I think one of my biggest problems is that I have so many memories but due to the PTSD I can’t remember things chronologically. Things come to me in jumbles. And, when they come to me I want to talk about it. Honestly, sometimes I feel like I am remembering something for the first time – when really I have gone through this memory time and time before. I know this because people around me will tell me that I have shared that story before, or my foster mother would tell calm me down sometimes after I have remembered something – something I believed I just remembered for the first time. And the memory is so horrific that I relive the trauma over and over again. An example of this is the burns on my arms. Not crazy huge burns or nothing… but little circular scars on both of my forearms.
I will find myself sitting on the toilet on any random day, I will be reaching for the toilet paper – it’s like a flash that causes a visceral reaction from me. My tummy hurts, instantly I could feel sharp pains in my back… I can see an iron pressed up against my arms. I hear the sound of the iron burning against my flesh. I smell the burning flesh… Me pulling back, my mother pushing me forward; telling me to shut up. “Shut your fucking mouth!”
I was being punished. About 3-4 hours before this moment my mom called me into my room. “Where’s you barrettes?” she asked me. I knew something was up by the tone in her voice. I could tell she was angry, but she was smiling. That’s how I was sure this was going to be bad.
“They are in my jewelry box.” I point to my small white box that I was re-tracing over and over in my mind putting them back in the box. I was sure, I knew I did.
“Show me Carrie” my mom crossed her arms and never took her eyes off of me.
I opened the box – it was empty. My body instantly began to shake.
“Look at me.” She said. Her voice was changing. I could feel the smile had disappeared; I didn’t want to look up at her.
“I said – Look at me Carrie!” her arms came apart. I backed up. She laughs. I look up. I was expecting her to hit me in the face. She didn’t.
“Well I guess you better find them. When was the last time you had them?”
“Yesterday, I was wearing them at school.” I replied with fear. I tried to sound sure, because I was sure. I knew I put them in my jewelry box just like my mother asked me to do when she gave them to me. I only had one pair of barrettes – I always took care of them.
“You better get your fucking ass out there fast and find them – don’t come back until you do!” My mom wasn’t holding back now. When she was mad she would grit her teeth while she talked.
I quickly walked out of the bedroom and out the door. I started re-tracing my steps frantically. I knew the longer I took, that meant the worse the beating. I was going to get beat no matter if I found them or not. And how was I going to find them anyways? I remember that it was sunny as I looked on the ground, searching in the grass and the dirt gravel side of the road for my two white barrettes. I went up and down the street time after time; I was gone for a couple of hours.
I didn’t want to go back home without my barrettes. I knew the consequence for not taking care of my things. I mean – even with my own hair. My parents give me a beating if I didn’t comb/brush my hair before I leave my bedroom. It should be the first thing I do – then I have to brush my teeth. These rules have literally been beaten into me. I know the rules, and I don’t dare break them for fear of the punishment. My dad would usually start it with a joke.
“Did you comb your hair this morning Carrie?” my dad would ask me.
“Yes…” I would reply – immediately knowing what was about to happen. I am kicking myself inside for not doing a better job. Don’t I know that he will inspect it?
“Which one?” he laughed as he asked. My dad had this crazy laugh. I wish you could hear it. It was loud, and funny. I have the same laugh now as an adult.
“All of them Dad” I replied. Hoping this was a day that he didn’t feel like being angry with me, hoping he would just continue laughing with me.
“Get to your fucking room, pants off – lay and wait!” his tone was different from the funny dad. He was angry. My immediately began to shake. I turned around and walked back down the hallway towards my bedroom. I slowly began taking off my pants, then my underwear. I knew dad always wanted us naked. Easier access. I think it mostly depended on what he was going to beat us with; his hands, belt, boots, wooden spoon, horse whip… the list goes on.
I remember lying on the bed, legs hanging over the edge, shaking. I can’t give a play by play on the beating. However, I can tell you he used his hands this time. He put me over his knees and spanked my bum over and over again. If I cried he hit harder. If I fought the spanking he had tenancy to call my mom in the room to hold me down. This was much worse. So I would tense my bottom up as much as I could, squeeze my legs together – eyes closed tightly. I remember after this beating I was in such pain on my backside and back thighs. My dad told me to stay in my room until he told me different.
I would lie on my bed, on my back with my bum and legs up against the cold wall. I would switch my spot to a cooler one every few minutes trying to ease the stinging from my backside. Sometimes I would sing to myself quietly or I would spend my time talking to god. I would ask him to make my mom and dad not hate me so much. I would beg him not to let my mom and dad get mad at me again today, at least.
This day – looking for the mysterious missing barrettes I can remember praying all the while looking for my lost barrettes. I know mom was going to be angry with me. She scared me the most. Mom always said how she couldn’t stand my fucking sniveling face – how the very look at it makes her want to puke. How would I tell her I couldn’t find them? What was she going to do to me when I returned without the barrettes?
This is what I can recall. When I think back to that day… I came home terrified. My mom was sitting at the kitchen table smoking and having her coffee. She was smiling. She told me to follow her back to my bedroom. I figured she was going to make me lie on my bed and give me a spanking to remember. But when we got into the room she just stood there looking at me, with an evil smirk.
“Are you sure you didn’t lose them in here?” she asked
*as I am writing this I am getting anxious. In the past 30 minutes I have started getting a headache, and eaten a box of KD with tomatoes on it. I’m what I call emotional eating… stuffing those feelings down as far as I can, then shit them out! It’s just interesting to catch myself doing it, calling myself on it – but still going through with it. Now I feel sick, disappointed…
I don’t know how I responded to my mom. All I remember is that she had asked me to check under my bed. My room was really small, there was a dresser very close to my bed – the only way I could look under it was to crouch down and feel it out. But when I looked under I didn’t see them. I did see a couple irons under my bed. Unusual. Terrifying. My mother noticed my hesitation – it angered her.
She pushed me down so that I was basically on my stomach – face down. I can remember her pulling my left arm out and waving it back and forth under the bed. There was searing hot pain with each jerking of my arm. I cried out. I remember my mom just kept asking me over and over if I could feel the barrettes.
I couldn’t feel anything but intense pain. My mom didn’t say anything about the irons to me; in fact she acted like nothing was happening to me. As though she was just assisting me in trying to find my barrettes. Why was I screaming in pain? Why was I irritating her? My mom always had a strong grip. That day was no different. She squeezed my arm – held it against the irons with force. She smiled.
“Get up! Stop you sniveling… nothing happened.” My mom was standing now waiting for me to get up. I didn’t know whether the punishment was over or just beginning. The pain in my arm was incredible. I didn’t want to show her how much, I knew that would make her angrier. She would probably want to show me what “real pain” was. If I ever acted like they were hurting me while they were hurting me – they would anger faster and more intensely. I learned the skill of holding it back early.
My mom had one hand on her hip, the other was holding something. She opened her hand and showed me my barrettes.
“I hope this teaches you not to lose your things.” She stated flatly.
She had them the whole time. My mind was racing. I had this sense of relief – but then this sense of overwhelming anger. This was all a game to my mom. She was smiling when she put them back into my jewelry box, and then walked out the room.
“Clean yourself up before you come out of your room.” She said. My arm was red, skin was peeled back. It hurt to touch. I changed my shirt. At the time I was wearing a t-shirt, but I knew what my mom meant by clean myself up. She wanted me to hide any sign of the punishment. Before going into the bathroom to try to cool it off I put on a long sleeved shirt. I can remember how much it hurt, how sensitive it was to wear a shirt over. I didn’t have band aids or medication to care for it. I can remember just running cool water over it, and keeping it covered. I also remember constantly be peeling the dead skin off and re-opening the wound. This was one of my moms lessons. She had many.