In 2006 I lost my mother. Cancer came back for a second bout; took what it was unable to take in the first fight. After her passing I opened up my closet to find the best outfit to hold myself together, the best mask to put on, but I was pushed aside by a legion of skeletons marching in a perfectly disordered procession. And I learned secrets.
In her absence there was no one to tend to the veil of deception that mesmerized me in my youth. The veil no longer held, I was able to see for the first time that my suspicions were true. The violence in my home was abnormal. I lived in a twisted house of abuse, and the things I experienced were not, as she and my father would claim, normal in every home. I was not uniquely weak.
There was so much rage contained behind those doors; so much hate bound inside those walls. The physical, emotional, and mental abuse didn’t stop in that house. We were subjected to a cult of personality where we suffered all manner of spiritual abuse in the name of God.
When I was diagnosed with PTSD I broke my silence. I engaged in a four year struggle trying to understand, trying to somehow find a better past, believing that if I could just get them –my father and that cult- to confess their sin and apologize, then everything would be fine again.
This personal war became public as I wrote openly about the wrongs I had been subjected to -me against father, brother, and pastor. I just needed to tell my story. I just needed to be heard. I needed to find the words to express the twenty-four years worth of anguish that raged inside these bones.
Eventually, I learned that I was trying to reason with the unreasonable. I learned that even if I had gained a confession and an apology, it would not make the past right. It would not somehow make the illusion presented by the once proud veil of ignorance real.
I went silent for nearly five years. I thought it was what God wanted; I thought it was the Christian thing to do. I went silent because I thought it would help me move on.
There are so many unresolved ghosts that haunt me, so many demons that I never put down, and I can’t tell if that has been for my better or worse. I still find myself wondering if they remember me. I wonder if they know that I can’t forget them. I wonder if they ever loved me as I once loved them, but I can never ask them these things. I can never go back.
All that is left is to walk forward and try to learn, as the poet Buddy Wakefield once alluded to, that there is life after survival. I will be better than what I was given, and I will not be the things they had meant for me to be.
I will know love, and I will be love.