In wanting to pay tribute to a wonderful woman whom I barely got to know and her partner, Ed, I’m re-blogging his post. This beautiful post reflects on love and loss, particularly to suicide. But as you will see from the content, these issues are complicated and layered with many issues stemming from childhood sexual abuse and how it can steal one’s soul. I’m proud of Ed Kurtz for loving her and having the courage and language to represent her with such sacred beauty.
Category Archives: dreams and night terrors
Somewhere around the end of last year, right around the holidays, the bottom fell out of my world. Emotionally, spiritually, physically. Actually, it had been falling out for over a year but the accumulated stress hadn’t taken its final blow.
It wasn’t the first time or the second but what felt like the hundredth, thousandth, millionth time. All my coping skills had been used over the last year surviving several huge hurdles and I now found myself with what felt like an empty bag of tricks.
The number of times I’ve bottomed out or the trauma of my childhood isn’t the point of this blog post, its about what I did in that situation. What I did was succumb. Psychically unplugged from life. Flat. out. gave. up. It had won. I just couldn’t pull myself up one more freakin’ time to stare down the demons again and again and again. Wouldn’t do it for my daughter, my husband and or for my dogs, which if you knew me is saying a lot.
After limping through the holidays on about 25% of myself, the final layer peeled off in early January and took my physical health with it. For months I was gone. Lost in that circular, downward spiraling, free falling haze. The demons recognized its frazzled, stressed out host with parasitic vigor. They seized that opportunity to invade my body with long buried memories of abuse and violence. They haunted my dreams, robbing me of much needed rest to heal and recover. They invaded and eroded my skin, giving me huge welts across the backs of my legs reminiscent of beatings with the belt. My skin itched and burned at the slightest touch, wearing clothes or any contact with a piece of furniture was a challenge. I lost the ability to be comfortable in my own skin. I had no where to go.
But mostly, they intruded upon my feminine parts with a vengeance. The little girl parts that took the abuse, tried to adapt and scar over, the parts that became swollen almost beyond recognition, the parts that tried and tried to stretch but couldn’t….eventually giving way to rips and shreds. Those parts were the target again. What the little child couldn’t tolerate at that time, she buried deep and then systematically began to hand back to the adult woman in bits and pieces over the years. Somewhere in our collective unconscious, we must have bargained. I must have made a deal with her that if she survived the early trauma through whatever means she needed to, then I, the adult, would deal with the suppressed memories and physical sensations later.
And that is what happened. For weeks turned into months, I rode the edge of the razor’s split. Burning, stabbing, swelling, searing pain. Urinary, vaginal, rectal. My every orifice that was violated contained sensations that rose to the surface. Over and over and over and over. The cascade of symptoms was never ending. Urinary swelling turned into infection which spread to my bladder and kidneys. More crying and screaming than my husband could handle.
Eventually by late Feb, the symptoms began to subside a bit thanks to Marilyn and Betsy, two women energy healers who encouraged and tolerated appointments with me; half dressed in nightshirts due to my sensitive skin and sporting ice packs for my swollen parts. Week after week, they lovingly helped me on the table and began to spin their healing magic. We began to make progress that continues at this writing.
That’s the backstory, here’s the point.
What it takes to get writing…. again….is LOVE. Four women emerged as a cosmic lifeline who carrying me out of the physical and emotional pain. Four women who I’d come to know online but never met, shared many conversations with over the years, created a small online support group for me. Just for me. Each day and often several times a day, I’d come to the group page to see beautiful images, unfailing words of support and love as well as space just to let me be. It was beautiful. I nicknamed them the “Fabulous Four” because I’m not sure I would have emerged from those dark depths without having these angels to carry me. And I’m coming up short with words to describe how it feels to be loved and cared for with this level of compassion, especially when one isn’t familiar with that level of support. Again, it was just beautiful.
As I plunged to the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, my writing and words died. It was impossible to write, think straight of have any type of creativity when coping with issues of basic survival such as pain. The bottom and largest portion of Maslow’s pyramid describes needs such as breathing, food, water, sleep. He suggests that one must be secure in the basic needs before being able to move up the hierarchy. Creativity is characteristic of the very tip-top of the pyramid and during this health crisis, far beyond my reach.
So, this is my debut….again. I have scaled the pyramid with the LOVE and support of four extraordinary women as well as my energy practitioners. My words are coming back as the crisis fades. I see hope again and crave being present on this blog and with my sojourners in healing. I’m confident that many more layers of the health crisis will be revealed when the time is right. As the accompanying image depicts, not only have I been lifted from the level of most basic needs, I’ve been infused with the energy of a Goddess-Priestess-Warrior vibe. The power of our hearts beating in unison, multiplied. I stand at the top of the pyramid with my arms wide open. I feel my power again.
Photo credit, used with permission from Sarah Durham Wilson, DOITGIRL .
There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.
I seem to have made it through the latest chapter of dark times.
When I started this blog, I felt lost. Then I found myself through writing and gave myself a voice that I’d never possessed before, at least for myself. I’d been championing for others for decades; animal rights, women’s rights, diversity, environment. It had become painful apparent to me that a great deal of time had been spent advocating for others and not myself. That was a game changer.
Writing this blog has enabled me to find my voice through writing but look several issues squarely in the eye. Honoring myself was one. A simple bumper sticker noticed by the artist, Terri St. Cloud of Bone Sigh Arts. Honor Yourself. Simple words that were nearly impossible to integrate.
The next issue was that I couldn’t wrap my thinking around the fact that someone, anyone would want to read what I had to say. In my mind, my words had to be profound, a literary masterpiece before putting them out for the world to see. Shouldn’t I get a MFA in writing or something or some sort of artistic approval before being so bold as to put my words, my life, my history into words? Well, that answer came soon too. Survivors trickled in, slowly at first, some stumbling and fragmented, some already having honed their beautiful craft of expression. All were worthy and I felt so blessed to be a part of a counterculture emerging for survivors, men and women, who were taking back their power. I wanted to be a part of that. For me, it was coming home.
My most recent absence is due to my utter confusion and re-entry into that dark place. You see, I thought I’d been through it and had emerged complete, or at least complete enough. I thought I was finally, finally in that safe cocoon where I could share my story of abuse and survival with the clarity of hindsight. I was wrong, at least sort of.
This summer I separated from my husband. My fairy tale crashed and I felt that I was a fraud. How on earth could I write stories of hope and love when I had failed at my own love story? Slowly, I moved through the hazy days of summer with my tool bag (purple of course) of rest, solitude, meditation, reading and dark chocolate. I cried when I felt like it, wandered through the library, raged at Grandmother moon in the wee hours of the morning when sleep eluded me, slept any time I felt fatigued and tried, oh how I tried, to find joy anywhere I could. I picked flowers and herbs from my beautiful garden and gave them to anyone I could think of; my church for Sunday morning service, the women at the convenient mart on the corner who are always so kind and make me laugh every time I’m there buying chocolate, my dear friend’s mother who was passing this summer, a friend who works long hours and commutes into the city each day. I gave them just because. Just because in the absence of my own joy, I needed to create that precious spark of joy for someone else and live vicariously off of that until I had my own.
Many, many people supported me though this passage, you will find them on my blogroll and Facebook page. I simply couldn’t have weathered this without logging on to see their daily posts on love, writing, poetry, painting, nature, food. I traveled with several as they made major changes in their lives too and hope that I provided them a wee bit of support also.
Slowly that spark began to burn again. Now I have more words and more insight into myself. I tip my hat to the dark side, purpose well served.
I still live a love story. Really, there is a love story in here somewhere. One that, once again, must begin with myself. With or without a partner, my daughter, my dogs, my house. I can write words of hope because now I’ve lived them again. I’m not a fraud but an innocent person who stumbles and trips often, sometimes sitting in the mud puddle I fell in, squalling and crying. But then there are times, when I laugh and dance around with a soggy tutu.
It’s all good.
No graphic, triggering details. Just the facts.
Haven’t slept well in days, watched the clock go from 2 am to 3 am to 4 am….Tons of body sensations on my skin, in my brain. I’ve gnawed at my fingernails and took my anxiety meds. Practiced DBT and trauma release exercises. I’ve been through this enough now to know what is happening and how it will play itself out. I’ve identified it, named it and tackled it.
In other words, I’ve got this covered. I have tools and support. The memory still came in my sleep disguised as a writhing rattlesnake in my mouth. That’s what I woke up to was the feeling of it in my mouth and that’s what I’ve spent the day shaking off. Doesn’t take an expert in dream interpretation to figure out this awful phallic metaphor.
But you know what? Its okay. Today, I can hold onto my soul and refuse to let you have it. I’m gonna kick the demon in the ass today and let it know who is really the boss around here.
I’m the alpha bitch and that’s just the way it is.
Over a year ago, I lost a situation that was pure joy for me. I lost it due to my emotion regulation problems that are a result of abuse. My lifeline of joy that fed and distracted me from the pain is gone. I’ve not been successful at replacing it yet although I do try each day. I push through. Just like my friend A Heart of One does in her blog post. The particulars of her life are a bit different yet the result is the same. Our hearts are broken and we just don’t know how to fix them. That’s all there is everyday….heartbreak….
All of my life, I’ve been pushing through…pain, grieve, exhaustion, lack of supports. I’ve made it work, kept going. Do or die. If I felt myself getting sick, I’d will myself to not be sick, keep going, don’t have time to be sick, take a rest, stay home, do nothing.
I tried to push through today, still want to on some level. I tapped into a painful memory last night. Curled into a ball, on my side, clenching my bottom, mouth shaped into a scream, eyes wide, head jerking back, shaking all over, then crying. Me, but not me. A past me. In pain, terrified. He did not care about pain he caused or the fear that I felt. It was a moment of complete horror. I lived it and lived through it again.
Full article at http://aheartofone.blogspot.com/2013/01/pushing-through.html
The first being that my body had to remember. It gave me the challenging gift of tangible form to my mental illness carried around for my entire 45 years. At the time I might have been very reluctant to admit that this was a good thing but in retrospect, it was the essential plunge that one has to take to rise up as someone different. These transitions have come to many of us played out in different ways but with the same theme of rebirth.
After weathering the body memories and night terrors where the stories began to unfurl, I began writing. It seemed high time to take this swirling mess from my psyche and put them into another tangible form…words. Decades of rage poured out of me in scratchy, erratic phrases. I cried and raged with my paper and pen, determined to purge myself of its hold on me. I found an image of what I thought this child looked like and began to make her real. Not that she wasn’t real all along, but she’d been buried and oppressed in an effort to go through life until she crashed so hard, taking my body with her and demanding that I finally pay attention and put her first.
So I did.
I began putting these writings into a blog that I secretly and lovingly created for her. It was a place that I could actually go to, turn on the computer and look at her words and manifestations. It became intoxicating. The freedom of releasing this pain is one that only a survivor of trauma of any form can understand. Being let out of prison. Feeling safety in one’s home and skin. The sweet joy of letting go, little by little, word by word.
Soon after this, I had the divine blessing of finding a forum set up by a woman artist, Terri at Bone Sigh Arts, who had the incredible perceptive foresight to provide a place for women, survivors and otherwise, to place their thoughts. An inclusive haven, without judgement for those of us who are the smallest and the most timid, to peek out and see if the world was really a place that we could trust. A place that wanted to see us as we really were: fragile, sensitive, creative, wounded. I lurked, I read their posts, I watched as they supported others in their healing. And when I finally came out, it was here that a group of incredible women gathered around me and loved me so unconditionally that I finally found the nerve to push the “publish” button on my blog. After praying, smudging and turning it over to God and a higher power, I screamed and hit the button. Frozen for several days, not going near the computer or the blog for fear that I might have made a horrible mistake, that I would be found out and ostracized from my newfound circle of friends for being…..me.
Well, we all know that didn’t happen.
Instead and of course, I was flooded with well wishes and support, praise for my courage and for my writing.
But that was enough for me to forge ahead.
So I’ve been happily blogging for a year now. I’ve met dozens upon dozens of incredible virtual friends who have lovingly supported me as I dip in and out of depression and mental illness. I can readily admit that now. Its who I am and have accepted and even revered myself for the warrioress that I am to have thrived in spite of horrendous circumstances. Some of these women share many of my characteristics and talents, others have very different gifts to offer, all are treasured friends. And yes, I do call them friends even though we’ve never met. We have, however, shared many challenges of joy and sorrow over the last year and what we lack in physical face to face contact, we make up with in genuine concern for each other, our families, our communities. Holding hands with each other, we watch the full moon together from all parts of the world, share our gardens and grieve the loss of our beloved ones.
Although quite content with this arrangement, I was given a unique opportunity to meet a fellow writer, survivor and hopefully, a new friend in real person. Several weeks ago, a trusted friend gave me a book written by a male survivor of horrific child abuse. She stated simply and knowingly that this book would be similar to the one that I would write. She’s always believed in me like that. I devoured his story, the pain and the triumph, in one afternoon and began the process of locating his website and facebook information. Within days, we were friends and this weekend, I attending his book signing. How incredible that this man brought to me actually lives in my neck of the woods.
Keith Hoerner, author of “Missing the Mark: A Target Child Speaks” signed my copy and became my first real live human writer~survivor friend. I’ve officially gotten to the next level of creating the person I want to be. We connected and recognized each other immediately like dogs to their pack. I hope that we have many sessions over coffee, discussing writing for healing, trauma recovery and all associated topics. I look forward to that. And I hope that his book makes its way into the hands of anyone that has experienced childhood abuse of any form.
I feel absolutely giddy….and am wondering what’s next?
AS SHE WALKED HER PATH, THE EARTH STARTED TO TREMBLE, the air around her thick and still, its surface opening up and swallowing her whole, plummeting her downward, downward into the pitch black darkness and muck.
the dark terrified her instantly, she sat paralyzed from shock, unable to move for hours, unable to make sense of the instant void that surrounded her
the dust settled while her heart stopped its pounding to realize the was in that place again
it took hours to leave the shock, to gather her wits, find her courage to scratch her way out, scaling the walls only to fall back down over and over and over
eventually she wore out; exhausted, crumbled, weeping and scraped, she began to pray for hours while looking up at the light and the heavens beyond the opening of the cavity that contained her
she heard voices and leapt up thinking her prayers were answered, the people came and looked down the hole at her
“help me please, help me out of here”, the people didn’t move but said it was her place to help herself, it had to be her journey out, no one can help you but yourself
“don’t leave me please, i have been trying very hard” but the people who looked down on her said they loved her and would be with her when she got out and reminded her to use her skills and then they were gone
their words cut her heart and she bled
she wept with despair in the damp dark place, in that place
night came and then daylight, days came and went, she was thirsty and in agony cried out for her mother, for God, for mercy
many more times she attempted to scale those walls, looking for solid surfaces to grasp, rocks came loose, sliding down again
the people came back to look down on her and ask what she needed, “i need help, throw me a lifeline, get someone to help me please, i can’t do this myself”
again they didn’t move to help her but tossed her some food, saying that they were embarrassed to call for help, they had never known someone so dirty and trapped, it would bring shame to their family but would be happy to be with her when she got out and then they were gone
their words cut her again and she bled, but this time the bottom of the hole shifted and gave way as she felt herself plummet deeper into the abyss
she screamed long after they were gone, long into the night until she didn’t recognize her own voice any longer, as if it came from somewhere else in her soul
the nighttime animals began to come to her and encircle the hole and give comfort, they offered their wisdom and insight while she reflected on her place in the hole. it brought her peace but still no answers as to why she was denied help, why she wasn’t worthy of assistance
more days and nights; weeping, raging, begging, accepting
the people came again and looked down at her. “its such a beautiful day, the sun is shining and we’ve been enjoying ourselves so much, how are you doing on such a lovely day?”
to this, she raised her hands and with what little strength she had, threw rocks at their faces, cursing at them for leaving her alone in such a desolate place. she screamed at them for ignoring her cries for help and for their empty words
the people were horrified at her angry outbursts and quickly retaliated with scolding and finger pointing “we will not be yelled at after everything we’ve done for you”, their shouting so loud, it echoed deep into the cavernous hole, reverberating off the walls and into her brain until she felt her insides shake with their fear and hatred
and then they were gone
it is here that she finally breaks. no more hope, no more tears, no more believing in love, no more trying to get out. she slumped against the filthy wall of her prison and surrendered to her inevitable demise
I already have a tightness in my stomach and my head is starting to swim. I don’t feel eloquent and words are not flowing from me. I feel little, vulnerable, and so desperate. But I need to write about this and force myself to go forward with it because to truly release the hold that trauma and shame have on one’s soul, you must drag it into the light no matter how difficult that is. It must be removed from the rat’s maze in one’s head, doomed to run the same rutted path. Once its out, you can look at it, dissect it, let your loved ones look squarely at your worst fears and help reassure you. Otherwise it stays inside and festers into illness of your body and soul.
Somewhere as a little girl of 5 or 6, I got the idea that men liked having their shoes shined. I’m thinking that during the 40 and 50’s that may have been true when men dressed more formally and wore dress shoes as daily attire. I’m sure it was considered a treat to sit at one of those stations and have someone spiff up their shoes a bit and most people’s houses I knew had a tin of shoe polish and a shining cloth as part of their household items. I must have seen these items lying around or saw a scene in a movie of men having their shoes shined and internalized this thought.
This is where my thinking goes astray.
Why on earth, would I consider myself to be so subordinate and subservient to put myself in a position that I would kneel in an attendant position in front of my father, voluntarily lower myself to an inferior status, is a question that I haven’t completely answered yet. I know that I would practice on shoes that he wasn’t wearing, rubbing vigorously as if on a time schedule, practicing my efficiency. I don’t remembering him ever asking me to shine his shoes, I just wanted to. I’m guessing I thought it would gain me some approval from my ever distant father, the father whose only attention came at night, in secret, in the dark.
I wanted to do anything, including prostitute myself to gain his affection and admiration. This I know for sure, my motivation was his approval. I would wait for him to come home, having rehearsed and practiced my craft and convince him to sit on the upper part of the picnic table while putting his feet on the seating area. It was there that I would kneel in front of him, apply the polish and pop the buffing cloth showing my expertise until he would smile at my skills. Even at those moments when had his approval, I found it still wasn’t enough and proceeded to spend my lifetime trying to fill that leaking sieve of a psyche that would spill its contents as fast as it would come to me.
Adding insult to injury, my family, so very cruel with words, reinforced my shame by reminding me that I was a deplorable, pathetic girl who couldn’t get enough attention. “you are a spoiled rotten child who always has to be the center of attention” echo in my mind. Those types of scenarios set the stage for a lifetime driven to fill the emptiness by doing anything to gain approval from my father and subsequently other men throughout my life. Shining shoes was just the beginning.
My daddy taught me to be comfortable kneeling down in front of him, being servant-like in my approach to him, letting me humiliate myself with so little regard for my dignitiy. Weren’t you the one who should have instilled a sense of myself instead of teaching me to be your dirty little slave child? You had already stripped me of the innocence of my body and now you were closing in my soul. Damn you. I hate you so much right now.
I see that beautiful little girl with her rag and polish, waiting for you to come home so she could endear herself to you by lowering and subordinating herself and all the while you were perfectly, fucking fine with it? How come I can look at her and see her beauty and you can’t?
Thank God for my anger because it is my fury that sets her free. Here’s where she and I rewrite the story. I tell her to get up and I hold her tight, whisking her away to a place where she is honored and cherished and not depersonalized. I set her down in a soft place to heal and teach her ways to find her beauty.
So yeah, I knelt before you, like you were some savior or God to me. I did that. I was a child that didn’t know any better and relied on a monster for a father for some shred of attention..
But that was then and this is today, I’ve long gotten her out of that cesspool of existence.
Kiss my ass and shine your own fucking shoes.
I always intend for these posts to be of value to the person who finds themselves drawn to them. Most often my target audience, as in the people that I envision when I sit down to write, are women. More specific than that, they are women who are sexual abuse and incest survivors. I want them to find me and glean anything from my writing to help them make sense of the swirling crazy world that they are probably living in.
I’m not sure that my writing is fit for the general masses and I’m fairly certain that it fails to grab the attention of the mainstream. But I’m still going to put it out there. I know in my heart there are those so lost and frightened by the trauma of their past that I pray they find these writings along with other sources of help they need.
I want to share with them that transitioning from day to night is the toughest for me. As the day fades into dusk, panic sets in. It is the time that I have to hold on extra tight not to lose myself as I prepare for the dark to come. Night is when the unconscious comes out to play and dances around with all those memories. Night is also the time when, agitated and angry, she cracks me open and swallows me whole. Speaking in symbols and metaphors, she often stays present in my mind long after I have woken up and started my day. The line blurs between the two worlds until I feel as if I’m straddling two dimensions at once.
This has to be how many survivors feel. We’ve been dissected into so many parts and are so out of touch with our bodies that we float around with wispy images from our dreams never quite having our feet touch the ground. Its up to us to assemble the pieces and break the cryptic code that will set us free. Our disassociated parts try to integrate through any means it can find and often use the unconscious as its playground. I’m sure its why many of us are drawn to the arts and nature as one means of healing. Whether its through music or gardening, it is there that we make a connection that grounds us, helps us connect the fragmented pieces.
Throughout this journey, I have come across many tools and resources to heal. I want the survivors to know even though we occupy an odd, scratched out corner of the everyday world, feeling invisible and vulnerable, there is always hope. With the darkness comes a rare opportunity to go inside until we understand and embrace our true selves. It is then that we can emerge an entirely new and whole being.
So for this moment, I sit with the images from the dreams of last night. Warm images of my mother and my beloved owl Athena are present as I simultaneously recall the struggle through a maze of darkened streets, looking for a way out of something that I’m still not sure of. The same theme presents itself again. It tugs and nudges me to continue to unravel the story which may be repeated until I fully grasp the meaning. I force myself to be patient and loving with the process and hope that others are doing the same for themselves.