Trigger Warning: Suicide / Sexual Assault
When I think about how to put my childhood into words, I immediately want to crack a joke that I didn’t actually get one. It is a known discovery that trauma can create memory loss that lasts for an undetermined period of time. There are large sections of my younger years that I cannot seem to fill in. I remember almost nothing before 5, and the only reason I remember being 5, was because of my first experience with death.
As a child, I saved my brother’s life. I will exclude his name out of courtesy, although I owe him none. We will call him Brother Number Two. Brother Number Two was the problem child, the one who stole the family vehicle and crashed it into the mailbox before he reached his teenage years. The one who fell in with “the wrong crowd,” and threatened to burn down the house with everyone in it. I loved my brother, in spite of what I just wrote, he had a charm about him. He was charismatic and manipulative, and always seemed to convince everyone else around him that what he wanted was their own desire. A lot of those things were directly hidden from me as a child. Of course I saw things, but my mother always attempted to justify, explain away, or worse, pretend nothing was even happening. I distinctly remember finding his stashed cocaine, I knew where it was, but I never breathed a word of it. When he would get kicked out of the house, it was boring. He was the person I would hang out with at home, so naturally when I heard my mother talking about how she planned to search his room, I took it out and hid it in my own toy box. I didn’t even know what that white powdery substance was, but I knew if she found it, that meant he would leave. What if he didn’t come back? Naturally, I acted to protect him.
Late one afternoon, my mom sent me to tell my brother that it was time to go, but I don’t remember where they were going. However, I distinctly remember walking into the back yard and calling for him. I had seen him sitting on the roof of the shed hours before, staring off into space, but when I walked straight towards the two tall apple trees that evening, I froze right where I stood. He was lifelessly hanging from the side of the shed. I ran back to where both of my parents sat waiting in the van for him. I remember watching my six-foot six-inch dad reaching for the rope to help pull him down. When the paramedics arrived, I remember being passed to a family friend who had stayed with us in the past. My parents went to the hospital, and the next thing I remember is sitting in the parking lot at Wendy’s, kids meal shoved my way. I didn’t want food, I had questions, questions nobody could or would answer. Was he going to live? Later I found out that he had spent about 10 minutes deprived of oxygen. Medical research shows brain damage is inevitable in that time frame. After that day’s events, he spent a lot of time in a facility. I don’t remember much after that… My mom always said he tried to kill himself because of a pregnancy scare; when she would talk about it at all. Maybe that is partially true… he will probably never admit it, but I personally believe the reason he tried to kill himself was because he molested me for years. It wasn’t until after I spoke up and a case worker came to our house, that he tried to kill himself…. and to think, it was me, that saved his life.
Our house always had Jesus music playing within. I remember religion being a huge driving force within our home. My parents never actually seemed happy, they didn’t seem like they liked each other all that much. My dad was rarely home, and I really don’t blame him looking back with an adult’s perspective. He flew across the world on business trips for weeks at a time. Both were heavily involved in the church though; my mom helped to “lead worship” and my dad could be found helping out with the computer slides to assist in the weekly Christian karaoke. They preached about purity, and how any sexual desires were dirty and sinful. How any sexual experiences were seen as taboo. You needed to put your faith in the Lord and he would take away all of your problems. If you didn’t, when you died, you would go to Hell. I remember being small and being absolutely terrified of dying. The thought of being gone forever and spending it in Hell, because now I’m unclean or …. whatever. How is it that now I am unclean at no choice of my own, and in addition, have an overwhelming anxiety that I am going to Hell because of it. Do they molest you in Hell too…?
I never came out and told what was happening to my parents directly, mostly out of shame. Their religion states that once you’re unclean it’s all over, right? Maybe it happened to me because there was something wrong with me? Either way, I knew they would not believe me. I ended up telling an adult that they left me with during an out-of-state funeral. She ended up reporting it to CPS, who later came to my home to ask me questions. After they left, they never came back. Apparently they asked him what had happened, he denied it, and my mom ultimately said there was nothing going on. “Nothing happened to you” – If someone gaslights you, and tells you that you’re crazy, eventually, you start to believe it or you just stop trying. I stopped trying. They didn’t punish him, they didn’t keep him away from me, in fact he became more involved in my life than ever before. After it was brought up, he never tried to molest me again. He was smart enough not to test his luck twice. I think they went to such effort to convince themselves. We all just played along like nothing ever happened. Even still, his apartment, wherever it was that year, was always better than an oppressively religious home. My brain repressed those memories. I had no recollection until about two months ago, when a trigger flipped a switch in my brain, which is the most frustrating thing in the world. My memories remained repressed involving him and the things he did, because that was my only chance at survival, and he took advantage of that. He tried to rebuild a seemingly normal brother-sister relationship moving forward, which only opened the door to the rest of the traumatic experiences in my life…