Isolation vs. Belonging


Here’s a subject to tiptoe into: Being isolated. Feeling isolated. Isolation is a mighty big topic for this survivor. When I was a child he needed to isolate me to have his way with me. What an old expression, having his way with me, so genteel yet plenty descriptive.

What do I mean by isolation? For the incest to happen there needed to be no one else in the room. Not Grandma Mable or cousin Jan. Each of them slept over every once in a while and always stayed in my room, on my single bed with me curled up in a nest of blankets on the floor next to them. Those were my most favorite nights in the apartment.

By isolation I mean he made sure I would never let anyone else know it was happening by saying, “You tell anyone and I’ll kill you.”

It was like what the cheetah does to the youngest member of the heard – that wobbly legged antelope. Pick her out, scare all the other antelopes away and go in for the kill. Now imagine this isolating goes on for five years, longer than it takes to earn a Masters degree in Social Work. Over and over you get isolated while the worst thing ever in your life is happening to you. What I carried with me into my teen years, my twenties – all the way to forty – was a deeply ingrained belief that when bad things happen I am alone, on my own.

God I want to go grab a big old handkerchief and have me a spell of tears just remembering that aloneness. What do I mean by aloneness? The absolute certainty that there was no one who could help me, no one who could be there for me, next to me. And I’m talking about all the years – not just in childhood but a lot of grownup years, too.

I knew I was healing when I could actually sense this retreat into isolating myself. I named it “going down the rabbit hole” – like Alice in Wonderland.

I had to just stop and take a breath. Maybe after I’m done writing this out and read it back to myself I’ll understand why a stream of tears is racing around my collarbone and shoulder blades as I write. Talking about isolation makes me remember and feel it. What I want to get to, the point I’m reaching to grab hold of is the enormous importance of gaining a sense of belonging, to feel I belong. Belong to a community, belong to a family of choice, belong in this world. It’s the absolute opposite of isolation.

The more I believe I belong here, that I belong to ME, to the world, that I’m a part of the world, the less I go down the rabbit hole. Or, if I do slip, then the less time I spend down there in that cold dark tunnel of despair once I remember I belong.

Why am I writing about this – this isolation vs. belonging? First, to get a better handle on it myself; a grip, a hold, a concrete understanding of what it is for me because I’m on a quest to keep my ass out of that rabbit hole more and more and more. I so want to be wide eyed and open hearted as many minutes if every day as possible. I’m trying to think of what helps me feel like I belong. The first thing that comes to mind is when I’m putting all my attention – eyes, ears, heart and mind – on someone or something I like or love, for instance, my grandson or the moon or Pachelbel Canon. Turn it upside down – when my attention is pulled to something or someone I fear – oops, gotta head for the rabbit hole, it’s the best place to ruminate on a teeth-grinding subject.

Hey sister and brother survivors – anybody out there ever feel isolated, like you don’t belong? Well, you do. You belong to this great sizzling world of ours – no matter how long they worked at making you believe you only belonged to them, to do whatever they wanted to do to you. They were wrong as 2+3=17. So I have a question: What would happen if you always, every minute of every day, believed you belonged in the world?