On Friday I was tasked with coming up with a 5 minute speech about an event or person who can help define who I am as a person. It was required that it be vulnerable. All week I wavered on topic. I figure everyone would expect me to talk about the bombing which is why I didn’t want to talk about it. Sexual assault way too deep for this audience, despite it being the topic of America, and I was going through re-trauma all week which is really hard for non-victims to understand. They want to be supportive but the topic is just too shocking for a non-victim and I understand that. It should be revolting.

My relationship with my dad seemed to be the talk I could do because, good and bad, I am mostly a product of him. I am a response to war and a reaction to that which cannot be controlled. I am also incredibly resilient and compassionate towards others.

I spoke of how I was raised to do the right thing, to not pick on others, to speak up for the disadvantaged, to leave no man behind. I was taught that even if I had it really, really bad I still had the responsibility to be a good person….that doing the right thing couldn’t be harder for anyone else than it would be for us. Therefore, it’s reasonable to expect it from everyone. He was wrong on that point. I was woefully unprepared for a life of running into wrong and sometimes being more shocked by the existence of it than the sin committed. I really struggle through situations when integrity isn’t one of the first 5 values a person has. I never quite know what to do with that. I usually get an upset stomach.

I shared that my childhood could be pretty bad….because it was. I know when you grow up upper middle class with appropriate nuclear family in tact, no physical beatings and both parents work, that you aren’t supposed to admit that the wallpaper is there to cover a lot of damage. You know many people have it worse than you so you are expected to go the silent, nodding route. Well, that’s not me. That route creates alcoholics and shame. Not to say I don’t dabble with those but mine is about dulling pain or trying to block things out….not to pretend things don’t exist.

My father is someone who spent 40 years fighting war memories and not talking about them. His PTSD went untreated for 40 years and my life was a major symptom of distress for him because he couldn’t control how I felt and he couldn’t make me be silent. You can’t raise me to be a fighter and expect me not to fight you when you are the thing that’s wrong. He was vocally dissatisfied with me and my personality on a daily basis. I had a shrink as a kid and she called it verbal abuse. It was incredibly damaging and responsible for nearly every one of my shortcomings whether it be depression or weight problems.

As an adult, I still had all the good values he taught me and I used those to my advantage whenever I could. Every parent fucks their kids up in some way. Once you are an adult all your choices are your own from there and you can only blame yourself at that point.

It wasn’t until I bought my house that he and I started getting along better. We couldn’t get through one day without some snide comment from him on something I couldn’t do right….even in my mid thirties. At that point, though, he was getting help for his PTSD so he was in the thick of therapy and that can be a dark place to navigate. I was just happy he was doing it. He deserved to have some hope in his life.

I learned a lot through my mom about how many regrets he had about how he treated me and how much of my dysfunction he felt responsible for. He wouldn’t tell me, but she did it for him. Unfortunately, I also learned a lot from other family members he confided in about things I should have heard about directly from him. Like that he had been diagnosed with PTSD in the first place, what his triggering event was and what he had to do to get benefits from the VA. That was also the same conversation where I found out from my cousin that my rapist’s family called my parents during the trial to get me drop charges. I told my mom all the Vietnam stuff I learned but never the part about the rapist. They don’t know I know about that.

When I experienced the bombing, my father was actually very well equipped to help me and set expectations for what I would experience as fallout. I was in therapy within a week with someone who specialized in treating PTSD and I was forgiven many alcoholic binges which took place frequently over the next few years. Surprising considering, as a child, I was given no room for error. It was actually hard to adjust to this compassion and understanding until I learned how much I really needed it. That’s where Cape weekends became my routine. Being “home” was my safe place where my pain could be understood and no one would tell me how lucky I was to be alive or remind me who has it worse than me. My father knows that pity has never once entered my mind. The pain and sadness has never been about that. It’s survivors guilt which is ridiculously complicated and something most people cannot relate to. Why should they if they haven’t been to war?

This week I craved the safety of my weekend trip. Watching the Supreme Court shit show is like being assaulted all over again. A bunch of men forcing a decision through despite so many people protesting with good reason. And the non-victims want to be supportive but don’t know how so they turn away from it and hope it blows over and I go back to posting funny Facebook memes as a signal that the smoke has cleared and it’s a good time to re-approach.

But even in my safe place my own father feels entitled to an opinion about the women who come forward to tell their stories. He actually believes women do this for attention….a thought process I might be able to explain away due to his white male privilege , but not for him. He sat through 2 rape trials watching me get vilified. Does he actually believe I did that for attention? If I needed that intense level of attention I think I could have found a less embarrassing way of doing it. After all, who enjoys having their psychiatric records discussed in a public court or talking about their sex life and non condom usage with their father listening on? Who wants to explain the “icky towel” in front of her father? Who wants her father to see her ripped clothing as evidence or hear that her creative writing ability is what spun this story? Who wants to admit that she almost didn’t do the right thing by trying to suppress this and never tell anyone? It was only through coincidence I met the victim after me. That slapped me in the face and made me do the right thing. It was within the same year but it could easily have not happened for 35 years until I see my rapist on tv auditioning for the most important job in America which will have direct consequence to women and children for decades, maybe even centuries to come.

It’s funny, I was driving home from my now unsafe place today listening to a podcast about families destroyed over ancestry test kits. Some of the people talked about it making so much sense finding out they weren’t related to the people they grew up with because they were so vastly different in personality. I became very curious and am interested in going through the process. Now, I feel fairly secure in the fact I am not from another family…. not saying I am expecting to uncover that I have different parents. We are just not controversial in that sense. But I have begun to feel that I am nothing like my family. And I am starting to feel I am nothing like my friends. And the more resolute I become in discovering who I am, the more I feel completely isolated and unusual in this world. Who am I and where do I come from?

A few weeks ago I think my Psychic predicted this crisis of community coming. She discussed that I hadn’t found my people….my community. She said I have beliefs, interests and personality traits the people in my life just don’t believe in and in my attempt to remain attached to something….anything….it’s holding me back from becoming fully myself. At the expense of myself.

I have no safe place. I live in a country run by men who hate me simply because I have the audacity and requirement to support myself financially. This means I have to work harder than they do in order to get by because I get paid less and because I have yet to find one of them to share finances with. Therefore, I am the enemy and must be rammed into in my place. Except I am past the age of being able to survive by being barefoot and pregnant. So where do I go?

Because I was assaulted and have opinions about that, I am separated from those who don’t. It makes me see things others don’t want to see. Only they don’t realize I don’t want the burden of seeing them either. I want to be able to walk past a tv in a bar and not stop because I just heard a sentence spoken that I remembered hearing when I was in court around the age of 21. Yeah, I want that life. But I am decades past ever having the chance for it. In that tv or via social media, I also find more comfort and safety with strangers than I do my community because I have experienced things my community hasn’t. I love my community more than they know, even knowing they may not really know me. I guess that’s how big my empathy throbs and maybe why I hurt so much right now. Is there a home for me anywhere? A safe place anywhere? And where are the other people experiencing this because I think I need to meet some of them?