POST 8: The Shadow

Sometimes a sadness comes over the human heart that is so devastating, so destructive that while your body may go on "living," the soul inside you is black and decomposing. You know what I'm talking about. You, too, have been convinced by one hurt or another that dying is better than living. If you haven't yet experienced this kind of soul suffering, don't worry - you will. Maybe the death of a loved one. Maybe a disease. Abuse. Divorce. Addiction. Who knows? It comes to us all in different ways but make no mistake, darkness comes for your soul and mine. Cloaked and veiled, some beast lurks under the same waters in your life waiting for the perfect opportunity to snatch you away from ever being able to breathe life-giving air again. It has stalked you. It has spied you. It attacks you before you ever see it coming. Evil. And so the year of second grade, that thing lurking in the deep came for me: I was molested.

I will not reveal who it was, not for the sake of secrecy, but because it is not important for you to know who. The important thing to know is that it happened. I will only tell you it was not Bud nor my grandfather nor anyone else mentioned in these pages.

A few times a month for five years this darkness fell over my body and my heart. Five years of betrayal and anguish. Five years of silent hell. Five years of quietly praying before I went to bed each night that I would just die in my sleep. And five years of opening my eyes in the morning and feeling a smothering cloud of anxiety and despair take over me. Nightmares and hallucinations. Fear and anger. Self-hatred and depression. It was as real as any death - the death of my spirit.

I don't know how one could ever understand what it is like to be molested, to be raped, to be treated so violently and viciously. The effects of such a thing are too difficult to explain. How can you understand what kind of damage is really done? What residual mess and darkness took over my heart and permeated every waking and sleeping thought? It was such a profound and exaggerated sadness, I don't know that anyone could ever fully understand unless you, too, have had this same monster.

Imagine that when every child is born, there is this background music playing in his or her heart. It's not an audible music but it's there. Innocence is the beat. Joy and wonder are the melody. Life is the instrument. The child is the maestro. It is beautiful music. It can't be heard with human ears, but you know it's there. It's the reason a child's laugh is infectious; the reason watching your baby sleep or smile can move you to tears. It is the soundtrack to every happy childhood. Can you hear it? My mother abandoned me and my music became distorted; my beat and melody were a little off and the instrument was a little flat, but I was still the maestro. I was neglected, dirty, and despised. The music became even more distorted and sounded wonky but it was still going. Then I was molested. Innocence stolen - the beat stopped. Joy and wonder became anguish and betrayal - the melody stopped. Life became a tangled web of awful feelings and experiences my child mind could not sort through. The instrument fell to the ground. Can you hear it? No music. I was a maestro to an orchestra that no longer existed. It is the saddest thing in the world to be a child and want to get that music to play. But try as you or I may, we cannot turn back the clock. My world was shattered. I felt hopeless, helpless, and out of control. And I was seven-years-old.

I can hear what you're thinking. Why didn't you tell someone? Why did it go on so long? What's the big deal? That was so long ago. If you have ever in your life said or thought those words to or about anyone who has ever been sexually abused, you should be ashamed. You cannot imagine the pain and horror that goes in keeping that kind of secret, in suffering that kind of wound.

For years after this terror first began, I had a reoccurring nightmare that I fell off of a boat into the open ocean. I would be underneath the water, twisting, turning, and trying to regain my composure. The water was cold and I couldn't breathe. And then, out of the darkness of the sea, swimming toward me were sharks. Ominous and hate-filled sharks wanting to devour me. They would get inches from my face. I could see their teeth. They would open their mouths to sink their jagged teeth into my flesh. I opened my mouth to scream but no sound came out, only icy water rushing down into my lungs .... Then I would wake up. I hated that nightmare. The nightmare soon became a hallucination. Anytime I bathed or went swimming, I would hallucinate that a shark was swimming toward me with it's mouth open and ready to strike. I didn't know how to overcome my fear so my answer was simple - Never get in the water.