Dying cat scream

I had an evaluation with a psychotherapist recently. It was in-patient. They pushed me hard to try and see how unhinged I could get, because my future depended on it, as did getting the support and medical help I needed. She wrote in my file, “When OG is at a ‘breaking’ state, she screams. It is a terrible, unbridled sound like a dying cat or a person being sawed in half. It is a horrible, heartbreaking sound of grief and rage, and I am utterly convinced that if she were able to restrain it, she would.”

When I was sixteen, I screamed like that. I don’t remember all of the circumstances. I remember it was innocuous. I remember that the reasons I had for screaming should never have pushed me to that. I remember that something that didn’t really matter that much to me triggered some deep, abiding, primal cry in me that went on for hours until I was vomiting, and my mother almost brought me to the hospital with a nervous breakdown. In retrospect, I wish she had. I might’ve gotten help ten years sooner.

I remember a few years ago, we talked about that night, and my screaming, and my mother told me the first time she heard that scream.

When I was three, she remarried. I had never met my father, and it had been she and I and my grandparents, as long as I could remember. Then we moved in with Stepfather1, and he became “daddy” by force of will. If I didn’t call him dad, daddy, or father, I was disrespecting him. After a few months, he convinced my mother that she was far too soft with me and let me, “get away with murder”. Never minding the fact that I most definitely was the most well behaved child in many of our social circles. My mother wielded disappointment, not a belt. My “father” believed to spare the rod was to spoil the child.

Often, over some issue that I had transgressed, or some problem I had caused, he would corner me. He would confront me and demand I apologize. Then he would grab me and whip me with his wide leather belt as I tried to run away, walking me in a circle and dragging my arm. Sometimes I ran too much, and he would swing me into the arm of the couch and bend me over it to beat my ass with the belt, yelling that I was being disobedient again because I was trying to run away. I would cry and wail and beg my mother to come get me, help me, stop him. He had convinced her that any attempt at intervention, or even being where I could see her, would totally undermine his authority with his new daughter and forever mar our relationship as a family.

But, see, that’s not when she heard the scream.

The problem was that eventually, after letting him beat me for two years, she and he finally had a falling out and she finally found justification to leave him, because him beating her daughter wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough that he put me down constantly, because I think at that point she was just glad she wasn’t the target. I was a necessary target, so she could be a good wife and mother for a while. She could dry my tears and be the good mother who soothed me after, and his wrath was always mine first.

When he left, though, suddenly she was stuck with a child who had become used to being beaten, and I would act out, and dart away when she tried to correct me even gently. I was no longer impressed by her disappointment because I had been beaten instead, and disappointment was nothing in the face of a two inch leather strap whaling on my ass twenty or thirty times. I no longer looked to her with the gaze of, “Oh no, did I do wrong?” Instead, if I suspected I had done wrong, I ran away, which made her angry – where was her tractable daughter? So she would spank me.

It didn’t matter that she never beat me. It didn’t matter that she didn’t beat me with a leather belt until my ass was so bruised it stayed that way for five days. No, all that mattered was that my one bastion, my savior, the one person I could run to after the beating, was now the one administering a wallop, no matter how much more gentle.

That was when she first heard the scream. She would paddle me and flinch and cry as I screamed for her over and over again, because I had no one at all else left to scream for. My horrible dying cat scream, crying mommy until it was clear I had no idea what I was even crying for anymore.

My dying cat scream has never left me. And on some mornings, when I am trying to sleep after dawn (because I cannot sleep at night) when I cannot sleep and something snaps deep in my head, I scream.


~ by oniongirl13 on July 14, 2011.

One Response to “Dying cat scream”

  1. This entry is heartbreaking and really resonated with me. Thank you for posting it.

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