i was 5 years old and my Nannie was cuddling me on a twin bed, reading me another story. i am positive she read me hundreds of pages because that is the sole memory I have of her, reading chapter after chapter to me and answering questions about word meanings. i can remember thinking i felt loved and protected.
it occurred to me today, that it is the last memory i have of being held by an adult. i have faded ones from an age younger than that, being held by my Grandmother with her laughing at something being said in the room or as she soothed tears away after i had scrapes on elbows or knees; or by my Grandfather as he lifted me into trees and over railings and into trucks.
my memories of my mother involve pain. being hurt. being kicked, having my hair pulled, being punched. i remember not being able to stand up after a beating once, and she pulled me onto her lap as she sat on the edge of my bed. i think she was crying. she rocked me a few times, tried to brush hair from my face and kept repeating “i’m sorry, i’m sorry. say you forgive me, say it. SAY IT!”
her escalating tone told me to not trust her. because i cringed from her touch. because i froze, hurting and afraid to move and refused to give her vocal forgiveness, she got very angry and stood up quickly, dumping me to the floor at her feet before standing over me, hitting the side of my head before i could raise my arms to protect myself, knocking my temple into the bed-rail and i think knocking me out for a few seconds. her violence was absolute against a 5 year old.
the reason i think that now as an adult, is remembering as a child being aware first of pain. pain in my head, my back, my ribs, my hips. then i can remember realizing she was no longer there in the room and i didn’t remember her leaving. it took me many years to figure out i must have been knocked unconscious, as i simply did not have the words to understand what had happened to me.
when i look back over my life, this is one of the moments that defined me. it’s why being touched feels uncomfortable to me most of the time, especially initially. it’s why i prefer sexual contact over casual intimate contact, as i know exactly what to expect and i don’t have to worry about changing reactions. i was never hugged, never touched in kindness. just brutalized by a mother who clearly hated me.
it’s why being touched physically for comfort means more to me than it does to other people. i never had it as a child. and it’s why i don’t want to be touched when upset because i feel like i am going to lose control over myself and my feelings, which in turn may result in my personal, catastrophic physical or emotional damage, as it did when i was a child.
and it’s why i need to be touched when i am upset, so that my barriers come down and i know i am safe and protected and won’t be hurt. and in my lifetime, that is not something that’s happened often or frequently. so even while i know my trigger and try to push past the awkward feeling of wanting to reject touch, i try to push past it and remember that isolation is not normal and it is my prior conditioning which is making things unnatural.
recovery from childhood trauma takes a lifetime because you never know when a wayward memory will come to you; in this case precipitated by a particularly strong and sudden headache in my temple area.