It’s true what they say about anniversaries. No amount of CBT-ing myself that ‘it’s just another day of the year’ can stop me being triggered by days like today.
Today is my abuser’s birthday. I know this, because the man who abused me is my brother. I know the sort of things he will do to celebrate. I know the rest of my family will be sending him cards and gifts and calling him up to sing to him. And all of this is making me feel like shit today.
I don’t want to think about him. I avoid it as much as I can. But this morning he was on my mind almost as soon as I woke up. As a result I have been cranky and withdrawn. Usually my CoDA meeting shifts that, but despite being surrounded by strength and love, I didn’t want be there. I couldn’t even let my friends hug me. I literally ran for the door as soon as it was over.
It’s hard to stop thinking about all the birthdays I spent with my brother in the past. And they are a complex mixture of memories. There were happy ones when we were really small. But I can’t feel happy remembering those; I can only feel heartbroken at what he became and what our family lost. It feels surreal to think of him as a little boy, and to think that I loved him so much then.
One memory that often comes up for me is our family celebrating his 18th birthday. They found out about the abuse when he was 16, and he’d continued living with us since. I don’t have a lot of specific memories of that time, just a lot of strong body sensations connected with how it felt to be around him. He made me feel sick. I felt a sense of dread almost constantly when he was there. I felt disgusting when I looked at him, or he at me.
I clearly remember everyone getting together for his 18th, having a family dinner and some kind of party. I remember this because it was the first time I realised I hated him. I remember wanting to scream at everyone to tell them what he was, that it wasn’t safe to be near him. It felt horrible that everyone was celebrating this person who had hurt me so badly, and who I was so afraid of.
I suppose that is a feeling I get a lot. And it makes sense that today would intensify that. 17 years have passed since he turned 18, but I am still no closer to accepting that nobody else in my family feels like I do about him. If anything, I feel even more rejected and invalidated than I did back then.
Today I don’t have the cushion of denial that I had when I was a kid. I can’t minimise what he did to me anymore, even if everyone else in my family can. That puts a massive gulf between me and them. And what’s really unfair about it is that as a result, he gets to be close to them while I once again feel ignored and abandoned.
Photo: Paul Downey, Creative Commons.