Haunted by Pain: My Ghost Story

Sometimes, you just have to write something to get it out of your head. I need to share this.

When I think back on memories of my childhood, they feel like silent movies. I just remember being lost in my thoughts all the time. I felt like a ghost stalking the house navigating quickly from room to room trying not to be seen. I was always talking to myself in my head. Always convincing myself not to want or need something that I wanted or needed. Running off all the reasons it wasn’t necessary. Or, if I did work up the nerve, I would disappoint myself before I asked so the answer wouldn’t devastate me.

It felt like the answer was always, No. The other answer was, we don’t have enough money for that. Either one doused the fires of my dreams. I would turn into a puff of smoke and return dejected to my room beating myself mentally for thinking things would be different.

When I was really unlucky, I had left some proof I existed somewhere in the house. As soon as I heard my name, I would mentally run through everything I had done, where I had been and what I touched. Inevitably, I had left a fingerprint somewhere. I had touched something of my Step Father’s and he would lecture/talk very loudly at me for being so careless as to squeeze the toothpaste from the middle. I still can’t squeeze a toothpaste tube from anywhere but the bottom. I guess that’s a worthy life skill. I felt so dumb to forget his preferences for a minute and fall into relaxing in the home.

I lived on pins and needles and walked on eggshells. My mind was always active. Always recording my whereabouts and making sure everything was in its proper place. I hated it, but something was obviously wrong with me because everyone else acted as if it was perfectly normal. But, looking back, I think I was heavily scrutinized and I was the one who tried to fall in line to earn favor I would never receive. Praise was minimal, criticism was plentiful.

And, to be honest, I don’t think I have ever felt at home. Anywhere.

I didn’t grow up feeling liked. I was cared for. I had a roof over my head and I did receive many things. But, there is no adult I can look back and say they really loved and liked me.

The ones who did, left me. Some of their own choice. Others were buried. My Birth Father was first. His absence was gradual. After my parent’s divorced, he made sure to take us on weekends. But, slowly, he became inconsistent. He told me to call him with a special ring and then he stopped answering the phone. I realized that when we called, hung up and then called back that was how he knew not to answer.

He used us to hurt my Mother. I can remember he told us to come over. We arrived and he refused to answer the door. I peered in the window, screaming his name and he sat on the couch staring straight ahead.

Eventually, my Mother told us to get back in the car, but I remembered that I vowed never to love him again as I wiped my tears. My heart was broken. And, I pretty much kept that promise until he died.

My Grandmother and Great Grandmother were my getaway from what was going on at home. At their houses, I had free reign to do what I wanted. I was a normal kid and they doted on me. My Great-Grandfather would keep gum in his pocket just for me. My Great-Grandmother didn’t want me to have any, but he would tap his pocket and sneak behind her back. She would yell at him, but I was already chewing away. He always smelled like the pipe he smoked. The smell of tobacco still reminds me of him.

He died first. I don’t know if I ever knew of what, but I remember when he could no longer make it down the stairs. And, then I was staring at his empty chair with his abandoned pipe.

My Grandmother died next. She had throat cancer. I just remember her being in the front room of her house and she would be throwing up from the chemo. And, then she was gone. She was the first funeral I went to as a little girl. I kissed her goodbye and she felt cold and her lips felt rubbery.

Then my Great Grandmother passed. She went suddenly. We were getting ready to go to her house when my Mom called to say my Great-Grandmother had a heart attack in a gas station store. I didn’t know what that meant. Then, they called back to say she had died in surgery. I didn’t know what that meant either. But, then I went to my second funeral as a little girl and this time I bawled my little heart out. I think I was eleven.

These are the earliest traumas I remember, but there are more.

What brought all this to mind was someone on my timeline asked about therapy.

I made myself go to therapy as an adult after fighting myself and I still work on myself daily.

But, a memory sparked as I thought about therapy. I remembered that my Parents (Mom and Step Father) sent my little sister to therapy.

She grew up with her Father and had her Grandparents. I don’t know what trauma she experienced, because that is her story. But, I thought about all I had been through in a relatively short time and nobody thought I needed therapy. And, I was even criticized when I went as an adult. When they had an opportunity to sit with me and a therapist, no one showed up.

I felt slighted and anger welled up in me that I had no idea was laying dormant inside me. Suddenly, I felt my neglect. I realized that I always felt like I didn’t receive the same support and, eventually, the same opportunities as my younger siblings. I had disconnected from these feelings. And, I knew that was what I always did when I knew I wouldn’t get my way.

But as I thought about it, I understood that I have been chasing validation and feeling unworthy. And, I had turned that anger inward to destroy myself because I thought there was something wrong with me that I couldn’t just be happy or get my shit together.

I have mostly been productive in life, except I haven’t had healthy relationships. I try to love emotionally unavailable people. I drink and act out sometimes.

I never connected that I have felt so unwanted and unsupported. I feel like nothing I do is good enough. I push down my desires or abandon my needs completely. I have been ignoring that rejection all this time and I have been finding ways to reject myself. I don’t dedicate my time to writing. I don’t trust people. I don’t do things that would make me feel good.

I have been making myself a ghost. I am even afraid to write this even though it’s my truth. I don’t feel like I have a right because my story is not my own. I was a supporting actor, not the star. It has been a revolving door of stars.

But, I don’t want to be a ghost in my own life. I want to be real. And, I will never get what I want if I don’t exorcise this ghost.

It’s time I finally put myself first. And stop trying to kill the part of myself that longs to be seen.

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