In January, I reached out to a producer at The Dr. Phil show. Within hours she emailed me back, and in seven days my sister and I were flying to Hollywood. We had a story to tell, and hoped that what we went through would help others. Similar motivation is what led me to write my memoir, The Monster That Ate My Mommy.
Bad things happened to us. One of the worst aspects was having to keep quiet about it all. We couldn’t talk. We were the perpetrators’ prisoners in more ways than one. They hurt us, changed us, and then stole our voice. We did not want to keep the secrets any longer, so we shouted them for the world to hear.
(My sister’s story stops here. We are on our own separate healing journeys, and she is the narrator of her story. )
I did not think past that. I did not know what preparing to go on the show, and being on the show would do for me. In preparation for the show we went through old family pictures and old court documents. Dust was brushed off of the things I had packed away. During our search, my sister found a college paper my mom had written about me. (I wrote an earlier blog about it, The Devil Inside). After reading my mom’s words things began to shift inside me, at that point, only to a small degree.
When we arrived in Hollywood it all became real. I wondered what I had gotten myself into. We kept ourselves busy between the demands of the show and touring the city, and sitting by Tom Petty’s star on the Walk of Fame. Anxiety pulsed through my body as I thought about what was ahead of me. Excitement that my book would be talked about on the show filled the spaces that fear left empty. When I wrote my memoir, I hoped my story would get to the people who needed it most, and this was going to possibly make that happen. Our story that was being discussed would also help others who have been sexually abused.
The mix of emotions filled my body with adrenaline. Excited and terrified. But this was our chance to change things. It wasn’t until the morning of the show that we were told that there was going to be a twist. My sister and her dad would be on stage first, while I sat back stage and watched. I was relived that I had some more time before I would have to be on stage with my stepfather. As I watched my sister talk with Dr. Phil, and then her dad my body began to tremble. I was not sure if it was from being cold or nervous –most likely a combination of both.
As my stepfather talked about the abuse he had done to my sister I became enraged…and felt the guilt creep in. As I tried to push the guilt out of my mind a photograph of our mom flashed on screen. The mom I remembered, the mom I longed to love me, the mom I desperately wanted to protect me. I was no longer able to hold back the tears.
The emotions switched back and forth inside me. It was time for me to join them. As I waited to enter the stage I heard my stepfather say the words I had read in my mom’s college paper. Jessica is severely mentally ill. She has no grasp of reality. She is a paranoid schizophrenic. I never touched her. She is a liar. His words bounced off me as my body trembled with rage and fear.
Even after thirty years, he still denied he ever sexually abused me. When asked how I could have accused him before he began the abuse on my sister, he said it was “convenient.” My accusations came, were denied, and then he admittedly sexually abused his own daughter, although he stated it wasn’t abuse. There was no way to make him understand how ludicrous it all sounded. There was no point in fighting. He did get it. He never would. My rage switched to pity.
I felt sorry for him. For him not seeing the truth. For being so sick that he doesn’t understand what he did. For being old and lonely. For not having a family. For so many reasons.
When he left stage, he fell into my lap. I could either catch him, or let him fall. As the old man fell, I had to catch him. How could I hurt him? His head brushed against my breasts and he looked up at me and his pathetic eyes were thankful. I saved my abuser, while he continues to harm me. Thankfully they edited this part out of the show, so only the audience saw.
After he left the stage, Dr. Phil offered my sister and I the opportunity to travel to Onsite –the worldwide leader in therapeutic and personal growth workshops, where he said we could work on healing our past trauma. Onsite is located in Tennessee. It would mean more travel, more time away from the kids, and George, and work. Before he was even finished talking, I had already came up with a hundred reasons why it wouldn’t work for me, why I couldn’t go, and how it wouldn’t help. I am healed. I had already worked on so much of my healing, and writing my book did tremendous amounts of healing my past trauma. How could it help?
The show ended –no mention of my book. The familiar taste of rejection filled my mouth. As I left the stage, I could feel tears running down my cheeks. Maybe my book wasn’t good enough to be mentioned. What if he hated it? What if it was trash, rubbish, pure junk? What if everything I believed was false. What if I wasn’t an author after all? My book and I were no good. There was the proof.
So, what was the I said earlier? I am healed…yeah…think again.
Self-hating thoughts would not leave my head for the first few days back home. As with many other events in my life, what I expected and what happened were totally different. Disappointment lingered. I researched Onsite. I wanted to know more. I reached out to the admissions department and was interviewed. The program that would best help me was believed to be Healing Trauma. I completed an application and sent it to be looked over. I was told they would let me know if I was accepted into the program.
Suddenly, this place I had no interest in going to was now some place I had to go. They had to let me in, right? I checked my email every few seconds…still nothing…what if I was too messed up to go? What if the stuff that happened to me really wasn’t that bad and I was just overreacting my whole entire life? The thoughts returned…your book is no good…who wants to read about boring stuff anyway? Maybe you are crazy. Maybe you need more help than they can give you. Maybe…fill in the blank…you get the idea.
The email from Onsite arrived in my inbox…now I was too nervous to open it. As I clicked it open I read that I had been approved for the program in April. All the desire I had before to go turned in to uncertainty. For six days I would not be able to talk to my kids or George. I would not be able to be online, use email, watch the news, look at the weather, listen to Tom Petty. I would be gone from home for seven days. A prisoner of sorts, forced to work on all the past trauma. What was I thinking? Why did this sound like a good idea before?
It was too late, the plane tickets were purchased, the date was set. I was going to Onsite to heal decades of past trauma.
Continued on: Healing Trauma