Saturday, March 17, 2012


I am 13 years old.  I have met a boy at our summer camp.  I can't stop thinking about him.  Every time we are together, I don't know what to say or do.  It feels awkward, like walking in mud.  But, when we are apart I just want to be with him again.  He is the son of a wealthy camper here, so my mother doesn't stop me from my evening swims with him at the communal dock.  My stepfather is strangely detached.  He just tells me I will never belong to anyone but him, so go ahead and try- darkness will fall. 

Tonight we are sitting at the end of the dock, watching the sun set.  Our hands are folded together like paired swans.  We are silent and that seems okay as long as the sun sinks slowly and the clouds change shape- as long as something is in purposeful motion.  When the sun is in repose, there is a lull.  He reaches his hand around to my side and pokes me.  I screech, which he takes as a sign to dig in and give me a more thorough tickling.  This goes on until my begging for respite is finally heard.

He hops to his feet and I tell him there is no way I am getting up until he backs several feet away.  I am quite sure that he is ramped up enough to push me in the water.  He does as he is told, only he keeps walking backwards as if he might turn and run into the darkness, so I scramble to my feet and run to catch up with him.  He holds his arms out wanting me to jump into them and I am elated as I take flight.  He lifts me by the underarms and I am teetering on his shoulder at my waist.  I am suspended for the briefest moment, supported by his pubescent arms which then give way and I see the concrete of the dock as my landing place.  I tuck in time to miss cracking my head open and roll through the fall.  I hear something crack and splinter.  I lay on my back and check in with my limbs, my neck, my back.  I guess I am okay. 

He takes my hand to pull me up but a piercing jolt in my shoulder lays me out.  He kneels by my side and winces as his gaze hovers at my shoulder.  My hand searches for the damage and finds a paper thin stretch of skin over a collar bone that has snapped in half.  It starts to hurt now, after an initial fuzzy sensation.  I roll to my good side and get to my feet.  I need to go home.  I need medical attention.

At the camp my mother and stepfather are reading under mothy lamps.  I am holding my arm as still as possible.  They look up and see that I am look shock-ish and then look back at their books and finish their chapters before my mother asks what my problem is.  I tell her I think my shoulder is broken and show her where the bone is threatening to pop through the skin.  She agrees.  My stepfather doesn't even get up from his chair.  I got myself into this mess, when I knew all along where I belonged, I would have to get myself out.

I go to bed.  I lay on my back, afraid to breath for the searing pain that multiplies with each inhale.  My body shakes and I feel clammy.  Will this heal on its own?  The night dawdles- measured by nothing- endless.  Sleep never quells my burning eyes.

The sun creeps back to life, fingers of light grasping trees and pulling the glowing orb into the open sky.  Still, I lay flat, waiting for morning sounds in the camp.  After a while, my stepfather enters my room.  In the early morning, he tells me I should never have forgotten my place.  I am his property and this is what I get for thinking otherwise.  When he gets around to it sometime this week, he might take me to the hospital.  I never see my first love again. 


I went to the hospital within a couple of days day.  The bone had started healing and had to be detached and then set again.  My stepfather told them that our religion (what religion?) didn't allow for pain killers.  There was no argument from anyone and the bone was only half-way reset because I vomited on the doctor.  Now I have a crooked collarbone that sometimes feels sharp and achy. It is another physical reminder of how it didn't matter whether he hit me or not, broke my bones with his own hands- he still held my fate with an iron fist.

Child Abuse, Sexual Abuse, PTSD, Anxiety, Self-harm, Cutting, Depression, Survivor, Survivor of childhood abuse, Postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis, OCD, Recovered memories, Repressed memories, Spousification, Stockholm Syndrome, Suicide, Teen Suicide, bullying, drug abuse, incest, memoir, Attachment Disorder, reactive Attachment Disorder, Physical Abuse, Mental illness

1 comment:

  1. Do you have a second half to this story/experience?

    I too suffered untreated injuries (both physical and emtional) that were ignored, or treated incompletely, off handedly (and late).

    One story of my childhood is about my older sister D—who was the darling of my mothers eye. D could do no wrong.

    When she was 40 or so, she was in a car accident, and had a mild neck injury.. On went the neck brace, and onto a back board—to be carted off to hospital. She never lost consciousness, and was asked for a medical history (“Any previous back injuries?? “no”)

    later the doctors came and said good news, neck injury is mild (muscular)--but... Your X ray shows a previous back injury. You have several vertibre that have been broken (and are fused)--You've had a broken back... do you remember when?

    She called my parents, and a discussion ensued.. and then: Remember the picnic to Bear Mountain park? You fell off the rope swing—and landed on your back. You were cranky for weeks after...

    SO long and short of it, the best love child managed to fall, seriously injure herself, and the injury was basically ignored (even though she was clearly in PAIN for several weeks after-as could be remembered 40 years later.

    This was how be best loved child faired. (I was the least loved)

    But... here is the change.

    My daughter broke her leg--while in the care of her father. (he was custodial parent) and he ignored her pain and injury. (12 hours/over night) The next day, he had a date, and tickets to Carnegie hall for a concert—and planned to ignore her for another 24 hours. My daughter called me.

    I, too, had a date—but I canceled my plans, and took her to hospital—Immediately. (well first I helped her out of bed, and to get dressed, and into car.) Turned out, her leg was broken in two place.

    In all the cases, the injury wasn't an act of violence, but an accident. The abuse came from ignoring the child's needs. In the last case, I BROKE THE PATTERN. My daughter didn't go untreated. Her pain and injuries weren't ignored.

    Can you think of any time YOU cared for your daughter—when you stepped up and addressed her pain, got her prompt treatment? Have you found caring for her, meeting her needs, helped you heal? Helped you emotional?

    I found learning to care for my children (in a real physical way) healed me as much as it help them.