I keep having these dreams that my parents are keeping my husband away from me, or me away from him, like they did 12 years ago, only worse. Sometimes they have me locked up somewhere, sometimes they deny he ever existed. Always I’m trapped and defenseless and frantically searching for him, trying to find him, to get back to him. Always I can’t find him, or he can’t hear me, and my parents gain control and drag me away from him.
In the last dream I had, I woke up and was back in my childhood home near Seattle. I was scared, I ran upstairs from my basement room, asking where my children were, where my husband was. Everyone looked confused and didn’t know what I was talking about. They treated me like I was mentally unstable and insane and making stuff up. They said I didn’t have any children, that we’d never moved to eastern WA, and that I’d never been in love or married. I became frantic, begging them to let me out, to go search for my family. They refused and locked me in the basement, saying it was for my own good, that I was sick. I started to think they were right, but something happened to make me sure that I did have children, that I was married, that I had a life, and that I had to fight with everything I had to get out of that house and away from those people who claimed to be my family and claimed to love me. I knew that my kids were missing me and my husband was probably looking for me, they probably all thought I’d run off and didn’t love them anymore and that broke my heart. I sat in the basement room, screaming, bloodying my knuckles trying to escape. I knew I wasn’t crazy but….what if I was? What if they were right and there is no husband, no children, and I am truly sick, trying to escape walls that keep me safe?
I hate these dreams.
I hate that 10 years after I won and took control and chose my own way in my life, I still fear being controlled.
I still fear losing control over my own life and losing the man and children who are mine. I can still feel the agony and helplessness of being trapped, even though the cage was really in my own mind and theirs and nothing physical was keeping me from walking away back then, only spiritual manipulation and fear. I wonder when these dreams will ever stop. I wake up from these dreams in a panic, reaching for my husband, putting my hand on my baby son in his crib next to me, tangible evidences that I am in my own bed, in my own home, in my own life.
And I try to reconcile in my mind the parents I know now who come to visit to bring gifts to their grandkids and have coffee in the mornings and do a little bit of life with us, with the parents back then who controlled and manipulated and who had convinced me they had power over me and my choices and whom I believed. And I wonder how long I can keep saying “my parents weren’t abusive, they weren’t like those horror stories you read about. They loved us” as I wake up in a cold sweat from these dreams. Do motives really matter in the end? Because it was the actions that broke me; their motives can’t fix that. I wonder if we are ever going to talk about it, to go back there and expose all the ugliness that was my life 12 years ago, and if I will ever stop having these nightmares if we don’t.
I am 30 years old, a successful mother and student and advocate. I control my life and my choices. I am loved deeply by the man I share my life with, the man who fought for me. I have four children whose lives I nurture and guide. I chose to live every day with a whole heart, with vulnerability, with honesty, with empathy, with authenticity, with deep joy in my amazing life and my beautiful family. Yet one dream every few months with the same theme over and over again, touching a very broken place in my soul, and I am completely undone. I have to fight yet again to convince myself that no one controls me but me. That I am free and no one can take that from me.
This is the power of childhood psychological abuse, emotional abuse, and spiritual abuse.
It breaks parts of us that no one can see. That often even we can’t see. But that are evident in the panic attacks, the recoiling from normal things, the nightmares.The rage that comes out of nowhere as an instinctual defense. The feeling of being a helpless child again. The confusion when presented with two differing stories of the same incident and being told yours is the incorrect version.
This story isn’t over. But as dark and unfinished as it is, it’s a necessary one to tell right now, in this moment, so others living the same story don’t feel quite so alone. We fight and we win. I know we win. I have already won so much. And I’m not finished yet.