Beating the Beast


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I just thought there would come a time when all of this would get better.  I just thought there would be a time when I would be able to comfort myself.  I just thought that after all those years of therapy and the two hospitalizations and all the work I did 15 years ago that I had dealt with the demons.  I just thought that some day I would be ok.

I want to tell someone, any one the story about a little girl.  Her name is Stephanie (but you can call her Skygarbage).  She was born and raised in Massachusetts almost 40 years ago.  She is the youngest of six kids and almost from the beginning of her time, it was apparent that her parents didn't want to have six kids.  At least they never wanted her.

I know there are people who have gone through so much physical and sexual abuse.  Except for one awful encounter with a cousin when she was 12, Stephanie didn't suffer sexual abuse.  There wasn't physical abuse either.  There was nothing.  No, there was a lot of drinking, not her, but her mom and 3 of her brothers.  There was nothing. 

She never understood what she had done to make them not care about her.  She has never understood the words "I love you".  They always bring pain.  They always bring fear.  She spent a lot of time in Junior High and Senior High School acting and singing.  She kept asking mom and dad to come to see her.  They said they would, they never did.  And then came the day when they said they would supply tuition for her to follow her dream.  She was going to go to acting school in London.  And when word came she was accepted, the mom and dad said sorry, but we are not going to give you money and by the way, we're moving to Florida and you're not coming.   Have a nice life. Hope you find a job.  Hope you find a life. And Stephanie's response to this was, "That's OK, I understand" because it was never OK to have a negative emotion.  It was never OK to be angry.  She was just never OK.

And she survived.  She got by and six years later it caved in.  There were suicide attempts, there were hospitals.  And then there was a really good hospital where she stayed for 4.5 months.  They cared.  They helped.  But here it is 15 years later and after thriving, she is now living this (and all the stuff she's not saying) and it is more real than it ever was. 

She is sooo lucky because she has a great therapist who is in there for the long run for this journey. He says 15 years ago she put a band-aid on the stuff so she could become functional.  Now, he says, she is ready to face the pain, the hurt, the anger, find that little girl, and allow her to be comforted to work toward being able to provide her the comfort herself.  It is all so very scary. There are so many other stressors in her world in addition to this it has become a struggle to get through everyday.  Hard to get through an hour without crying.  Hard to feel worthy of the compassion being provided.

I was over the edge yesterday and I had to call my therapist. I have been emailing him or calling him regularly between our sessions for the past month. I have been terrified that if I didn't figure out how to get through a day, a week without calling, it was all going to lead to his sending me away. When I was telling him this fear during our second conversation of the day yesterday, he told me this. "I am here now and I am going to be here for you. You can call or email whenever you need. There is this little girl who needs to feel safe and is coming to me for that safety and we have to help her grow up and feel safe. And if we have to interact this much to get her through this, that is what I am here to do." This blew me away. I don't understand this kind of generosity. I don't understand what I have done to deserve this kind of compassion from him.

My story continues...So the mom and dad went to Florida and Stephanie was left behind. Between that day, June 6, 1983 and 5 years later when she was first hospitalized, there was more pain, more fear, more confusion and so many so many tears.  When the mom and dad left her, they put her in an apartment.  But she had no job.  She never had a job.  She had no skills.  Never knew a thing about finances and the way that all worked.  She got a job but it was only part time and it wasn't enough to keep the apartment.  She didn't drive, didn't have a car or license yet.  So, Stephanie couldn't keep the apartment and 5 months after home left her, she was home-less…in New England…in November…at 18 years old.

On the days she wasn't working, she stayed with a friend in another town but there was no one to stay with in the town she worked.  When she asked her sister if she could stay with her one night, the answer was no...when her oldest brother was told by a friend that he thought Stephanie was sleeping on the streets, the brother said, "This is good for her. It will be a learning experience."  A learning experience!  The only thing she learned is that cement is hard and cold to sleep on.

But then one day an angel came from the most unlikely place, a clerk in a store she went to often.  He was a man with a wife and a new baby and he took her into his home for a couple of weeks and made sure she got to her job and helped her find a boarding house to live in that she could afford.  It is so sad but Stephanie cannot for the life of her remember his name!  He was just an angel sent her way.

Life went along for the next few years and then it all started falling apart in 1988 when an employee she had to fire at a restaurant she managed (she came far with that part time job) threw a pot of hot coffee in her face.  It opened floodgates of emotional and physical pain and she couldn't get it back together.  She went into a hospital and lo and behold the mom and dad came to the rescue!  Up from Florida they flew!  The hospital was not a good place. The doctor she had talked to her parents without her permission.  They were going to make decisions about her life 5 years after dumping her!  Stephanie left the hospital AMA and tried to kill herself that night.  She was found.  After the joy of the stomach pump, she met with a much nicer doctor, the mom, the dad and another sister.  The dad said in front of the nice doctor, "Do you know what this is doing to your mother?"  To which Stephanie did NOT respond, "Do you think I give a shit what this is doing to the mother?" The nice doctor's jaw actually dropped open at the dad's statement.

Well, Stephanie pulled it together, took a few weeks off, went back to work but the beast had been released and wasn't about to go away that easy. She had moved to a new town, was still working for the same restaurant chain, as an assistant manager, not a manager but she just couldn't keep it together. She tried to kill herself again. Failure once again. But this brought her to a hospital where she stayed for 4.5 months. The parents tried to get through to the new nice doctor but when the call came, he talked to Stephanie instead of calling back the mom and dad. Stephanie said he could not talk to them and he didn't. But, boy, the mom was tenacious. She kept calling and calling and calling. Stephanie worked with the nice doctor and they, together decided it would be ok to sit down and meet with the parents.

The mom and the dad came to Massachusetts and met with Stephanie and the nice doctor. The mom and the dad said they thought all the trouble was because of their moving to Florida and not taking her. The mom said Stephanie could have come to Florida if she had done a better job of keeping her room clean! (I guess Stephanie missed this conversation between the mom's bouts of drinking and drugging.)

They were surprised to learn the pain went back a bit further. You see, when Stephanie was 11, she went to her big sister (who was 18 when she was 11) and was very upset about the mom's drinking. The sister went to the other sister and the 3 brothers about this (Stephanie was the only child living with the mom and dad at that time) and the brothers came to the mom and dad. Stephanie was sent to her room on the far side of the house. There was much arguing and fighting that Stephanie did not hear. But what she did hear the next day was that the brothers and the sisters would no longer be welcome in the house and they did not want to see Stephanie. You see, Stephanie's real pain was that from the time she was born she knew the mom and dad didn't want her and then when she trusted the sister with her pain about the mom, it lead to Stephanie destroying the family.

It is a struggle she thought she dealt with 15 years ago.  It is not.  It is still there.  There is a husband and two wonderful stepchildren.  The husband has many of his own issues he just started dealing with and he is trying but he doesn’t have the capacity to give Stephanie what she needs.  The struggle continues.  She tucked the pain away for a long long time but it is back and the little girl who never felt love, who never felt compassion is screaming for some attention. 

And today I am trying to work with her to help her feel safe amidst the turmoil in her own head and the turmoil from without.  The Beast is driving more often than not these days but I trying to run interference for that little girl.  I am asking for some of her needs to be met and I have found a therapist who keeps saying yes and is meeting some of the needs I can’t for myself.  And then I found the strength to take a chance and reach out at BTB and the last week I have been living a world full of yes! 

That little girl is still so afraid, so terrified that if she risks showing her vulnerability, risks asking for help, risks allowing herself to feel the compassion coming her way that it will destroy her forever.  The Beast is a powerful force of one. She is hoping the army of compassion at BTB and with her therapist will be a force of greater power to allow that little girl to grow to the woman she was never allowed to believe she could become.

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Revised: 04/02/05.

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