When I was a child, the back and side yards of our house bordered on a hilly stretch of forest that went on for miles in all directions. At sixteen, I had a particularly vivid nightmare that has never left my mind since. It was a midwinter night, the ground was covered in snow and I was running for my life up in those hills, being chased by two wolves. At the end of the dream, I stumbled and fell into a hole in the ground; within a second the wolves were looking down in on me, snarling with their teeth open, then they pounced. I woke up screaming, though of course just like in the dream I was alone in that moment, as no one cared what happened to me. I suppose I was lucky that my mother didn’t scream at me the next day for waking her up…
On Wednesday I felt very sick in mid-afternoon, signifying that there was something major about to erupt inside my mind. Suddenly I could see black weeds, waving out of doors on a summer night; I was naked, and being assaulted, ‘wrestled’ around by my older brother and another boy his age, likely his best friend in the neighborhood. My genitals were squeezed, I was elbowed incredibly hard right under my chin, and punched in the stomach, as our naked bodies wrapped and twisted around each other out in the back yard. Then I was forced to suck them both off, they were threatening me with their fists, with a rock…the crickets were so loud all around us, there were fireflies, and they both fucked me…I felt like I was falling into empty black space…falling and I would never stop. I think I lost consciousness for a time, and came-to only to vomit.
Twenty feet away, just inside the house, with all the windows and the screen door to the porch wide open were our parents, contentedly watching television. We walked back inside through that door, I had no shirt on, and my body was covered in scratches…I had been screaming. They heard me, they saw me, they knew I was being virtually gang-raped just outside, and they did nothing. When I was a child, it was very important for me to believe that if my parents knew about the terrible physical abuse and torture my brother subjected me to, they would help me, they would stop him. That illusion is no longer of any use to me; I see how incredibly false it is, but as I peel back the layers, it’s painful and shocking to go deeper nonetheless. My parents sexually abused both of us, together and separately; why should they really care if he sexually abused me? It’s possible the idea even turned them on, and they wanted us to do it; I wouldn’t put anything past these sick scumbags.
When I was seven years old I once decided to take a shortcut coming home through the woods that led into our backyard. I walked for hours, it became dark, but when I finally arrived at a house I found it wasn’t ours; I passed through the driveway and found I was in a neighborhood I didn’t recognize at all. As I walked by more strange houses, I began to cry and call out for help; a robed woman who had been sitting on her doorstep eventually heard me and came running out to ask what was wrong. Someone drove me back to my friends house where I waited for my parents to come pick me up. When they arrived, I ran to my mother and hugged her, but she didn’t even look at me; all she said as we got into the car was: “you ruined dinner.” That was all she cared about.
For the entire week before this flashback, I felt extremely unbalanced, physically and emotionally–I seemed to be backsliding on so many levels. Then there was a period of calm Wednesday morning, which resumed a few hours after this flashback and hasn’t left me. Though I can identify other triggers–for instance my unsuccessfully trying to change brands of MSM–I see now that this may have been the precursor to the flashback, just longer and bigger then it usually is. I’m trying very earnestly right now to identify these feelings and know when they’re due to a flashback breaking into dawn, due to my food sensitivities, a chemical exposure… I can feel lost in the moment, and simply come to think this is another endless relapse that could last almost a year like they used to, but that just doesn’t happen anymore. That part of my eating disorder or my life in general is quite over now, my healing can’t really be reversed at this point.
Since that first time when my mother pushed food on my brother and I after sexually abusing us, it became a learned reaction. Even when I was left all alone after the abuse as a young child, I would go to the kitchen and make myself endless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, it would drive the emotions away, and help me dissociate into another state. In the last years of my eating disorder, I came to really resent this fact, it made me feel so dirty, so violated that I would suddenly binge and it was almost like waking up to a new day–a horrible one. That effect is gone now, though obviously there will be physical effects if I eat extra food outside of my meal plan today. It’s difficult to write about this, I suppose because, despite the fact that my parents–my mother in particular intentionally gave me this eating disorder as a way to cope with their sexual abuse, I was blamed for it.
I remember the time when I was eleven or twelve years old, and my parents decided to go away on vacation by themselves in the summer (a new tradition while previously they took us on ‘family vacations.’) They left me all alone, but my father had stocked the refrigerator with large amounts of food. My brother spent most of the time at his friend’s houses, but then he would randomly bring all of them over to our place as well, forcing me to retreat into my bedroom. The loneliness, anxiety, and simply learned behavior drove me to eat large amounts of food, as it was all I had in the world, all I could turn to. When my parents arrived home after more than a week, I recall hearing my father slamming the refrigerator door and screaming, “one hundred and fifty dollars worth of food!” When I went out later to say hello, my mother said to me “we’re just having veggie burgers for dinner, but I think you’ve eaten enough!”
I ran back into my room, humiliated, and cried. Of course my brother had brought all of his friends over and fed them as well. But what remains constant is that they didn’t even bother to ask me if I had eaten all the food or why; there was no discussion, just silent judgment cemented into place by a hateful barb from my mother. I didn’t ask them to buy that much food right before they left, and I didn’t ask to be left alone either. They made the real deciding choices, as always, but I was blamed. Right up until the last years when I was living at home, my mother covertly supported my eating disorder as long as it involved eating high amounts of food, as if she took some pleasure in seeing that I was “taken care of” through this particular habit which she pushed on me herself. Her denial and abuse went hand in hand and there was only one way out for me.
By the time I moved out, my former parents house was quite landlocked; the forest had been developed into high-end real estate, and walking in what was left of the woods came to involve people shouting that I was trespassing on their property. I was so glad to leave, and be able to make new memories in a different part of the world.