|Biographical Non-Fiction posted March 6, 2009||Chapters:||...36 37 -38- 39...|
Valerie's strange phobias create problems
A chapter in the book A Leaf on the Wind
The emotional and psychological damage from years of sexual abuse and denial by Valerie's family surface in the form of, nightmares, gaps in time, and numerous bizarre phobias creates problems between
Nine-tenths of tactics are certain, and taught in books: but the irrational tenth is like the kingfisher flashing across the pool, and that is the test of generals.
T. E. Lawrence
Richard made little progress on repairing the house. It took five years to get a door for our bedroom. The plumbing continued to be a serious problem. At least twice a month, the water would back up in the kitchen sink, forcing me to wash the dishes in the bathtub. When I complained, Richard would respond saying, "We can't afford to call a plumber."
Richard worked as an Electrical Draftsman and made good money. He always had enough to purchase a new tape deck, bigger speakers, or an equalizer for his stereo, but never enough to fix the leak in the bedroom ceiling, replace the dirt path in the front yard with a concrete sidewalk, or pay for a plumber. Instead, Richard spent all his time making blueprints of the changes he wanted to make in the house. He wanted to incorporate the small porch in the front of the house into the kitchen, add a room onto the back, and turn the attic into two more bedrooms. However, all that came of his elaborate plans were more blueprints.
When I asked when he would fix the leak in the bedroom ceiling, he always said, "I'll take care of that next week".
Next week turned into next month and next month turned into next year.
Even something as simple as replacing a broken window required a tantrum to get him to take notice.
"You need to fix the window before we freeze to death."
The towel Richard taped over the crack three months earlier, did little to keep out the cold winter air.
"Okay, I'll take care of it this weekend"
"NO! Fix it today!" I yelled.
Richard shrugged his shoulders, and said, "Okay". He put on his jacket then got into the truck and drove away.
He returned thirty-minutes later with a large piece of plywood, but no glass. Confused, I asked, "What are you going to do with that?"
Richard set the plywood on the kitchen table and said, "I'm going to nail this over the window. That should keep the cold air out."
"But why don't you just replace the glass?"
"Don't worry, I'll do that this weekend."
Richard never replaced the glass, never fixed the kitchen cupboards, never repaired the plumbing, and over time, the leak in our bedroom ceiling got worse and worse. In Richard's world, next week did not exist.
* * *
Over a period of a two years, I developed a myriad of bizarre fears for which I had no explanation. The sight of a mailbox terrified me. No matter how hard I tried, I could not come up with a logical explanation for why the sight of something so innocuous would send me into a paralyzing panic. My heart beat frantically, my hands sweat profusely, my mouth became so dry I couldn't’ swallow, and I trembled uncontrollably. If Richard gave me something to mail, it would sit in the bottom of my purse for weeks before finally asking Sarah or Tina to mail it on their way to school.
My strange fears were not limited to mailboxes. Often, while working in the garden in the front yard, I found myself instantly filled with uncontrollable terror just seeing someone walk down the street. It did not matter if it was a neighbor or a stranger; I immediately stopped what I was doing, and ran into the house to hide. The terror was so strong my heart felt as if it would burst from beating so fast. The adrenaline pumping through my body made me light-headed and my entire body would shake violently. Sometimes the anxiety only lasted a few minutes, at other times, it continued for hours.
Attending school functions was always a disaster. I forced myself to go, but within minutes after I arrived, I would be sitting in my car hyperventilating. After finding me in the car, Richard would ask me what was wrong.
I lied, saying, "I'm having another migraine. Can you take me home?"
Richard, always accepted my excuses and, like every other school function, we returned home less than an hour after leaving the house.
Amazingly, I hid my fears from everyone, even Richard and the children were unaware of the daily torment I endured.
The nightmares returned. Several nights a week, I would cry out in the middle of the night and wake Richard from a deep sleep. He always comforted me, but when he asked me to tell him about my nightmare, my answer was always the same, "I don't remember it".
Hiding my numerous and bizarre phobias from my family was exhausting. I was terrified Richard and the girls would think I was crazy. I was on edge all the time. I screamed at any sudden noise, a slammed door, or something as simple as the phone ringing sent me into a panic attack.
I began losing small blocks of time again. I would be washing the breakfast dishes and suddenly find myself weeding the garden. Occasionally I would find a new dress, or blouse hanging in the closet with no memory of where it came from. Sometimes, the receipt would still be in my purse allowing me the opportunity to return the items. However, too often, I would find myself having to explain to Richard why I had bought yet another new dress or another pair of shoes. My explanations were feeble and only made him angry that I was spending too much money on things we did not need.
When he balanced the checkbook, I wanted to hide under the bed. It was always the same; I screwed up again.
"God Damn it, Valerie! You forgot to write down check number 302, 303 and 304. How the hell am I supposed to know how much money we have in the bank, if you don't write them down?"
Riddled with guilt, I remained silent while Richard lectured me on how I was driving him crazy.
"How hard can it be to enter the check and amount in the damn register?"
"I'm sorry" was all I could say.
I wanted to tell him about the gaps, but my fear that he would think I was crazy, kept me silent. Assuming I probably bought something I didn't need, added to my growing anxiety anticipating Richard's anger when the checks finally cleared the bank. All I could do was hope that it would not happen again.
Between my frustration with Richard for not fixing the problems around the house and his anger with me for spending too much money, the tension between us grew. Although we seldom yelled, we fought constantly. Sometimes we went days without speaking to each other.
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