30 Dec The Breathless Heartbeat of Fear – Part 1
I was sitting in an IMAX movie theater recently.
During the opening credits, where they show you their superior sound effects and the name of the company who is bringing this superior sound to you, and the sound effects began to blast throughout the room. The sound was deafeningly loud, rattling so hard that you felt it in your chest and throughout your whole body.
And in that moment, I had a flashback of something terrible from my past. It was brief, but it shook me to my core.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been on the run, or if you’ve ever known TRUE fear like hiding from a person who is trying to hurt you. Your heart is pounding. Thoughts are slamming through your mind. Should I run? Where do I go? Will they find me?
Buh-boom. Buh-boom. Buh-boom.
All of a sudden, someone is coming. Buh-Boom. You hear footsteps. Buh-Boom. Each step is getting closer and closer. Buh-Boom. You could be discovered at any second.
Without even knowing it, without you consciously choosing to do it, and because you’re truly terrified…
You hold your breath.
It’s the breathless heartbeat of fear. Fear so enveloping that you stop breathing. Have you ever been THAT afraid?
Your heart beat is pulsing and you are aware of each pulse as it pounds throughout your chest, your jaw, your head, and ears. Buh-boom. Your entire body is pulsing. Buh-boom. Everything slows down and it feels like slow motion. Buh-boom. It feels like a ticking time bomb that will only end in pain and violence.
That is one memory that I’ve never been able to forget.
When I was 5, my mother had a boyfriend that would watch me while she went to work. He sexually tortured me for years until my mother found out and then she blamed me for what he did to me, saying that I “asked for it” and that I had seduced him. That began the physical abuse that I endured for the next couple of years.
I was locked in my room without food or water for days, weeks at a time. I had no human contact, unless she was in my room, beating me. Only when she would leave the apartment to go to work, would I sneak out and try to eat anything I could find.
I wasn’t beat every night but almost every night. Here’s what happens to a person who is being physically or sexually abused. Your entire body is in a state of tension. You’re always waiting for the next eruption. I didn’t do anything to make her mad. There was no reason for her to hit me for any reason. I can vividly remember laying there as stiff as a board, in my twin bed with the covers pulled up to my chin. Just waiting. Waiting for the next beating. The next explosion. It was hard for me to fall asleep. I was exhausted during those days. Hungry. Bruised. But I was terrified to close my eyes. I would sing to myself.
I don’t know that I ever took a FULL BREATH during that time in my life.
She would threaten me and tell me that she would kill me if I ran away. I knew her well enough to know that she WOULD kill me so I stayed.
One day changed all that.
She came home from work and she was very agitated (more than usual) and started yelling about her job and that she might get fired. The heart starts throbbing. Buh-Boom. All of sudden, she burst into my bedroom and yanked me up off the bed by my hair. Buh-Boom.
It’s a weird feeling while you’re being beaten.
It hurts, for sure. But there is something so “out of body” about it, too. Depending on what you get hit with, there’s this ache of pain at the source. Then it stings. Then it feels like it’s getting full or swelling. It’s the sounds and smells, too. I know what the smell of burning skin smells like. I know what the smell of blood smells like. The smack of fists against flesh. The slap of a hand across the face. Yep. It hurts.
My mother was a wild fighter. She would use her fists, and anything else she could grab. First she slapped my face a few times. Buh-Boom. Then she grabbed my hair and held my head and punched me. Then she grabbed hold of the bookshelf and tossed it on top of me. It fell on me, knocking me to the floor. Buh-Boom. She had grabbed a wire hanger and was beating me across my lower back and thigh. The sound of a hanger whizzing through the air. The sting as the wire sliced across my body over and over. I remember the pain of that was really intense. When she got too tired, she dropped the hanger and grabbed me by my face. Buh-Boom.
Her finger nails dug into my cheeks and she literally picked me up by my skin and shook me back and forth screaming “I hate you. You have ruined my life. I want you DEAD.”
Just like that, she was gone. Buh-Boom. Buh-Boom. Buh-Boom. And then I let out the breath that I was holding.
I hurt everywhere. I remember pulling off my pants because my leg was hurting so bad. What I saw was something I’ve never forgotten. My thigh was black and raised off of my normal leg about an inch or more. There was a bruise there the size and shape of a football and several bruises across my back and butt. I couldn’t touch it because it would sting too much. I couldn’t sit, either. It kept swelling.
I heard her open her dresser drawer where she kept her pistol. Buh-Boom. I braced myself for round two. She came into the room again, and pointed the gun at me and said, “This…is the answer to my problem, Sonya. (Buh-Boom) You are my problem. (Buh-Boom) I am going to solve my problem.” Cursing, she hit me in the head and I don’t remember anything after that.
When I woke up, it was morning and I was on the floor where she had hit me with the pistol. She had left me there in that condition. I knew that I was hurt bad. It was hard for me to get up. I listened at the door and heard nothing. So I knew that she had left for work. I knew that it was now or never. I had to run. My heart was pounding hard in my chest. I took nothing with me. I left it all. I went to the door and opened it. Buh-Boom.
I knew that there was only one place that I could go. When I was a kid, I would pester every dog owner in the neighborhood to walk their dogs or play with their dogs. I LOVED DOGS. Well this particular house had 3 single women living together on one side of this duplex and they each had their own dog. One was a puppy and I was in love with it. When I got to the door, of course, it was locked.
So I walked around the duplex and when I got to the other owner’s house, I noticed that the screen door was open and that the mom was in the kitchen cooking. I knew from playing there that this duplex had two doors that opened up to each other to get to the basement. If I could get to that door, I could get into the other side of the duplex. I heard the phone ring, and the mom went into the living room and left the kitchen. Buh-Boom. This was it. Buh-Boom. I quietly opened the door and walked by the baby in the high chair, who was babbling and smiling, and opened the middle door and made it to the other side. Buh-Boom. Buh-Boom. Buh-Boom. I let out the breath that I was holding. I was safe for now and I could breathe. I closed the curtains, watched cartoons and played with the dogs most of the day.
The scariest part came when my mother came and knocked on the door, asking if they had seen me. Buh-Boom. Buh-Boom. Buh-Boom. I’m breathless. She was in the kitchen. She was literally above my head where I was hiding. They told her they hadn’t seen me in days. She left and I could breathe again. This is strange to say but I slept really good that night.
The next day, I heard the girls leave the house so I came out of the storage room and ate cereal, watched cartoons and waited. Sometime that afternoon, the dogs started to bark. They had a doggie door in their kitchen and the dogs were free to come and go as they pleased. I knew that the dogs were outside. As I looked up, there was my mother, glaring at me from the window. I had forgotten to close that curtain. Buh-Boom. Buh-Boom. Buh-Boom. Everything stopped. The breathless heartbeat of fear, pounding in my chest.
I heard the puppy barking and saw my mother look down at her feet. She bent down and lifted the puppy up by it’s neck. Buh-Boom. She held it there, in a choke hold, with it’s legs dangling and had this strange smile on her face. Buh-Boom. All she said was, “It’s time to come home, now.” Buh-Boom. I looked at that puppy as it wiggled and cried and knew what I had to do. Buh-Boom. I opened the door and she stepped aside to let me out. She took my hand in hers, smiling this crazy smile for the neighbors to see and hand in hand she walked me back to the worst beating I ever received.
BUH-BOOM. BUH-BOOM. BUH-BOOM. You don’t even realize that you aren’t breathing until you inhale. That’s TOTAL FEAR.
Can you feel it? Many of you know exactly what that fear feels like. A breathless heartbeat that you never want to feel again. It’s born from a violent reality that something BAD is going to happen AGAIN. Do you know what THAT kind of fear does to a person?