Prisoner Of My Past

The lives of many are altered forever in the fraction of a moment it takes to cross the line, but none more profoundly than the one who has no choice but to unwillingly and blindly follow.

Secrets and excuses. Manipulation and lies. The ultimate betrayal. The characters in this insane performance? A father and his daughter.

From the very start, everything was very calculated. There were no threats, no promises. There were just quiet violations of my body and soul. Every fiber of my being screamed of the wrongfulness, yet bound by the chains of my innocence, I never uttered a word, thinking perhaps that would be the last time. It was always so confusing. Never really knowing what was happening, yet knowing it was not supposed to be happening. This man, my father, the one who I chose to protect me in this lifetime, was crossing that line over and over again without a hint of regret or apology.

Trying to take his lead like nothing was amiss, I played the game well. Light conversation, everyday routines. In an attempt to gain his approval and affection in other ways, I tried talking to him, sharing my accomplishments, but our conversations were strained and superficial. He remained distant and never showed any interest in being a part of a “normal” relationship. I went through the motions of childhood feeling insignificant and invisible and at the same time the most watched person in the house. Running away was always a plan in the works. Anything was better than living in his house, under his terms. As time dragged on, however, I became adept at avoiding those eyes and staying out of sight.

My memories are injected with the watchful and suspicious glances from my mother. She knew what he was capable of. She knew it could happen, but through her own denial or ignorance compounded by my inability to tell her, I continued to endure this alone. It was a strange balancing act – the proverbial elephant in the living room – going about our daily lives, trying to ignore that obstruction that was driving a wedge though our family.

It was sometime before I had the courage to expose what had happened, but it wasn’t in the most nurturing of environments. I was using it more like ammunition. Faced with the possibility of being grounded for the rest of my life, it spilled out how he had taken advantage of me, how over the years he betrayed both my mother and me. Strangely enough, the words finally said, I felt nothing. No relief, no lightening of my burden. As I searched her eyes for some sign of compassion, some shock, my gaze was met with coldness. She went to confront my father and came back moments later telling me he denied it. End of subject. I got grounded anyway.

For ten years after I moved out of the house, we lost touch. My father forbade contact with me, and my mother did nothing to stop this river of silence from growing wider. For him, was I a threat to his secret? For her, a painful reminder of what happened? By no doing of my own, a crime was committed and I was the one who was convicted.

Three decades later I am left with an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. The memories are painfully clear. Each day offers many distractions to keep me focused in the present, but every once in awhile I feel my mind’s shoulder being tapped and when I turn around, the visions stare me in the face, daring me to look further. They sting me brutally for a moment before my mind snaps me back to the present. How much do I remember? How much did I forget? Is there something more? Something worse? My mind is fiercely loyal, protecting me from seeing or remembering too much.

Priding myself as being a survivor, I stoically shrug off that time in my life as if it were just a bad relationship. Strong? Accepting? Perhaps. Self-preserving denial is a possibility.

As much as I would like to believe it did not alter my core, it really did. I find it difficult to go to people for help, to express what I feel. I often stand alone, choosing to carry my burdens, however large or small, in silence.

The scars run deep and no amount of time will heal these wounds. For me, no amount of talking or analyzing will erase the disgust, disbelief, and sadness I feel for the family that was torn apart. Forgiveness is not an option. How can I forgive someone who intentionally disregarded my right to privacy to satisfy his own needs? My childhood was like being in a continuous hail storm. Little by little my spirit was being chipped away as I stood by helplessly.

The years have passed. My mother died without so much of a mention of those years. My father, who left my mother many years ago, has been out of my life and will never again be a part of it. But wherever he is, wherever I am, we are bound by the past, however unforgivable, however unforgettable.

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  1. Your words, once again, bring me to tears. I spent my entire childhood wondering about my cousin and why my mother would not allow me to meet you and your family. I wish I could have been there for you sweet cousin and am grateful that you are in my life now. You are so inspiring to me. Yes, you are a survivor, but even more than that, you are brave and bold and refuse to hide in your past. Your words- your beautiful gift of story telling has set you free from the chains that once bound you to your past. Your words will heal many, including me. Your sweet, loving spirit will soar and carry your voice to those who need to hear it, reminding them they are not alone. And because you will touch so many souls and heal so many broken spirits, you will always be surrounded by love.

    I am so grateful for you.

    • Toria, I don’t think I could ever express enough gratitude that you are a part of my life. You inspire me to be better and to rise above my own past and to forge a different future. Thank you for being there for me.

  2. You are one my heroes. A hero to me is one who responds to the force within that insists on living fully and authentically, regardless of the conditions – past and present – of one’s life.

    You are like a lotus flower, determined to reach its highest potential, not only to fulfill its personal destiny, but to touch and influence the destiny of others.

    The world has not known the depth and severity of your woundedness, yet, through the gift of your written word and the sharing of yourself with others who are also wounded, you offer healing to the soul.

    May many come to this fountain to be nourished and refreshed.

    • Thank you, Popo. Your words me so much to me. More than I can say. You’ve always been there for me even when we drift apart. You are a comfort to me and I hold you close to my heart across the miles between us. Again, thank you.

  3. You deserved the birthright to grow up with a loving father and yet he snatched it away and threw in your face. It’s not fair! I can only imagine the memories you are bound to like chains shackled around your feet. I pray that these chains be broken free form you, forever. I know you’ve been healing and hope that sharing your past with others releases an overwhelming peace in you. From what’s considered taboo in our society has long since turned into a common place for healing. Thank you for being willing to heal others on your road to heal yourself. May you be blessed on your journey. I hurt for you. I’m sorry on behalf of your parents for failing you. Don’t ever forget what a wonderful person you’ve become and are still becoming. A wonderful mother, wife, friend, and cousin! I love you.

  4. Dear Diana – I have just finished reading this. Although we only know each other through our Wana group, I wish I could meet you in person, look into your eyes and then hug you. It takes courage to speak truths such as you have, the depth of which I can only imagine. I hope this is a big step forward to happiness and success in your life with your sons. Keep writing!

  5. Diana, I relate.

    My dad left us, and we went to live with my grandparents. My grandfather was my abuser. When I told, I wasn’t believed. After therapy and decades of therapy, I still felt ice water rush through me reading your words. I’m here if you need someone. Someone who understands.

    You and I are survivors, and we should be very proud!

    Take care,
    Cheryel

  6. This is incredibly painful to read. I’m so sorry your childhood was blighted in this way. There’s nothing anyone can say to erase it, but I hope the rest of your life has been and will continue to be much better.

  7. I feel cold. I honestly don’t know what else to say. I want to put my arm around you and cry.

  8. Writing is a form of therapy and your written expression is excellent. You are brave and strong. Continue to help others with your words as you help yourself.

  9. Way easier said than done. But you can let go. You can give yourself permission to “not be able to forgive, right now” and give a Higher Power the job. But do forgive yourself. You were a child and you behaved like a child. More importantly you grew up, grew strong, and you recognize the harm that was done. Well done! Celebrate the child who had the wisdom to find herself and to grow out of a bad situation. She’s worth celebrating.

  10. Diana, I’ll be honest. I’ve been working my way through our WANA groups, trying to place people and get to know them. It’s a fabulous group of people, but sometimes overwhelming. You stood out from the start with your generous #FF listings, but I just got around to exploring your blog, FB pages, etc.

    What a beautiful soul you have. I’ve been there too (not my father, but my babysitter’s son). I’m sure my mother knew, but she was a single mother working too hard and needed a cheap babysitter. People tell me “forgive and forget.” I reply “forgiveness is not an option.” Just those words, Diana. Forgetting allows history to repeat. What people (who’ve not experienced this) don’t understand is that lack of forgiveness doesn’t fester inside us, it makes us stronger, wiser and more compassionate. Yes, a conundrum. Now is our time to shine. Keep shining, Diana!

  11. Diana we definitely have much in common. I am currently blogging my memoir of sibling incest on my blog http://wp.me/P24UEA-2 or http://suzannehill1978.wordpress.com

    Debra is right, to forgive and forget you never learn from the history of the past and it repeats itself. I thank her for sending me to your blog. There are so many of us suffering out there and I’d welcome hearing from others having gone through similar situations. This is more previlent than has ever been published. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” has many meanings; in this particular case it means you will probably keep it to yourself because you are too afraid to tell anyone!

    If you are keeping silent out of fear, please don’t, I didn’t work in this area, but I’m a good listener and will advise you, as my family advised me, get help. It took a nervous breakdown before at the age of 50 and trying to put it behind me before it totally took over my entire life.

    I stand tall and proud now. When I was little and felt I had no one I could tell and had to hold it in all those years, I had no voice. Nothing, but nothing can put me down! Now, I let my fingers do the talking!

  12. You have eloquently put down in words something that doesn’t exist in the realm (even the neighboring realm) of eloquence. Your struggle is shared by too many…so much so its disheartening.

    I agree with Debra and Suzanne, don’t ever forgot, don’t ever forgive. Forgiveness is a state of letting go of something better shed from your existence. Something you allow yourself to cut out because you fought hard for it as someone who was strong, but someone stronger won. But, something that happens to an innocent should never be forgiven. Already your childhood was ruined by having that innocence exploited and left you trying to be the grown-up way too early; you essentially lost your childhood. You can never get that back and the person who took it away from you should feel the shame and guilt they forced on you. Because they don’t, never forgive. It balances it out. Keeps you safe. Let’s you see signs others can’t see because they don’t have the radar this experience gives them.

    But, you also need to be open about it. Talk with those you trust. I sat my brother and sister down and told them exactly what happened, so they had the story straight from me and not rumors that keep getting further and further away from the truth as it is passed from person to person. So they know exactly what their father was capable of and the subtle signs to watch for so they or their children wouldn’t have to go through what I did.

    To quote an 80’s cartoon I used to watch, “Knowledge is power.”

  13. Terri Kane Martin Layfield

    Diana, you are an amazing woman!!! ❤

  1. Pingback: To Forgive And Forget – Easier Said Than Done « Diana Murdock's Blog

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