|Biographical Non-Fiction posted March 18, 2009||Chapters:||...52 53 -54- 55...|
Valeire is in the hospital again.
A chapter in the book A Leaf on the Wind
Dancing with the Devil
Sexually abused as a child, Valerie grows into an adult with severe psychological problems. Her marriage is over and her relationship with her children is strained. Severely depressed she attempts s
"In the last analysis, the individual person is responsible for living his own life and for 'finding himself.' If he persists in shifting his responsibility to somebody else, he fails to find out the meaning of his own existence."
A female voice I did not recognize said, “We put a breathing tube down your throat, so trying to swallow will only make you gag.”
Above me, I could hear the shush-click, shush-click of a machine pumping air into my lungs. While I lay on my back, unable to talk or move, I tried to remember what happened and why I was in the hospital. My mind was a complete blank.
I spent two days in the intensive care unit before they removed the breathing tube. A few hours later, I finally met Dr. L, my new doctor. Despite my misgivings, he turned out to be exactly what I needed. He began with a simple question, “Tell me about yourself.”
I chuckled aloud. “I don’t know where to begin.”
“Start wherever you want,” Dr L said, playfully.
I opened my mouth and to my surprise, a lifetime of anger and frustration flowed out with incredible ease and enthusiasm.
“My whole life is a mess,” I began. “No matter how hard I try, the past haunts me. I have horrible nightmares that leave me so emotionally exhausted I cannot function. Every relationship I get into ends in a disaster. My last boyfriend treated me like shit, but I stuck it out hoping he would change. He broke into my house and killed my cat and now my daughter, Sarah, is terrified to stay in the house. I lost my job because I stood up to my boss who accused me of screwing every man I worked with. She gets a reprimand and I lose my job. How’s that for justice?”
“You didn’t get fired because you were falsely accused,” Dr L said, correctively. “You got fired because of your temper.”
“How do you know that?” I asked.
Dr. L. smiled and said, “I do my homework.”
“Okay, she made me angry. But you would have been angry too.”
“Yes, I would be very angry, but your temper has gotten you in trouble before, hasn’t it?” Dr L asked, sympathetically.
“But if I don’t stand up for myself, who will?” I asked defensively.
“I am not disputing your right to defend yourself. I am just saying that anger is not the best way to get people to listen to you.”
“I have been angry my whole life,” I surmised. “Anger has become an intricate part of who I am. I honestly cannot remember not being angry.”
“Tell me more about what was going on the day you cut your wrist,” Dr L said.
I looked down at my left hand. I still could not remember doing it.
“I guess I just couldn’t take it anymore,” I exclaimed. “I cannot sleep. I have nightmares every night. Everything frightens me. I hide from my neighbors. I lose time, I find myself in places with no memory of how I got there. My children spend most of their time with their father because I am afraid of what I might say or do when they are around. I think about my family all the time and it is driving me crazy. I don’t remember cutting my wrist, but I have no trouble understanding why I did it. I simply cannot go on like this.”
“Valerie, tell me what do you want?”
The answer was easy. “I want to be happy. I want to be normal. I want to stop obsessing over the past. I want to be a good mother to my children. Got any brilliant ideas on how I can do that?”
“It is not going to be easy but together we can find a way for you to become the person you were meant to be,” Dr L said soothingly.
I chuckled to myself. “I cannot imagine being anything other than what I am.”
Dr L regarded me without saying anything.
“You want to know the truth?” I asked. “I have never thought about what I wanted to be. I have lived my entire life focused on one thing, my father and my family’s denial of what he did. There has never been anything else. That IS who I am.”
“And what’s that?” Dr L challenged.
“An angry little girl who has spent her whole life dancing with the devil,” I said without hesitation.
“Tell me about the devil.”
“The devil is all the memories I live with every day of my life,” I explained. “When my father died, I honestly believed I would finally be free, but I was wrong. Instead, the devil has just grown bigger and stronger and I realize now he will always be with me.”
“That’s not true,” Dr L said authoritatively. “I know it is difficult for you to imagine, but I honestly believe you can learn to live a normal life free of the anger and rage this devil has caused you.”
Once again Dr. L. changed the subject.
“How long has it been since you have spoken to your mother?”
“Not since I confronted her about Tina nearly two years ago,” I told him.
“How do you feel about her?”
“I hate her,” I ranted. “I hate my whole family.”
“I read in your chart that you don’t feel love,” Dr L said. “Could you please explain that to me.”
“I don’t know exactly when it happened,” I said. “I just woke up one day and it was gone. I could still feel the love I had for others but I never felt the love others claimed they had for me. There is a big empty hole in my heart where love is supposed to be.”
“Isn’t life difficult without love?” Dr L asked.
“Not really.” I remarked expertly. “I have found other ways to know how someone feels about me. The tone of their voice, their body language, and the words they use when talking to me. People who love you don’t turn their back on you when you ask for help, and people who love you don’t lie about you.”
“Have you considered that their denial of his abuse is their way of dealing with your father?”
“Of course I have. But their lies have made my life a living hell.” I ranted on. “Not only did I have to deal with what my father did, I also had to deal with everyone punishing me for telling the truth. I don't give a shit how they deal with Daddy, but what they did to me was wrong.”
“They hurt you deeply didn’t they?” Dr L asked. The sympathetic tone of his voice was an encouraging foil to a confession.
“That’s an understatement.” I said, feeling I could tell him anything.
“They broke my heart. Common sense tells me to forget them, but something inside me will not let go. As much as I hate them, I still miss them very much.”
“If you hate them why do you miss them?” Dr L countered.
I wasn’t prepared for that question. I wasn’t sure I had an answer. After what felt like an endless silence, I finally spoke.
“Teresa and I have never been close,” I explained. “We have never really had a conversation. She has never shown any interest in me, whatsoever. Once, she told me she only tolerated me because I was her sister. She said, if we were not related, I would not be someone she would ever want to be friends with.”
Dr L studied me. “How did that make you feel?”
“It hurt my feelings, but even more, it reminded me how much I wanted to be loved,” I confessed. “I had no real idea how love was supposed to feel but I knew I wanted to feel it.”
“Can you think of any time when you even came close to feeling love?”
“Yes,” I said nodding. “When my cousin died the entire family went to the funeral. At the wake there was music playing and my sister Mary asked me to dance. It was odd because it was a slow song, not something girls usually dance to. While we were dancing, I felt Mary start to shake. It was a gentle shaking but it caught me off guard. She held me very tight and I suddenly realized tears were streaming down her cheeks.”
“How did that make you feel?”
“I knew it meant she loved me,” I said with conviction. “But I have to be honest; I felt absolutely nothing.”
“What about the love of your children?” Dr L asked.
“That’s a completely different thing. Children love you unconditionally. I have never doubted the love of my children.”
“That’s not what I asked you,” Dr L. corrected
“I know. I was avoiding giving you an answer,” I remarked. “It embarrasses me to say I do not feel their love. Even when they were little babies I couldn’t feel it.”
Dr L fixed his eyes firmly on mine. “That must be terrible.”
“Actually, the love I feel for them fills the emptiness,” I added quickly. “I love them more than anything in the world. And, it is enough knowing they love me.”
“When you say you sometimes miss your family, what do you mean?” Dr L persisted.
I considered his question for a moment and then said, “I miss being wanted. I have never felt wanted.”
Dr L sighed. “Valerie, you have been through more than most people. But you cannot give up. Killing yourself is not the answer."
He paused for a moment, and then said, "Do you know what my definition of suicide is?”
“No, tell me.”
Dr. L. leaned forward and took my hand. “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” he said dramatically. “Valerie, this may be your last chance. The next time you try to kill yourself you will probably succeed.”
With tears in my eyes, I said, “Then we better figure out how to kill the devil pretty damn quick.”
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The stress in Valerie's life is more than she can handle. The gaps in time have become dangerous. She wakes up in the hospital with no memory of cutting her wrists. Her new doctor puts her at ease and she opens up to him with surprising ease.Pays one point and 2 member cents.
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