And I can hear two voices. The first is that of the child - hurt, bewildered, confused. The second is of the parent - telling me to get a grip. Usually I listen to the parent. This time I am not.
It is said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So I might be on the sidelines at the moment, but phew! Thank goodness I'm not insane!
When I lived with my Mum and Step-father, it wasn't just the sexual abuse I had to deal with. If everything else in the garden had been rosy, save a couple of inappropriate nocturnal visits, I may be living a different life by now. But instead my sister and I had to deal with years of mental abuse. No wonder I am a little confused.
My Step-father was a misogynist and a control freak. Six months after moving to live with him, the whole family moved to a 3 storey council house. Under the pretence of 'not wanting your Mum to shout up the stairs', he installed an intercom system on all floors and used it to surreptitiously listen in to our conversations. Shortly after this he received a pair of field binoculars for Christmas, and used them to spy on the neighbourhood, make lewd comments on the state of the women walking past the end of the street and watch to see whether any boys were turning up at my friend's house (they were side on to us - we could see in to their windows, they couldn't see in to ours). He also had the uncanny knack of appearing out of nowhere if ever I was anywhere I wasn't meant to be. As the years rolled on it was evident that he was going through our rooms, looking for evidence of things that he could get upset about, and soon enough Mum was one step ahead of him trying to protect herself from another battering. Nothing was sacred.
I could have a normal, sane conversation with him about boys or friends which two weeks later would be twisted around and used to prove to my Mum that her girls 'were taking the piss' out of them both and that she needed to take action to correct it.
And of course, every morning after a monumental fight - whether we had to step in or not - my Mum would be frantically trying to control the situation by telling us that our Step-father just dealt with things differently, that this was something that she would deal with - this was for adults - and not to go making any trouble or make mountains out of molehills.
So every day I would go to school and put on a mask of 'nothing to see here' and pretend to be normal. And do everything I could to prevent friends (and enemies) from getting my phone number, inviting me out, calling round to the house. Every invite was met with an automatic 'No' and an excuse. I was so well practised. And anyway, if they really found out what was going on and what I was letting him do to me - then what would they think? And where would that get me, given that as a cover-up team, my Mum and Step-father were virtually professional. "Oh you know what teenagers are like - always wanting attention. She's just being silly because..."
So all of those years, I told myself that my feelings did not count, that the pain I felt wasn't real, that I was just making mountains out of molehills, that I had nothing to make a fuss about and that people wouldn't understand anyway. I became a master of the art of disconnecting from my feelings - switching off, shutting down, locking everything away.
Since I've left home, the feelings haven't diminished - the pain is still there, untapped. It feels as though it has grown so huge that I am too afraid to touch it - as though I might spontaneously combust with the sheer size of the rage. And now that I am further away from the events that caused all of the pain in the first place, it seems even more surreal for it still to be there and so disassociated with my current life for it to be even less understood than it was before.
Another thing that I have noticed about depression is that people don't really want to know. And I can understand why. People are afraid of it - they don't know how to help or what to say. All they want is for you to be better, for you to be back to normal, sooner rather than later. And this isn't a criticism of my friends, because unless you have been there it is hard to understand and I can't say I have felt any differently when faced with a depressed friend myself. (Note: this is what I love about blogging, because, actually, I don't need anyone to provide a solution, just to listen and 'be there'. And you, my blogging friends, have been outstanding in your support. Seriously.)
All of my life, there is one question that has helped me to keep pushing people away, no matter what my current circumstances: "How are you?" because I have always had to lie.
People ask 'How are you?' and what they want to hear is 'Great, thanks! How are you?' But the question for me has always taken me back to the time when I was so desperate for someone to spot that things were not normal, the times when my forced 'nothing to see here' smile hid a great pain, masked a silent plea of can't anyone see what is going on here? which was begging for someone to step in and help. And nobody ever did. How fabulous have I been in concealing this pain?
The truth is that the pain has never diminished in size or vanished. It has always been there, waiting for me - even during my happiest moments when I thought that my past was in my past, it has been lurking, waiting for a challenge. I have made excuses to leave parties early and not understood why I couldn't connect with people, why I felt a sinking feeling in my heart of separation from all of the people there. Why, even when I am happy, I still feel a downward lurch when anyone asks 'How are you?'
Well, now I finally know. All of the years when I thought I was 'coping', all of the things I have achieved, all of the times I pulled myself together, all of the times I thought that my past was behind me, that I felt I had finally moved on - all illusion. The pain was still there, patiently waiting for the wake-up call.
Oh, can I hear alarm bells ringing? Message finally received and understood.
Time to plummet the depths to retrieve the gold.
Time to deal.