Mental Health

Beneath the Surface

beneath the surface

It’s been three weeks since I spoke on the phone with my brother, Kevin – the brother who physically, emotionally, psychologically, and sexually abused me for years as a child and teenager. It was the first time we have spoken in twenty-seven years. He called my folks on Christmas day. My mother, who has Alzheimer’s Disease and doesn’t remember the abuse, handed the phone to me. After a few emails back and forth, which he initiated and in which he apologized, I felt I could handle speaking with him.

At first, I felt a level a relief and release, like a burden had been lifted from my soul. I felt that some healing had taken place for the both of us for I know that he has carries his own burden of guilt and shame for the horrible things he did to me. I could hear it in his voice as he made his amends over the phone. He told me that he looks forward to the day when he can tell me how sorry he is in person. I told him that I forgave him a long time ago, but he said he needs to earn my forgiveness. I told him I need to keep strong boundaries as we move toward healing the wounds of our past. He understood and agreed.

Anyway, the day after Christmas, I slept all day. I couldn’t get out of bed except to feed my cat, Zeke. I have been in a funk ever since. There have been moments when I have been able to accomplish things, like chiropractic appointments, grocery shopping, and coffee with a friend. I’ve been able to read a little and watch an occasional movie. Other than that, I have spent most of my time lying on the couch listening to my favorite Pandora Solo Piano station; I find the music quite soothing.

My eating and nutrition these past few weeks has been terrible. I’ve been living on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cereal, and popcorn – for the most part. I have been able to muster the energy to cook and occasional chicken breast with a side dish. I’ve also binged on pastry twice; once on half a cheesecake, which I ate in one sitting. I took off the cover, grabbed a fork, and dug into it. I didn’t enjoy it after the first few bites, but I kept on eating, to the point of feeling ill. I also did this with a small cake. I didn’t purge, thankfully. I’ve somehow managed to heal that part of my emotional binge eating. When I binge, it’s like I am punishing myself with food.

I told my friends and therapist that I was “in a funk.” It didn’t feel like full-blown depression. I have been exhausted, both physically and mentally, but I didn’t feel depressed emotionally. I told my therapist that I hadn’t been triggered by speaking with my brother. I didn’t feel anxious, angry, or sad. I thought that I felt nothing. My therapist suggested that I was feeling a whole range of emotions below the surface – my psyche’s way of processing decades of pain and connecting with my abuser.

My funk is slowly lifting. I have a little more energy and I’m eating a little bit better. I don’t know if I will ever feel an actual release of my buried emotions. I’ve always thought that I would need to have the emotions surface and flow through me in order to process and release them. Maybe that will still happen. Maybe it’s not necessary. Perhaps my psyche is doing all the work below the surface. Perhaps I’ll be freed from the emotional and psychological burden that I’ve carried for so long without having to re-experience the pain from the trauma. Maybe I will be one of the lucky ones. Time will tell. Healing will take place in its own way and in its own time. I will try to stay out of the way and let it happen – without anticipation and without judgment.

Photo by Yuris Alhumaydy on

11 thoughts on “Beneath the Surface”

  1. Ugh. I’m so there with you in so many ways. As much as I’ve been able to heal anger and crud from the past, it looks like there’s more. Especially so because of going through a very uncomfortable spiritual process that keeps bringing all sorts of stuff up. I’ve gained so much weight this past year. I’m at the point of being done with my violator brother, yet his continued utter stupidity is setting me off. He is so utterly clueless that what he did was wrong on so many levels, and is clueless as to the fact that I have no desire to speak with him or have any sort of relationship with him beyond conversations I absolutely have to have.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Im so sorry its been such a difficult time. I glad you are beginning to feel a bit better. I love your bravery and your honesty. Healing is so mulit-layered and non-linear. Its a good reminder for all of us. And thank you to your therapist for reminding you (and all of us) on how hard our psyche works below the surface. Take good care of You. Hugs!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve been experiencing a very similar thing for the past month. I discovered on December 13 that my dad, my mother’s first husband, was my biological father. For years I believed that he wasn’t my real dad, because my mother had taken me to see her old boyfriend when I was five years old, and she told him that I was his. But now I know that was not true.

    My dad (who died 31 years ago tomorrow, when I was 34 years old), was severely mentally ill. He was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder back when I was a teenager, in the 1960s. He really was more than one person, too. I loved his “good daddy” personality. But there was a terrifying, abusive personality, and other personalities as well. It was very confusing and scary, growing up with him.

    I learned that he was my biological father,because my dad had a half sister, who recently had her DNA tested by 23andMe. She is now listed on that website as my closest DNA relative. Prior to this, in the years since I have had my DNA tested with both 23andMe and ancestry, I did not have any DNA matches that were obviously related to my dad.

    My life, since learning that my abusive father really was my dad, has been a lot like your describe in this post. I am thankful that you wrote this. I’m sorry you are going through this, but glad to know I am not alone.

    I keep wanting chocolate. And ice cream. Now I’m thinking about cheesecake. Hmmm… I think I will take a nap.


    1. Wow! What an experience. My heart goes out to you. I’ve been fighting the impulse to buy more pastry. I can so relate to taking a nap! Whenever I feel overwhelmed my first impulse is to curl under a blanket and cuddle with my cat. Hope you feel better. Blessings to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Saying he needs to earn your forgiveness gives you a job to do. You owe nothing. You forgave the unforgivable with such grace. Your focus is on you. Though forgiveness may take place, the damage done by his actions needs attention, love and care. He needs to find what he is looking for inside himself. You can’t give it to him. Trying to do so with the limited energy you have could possible just cause more damage to you.
    I fear he will wear you down with his needs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I am going to keep strong boundaries with him. It’s not my job to rescue him. We haven’t had contact since our phone call 3 weeks ago. I will do my best to keep the focus on myself and what I need. It might require a reminder from time to time though! 🙂💖

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If his life is not how he wants or likes, it is not about guilt over what he has done. You have given the gift of forgiveness. Even if you hadn’t, you still could not give him a better life. He has to do the work.
        Perpetrators playing the victim really is astounding yet it seems many do. Make amends with true remorse. After that, whether the person forgives or not, lead a better life. Do good work. Get help.
        You know, do the work we all do. Don’t keep going to the person you hurt with your baggage. That is not the place to take it.
        It feels as if he is looking to you for pity and solutions for his life. You can’t provide that, only he can.

        Liked by 1 person

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