.
I’m pissed off because my high school career consisted of me trying not to put my head in our gas oven. I slept through most of my classes and nobody seemed to care or notice. I slipped through the cracks and when other kids were touring colleges I was napping or reading a book or pouring a bottle of red wine down my throat. Books allowed me to escape in almost the same way booze and cigarettes did. I could leave my body and go somewhere better. Somewhere peaceful. Even if the plot of the book was disturbing, I could achieve a level of peace just by turning the pages and tracing the words with my eyes. I loved the way books smelled, looked and felt. I loved creating voices in my head for each protagonist. Reading made me feel something other than the heaviness of lugging my body around each moment and that was sweet relief to me.
Anyway, the point of all of this is to say that I feel robbed of my chance to have an academic career and I think I am going to have to go back to school. Dammit.
I feel grateful to be at a place in my life where it is actually an option-to go back to school. In fact, I feel grateful I was able to go to school at all. I know a lot of people on this planet aren’t afforded what seems to me to be a basic requirement for life. So, at the risk of sounding spoiled, I’m annoyed that I have to be thinking about this at a time in my life where I should be able to focus solely on my family without battling feelings of intellectual inferiority.
I also wonder if going back to school will fix whatever I feel is wrong with me. Not having my bachelor’s degree or a place to tell someone when the dreaded question comes, “Where did you go to school?” has left me feeling insecure and somehow less than my peers. Here’s the trouble: I was called stupid nearly every day in my childhood- either by a peer or a care giver. Never my mother thank God! But certainly, by my father. Here’s more trouble: I know in my head I’m smart or at least smart enough. I’ve done very well on all sorts of IQ tests including one performed by the government. And there was that half year I did manage all A’s without too much exertion but still, I don’t feel smart in my heart, in my belly. I wonder I this is something that can ever be healed? What would it take for me to truly embrace the idea that I am intelligent? On a bad day I feel as dumb and numb as a rock. Writing helps me. Journaling helps me. Continuing to read helps me. But it’s still there, this wound, lurking and always rearing its ugly head in social situations that are by nature already awkward. Someday, I would like to have an answer to the question, “Where did you go to school?”