My dad’s a serial killer. I had come to terms with him being an asshole a long time ago, and more recently with him being a sadistic freak of a pedophile. But the truth is worse than that.

I did not have a good day. I think I had in mind I kind of time limit on this. I was so unsurprised by the horror of the memories that I did not quite realize how much they would flatten me. I allowed them to flatten me for a few days. I thought after that I could get on with things a little, do something other than lie in bed ruminating with a hot water bottle.

As it turns out, no. I really couldn’t.

I did the laundry. I took a bath. I made “breakfast” around noon. They were very modest accomplishments, but I think it was what I didn’t do that was more problematic. I didn’t attend to enough of the soothing. I didn’t attend to blocking out the saw from my hearing. I didn’t attend to protecting my hands from blasts of cold water. I looked too long at the red floor while I scrubbed the laundry on it. I bent my head and thought of certain kinds of sexual abuse and of leaning over bits of corpses, occasionally whole ones. I tried to tolerate the all-over body achy of whatever virus I have. It was too much.

I took a nap at last and woke up to the saw. I started to realize at that point that I couldn’t calm down, but by then it was almost too late. I ended up pulling the covers over my head and sobbing, in a young voice, “I’m scared.”

A refreshed hot water bottle and reading finally did it. I don’t know how long it took. Maybe two hours.

I forget reading helps—the feel of a book in my hands, not just reading words. Books are not escapism for me; they are reminders of sitting safely in someone’s lap and hearing the same stories read over and over to me because there aren’t any others. So it does help.

Somewhere amidst all the over-stimulation I couldn’t calm down out of, I realized I can’t be making this up. There is no way a circular saw cutting boards to build a house with could reduce me to a sobbing child if something hadn’t happened.

I am not making this up.

Not dealing with all the triggers is torture. I might be shutting it all out and dissociating my feelings, but all of the feelings are still there. If I am not making it up, I don’t really have a choice about this. I can deal with it and know I am suffering and I can refuse to deal with it and still suffer—probably suffer even more intensely and not be aware of it. I can’t will what happened away. I can’t will the effects away. I can choose how I cope with them. That’s all.

It’s a nice thought, because otherwise there is this lingering feeling that I am bringing upon myself a suffering that could easily be avoided.

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