Little ‘T’ Trauma

Lori and I have been talking about my need to protect myself for the last few weeks, and my view on why I feel the need to protect myself, and she thinks that I am suffering from something called “Little ‘T’ (t) Trauma”.

Big T trauma (Trauma) is a horrific event. A person who is gang raped, someone who survived the 9/11 attacks, being in war. Something that would be horrifying to anyone. Something that you would expect anyone to get counseling for.

Little T trauma (trauma) is an ongoing scarring event. Being bullied your entire childhood, an overly critical parent, living in a household with an alcoholic or addict. Something that causes your reactions to become ingrained overtime into the very nature of you, so much so that you don’t even realize that you’re different.

Lori thinks–and it makes sense now that I look at it–that the extreme bullying and ostracization I experienced from 2nd grade on developed into a case of Little T trauma and I have never really recovered from it. It’s why sharing things about myself makes me feel vulnerable and unsafe. Why I don’t like to talk about myself, especially my struggles. Why I always feel as though I have to keep everyone at arms length and even have a hard time opening up to my husband and my family. Why I can’t for the life of me ask for help even when I know someone is treating me in a damaging way. Why I have this overwhelming fear of telling people what I need. Why I am terrified of showing any kind of weakness or flaw, because a part of me is just waiting for someone to turn that against me.

And I always thought that the kids who turned on me just liked him better. I thought they looked at my story (the truth: he abused me) and his story (the lie: I made up the story that he abused me to get him into trouble because I was ‘mad at him’ for him ‘breaking up’ with me in 1st grade) and just decided to take his side.

I thought it was a normal kid argument. You see it all the time: Kid A and Kid B argue, A says one thing, B says the opposite. The class takes sides. A few days (or hours) later, it’s all over and everyone is friends again.

But they never got over it.

They never decided to be my friends again.

I kept thinking ‘maybe this is the day they’ll be my friends’. Maybe this time they’ll include me. Maybe this time they won’t tease me. Maybe this time I won’t be the brunt of the joke. Maybe this time when I trust them, they won’t torture me. Maybe this time, maybe this time.

But this time never came.

Ever.

And I could never figure out why. I didn’t make sense. And I kept trying. For years. I know it sounds pathetic, but I just kept thinking that somehow, someday, I would discover the right thing to do, to say, something, anything to make it all go away. But it just never happened. They were always against me. It never got better, I just moved away.

And as I talked to Lori and told her that I could tie the bullying to the very day that I came to school and the kids had all turned against me because they believed him, she pointed out something I had never realized before. They only ever heard the lie.

After I told my parents what he had done to me, they held me out of school for a day. From what I know, they contacted the school and he was sent to a counseling session. I can clearly remember being terrified to go back to school. I didn’t want to face him. I didn’t want to face anyone. They were all going to judge me. I was convinced everyone would hate me. I know he had told me that everyone would hate me if I told, but my parents didn’t hate me, so I don’t know why I was so scared to go back to school, but man was I scared. I don’t remember if they kept me out a second day, or just part of a day, or what, but I remember them telling me that I didn’t have to tell anyone why I wasn’t there or what had happened. That it was nobody’s business but mine, and they didn’t need to know. That the teacher’s weren’t going to tell the students, and that he shouldn’t tell anyone either, so there was no reason to be scared to go back to school. So I went. But the moment I walked into the classroom, everything was different. I could feel the difference in the room, and I remember seeing the kids across the room whispering together and I immediately felt afraid. The girl–who until that day was my best friend–came up to me and said (in an extremely superior and condescending voice) “He told us what you did” and swear I could feel the world drop from under my feet. What I did?

What I did?! I had never been more confused in my life.

I asked her what she meant and that was when she told me. That he has told everyone that I made up the story that he had abused me just to get even with him because he had broken up with me the year before. I tried to tell her that I didn’t make up anything, but she didn’t believe me. She walked away and I remember standing there at my little yellow locker, just fighting down the panic and the sorrow.

I always figured that somehow the truth had gotten out and he had panicked and tried to counter it with the lie he told, and they chose him and the lie. But, as Lori pointed out, they probably never heard the truth. Other than that one little girl, I never talked to anyone. They never heard the truth. So, to them, his lie was fact. In the minds of all those kids, I was a vicious liar just trying to hurt their friend. I hate that anyone could think that I was capable of purposely hurting someone. Because the exact opposite is true. He hurt me. I was just trying to get help. It feels like he was punishing me for trying to get help.

And he didn’t even need to tell that lie. No one would have known why he was pulled out of school. There was no reason to do that other than to be malicious. He went to everyone before I was even back at school and told this giant lie just to purposefully hurt me. How can someone be that evil? I can accept that the abuse was a reaction to him being abused, but telling that lie was more damaging to me than anything else, and that was just done out of spite.

He cost me my childhood. I didn’t have a childhood, I barely survived it. And I can never get that back. And I just have to keep trying to heal, trying to recover from what he did to me. And it’s just so unfair because there is no justice. I never did anything wrong and I am left to pay the consequences. I am suffering. I have to work to heal, fight to heal, pay to heal. My life has been damaged, broken, and all I can do is live with it. More than anything, I just want justice and I feel like I will never get it.

Because I’m still living in this trauma. Still expecting everyone to be against me. Still feeling like it’s not safe to trust anyone, because the second I do, they’re going to turn on me. And legally there is no way to get justice. It’s past the statute of limitations. It doesn’t matter that he sexually abused me, it’s been too long. And in any case, there is no documentation because no case was ever opened (which makes me wonder if the school believed him). And I highly doubt there would be a way to get justice for the bullying that was caused because of his lie, even if I had reported it at the time. I hate knowing that he did these horrible things to me and got away with them.

I hate that the more I understand what happened to me the more broken I feel.

 

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Too Broken

In my EMDR session last week we were talking about how I have such a low opinion of myself. I’m always expecting that I’m going to fail, that I’m not going to be strong enough. That no matter what, I’m not going to be good enough. Lori and I were talking, and somehow I’ve gotten it into my head that I am weak. That I am “broken beyond repair”.

And that is a horrible thing to think about yourself.

I used to always have this mentality that I could get through anything, because I never let anything penetrate my emotions. Because, to be honest, I didn’t really have emotions. My range was from happy to annoyed, and I didn’t feel anything outside that range. I didn’t live in the world, but I could handle anything. I always knew that I could handle anything. I wasn’t truly happy either, so I decided on things I wanted for myself and measured my ‘happiness’ by if I achieved those goals. I might be terrified and have panic attacks, but no matter what, I got through it. I did what I set out to do.

When I met Rob and started therapy, I accepted the fact that I was opening myself up to a wider range of emotions, and (I felt) by doing so that I was exposing myself. Making myself vulnerable. All of a sudden I was having to learn how to deal with emotions that I had never dealt with. Emotions that most people learn when they are 7, that I had ‘stuffed’ for almost 14 years. It was overwhelming, terrifying, and exhausting. I started to actually have relationships and experience true happiness, but I felt so fragile. I felt as though I couldn’t handle anything. I had (willingly) gone from blocking my emotions and being able to take on the world, to opening this Pandora’s Box of feelings and feeling steamrolled by life.

I started to (sort of) get life under control (until, that is, the PTSD got out of control, so I guess my life never really was in control) and then started EMDR and–again–willingly pried my emotional range even wider. I willingly entered into a therapy where I strip myself to my core on a weekly basis. I know it’s necessary, but oh, Lord, it is so hard. And I haven’t felt strong the entire time I’ve been in therapy. There have been times (like when I took a break for the summer) when I have seen how far I have come, but I have felt like a bundle of emotions tied together with tears during this whole process.

And to realize now that that I expect myself to always be broken. To feel like I’m never going to feel ‘healed’, is just horrible. Before I started any treatment, I didn’t care. That was how life was, and wasn’t going to change, so why think about it. Now, I have fought for so long and all I want is to be healed. But I really don’t believe that I ever will be. I’m too broken.

And now I’m dealing with some health issues that I don’t want to be facing, and the house is a mess, and with this realization it just all feels like too much. I just want to hide and cry. I just want things to get better. I just want to not be broken.

Worth The Fight

If you couldn’t tell by my recent writing, Rob and I are really struggling. And we’ve both been coping (or rather not coping) in our own ways.

I cope either by eating everything in sight, or by not eating at all. There have been times when things were so bad that I only ate about 1 meal a day. I once lost about 15lbs in 2 weeks. It’s not a good way to cope. But it keeps me sane(-ish). My other brilliant coping mechanism is to either wallow or shove my feelings aside. For the past few months, I’ve been shoving and now I’ve gotten to the wallowing part. Basically, I cry, watch TV, and do nothing other than write, cry, and watch TV with occasional spurts of manic cleaning. Again, not the healthiest, but I’m still here, I’ve made it through every rough patch and I don’t see why I won’t make it through any future rough patches. It might not be the healthiest way to handle things, but it seems to work for me.

Rob used to cope with things by doing very destructive things. Drinking, smoking, etc. Basically any vice you could think of is what he would tun to. But over the years he’s moved away from destructive habits. There would be times when he was struggling and he would buy a can of dip, or backslide in some other way, but he has done so well the last several years, and I am so proud of him. But he is struggling more right now than he has in a long time.

Today, he was talking to me about how he’s been backsliding into one of his less-destructive habits: overspending. We have a pretty strict budget, and part of that is our weekly ‘mad money’–cash that we can spend on fast food or any other splurge items that we want. We withdraw a certain amount, and once your share is gone, it’s gone. But for the past few nights, Rob has been buying food that he didn’t have the cash for and just been putting it on the card instead of only buying what he could afford. I was a bit freaked out at first. This used to lead to bigger and bigger spending, and more and more destructive habits, until he swung manic.

But then he talked to me about how since he doesn’t want to fall back to even worse habits (he had considered buying dip and cigarettes) he is just sort of accepting the fact that he will overspend a little as a coping mechanism. He said he didn’t want to freak me out by talking about the things he was thinking about, that he didn’t have a plan to ‘misbehave’, he just knew what he was prone to and wanted to think through every possibility. So we talked about our different ways of coping, and we both agreed that neither of us have that great of coping skills. We also agreed that being aware that we are struggling is more than half the battle. He’s going to get in touch with his therapist on Monday and we have a couple’s appointment on Friday, and until then we are just going to cope as best as we can and be there for each other.

I was so glad that Rob was willing to talk to me, and I told him that. How only a year ago he would have just shut me out. And what he said back to me really made me stop. He said he was glad that he felt he could talk to me, because before with the PTSD he felt as though he had to watch what he said because he was never sure how I would react. And when I stopped to think about it, I realized he was right. I really did get confused sometimes, and sometimes I did really overreact. Granted, sometimes my responses were completely warranted, but looking back I can see where it would be disorienting to try and figure out who would be responding, me or the PTSD. In a way, it must have been like me trying to figure out if I was dealing with Robby, manic Robby, or depressed Robby. And I had never realized that before.

So I thanked him for being willing to work with me even when I had the PTSD, because he was willing. He was always willing. And I am so glad (and so is he) that I started EMDR. It’s been a long, hard fight, but so worth it.

Is That Why?

My whole life I’ve struggled with forgiving him for what he did to me. After all, how do you forgive someone for ruining your life? I’ve had therapists tell me that he didn’t know what he was doing, that at that age it’s called sexual reaction, that he was only doing what he knew.  That he must have been abused too.

But it never helped.

He still hurt me. I could never separate the fact that he hurt me from the fact that it wasn’t intentional. That he might have been a good person underneath it, and he was just as confused back then as I was during my PTSD years. That he was struggling with something bigger than he could handle, and that those actions weren’t his.

I never understood that. All I could see was what he had done to me.

Until today.

Because I know that boy from work. I know that he is not cruel, that he is not malicious. That he does not want to hurt people. I saw his eyes fill with tears when he told me that his future was to hurt people because his dad told him so.

I know him.

And he is not a predator.

That does not make what he did okay. Not at all. But it does help me understand my abuser from all those years ago. Maybe he wasn’t a bad person either. Maybe he didn’t want to hurt me either. Maybe someone knew the true him, was trying to save him, and was heartbroken when they realized how lost he was, just like I am with this little boy.

Maybe he was hurting just as much as this boy is hurting now.

And I still haven’t forgiven him, but for the first time in my life, I think I understand him.

My Post Secrets

Few people know I was abused.

Fewer know that almost everyone believed his story that I was lying, causing me to lose all my friends.

Hardly anyone knows that I’m writing a book about the abuse, the lies, the bullying, and my recovery.

No one knows that I’m scared to try and find a publisher for my book because I’m afraid people will still believe his story.

And I’m a little afraid of what that says about my recovery.

It’s Not Tattling

First, I would like to update you on the domestic violence situation. I want to thank you all for your advice. Unfortunately, the laws about domestic violence are incredibly stupid (in my opinion) and only the woman being abused can actually press charges against the abuser. So basically, I can’t do anything for her except call the police every time I hear him abusing her.

Ugh.

But I was talking to Robby last night, and he pointed out that the sounds we have heard that we have attributed to the neighbor boy throwing a tantrum and the dad yelling at him, might, in fact, be abuse.

I never even thought of that.

I can’t believe I never thought of that.

I think I was just so stuck in my head about the neighbor lady that I didn’t make that connection. And I had wondered before if the dad was abusing the son, not too seriously, but in passing. I didn’t have anything other than a paranoid feeling, and I didn’t feel right calling social services about a hunch. But now we have solid evidence that he abuses his wife, so there is a strong chance that he abuses his son, too.

I thought and thought about it, and decided that what made the most sense was talking to my director at T***. I could explain the situation to her and see if (and who) I should call. So that’s what I did. And, like I thought, she said that I should report my suspicions. So she gave me the number, and told me to tell whoever I spoke to exactly what I told her. About how I know he abuses his wife, and I have heard sounds that could have been child abuse. She said that it’s possible they already have a file on him, and even if they don’t, at least they will start one.

And then she said something weird.

She said that every time she called to report she always felt guilty, as if she was tattling.

And I was so confused. How in the world could you feel guilty for reporting suspected child abuse? I can remember a few times in Junior High when I was being brutally picked on and I decided to tell a teacher, and I did feel guilty. But I was 14 and trying to stand up to a bully. At that age, you don’t have the conviction to stand and say ‘what I’m doing is right’. You feel guilty because the popular kids picking on the ‘fat kid’ is ‘normal’ and who are you to try and change that? To say it’s wrong? But when you are an adult, and you are trying to protect a child, how on earth could you think of that as tattling? It’s not as though you are lying to get the parent in trouble; you are trying to protect the child. And reporting based on a feeling verses actual evidence are two very different things, but still, how could you feel it is tattling? It is never tattling.

Maybe it’s because I was abused, maybe I just have a different point of view, but the main thing I feel now that I am preparing to call and report him to child services is determination., I am determined to stop him. I am determined to protect that little boy. I am determined not to let him get away with this. And I am determined to do everything I can to make those things happen.

What Kind Of Person Does That?

I had to call the police this morning because I could hear my neighbor beating his wife.

It was just horrible. I’ve heard him yell before, but she has always yelled back. At least, I thought she had. But this morning. This morning was like nothing I’d ever heard before.

I had my headphones in and was listening to Harry Potter while I worked on our budget, and I had just taken my headphones out to call AAA to have them jump my car when I heard it. He was yelling. Like I said, I’ve heard him yell before. Unfortunately, him yelling isn’t uncommon. And, to be honest, Rob and I have wondered before if he is abusive, but we’ve never had anything other than a feeling.

Until today.

Because among his yelling I could hear banging–thumping even–and a guttural wail. It was that soul deep cry that happens when you’re heartbroken. I made that exact noise when Rob and I were falling apart last year and when we lost Jamie. I have made that sound so many times when the trauma of the abuse consumes me. I know that noise. And I felt myself grow cold when I heard it come from next door.

I think they were in the front of the house because that’s where the sound was loudest, so I cracked our front door open so I could hear more clearly. And what I heard just confirmed that he was hurting her. There was lots of swearing. She was moaning and crying. She said ‘please stop’.

He said ‘I can do it harder’.

And that is when I called the police.

I don’t know if they heard me call, or if I was too loud when I shut the door, because the sounds stopped abruptly while I was on the phone. I gave the dispatcher all the info I could, and they said they would send someone. Then she asked if I wanted to leave my name, and that’s when I hesitated. I knew that leaving my name would help her if it came to court, but I was also terrified that he would find out I had turned him in and then come after me. I asked the dispatcher if giving my name would help keep her safe, and she said that they prefer witnesses leave names and contact info for those types of calls, so I did. And I’m still scared.

I kept glancing out the peep hole every few minutes, praying that the police would get there soon and help her. I imagine it didn’t take long for them to get there, but it felt like forever before they showed up. I finally saw the cop at the door, but he didn’t knock. I wasn’t sure if he was trying to hear her cries (although she’d been quiet for a while) or what, and he walked away for a bit and then came back. After a while, he walked away and another cop left the house, so I think one was in the house while the other was outside.

But then they still didn’t leave. They were hanging around in the side parking lot next to the neighbors house. And then a few minutes later the neighbor rode up to the sidewalk on his bicycle. He got off the bike, looked at the cops, and said “do you guys know what’s going on?”.

And that’s when I realized.

They keep their bikes on the back porch. He must have gone out the back door, gotten his bike, and rode off so that he could claim he hadn’t been there. And I just couldn’t stop thinking “what kind of person does that?”. Not only does he beat his wife, but he has the malice and forethought to think how to make himself seem innocent. That’s just horrible. And way too familiar.

I want to help her. I want him to have to pay for what he’s done. I don’t want anyone to have to be trapped, but I don’t know how to help her, and that makes me feel helpless. The only think I can think of is to keep my eyes open and if I hear anything again, I need to get my camera and record it so I have evidence. I don’t think talking to her will help, because most physical abuse victims won’t leave their abuser, and if she didn’t take the police’s help then she probably won’t take help from anyone.

And I’m scared that he will find out it was me and try and take revenge. But I hope he is a coward, like most abusers. And the situation brings up bad memories and feelings, but all I can do about that is process it, talk to Robby and Sheila about it, and try to help her so it doesn’t haunt me. I could never know abuse was happening and not try and help. I just keep praying that he will get arrested.

Blake and Tessa

I started working at a childcare facility, and there is a little girl there named Tessa. The other kids have told me that Tessa has Autism, but to me she presents more like someone with severe Down’s Syndrome. She is not very aware of what is going on around her. She is maybe 9 years old, but has the mental faculties of (what I would estimate to be) a 3 year old. Tessa is a very sweet little girl, but she isn’t truly aware of what is going on in the world around her.

The other day at lunch, Tessa was sitting next to a little boy and he started shaking her by the shoulders. He had wrapped his arms around her, and was just shaking her. He was smiling, maybe even laughing, and Tessa didn’t seem too upset, but I made him stop anyways. When I tried to get him to explain why he was shaking her and apologize, he avoided my eyes and acted as though he didn’t hear me. He stopped shaking her, but he never acknowledged that he had done something wrong.

Once the kids finish lunch, they sit against the wall. When I looked over, the same little boy was sitting next to Tessa and laughing. I couldn’t tell what was going on, but I didn’t trust that boy, so I kept watching. Tessa kept leaning over to him, blocking my view of them, and I wasn’t sure if it was her not understanding personal space (which happens with Tessa) or if (I think I went cold at this thought) she was kissing him. Then Tessa leaned back and the boy laughed and pointed to another girl sitting next to Tessa, and Tessa kissed her on the cheek. I hoped that was a one time occurrence, that he wasn’t telling Tessa to kiss the girl because he’s just gotten Tessa to kiss him. But then he laughed again and tapped his cheek, at the same time gesturing toward Tessa in a ‘come here’ manner. And she kissed him on the cheek.

And he laughed.

Part of me was livid, and part of me was in complete control and knew I was going to protect that girl. I got the attention of another teacher and explained that the boy was getting Tessa to kiss him and then he was laughing about it, and she sighed (almost as if it was just another annoying thing) and went over to them. She actually told Tessa to stop. That ‘we don’t do that at school, sit over there’. To the boy, who I found out was named Blake, she said ‘if she tries to do that again, tell her no’. As if Tessa was to blame.

I told the Director not long after, and she spoke to Blake, but the situation has bothered me since it happened. At first, I thought it was simply because a boy was taking advantage of a vulnerable little girl, and it hit too close to home. After all, I was taken advantage of. Thankfully, I think we stopped everything before it escalated, but that is still not something I want to be around.

Then, I realized it was also because Tessa reminds me of my little sister Emma. Emma has some developmental brain disorders and will never be an ‘average’ adult. Right now, my parents are working with the doctors to see what mental age she will be able to reach. Right now, she is physically 6 1/2 but mentally 4 years old, and she has already started to plateau. It’s possible she will always mentally be a four year old. What if someone did that to Emma? She loves giving hugs. She loves people. To her, everyone is just a friend she hasn’t met yet. But what if someone hurt her? What if someone took advantage of her? I don’t think I ever realized before how vulnerable she is, how much protection she needs. Rob and I have said that if/when my parents pass away, we will be Emma’s advocates to make sure she gets the care she needs, and it had never felt hard before. I want to be there for Emma. We will be there for Emma, but I never truly realized how vulnerable she will always be. She won’t be able to protect herself from the evil in the world, she won’t be able to know what people should or shouldn’t be allowed to do to her. I just don’t ever want her to get hurt.

And now, and I write this, it dawned on me that the other teacher’s reaction bothers me, too. She scolded Tessa. That’s like scolding an abuse victim. It’s unfair. Tessa was being manipulated, and she got the blame. It’s way too similar to the kids blaming me when I tried to get help. I hope the teacher didn’t mean to take the side of the ‘bully’ or ‘abuser’, but that’s how it came off. It makes me very wary of that teacher.

This was one of those hard things to face, and I’m still figuring out how I feel about my third realization. It was a really hard thing to face on my second day, but I think (hope) I did the right thing. I’m still going to keep an eye on Blake, and I’m definitely going to look out for Tessa. The other teacher I will hold my judgement on until I get to know her more.

Like I said, it was a really hard thing to face.

Laying Out My Hierarchy

One of the fears that I have been trying to face is the fear of the places and faces from my past. Lori recommended that I set up a hierarchy to start facing those fears.

Basically, I need to ease myself into the things that I am afraid of, for several reasons. It will help to slowly reassure myself that I am safe. It will help disperse the high levels of fear that I still carry. It will help me be able to return to places that I have been avoiding. It will let me eventually get to the point where I am not afraid.

But I have to actually start facing those people and places, and that scares the crap out of me.

Although, I don’t have to face them literally. And that’s what this post is about. I’m trying to figure out how to face them mentally and emotionally, not necessarily physically. So I’m going to try and make a list of ways I can slowly immerse myself, and then determine how I am going to do them.

  • look at old year books
  • drive past buildings- Elementary, Jr. High, High School
  • drive through Butlerville
  • park in the school parking lots and walk around
  • play on Butlerville school playground
  • go inside Butlerville and walk the halls
  • go in the classrooms where I was bullied, where they turned on me, and where he molested me

I am happy with the order, but I think with each thing I’m going to have to to each step in phases. Maybe start each step by doing them with Robby, and then slowly be able to do them on my own. And with the year books I could start with better years and then work my way to the tougher years.

I think I have a plan. Now I just have to do it.

 

Ella Enchanted: Why I’ve loved it since I was 10

Have you ever had a book that you just love? I mean love.

A book you love so much that you read it over and over. But you don’t just read it. You breathe it. You memorize it. You know the characters so well that they become old friends. For you, it’s not a story, it’s a memory that you read. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine was that book for me.

Well, one of those books, but that’s for another post for another day.

When I was a kid, I got a book allowance. Yes, I was that kid. And one day with my book allowance, I bought Ella Enchanted. I don’t remember if it was Barnes & Noble, a school book fair, or one of those Scholastic Book catalogs that were the highlight of my youth, but somehow that book ended up in my hands, and I fell in love.

If you haven’t read it, please go and read it. It’s wonderful. But I didn’t realize why I loved it so much until just a few days ago. Let me explain the story-line so you can see why.

Ella Enchanted is a retelling of Cinderella, but in this version the focus is on how Ella becomes a servant to her stepmother and stepsisters. Ella has been cursed with obedience and she must obey every order given to her. Some of them are harmless (put on a sweater), some of them are annoying (run along and bump into somebody else) and some are dangerous or even deadly.

And she has to obey.

For her own safety, her mother forbids her to tell anyone about her curse, so it becomes her own secret burden. Throughout the novel we see how it affects every aspect of her life. She constantly struggles to break the curse, and when she can’t, she plays games so that she feels at least the illusion of control. She learns to obey without following the order in the way it was meant, and she manages–not to take back her life–but to not be a complete pawn.

As in all Cinderella stories, she meets her Prince, but in this version, she has known the prince for years. They write letters while Ella attends finishing school (and struggles to keep her identity while her teachers try to make her just like everyone else) and they continue to write while Ella slowly becomes a slave in her own home (Side note: her step-family doesn’t know about the curse, they just know she must obey). And through the letters she falls in love. When she realizes the prince is going to ask her to marry him, she is–at first–elated. She thinks this will answer all her prayers. She will be taken from her pseudo-slavery and get to live with the love of her life!

But.

But she will still be cursed. She could be ordered to kill the prince, or pass royal secrets to enemies. She would not only still be in danger, but she would be putting her entire country in danger. So she does the only thing she can think of: she lies. She sends the prince a letter–supposedly written by her stepsister–informing him that Ella has eloped and moved to another country. There is no danger of anyone recognizing her because of her station as a near slave in her own home.

But, as in every version of Cinderella, she goes to the ball. And inevitably the prince recognizes her, so she runs. When he reaches her home, he begs her to marry him, not realizing that he is giving her an order. The curse is telling her to say yes, her heart is telling her to say yes, her step family is telling her to say yes (and give them riches), but she knows it is the wrong thing to do.

She is standing there, surrounded by voices and feeling completely overwhelmed, and that is when she breaks her curse. Saving her own life wasn’t enough for her to break the curse. Keeping herself from being abused and exploited wasn’t enough.

But her love for him was enough. They were enough. Her country was enough.

And in that moment she wasn’t Ella the Slave or Ella the Cursed. She was Ella. Just Ella. For the first time in her life, she was free.

Do you see why I love this book?

I picked it up the other day, just to read for fun because–as I said–I love it. I hadn’t read it in years, and as I read the first few pages I started to remember how the story progressed, and all of a sudden everything clicked. I was only on page four, but I put the book down because of how strongly the realization hit me.

This book was the story of everything I had ever wanted.

I already had the ‘curse’. I had something I had to constantly work around, something that impacted every aspect of my life. And I was constantly trying to ‘break it’, to get over it. To get my life back.  But nothing was enough. I wasn’t enough. I spent nearly 15 years suffering, just playing games to try and convince myself that I was in control of my life.

And when I met Rob I thought that all my prayers were answered. But the PTSD was still there.

I had the first 220 pages of the book, but I was missing the last chapter. I had danced with prince and fallen in love, but the clock was about to strike midnight. The curse was about to attack. And it did. It started to affect us. And the moment that I realized the PTSD was trying to come between us, I knew it was time to try and break my curse.

Our relationship was enough. We were enough. Something in me rose up and said “You can’t have this too”.

When I was 10 years old, I found a book that spoke to the part of me that yearned for something that made me stand up and say ‘this is worth fighting for’. I have read this book dozens of times in my life, but I am just finally moving through the final chapter of it. I am finally finding things that are enough. And now with the EMDR I am starting for the first time I am starting to be free. To be Laura.

Just Laura.