I’ve been in therapy for a long, long time, throughout most of my teenage and adult years. I’ve been trying to deal with living with a disorder that feels like I’m strapped into a roller coaster for life and it’s not pretty, sometimes. I’ve also been trying to get beyond the first eleven years of my life, when my dad was in the picture. I know I’ve mentioned him before, as the genetic reason I’m fighting with bipolar disorder now, and why I don’t touch alcohol or cigarettes. I suffered a lot of emotional abuse at his hands, but he never hit me, so I never thought he’d physically abused me- until I remembered the scar on my knee during my session on Saturday.
It was shortly before the start of second grade. We were living in the house with no heat at the time, because it was all propane heated and we couldn’t afford the propane. It wasn’t a big deal, because we’d moved there in the summer and we had lots of blankets to ward off evening chills. The stove was electric, so we could heat up water for a bath (the water heater ran on propane, too.) It was a huge house and I had my own room, which was a novelty, and a huge backyard, which was the only escape I had. I don’t remember much of what was happening that particular day, just that I was sitting and watching my dad assemble and solder a circuit board. My dad was an electronics buff, and he was explaining what he was doing while he was working. Without warning, he reached out and stabbed me in the knee with the soldering iron. Through my tears, and his laughter, he insisted that he didn’t think it was that hot and I was just being a wuss. He also threatened me to not tell my mom, so I didn’t. I don’t think I ever did. It wasn’t a very large wound, as he’d burned right on top of my kneecap, so there wasn’t much to burn.
As I was recounting that story, other memories were coming to the fore, of being burned by careless cigarettes, a dozen other little ‘accidents’ that I couldn’t tell mom about. So I kept quiet, and willfully forgot about them, scared to tell my mother about what he’d done to me. Until Saturday, where I was blubbering like the terrified child I had been, finally able to tell someone that dad had abused me. It only took twenty years for the story to come to light, and I honestly was more afraid of what he might have done to my brother and sister. Was I the only victim?
Mom always said if he laid a hand on one of us, she’d wrap a baseball bat around his skull. I believed her. Dad always said if I didn’t get perfect grades, he’d kill me. I believed him. I grew up very, very terrified.
My doctor has been debating an official diagnosis of PTSD for a while, but when I started blubbering and remembering awful things, and told her about the horrific nightmares I have, she decided it’s official. I’m not sure if I’m happy about it or not, but it definitely explains why I have nightmares, and why I am so very scared of failure. Maybe I’m still afraid that dad will show up and kill me for not being perfect.