© 2018 by Kate Ryan.

I was about seven years old.  

 

We didn't have central air.  

We just had individual air conditioners in some of the bedrooms.  

There was a good one in my parents' room.

So what they would let us do, since it was so hot, is drag our mattresses in there.

I would always go to bed first, because I was the youngest.

 

One night when it was really really hot, I was walking around in a light sleep shirt and underwear.

My brother went to bed early, my middle brother.

He's four years older than me.

I remember he asked to see what was underneath my underwear.

I had a book about how babies are born.  

So I said, “I could show you a book about it if you want to learn about it.”

I didn't think it was wrong or bad or anything.

 

I don't remember how it started.

He just laid on top of me and moved up and down.

And then we would switch.

I didn't even know what that was.

I just knew that it felt good.

 

When he was done, he said, “Don't tell mom, because she might be mad.”

I wanted his approval and his friendship.

I felt like we had a little secret club, and it made me feel important.

So I didn't tell mom.

 

I didn't know what we were doing was wrong for a very long time, probably 15 years.  

I've had insomnia, because I was always trying to make myself fall asleep before anybody got into my parents' room for the night.  

If I force myself to sleep it doesn't happen.

And at night, late summer nights, I feel an emptiness, a loneliness.  

Can't sleep.

 

I had a problem as a child with sleepovers.

I felt like when people fell asleep, I was alone.

They left me.

I'd have my mom come get me in the middle of the night.

*

When I was 8, my oldest brother (not the one who abused me) was diagnosed with cancer of the muscle tissue.

He had regular chemotherapy for 42 weeks at 15 years old.

He got better.

But my parents always favored him or were more protective of him.

So me and my brother that abused me were second priority for a long time.

*

 

Probably when I was 17 I started to cut.

I cut myself up here, so I could still cover it.

I started to drink.

And when I would drink, sometimes I would cut.

Alcohol thins your blood.

The amount of blood was astounding.

But at that point, you're like, "Good.  The more damage done, the better."

You get into this warped mindset where, instead of helping and protecting yourself, you just want to sabotage yourself.

 

I went away to school

I stopped eating.  

I dropped twenty pounds that I didn't need to lose.

I was put on antidepressants.

I was still drinking, which they tell you not to do.

And once I started drinking, I would just keep going.

I thought doctors told me that because they didn't  want me to have fun.

But it turns out, you're really not supposed to.

 

*

I was a virgin until age 20.

The first time was an absolute disaster.

I cried.

I locked myself in the bathroom.

It was almost like my brother was in the room with us sometimes.  

Trying not to think about it made me think about it more.

 

And then after college when I started to seriously date, I would drink and I would cheat.

I craved being noticed and recognized and seen and heard and known and loved and cherished.

I missed some of that growing up.

Parents have no choice when one kid is dying.

I had my dad tell my mom.

I was up at school.

She called me back a few days later and said,  "I don't know how to process that, but how are you doing up at school?"

I think my parents have selectively chosen to forget that it happened, because it's easier.

 

I was going to go to therapy before I started working at the hotel.

I was going to go to a day program for a few months.

My dad's like, “But you haven't had anything traumatic happen to you.”

And I just kind of looked at him.  

I was stunned.

So I said, "Yeah I know."

For a while, they're like, "It's not cancer.

Not to minimize your problem, but Greg almost died.”

 

*

 

{G decided to confront her brother in her early 20s.}

 

I think I was home from college.

He was living at home at the time.

I texted him and said, "Can you come in my room for a sec?  I have to ask you a question."

He came in my room and I said, “What happened in 1997?”

Just like that.

He said, “What are you talking about?”

I said, “What happened in mom and dad's room when I was 7 and you were 11?

What did you do?"

He said, "I don't know what you're talking about.

I can't believe you would ever accuse me of doing such a thing.  

I would never do something like that."

I was taken aback, because I never expected that response.

I was in shock.

Did I make this up?

Maybe it didn't happen.

 

And then I overdosed.

I thought it was one time.

I suspect that it's possibly more that I've blocked out.

The effects have been so severe.  

I'm not saying it takes a certain amount of time before you're suicidal.

But whatever happened was bad enough to later on cause a suicide attempt.

 

That was in 2013.

I had Valium at that time.

I took 5.

Nothing happened.  

So I took another 5, another 5.  

Before I knew it, I took the whole bottle.

I couldn't feel anything.

I had to go to the hospital and drink charcoal.

That was the first time my family really knew something was very very very wrong.

 

I was in a Bible study group at the time.

So they came to the house.

They wrote me letters.

They felt like they failed me, because they didn't know.

 

It's kind of a blur what happened after that.

I was happy to be home, and the girls came to my house, and that's all.

It might be better that way.

 

*

 

Maybe a year later or something, I went out with my brother’s girlfriend for drinks.  

He had to come pick us up, because we were too drunk to drive home.

The next day, I go downstairs to get water.

He sat on the couch and said, "What are you doing with your life?"

And I got really really angry.

I said, "The reason that all of this stuff is happening is because of you.

The reason for the overdose?

You're directly responsible for the state that I'm in.

I'm trying to cope.

And you denied it.

You made me feel crazy.

I know what happened.  

So don't pretend like you don't know what I'm talking about or that I'm accusing you of something unfounded."

I just remember he's on the couch with his head back.

He told me what he did.

He said it out loud so that I could hear it.

 

But the truth is nothing changed after that.

He admitted it, which was good for my mental health.

But we don't really speak.

He moved out to San Francisco.

We don't text.

He doesn't like my Instagram photos.

We're separate entities.

 

He came to the city to see the Rockettes.

That day with him and my family, that should have been a happy time around Christmas.

That was the worst day of my entire life.

Nothing happened.

I met his girlfriend.

We love her.

But around him I had this PTSD episode.

Just being around him I wanted to die.

I kept walking across crosswalks hoping, “Please let a car knock me out or something.”

And the pictures.

Even just forcing a smile, I looked miserable.

I couldn't fake it.

 

Even having a dream about that day put me into a tailspin for a day.

It's almost like somebody comes in, takes over.

It's like I'm hijacked temporarily.

I can't mask what I'm feeling.

So I've learned: don't even try to make it work.

Just stay home, take a Xanax.

Try to be as gentle and kind to myself as possible.

I pray.

I have rosary beads.

Just holding them at night helps me feel maybe this is all part of a bigger story.

My boyfriend's been very good.

Being with him helps.

Or sometimes, if it's really bad, being alone.

 

*

 

My brother’s coming back for a visit with his girlfriend.

My mom said, "Can they use your room?"  

And I said, "No.  Absolutely not."

Another one of my triggers was my brother's natural scent.

It disgusted me.

He used to live in the room I'm in now.

I moved in there and cleaned it out.

It took me years to get the smell out of the carpet.

It's my safe space.

He's not going in that room.

I had a breakdown at the beginning of this year.

My car got repossessed.

I lost my job.

I was just defeated.

I stopped going to my psychiatrist, because I couldn't pick up the phone to make the next appointment.

Couldn't eat.

Couldn't sleep.

I was in this sad lonely place.

 

I went to the hospital for a week.  

I've done that several times over my 20s.

They got me on meds, set me up with a therapist.

You can’t really ignore your daughter who lives at home is gone for a week and isn't on vacation.

She needs to be picked up when she's ready to go home.

My parents know that I have to be in therapy and take meds and don’t drink.

But I don't think they're equipped to deal with something that happened 20 years ago.

 

*

 

I have a special love for children, particularly children who have been abused, because they don't even know who they are yet.

Their brain isn't even developed yet, but they're so resilient.

I love this quote, "Be the person you needed when you were younger."

I think of that all the time with my boyfriend's daughter.

 

I've made it my mission.

I'll be damned if a predator comes within ten miles of her.

I want her to feel loved and safe.

I want this home to be happy.

 

*

 

I was able to get a job through my boyfriend.

How he stuck through with me that whole time is amazing.

 

{Now that she’s working again, G said it’s been important to slow down and take time for herself.}

 

I find that binge watching isn't totally effective “me time.”

I'm a neat freak, so putting everything in order.

Checking on my prescriptions.

Let me look at my planner.

Let me put on my diffuser with essential oils.

Let me light a candle.

Let me open the curtains a little bit.

Let me plug my phone in and slow down.

Have a book, have my journal, read a magazine.

I'm in a Bible study group.

Start reading the chapter that we're going to talk about next week.

I just take the time to collect myself.

Thinking about some of the good things that have happened that month.

I read back in my journal.

It's filled with quotes.

Just feed your soul.

Have a cup of chamomile tea.

Have a snack

Have Panera mac and cheese.

Just be nice to yourself.

If you can't be kind to yourself, how kind can you be to other people?

I've learned that.

-G