Category Archives: incest
It’s Story Time! “The Deer in the Road” Once upon a time a deer wandered out of the forest and onto a flat, stone-like piece of ground. It was night. A few clouds passed across the moon and the wind rustled the tufts of grass along the edge of the gravely surface. All was quiet…
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.
Dear beautiful souls and loved ones,
Due to recent and horrific dips in my coping abilities combined with increased self harm and suicidal tendencies, I’m going for treatment at a residential facility. I will take each and every one of you with me in my heart and cherish greatly the friends and tireless supporters that I’ve met here. It is my hope that I will come through this stronger and more resilient than ever. Until that time, live greatly and peace be with each and every one of you. Aho.
For those of you that can’t handle my extreme and unbridled rage right now, let this serve as a TRIGGER WARNING. And here is a picture of a bunny to give you the opportunity to get the heck out of here.
Let the rant begin. This moment, right now, I’m furious. I’ve snapped with grief and I’m tired and exhausted and insulted and unwilling to hold it in any longer. The music is on full blast with Janis Joplin screaming I’ll say come on, come on, come on, come on and take it!
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby.
Oh, oh, break it!
Break another little bit of my heart now
I’ve cleaned and cried and smoked cigarettes as I look at my home that I’ve finally decided has to be divided. How the hell did I get here? Did I not try hard enough? Did I not bleed enough for this relationship? When did my beloved home turn into a cold gilded cage? Where are my plants going to live now? The wisteria planted in the early days of love that is deeply intertwined among the trellis and surrounding trees, how do I tell it to unwind, that there is no place for it here now?
I’m full of rage as I look at the items deciding what’s mine and what’s his. I hate his socks right now. They are everywhere, haunting me from the place where they were discarded at the foot of the couch for an intimate moment. His socks are mocking me. I still love, he doesn’t.
I’m seething at any person, at any time, for any reason has questioned my sanity. My brain, while different and reacting unlike normal people (whoever the fuck they are) is not crazy. It was changed. It was changed as a child when my father and my uncles for numerous years raped the children in my family. They forever and permanently changed the way that I see the world and severely limited my ability to trust. But they never stole my ability to love because that I do fiercely, deeply and with loyalty to a fault. But back to crazy, I’m not. And I’m fucking tired of folks too ignorant and lazy to become informed before slicing me and other survivors open with insane stupid comments and blatant arrogance that you know better. You don’t.
And by the way, disassociation is a thing. A real fucking thing. It happens because its the wondrous coping mechanism of the human under attack. When the pain becomes too traumatic, too difficult, too much for tiny little children’s minds to process, it splits. Bam, just like that. You go somewhere else, someplace safer than the place you are in where your uncle is raping you at gunpoint. And guess what, when you’re gone, you’re gone. And to the major asshole who said that my disassociative episodes were a ploy for attention, well simply put, go fuck yourself. You speak with ignorance and venom. Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I try and try and then I fucking try some more to be the best, intact, whole person I can be given my history. To say anything less than that of me is cruel and unforgivable.
No, I’m not done yet, there’s more. I’m enraged at any person, for any reason who turns a blind eye to pain. This happens in so many ways; through denial of wanting to acknowledge a person’s pain, therefore maybe having to deal with it OR being frustrated that said person struggles a lot so you offer a platitude in order to get the hell away from this person you’ve judged as insane. Again, look at the above bunny and leave me the hell alone. You don’t have to hurt me just to get a safe distance away. I get it, of all people I understand that this is tough fucking shit and not everyone has the stomach for it. BUT…there’s always the option of offering love and leaving anyway. Bottom line, I’m left here to deal with this confusing mess of neurons on a daily basis and it’s no walk in the park. It takes hourly awareness and diligent practice to stay centered and even heal from these traumas. Don’t add to them. And especially don’t pretend it’s in the name of love. I’m calling bullshit on that one.
While I’m ranting, I may as well cuss the pharmaceutical companies who manufacture drugs to make lots of money that are prescribed by asshole doctors. My anti-depressants are giving me such incredible suicide ideation that the ideation is now taking form and making a plan. And getting off this shit is a bitch. Again, another mind-bending bitch to contend with. And yes, suicide ideation and self harm is a real thing too. It’s not just words that we in a secret meeting of the I’ve-been-molested club got together and invented. These are real psychological phenomena. Google it, you’ll see. We don’t just get up in the morning, feed the dogs, have a cup of coffee and say “I think I’ll go slice on myself today and maybe for fun, I’ll go sit in the garage with the car running and see how fast I’ll puff up from carbon monoxide”. But seriously, people talk to us as if we do this self-loathing, self-harming shit for attention. Really? Do you really believe that I’d prefer that method of coping to say…. working at the dog rescue shelter or taking some flowers to the old ladies at the nursing home? If you believe that, you need a quick reality check and a good therapist.
The rant winds down here. Be kind, everyone is struggling. If you don’t know how to help and you want to, ask. It’s that simple. Is there anything I can do to help? If you don’t care or are just socially awkward, flash a peace sign, say Kumbaya my Lord or offer a hug. If you don’t have more, that’s fine but if you think you can fake concern, use condescension or just toss a crappy cliche’ toward me, you’re wrong. Because here’s the other thing that develops in survivors as we are fending off our nasty fathers and uncles, we became ultra-sensitive. I’m talking over-the-top, can practically read-your-feelings-without-you-knowing-it, living and floating in an emotional bizarre dimension that few know anything about. We know when you’re lying and we know when you’re trying to be cruel.
End of rant. For those who stuck around to the end, well, thanks. You’re tougher than most. For those who didn’t stay, block me on FB and have a good life. Kumbaya.
It is a brave woman that can sit with her pain. Sometimes it seems as if that’s all I do. But I will trust you on this and feel the hope again.
*If you are sick and tired of hearing people tell you to “put the past behind you” or “get over it” or “move on with your life already”, I want to ensure you that this is not the message of this post.
Today, I had a small epiphany. I was thinking about what life would be like if I wasn’t sad, if I no longer carried the pain with me. In that moment, I felt a twinge of sadness about not being sad. I felt grief about living life without pain. I felt fearful about living with the faith necessary to open up my life. It was as if I might be saying goodbye to a long-term relationship, a dysfunctional relationship, but a relationship nonetheless.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the pain. I push through it. I will my way through life with gusto despite it. I want…
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As much as I’ve come to love all the writers, bloggers, advocates as well as the extraordinary people I’ve met online, there is nothing as sacred as the face to face contact that I experienced this week as I travelled 6 hours from my home to attend a day conference, full of people whom I’d never met, at Safe Space Day. Full of trepidation, I willed myself to take the risk, knowing that this vital step of “coming out” was the obvious next step in my recovery. To say that I’m glad I attended is truly an understatement.
I wasn’t prepared for the magnitude of love I witnessed.
I wasn’t prepared for the courage of each women I spoke to, cried next to or shared an auditorium with.
I wasn’t prepared to meet anyone as anxiety ridden as I, anyone else who had travelled the day prior in sheer terror to an unknown destination that called so directly to me, nor was I expecting to feel, once I’d arrived, such a kindred meeting of souls.
Souls who struggle with silence, victimization, depersonalization, isolation, mental illness, physical health issues, anger and gut wrenching sadness.
Yet, these same brave souls simultaneously expressed undying hope not only for their futures but for future generations as they sang bravely, spoke loudly, laughed spontaneously. They offered humor, comfort and a space so special that we, as survivors of childhood sexual abuse and incest, assembled courageously to entertain and embrace the concept of living openly. In essence, we had come to heal.
Dr. Rosenna Bakari is a survivor, educator, poet, visionary and the creator of Safe Space Day and Talking Trees Survivors. She defines living openly as this;
Living openly as a survivor means that survivors no longer deny or hide the fact that they have been sexually abused. They are willing to speak truth about the trauma of childhood sexual abuse from their own personal experience.
This may include identifying their relationship to the perpetrator(s), age abuse started and ended, attempts or non-attempt to disclose and emotional experiences associated with the abuse.
Disclosure never has to include specific details about type of physical contact, degree of physical contact, or frequency of contact. Living openly as a survivor creates space to let go of guilt and shame and walk proudly with other survivors to move humanity forward by shedding light on an ugly issue that plagues our society. The shame of incest and the ugliness of sexual abuse must be redirected back at the perpetrators rather than remain lodged within survivors……Read more
Dr. Bakari has taken the concept of “living openly” to create a safe space for survivors of childhood sexual abuse and created a community. A community where safety replaces fear, acceptance diminishes shame and the groundwork of true healing is established.
The day was filled with oozing love and valuable information. Speaker after speaker empowered us on political and legal issues, healing our bodies and minds, all things related to the specific and unique characteristics of a sexual abuse survivor. For one glorious day, we tossed our shame aside as best we could because in that Safe Space, we weren’t the outcasts or the ones ostracized. We were the ones that were honored.
The absolute icing on the cake was the evening theatrical performance of Talking Trees. I’d felt very content and pleased with the day’s events, as many of us were, and looked forward to an entertaining nightcap with my tribe of new friends. All I knew was that Dr. Bakari had written and directed this theatrical performance based on some of her poetry and writing. I figured we’d have a relaxing evening concluding the day’s events, maybe some poetry or personal testimony. Nope, not even close.
Again, let me say, I was not prepared for this. This was freaking powerfully intense. It was like a poetry slam meets The Vagina Monologues meets Roseanne Barr combined with Madea on steroids. I was captivated and mesmerized that the performers were speaking from me, like me, as me. And judging by the audience response, they were speaking for many of us. I tumbled from silent and spellbound to yelling “yeah”, “testify” and other various words I didn’t know I possessed. My feet stomped as Dr. Bakari preached poetry like I’d never heard it slammed before…she stomped and I stomped. A young woman lurched for the door sobbing. College students were wide eyed. People grabbed out for each other. Sniffling was everywhere. It was an hour of emotions ricocheting throughout the performance space. I thanked God for intermission to go outside and collect myself as many of us did. We stood as we shook off the emotions while mumbling repeatedly…WOW…WOW…WOW.
I left that day feeling more happy tired than I had in a long time. I had a notebook stuffed full of business cards and e-mail addresses of new friends and notes from the day. I’d been hugged on and loved on. I felt a certain glow of acceptance radiating within me. I felt full.
I have no doubt that I will return next year to experience another Safe Space Day. In the meantime, I follow the suggestions of Dr. Bakari to create my own safe space at home, in my community, for others who have had similar experiences. I gratefully extend my hand to others because in their healing I will find more of my healing.
I invite you to visit Dr. Rosenna Bakari on:
Website – Talking Trees
For the complete video of this performance – YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7Bo8xBog7c
In January 2014, best selling author, Rachel Thompson and therapist/author, Bobbi Parish, both survivors, began a Twitter chat #sexabusechat as a forum for support and healing for survivors of sexual abuse. With that resource quickly becoming so popular, they teamed with success coach and mentor, Athena Moberg to offer a Google Hangout on the evening following the chat to further process the topic of the week.
From there, these women have formed the NoMoreShameProject offering support, coaching services, publication and more. Within this project, there are many opportunities for a survivor to thrive, an opportunity which I find in short supply.
I’ve been fortunate enough to stumble upon these incredibly warm, inclusive, determined and very smart!! women. I’d like to pass this resource on to anyone touched by the issue of sexual abuse, child abuse or family violence. When we actually begin to find our voice and begin to hold each other’s hands, a miracle happens. Shame is released giving us long desired acceptance and freedom.
Check them out, grab a hand of a survivor friend and let’s circle the world!
I’ve been thinking a lot about privacy. Privacy from the perspective of a memoir and personal essay writer who is revealing family secrets, breaking silences that were intended to protect (or at least that’s what I’ve chosen to believe) but have done more damage than good.
I’m thinking about my aunt, my Titi who is very much a surrogate mom to me. When I told her I was writing a memoir, she said, “Be careful what you write.”
“I’m not being careful.”
“I know.” She looked at me with those loving eyes of hers, no judgment, but no understanding either. Then she walked out of her kitchen, a plate of food in her hand. The heaping plate she’d just served me sat on the table, heat rising off the rice in smoky tendrils.
Two years ago, I showed her the picture I found in Meryl Meisler’s exhibit, “Bushwick in the…
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The subject of this post is one brought to my attention by my therapist Cathy. We often work on issues related to connection or lack thereof. We’ve been discussing my deep seated longing for connection, the elusive feeling of absolute safety knowing that I above all, feel merged with myself, with my tribe, with the divine, with my soul.
She tells me of Dr. Edward Tronick‘s work and gently describes to me how children of mothers who are absent, abusive, drug-addicted, depressed or afflicted with other mental illnesses, show marked negative coping, often developing long term affective disorders. I’m taken back. Partly because I’m touched deeply by how she validates my pain and partly because her validation makes this real, an issue that will have to be explored and conquered.
What this means to children of trauma and sexual abuse, among many other situations, is that we have extreme difficulty with trust. Because most probably, we haven’t had a consistent, cognitive connection with an available mother, caregiver, or parent and haven’t developed the attunement necessary to function well. We don’t know who to trust, who is safe, what situations to avoid. It delays, distorts, prohibits and skews our innate knowing.
What are the implications and negative effects to a child with an absent, depressed or vacant mother? What are the long term effects of a child’s cognitive development when subjected to a distressingly unavailable mother?
In 1975, Dr. Edward Tronick, Ph.D. at the Child Development Unit at Harvard University presented the still-face paradigm addressing exactly this issue. It continues to be one of the most replicated findings in developmental psychology referencing affective disorders on infants and child development. Dr. Tronick documents an infant who experiences his non-responsive expressionless mother after three short minutes of “interaction” View video here.
The child...“rapidly sobers and grows wary. He makes repeated attempts to get the interaction into its usual reciprocal pattern. When these attempts fail, the infant withdraws [and] orients his face and body away from his mother with a withdrawn, hopeless facial expression.”
This video is disturbing for me to watch. Because I get it. Because I’m ultra sensitive and I want to shake that mother and tell her to respond to her child even though it’s a research experiment. Because I know what that baby feels like, as a young child, as a young woman, as a full grown mid-fifties adult. It haunts a survivor to witness an empty person, giving us no social cues to process and understand, reminding us of our initial failed connections to our own mother or caregiver. It fills us with anxiety as we try to connect, doing all sorts of things as the child in the video did. We smile, cajole, reach out. When unreciprocated, we recoil, withdraw, feel rejection, depression, shame.
I serendipitously stumbled upon an artist who creates from one of the deepest places I’ve witnessed. We’ve not met but have exchanged a few conversations. I don’t know Henry’s background or childhood. But Henry knows something. He understands some place within that I’ve lived. I don’t know how but he does. This painting represents to me, the small child, fraught with fear, frozen in emotion, empty of connection. It provides me with a place to be, a moment where the child can release, to be seen just as she is. I can’t entirely change my neurological programming but I can choose to honor her in the place she was given to exist.
Here are the links to his work. I bow in respect.