Biographical Non-Fiction posted March 9, 2009 Chapters:  ...38 39 -40- 41... 


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Valerie connot contol her obsessive thoughts.

A chapter in the book A Leaf on the Wind

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

by S. Pumpkin



Background
Sexually abused as a child Valerie suffers from psychological damage. Nightmares, hallucinations, seizures, and gaps in time. Although she tries to put the past behind her, her mind is constantly fil

“We can ignore reality, but we cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.”

Ayn Rand



While Richard continued to ignore the inside of the house, I focused all my energy and time on the yard.  In spring, I planted a large vegetable garden in the backyard with corn, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, beans, squash and pumpkin.  From April through the end of September, I mowed the grass twice a week and spent several hours each day weeding the flower garden.  I planted dahlias, gladiolas, tulips and lilies between the twenty-five rose bushes that lined both sides of the pathway leading up to the house, and during the summer more than thirty rhododendrons and azaleas bloomed throughout the yard. 

When I was not working in the yard, I spent my time making stuffed animals, dolls and Halloween costumes for the girls.  Sewing became an obsession.  I made three and four of everything and began to sell them to neighbors and friends.  From word of mouth alone, I developed a profitable small business selling my stuffed giraffes, elephants, tigers, rabbits, monkeys, dragons, hippopotamuses, bears and beautiful cloth dolls. 

My day began at six in the morning and I seldom went to bed before two in the morning.  Despite the heavy demand of my new business, I made a point to find time every day to spend with the girls and work in the garden. 

Memories of my father, my family's betrayal, and my anger were always just beneath the surface. Sitting at the sewing machine, while weeding the garden, or sitting at the table drinking a cup of coffee my mind would wander.  I relived every argument between my mother and my sisters, trying to think of something I could have said that would have made a difference. Rehashing the past was pointless and only added to the anger I already felt. I often wondered with whom I was angrier; my father for what he did or, my family for the years of denial, or, when they could no longer deny what he was doing, ignoring the danger he continued to pose. 

Kneeling in the garden, I recalled one of many conversations with my mother. 

"Valerie, you don't have a very high opinion of yourself." 

I laughed and said, "I have a very high opinion of myself. The problem is I can't seem to find anyone else who agrees with me." 

Mom shook her head and said. "That is absurd." 

Angry, I snapped, "You certainly don't think much of me. If you did, you would have thrown Daddy out long ago instead of ignoring me every time I asked you to help. You never gave a damn about me and you certainly didn't want to know what he was doing." 

"Of course I did! How can you say that?" Mom asked. 

I shook my head and yelled. "You never asked!" 

The truth was something I demanded from everyone but the real truth was, I was guilty of lying to myself. Despite years of telling myself otherwise, I really didn't have a very high opinion of myself. 

Although I was a child when my father started abusing me, I berated myself for allowing him to take advantage of me.  I felt I should have known better than to believe his threats to send me away if I told anyone our secret.  In my mind, the term "our secret" implied complicity. My stupidity allowed the abuse to go on for as long as it did. I was overwhelmed by a tremendous sense of guilt for foolishly believing I could protect my little sisters. I clearly hadn't done enough. 

A simple afternoon in the garden, or a quiet evening sewing, always turned into a painful mental walk down memory lane. 

I told myself I had survived Daddy's abuse, but the reality was I still felt ugly, dirty and terribly ashamed. Nothing I said or did could erase the fact that my father had raped me and forced me to do horrible and disgusting things. I wanted to forget the past but my rage kept every ugly memory alive inside me. My family's refusal to view Daddy as the deviant he was, made it impossible for me to move forward. I was thirty-four-years-old and still trying to understand why no one cared enough to help me.  My family always made me feel like I was an outsider who didn't belong.  However, despite my constant anger and frustration with my family, I missed them. 

Fluctuating back and forth between rage and loneliness was exhausting. My nightmares increased in frequency and I began to experience night terrors again. I tried to keep busy but as time passed, I felt myself sinking into a big black hole of depression. 

I lost my appetite, seldom slept more than two or three hours a night, and my enthusiasm for my business and working in the yard all but disappeared. 

After getting the girls off to school in the morning, I spent the entire day sitting on the couch reminiscing about my family and reliving every ugly, disgusting and depraved thing Daddy had ever done to me. I seldom left the house and refused to answer the door or telephone. Richard and I seldom spoke. He was working so much overtime that when he came home he was always tired and went straight to bed. 

My life had become a predictable pattern of two steps forward and one-step back. Just when I felt my past was finally behind me, I would find myself mired down in depression and filled with uncontrollable rage. I asked myself over and over, why can't I let it go? 

Although Richard was aware of the conflict between my family and me, he didn't know the cause. Frustrated with my unpredictable mood swings he said, "Valerie, you are addicted to chaos.  You are not happy unless you are angry." 

Richard was right.  My relationship with my family was much like an addiction to a powerful drug.  The anger I experienced reliving my past was painful, but my obsession with getting my family to admit they were wrong was so strong, it consumed me.  No matter how hard I tried to move on with my life, the past was always there ready to rear its ugly head.


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I have been told hippopotamuses should be spelled hippopatomi...apparently both are correct...go figure.
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