In addition to being a mother & “Gammy”, I’m a nurse. I need to establish that because it figures prominently in the next parts of my journey; a journey I don’t want to make because it terrifies me to the innermost core. Unfortunately my back is in a corner and I have no other choice. In addition to the heart wrenching grief following the April 21 suicide of my dear friend, I’m plagued with anxiety and nightmares over the upcoming trial. The only time I’m not a wreck is when I first wake however within five minutes my internal clock reminds me that this new day brings me one day closer to trial and I usually begin jaw clenching within the hour.
In six weeks I’ll be sitting in a courtroom because I dared blow the whistle on an employer. In hindsight if they had simply corrected the issue of patient rights being violated, none of this would have happened. Instead, when I went to them following the proverbial chain of command, they waited a few weeks then suspended me for theft. Not just a random run of the mill theft but of (4) anti-nausea pills; a medication so benign that it will probably be over the counter in a few years. What they didn’t know was that just the mention of that word threw me into a complete state of panic; intense emotional flooding so severe that it caused physical pain. To this day, nearly four years later, I don’t know how I drove the 16 miles home nor do I remember the drive. All I remember is being called a thief, which for me is an absolute recipe for disaster. Violent memories which had been safely under control came flying out and surrounded me like a swarm of bees, each sting worse than the previous. Memories that had taken me years to seal deep within individual compartments in my mind were now loose and running rampant. I was a child again and I was branded a thief. The one thing I DO remember is that I couldn’t stop shaking. It was so violent that I was banging my teeth together. How does one get up in the morning, happy with life, at peace with themselves, and in the blink of an eye hear one word, ONE LOUSEY WORD, that has the power to turn their life upside down in ways they never thought possible? I’ve been triggered before. Actually many times. None however had this type of effect on me. No triggers had ever reduced me to being a complete and utter emotional cripple.
I was called a thief by my “mother” from the time she entered my life when I was about 3 years old. I was adopted at age 2 by a man and his wife, both in their 40’s. While the wife had grown daughters from a previous marriage (she was widowed), this was her husbands’ first marriage. Sadly she was diagnosed with bone cancer shortly after the private adoption and was dead within a year. Her husband, now my father, had no idea what to do with a 3-year-old so he found me a new mother ~ in a bar. They married in Atlantic City and voila! Instant family. Of course I didn’t learn all these details till many years later so as a young child thought they were my “Mommy & Daddy”. I thought beatings and being alone all day were what people did. I guess to my child’s mind, my life was normal.
My father worked all day and I was home alone with Mommy. I never remember her engaging in any type of game, physical contact or conversation with me. The rule was that I would stay in my playroom for most of the day until my father came home from work. I was not allowed to go back into my bedroom nor in other parts of our rather large house. I don’t know what she did while I played in the toy room because I never recall her having any friends, only a widowed sister (a lunatic named Viola). My mother rarely watched television and I’d never seen her read a book. Looking back, I believe she had a little world going on in her head so had no need for outside stimulation.
She saw herself as a victim which played prominently in my childhood. She would appear in the playroom and tell me to come with her. She’d take me to her closet and show me one of her “cocktail dresses” as she referred to them. She’d say “Look at this Bunny.” as she pulled out a navy blue dress. “This looks like my cocktail dress but it isn’t. My dress was expensive. This dress is cheap. See that pancake makeup on the shoulder? You know I don’t wear makeup. I don’t need it because I’m Daddy’s child bride. Somebody took my dress and replaced it with one just like it but I’m smarter than them because I saw the pancake makeup. They thought they could fool me but they can’t”. I remember looking at the dress, thinking that it looked like hers. I also knew she used something for her face that she called pancake makeup. She had two tubes, one black and the other white, which she would occasionally remove from her purse and apply. Yet I stood silently while she rambled on. This happened frequently and was usually centered on her clothing being replaced with an identical item but of inferior quality. In my child’s mind I “thought” the items she would drag me out to see looked like hers but she was Mommy so I believed her. So began my introduction to years of fear, fear that the nameless, faceless people would come to steal from us when we were home. What would they do to us? Would they shoot us like on the movies my father watched on weekends? Would we die like the soldiers in those movies?
I’m not sure when the exact transition began but Mommy stopped accusing strangers of stealing her clothing. Instead, she began to target me. She would accuse me of stealing her makeup (the same pancake makeup that she denied using because she was a “child bride”), my fathers razor, just about everything. I remember crying and telling her I didn’t steal anything; that maybe the people did it. It fell on deaf ears as she reiterated that I was the thief and that she would tell my father when he got home from work which always ending with “and you know what that means”.
I knew exactly what that meant. I was going to be beat, the severity dependent on whether he had stopped at a bar for a few drinks. Drunk Daddy was ruthless when he was mad and when he finished pummeling me, would kick me while I was on the floor crying. I would try to reason with him, pointing out that his razor was up high in the bathroom medicine cabinet and that I was too small to reach it but my words fell on deaf ears. In time I began to realize that Mommy enjoyed this almost as if it was a game because I’d often catch a glimpse of her standing nearby with an ever so slight grin on her lips. Shortly after my father left for work in the morning she would appear at the door of the playroom to announce the latest item I’d “stolen”. She’d smile and say “You just wait till your father gets home. Daddy knows how to handle bad girls’”. I think it gave her a perverse sense of pleasure knowing that I was going to have the hell beat out of me. In time, I learned exactly what this psychotic woman was capable of. The beatings were only the tip of the iceberg.