Category Archives: physical abuse

What If REcovery Is Not What You Need To Survive? The Role of DIScovery and UNcovering in Trauma and Abuse Healing

 

This re-blogged nugget of wisdom is from the awesome YA author-advocate G. Donald Cribbs. I take no credit for any of the following words or thoughts but do align with many of the thought provoking points he makes.  We have both had the opportunity to join forces with Bobbi L. Parish to be part of her first-ever Trauma Recovery Coaching Certification class. And oh yeah, check out his books and buy a few for someone you love!

 

*****Trigger Warning*****
What if recovery is the wrong word, the wrong approach, the wrong lens to view the treatment and healing process? This question brought me to at least attempt to process this thought all the way through and blog about it so you have the opportunity to join the conversation, which I hope you’ll do in the comment section below. Let’s begin.
First, let’s start with the question, what is recovery anyway?
The definition gives us a few inroads and insights to begin from, but it doesn’t really get at what recovery is, or hopes, or attempts to be for a person in the treatment and healing process. The first definition, “a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength,” implies that there is a right state of health or wellness, and there is a wrong state. This sounds very much like a victim of abuse must choose whether they are on one side or the other. Thus, a person who is in “recovery,” carries with himself or herself a stigma that they are not well, and further, that they are in fact in a wrong state of wellness. Victim blaming, anyone? Ouch. That one stings a bit.
The second definition, “the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost,” suggests that a trauma that has occurred has somehow robbed the victim of his or her innocence, and he or she should strive to “get back,” what is rightfully his or hers to own. The heart or intent of this sentiment is at first a nice thought: surely, every child has a right to retain his or her innocence, right?
We have a right to be a child when we are children, and not be thrust into the very adult world of child sexual abuse, where our childhoods are essentially robbed from us, right? Every survivor of child sexual abuse knows this just isn’t true. We know what that horror feels like every day that follows from the moment our sexual abuse first began. But the truth is: the world isn’t a safe place where children retain their right to be innocent and free from the weight of being thrust forward into adulthood. We don’t all chase butterflies, or toss copious amounts of glitter on things, or frolic with unicorns. So the idea of regaining something I never had seems ludicrous to me. I never had that fantasy or fairytale childhood. It didn’t exist for me. Instead, I found myself forced to make the very adult choice to take the bullet and comply with my abuser’s sexual demands in order to spare my siblings from this horror, not realizing the world isn’t fair, and my abuser had no intention of holding up his end of the bargain. I cannot regain what I never had. Sure, I was robbed. So for me, that happened when I was only four years old. As I approach my own treatment and healing from child sexual abuse, I am no longer certain recovery is the right approach. Another way to state this is recovery may not be the right word.

So where does that leave us? It’s such a common feeling for a survivor to not fit in with “normal” people. We are outsiders. We don’t belong. We are the quintessential square peg trying to fit into a round hole. We just don’t. Fit, that is.

For a survivor of child sexual abuse, recovery just isn’t a good fit. For us, we need something that meets our unique healing and treatment needs. This led me to the following thought:

What if REcovery was more like DIScovery and UNcovering our TRUE SELVES?

Give that a minute to soak in. Feeling okay? Are you ready to move forward? It might take a few moments for you to fully absorb what I’m saying here. Let me try another way: I’m going to break each of these down a bit further to help clarify:

REcovery is supposed to equal getting back what was taken from you. This seems legitimate as long as you had something prior to your abuse that was taken, apart from your right to live an abuse-free life, that you can “RE,” or RE-COVER, or get back.

 
What if you could, instead, DIScover, or not focus on getting something that was lost or stolen back in the first place? What if, instead, you could choose to do what YOU want to do with the cover. For me, “cover” represents the aspect of abuse that is hidden or covered up.
 
When you work to regain yourself, you pull the covers off, and reveal the secret. This step can be very triggering, and should not be attempted without the help and support necessary to fully go through this process. If you are considering this step, don’t do it alone. Make sure you are ready, and you have professional support with a licensed professional, preferably one who is trauma-informed, and can attend to your unique therapeutic needs.
 
Before I can get to the final step in the “cover” process, I need to veer off from the main topic for a bit. You see, our abuser took all his or her responsibility for the abuse they inflicted on us, and placed the blame entirely on our shoulders. We tried to resist this, but over time, they wore us down. Eventually, we succumbed to their repeated statements (gas lighting) and treatment. They told us we were nothing, we were worthless, it was our fault. Then, they treated us as if we were nothing, as if we were worthless, and as if it was actually our fault.
 
To truly understand the process that took me from REcovery to DIScovery to UNcovering the TRUE SELF, check out “The Lying Triad and it’s Dark Guard,” by Bobbi L. Parish, MA on YouTube:

 

This brings me to the UNcover part: that the true task is to 1: Uncover the secret of the abuse, rip the cover off of the secret, and expose it for what it is. By taking the lie off of ourselves, we reveal what has been hidden all along: the lie our abuser gave to us, (that you are broken, deserving of your abuse, and essentially the Lying Triad and the Dark Guard Bobbi was talking about,) in order to avoid facing any consequences for abusing us, is finally given back to our abuser, and our TRUE SELF is seen for the first time. 2: The second task is to seek to fully know and embrace the TRUE SELF and allow the TRUE SELF to regain his or her power back.
 
If we as survivors are ever to regain anything, it is the truth of our TRUE SELVES. And this very important part of our healing journey can only be achieved if we move from REcovery to DIScovery and eventually arrive at UNcovering what has been hidden by our abuse: our TRUE SELVES.
 
If you’ve read this entire blog post, from the bottom of my heart to the tips of my toes and the top of my head, I thank you. I appreciate you hearing me out. You may not agree with anything I’ve said here. You might agree with some parts of it, or all of it. I invite you to join the conversation. Sound off in the comments below and let me know what this brought up for you, how you connect or disconnect from this concept about the recovery process. Healing from trauma and abuse have unique aspects that are not the same as other treatment and healing processes.
 
It is my hope that this can be the beginning of a conversation about those needs for true recovery and healing to happen in the survivor community. If you have an idea for a blog post in response to this one, I hope you’ll post a link in the comments below and I look forward to reading your reactions, comments, and posts.
 
I will close with a checklist for recovery, “Guiding Principles of Recovery”:
Advertisements

Living Openly at Safe Space Day

wp0fc6e8a2_06As 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.

 

tumblr_n0d1x9gnmn1qz60nto1_1280

 

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:

Facebook – Talking Trees: Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Website – Talking Trees

For the complete video of this performance – YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7Bo8xBog7c

 

 


Into the mind of the abused child…into the heart of the woman she became

clouds-shadows - Version 2This is a profoundly important message from a dear sister friend.  She takes us on a journey and peeks into the mind of a child who has endured and coped through abuse, yet comes out the other side of it transformed.

If we are ever able to understand each other completely and totally, we must begin to listen to messages such as this. We read the stories, view the photos but here we hear the voice behind the story.  Joceline adds a beautiful new dimension to the totality of the experience.

Thank you Crowing Crone for capturing our truest feelings and deepest fears.  You’ve represented us, the silent children, with respect and dignity.

Click below to listen to Joceline’s recording on SoundCloud…….

into the mind of the abused child..into the heart of the woman she became……https://t.co/v2jYjF4eFB

 

 

 

 


pushing through

Heartbreak changes peopleAlthough I’m borrowing this phrase from a fellow blogger, I’m going to let her story speak for me today.  How long have I just been pushing through?  A day, a month, a year?

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


I’m the dissenter….

Recently I read a conversation on Facebook where a friend was crying out in pain due to her family shunning her.  Her pleas were confused, angry, sad. By her standards,  she’d been loyal and loving in her gestures toward her family over the years but they had chosen to ostracize her for reasons that they wouldn’t share with her. This challenged many feelings inside her.  She questioned her reasons for staying true to herself, thinking maybe she should have been softer with them, perhaps even more enabling.  Many times she’d reached out attempting to find a common ground with them, something to build a new foundation upon, to no avail. But the bottom line of her pain was that she missed them.  Terribly.  Her emotional loss visits her often.  And I felt her pain even from where I was sitting 1000 miles away.

If you change out the players and setting, you have my exact family situation.  Since my friend and I feel many of the same feelings towards ourselves and our families is probably why we’ve stayed close.   It’s also why this post struck so deeply.

As hard as I try to maintain contact with my family, they just aren’t motivated to return my gestures.  As I’ve grown and learned more about myself, I’ve been able to temper my anger toward our abusive upbringing that we all were subject to.  I, above anyone else, know the deep wounds etched in our young psyches.  I guess I always figured that this fact would make me safe to them.  I understood. I got it.  I was one of them.  Yet somehow, sitting in one of my many therapist’s offices over the years, I convinced myself that if I healed, worked hard, found the solutions for us and held up the light of illumination that they would somehow follow me along that hallowed and healing path.  My fractured reasoning combined with a dogged and desperate approach to enforce my fractured reasoning would result in many, many failed attempts and lots of heartache.

For a while, I was just plain pissed.  After all, I was one of them, how could they turn their backs on me?  I had gone through divorce from an abusive partner, poverty that left me selling my possessions including my car, a child to care for and a tender spirit that had given so much that she’d lost herself completely.  They turned their heads, they wanted nothing to do with me.  When the anger began to wain, the depression ensued, medications were taken, anxiety filled my days with my child.

This was a painful, painful time and the healing took the form of one minute after another, one hour, then one day.  My trust eventually extended to several women friends who gradually over time replaced my family of origin.  We created our own family gatherings, raised our children and moved on piece by piece.  But this was hard, hard work.  And dammit…I didn’t want a replacement for my sisters, nieces and cousins, I wanted THEM.  They were the ones that my heart stayed attached to, they were the ones whose blood my body recognized simply by standing close by or thinking of them.  What I realized is that there aren’t enough curse words, things to be broken or tears to be shed that will make another person return to you if they don’t want to or simply can’t.  And it was in this last phrase that I finally took another step toward healing.

My family can’t be around me.  They just can’t.  And they don’t.

I don’t exactly know why or do I have any explanations as to my conclusion but have had many possibilities given to me by loving friends, sponsors and therapists.  One thought is that I am the one person in the family that left.  I am the dissenter.  Like the little girl in the photograph, she’s the one who is standing up, preparing to separate herself from the circle.

In their eyes, I chose to honor myself, putting my individual needs over the group’s needs, get the hell out making sure that my life and my daughter’s life would never reflect that stagnant, cesspool upbringing that I had.  I had left the cult and the cult like thinking that defined us. Following this line of thinking, my family then shunned me as a religious community might shun those who no longer follow the thinking of the group.  So maybe, we were really just simply a sociological~philosophical~anthropological~spiritual textbook example? That’s the cunundrum, its all of these truths but  it. is. not. simple.  Have I overthought and personalized a situation that perhaps historically has happened throughout time?  Believing I was not unique actually made me feel a bit better.

I search for reasons behind the fact that they can’t be around me.  My friend and Inner Bonding facilitator, simply states that they are too wounded.  Their inner child feels too wounded to be able to give any love back to me at this point and maybe never.  But what does that mean for me?  That I never know them again?  That years go by and people die and new babies are born and the children get married and I’m never, ever a part of this?  I was wounded too but found a way to free myself, why can’t they step up and do the same?  We could lift each other up instead of giving up and staying so stuck, perpetuating the same cycles over and over.  They have the same ability that I did to throw off the blinders and go out into the world and experience other ways of life outside the cult commune.  Wow, look who just showed up!  The angry cheerleader strikes again!  I want to inspire them with my chosen set of values, yet when they don’t respond, I’m pissed.  Hmmm…..

Actually, I’m hurt and sad.  I miss them and I want them whole and happy.  I want to see their children and have them know my daughter.  Then, I’d like to throw in a family reunion where we all have T-shirts printed the same, with a rainbow overhead, while we frolic the day away proclaiming our undying familial love for each other.  Insert my family as interesting, well read, politically moderate and non-racist individuals who love themselves and perform altruistic work for a living preferably with an environmental flair.  And you can see where this goes….off into fantasy land. But since this is reality and the previous scenario is not going to happen, I learn there is absolutely nothing to do about it.  Except to pray for their peace.  And well, there is that acceptance part.

Using my best  DBT (Dialectal Behavior Therapy) skills, I stay as centered as I can and allow the feelings to wash over me.  My mantra being that I must accept myself and my family for who they are and what they can give.  Just accept….with compassion….the place where we are at this given moment.  Send them love.  Send me love.  Breathe.

My niece responds via text  “damn, I miss you”.  She has read the quarterly upbeat newsletter type thing that I do.  Actually she confesses that she received it a week before but looked at it with dread for days before opening and reading it.  That puzzles me but I let it go.  My newsletter is similar to what families send out around the holidays, updating family and friends that they don’t see in person throughout the year.  I’ve chosen this method of communication by default.  Since we don’t have family reunions or holidays together or even Facebook connections, it is my safest, best and most creative way to stay in touch.  The subjects are benign and safe.  This issue was about the dogs in our lives.

Here’s the other thoughts that I try to release from my heart….How can you miss someone and let that be the overriding feeling?  As in, I miss you so much but will do absolutely nothing about it.  I will simply choose to sit here and miss you and deny myself the experience of trying to work things out or even let myself think that I deserve a chance at happiness?  I’m going to tell you just enough to let you know I still think of you,  making the move to reach out and give you a quick, elusive, snippet of love and then yank it back so fast that you won’t even really know it was there.  An illusion, a wisp, a fantasy that can be denied.

I mailed out 12 of my newsletters to my family a month ago and to date, I’ve received one text of  “damn, i miss you”.

Breathe.  Breathe.  Give yourself love and compassion and then extend it to them.

Related articles:

6 Steps of Inner Bonding

Dr. Margaret Paul,  Do you chase when someone withdraws?


“the boy” drunk dials me….

“the boy” called me today which he does periodically.  The younger generation call it drunk dialing but I know this pattern from a historical perspective and know he just needs to make contact with a person from that time who understands him.

Certain phone calls I rarely answer but his I do every time.  This was the first time that he was stumbling, almost incoherent drunk and to top it off, he was driving.  After extracting the information that he was minutes from home, I kept the conversation light until he reassured me that was in his driveway, out of the car and inside his house.

“When are you coming home?”, he slurs into the phone.

His voice was an immediate shock of familiarity even though its been a year since I’ve heard from him.  His pleading words took my breath away.  I didn’t expect him to call let alone ask me this tough question.  He misses me, he says.  He doesn’t want anything, just to visit with me.  Even now as a full grown man, his deepest wishes are to have companionship, connection, family.  Our sober conversations where his feelings are sufficiently stuffed down, wouldn’t have revealed his pain. But today, his emotions unleashed and fueled by alcohol, they came tumbling out.

My heart is immediately beating with his. The rhythm synchronistic and strong.  We are small children again marking time as the cycle of physical, emotional and sexual abuse alters us forever.  It changes who we might have been and steals all opportunity for joy in our future.  We are branded, he and I, with trauma.  Deep, imprinting, searing scars.

I tell him that I’ve been taking care of myself and that I miss him too.  I hear relief in his voice at my words that I’m doing good.  He wants to know that I’m okay and that I can always call him for any #%&!ing thing I need.  His voice is urgent as if he’d been thinking those thoughts all afternoon at the tavern and had to purge them quickly.  His courage coming from cheap rum and cokes.

As children we were there for each other.  We were handed a situation that no child should ever have to deal with.   5-yr olds should never have to know how to defend against raging, drunken, ignorant adults wielding their pathology on them, but this is, in fact, is what we had to do.  We became expert ninja fighters at a very tender age.  In fact, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t fighting.  The sensation of burning slaps, welts and impact upon our small bodies is a feeling that has always been present.  Back to back, we would stand, flailing hopelessly against people 10 times our size.  But we always, always tried.  Defending each other was the only dignity we had in that cruel world we grew up in.  An earlier post tells a more complete story. https://rescuinglittlel.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/boy-torture/

I tell him that soon, I promise, I will come visit him.  I do not ever use the word home as it is not.  My home is where my beautiful husband and daughter live with our dogs, our garden, our family here.  But I know what he means, he’s asking me when am I coming back there to help him defend against the demons that are in his head.  The ones that huge amounts of alcohol consumed in the middle of the day can’t even come close to drowning out.  He wants to know if there is any peace beyond the crazy, futile gyrations that he takes himself on.  He wants to know, what Van Gogh perhaps imagined when he created the series of paintings near the end of his life.

Van Gogh’s image “Worn Out”

Vincent Van Gogh, himself,  wrote in Van Gogh: The Life. VanGoghBiography.com

I was trying to say this in this print — but I can’t say it as beautifully, as strikingly as reality, of which this is only a dim reflection seen in a dark mirror — that it seems to me that one of the strongest pieces of evidence for the existence of ‘something on high’ in which Millet believed, namely in the existence of a God and an eternity, is the unutterably moving quality that there can be in the expression of an old man like that, without his being aware of it perhaps, as he sits so quietly in the corner of his hearth. At the same time something precious, something noble, that can’t be meant for the worms. … This is far from all theology — simply the fact that the poorest woodcutter, heath farmer or miner can have moments of emotion and mood that give him a sense of an eternal home that he is close to.”

This is what “the boy” wants to know in his moments of emotion and mood.  Where is his eternal home?

And reaches for the closest anchor he can think of.    Me.


the littlest L

 
so tiny and little  
the smallest of small  
barely a faint beat of a heart   
almost non existent, trying not to be  
too small to know how to stop her life  
mustn't make noise shhhh   
stay still, stay frozen 
don't need anything, anything at all   
she tries not to breathe or take up air  
barely tolerated when invisible loathed when seen   
she won't eat for fear of prolonging her life 
they tell her not to feel, cry, be   
she mustn't ask for anything 
kill her hearts desire for love  
she aches for comfort, people, laughter, relief  
but knows she isn't one of God's children deserving of these gifts   
she feels the tears but won't allow them to come  
they are not acceptable feelings show her humanness 
she despises her feelings they are wrong, always wrong   
shamed and beaten for them she hates herself more  
its better this way 
must remain frozen to keep the pain at bay   
her skin screams for sensation she won't give in  
cutting, slicing would allow her to feel 
thrusting her again to the place where she is hated  
turning to her refuge, she rolls into a ball and slips toward sleep   
her respite  
wanting the angels to visit her in the solitude of sleep  
praying the angels see her  
begging them to take her home

the hole

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


boy torture

i am ready to channel and write down one of the most painful, repetitive childhood traumas that i actively remember.  none of this is speculation as i have it locked in my memory, ready to replay over and over , which it does often.  i also have it on a DVD by a fool that actually included it in a home movie collection because my family of origin suffers from ignorance that would be unbelievable by most.

this memory is one like a swirl, a whirlwind kind of feeling, a merry-go-round that you run around and around and then just jump on.  it requires me to consciously summon up a place that is dirty and haunting, a place that i hated then and hate going back to now.  when i do go there, its effects are immediate. i feel them instantly and completely.  this memory has many facets to it; betrayal, child abuse, powerlessness, ritualistic and premeditated cruelty.  there aren’t enough vile words to describe how i feel about these occurrences; evil, ignorance, insane, devoid of any conscious, sociopathic in nature…

my nephew was only six months younger than me because my oldest sister got pregnant young and my mother got pregnant old.  that put us less than a year apart even though i was technically from the generation above him.  none of this mattered because he was my little brother, my buddy and pal, my best friend in the whole world, an extension of myself.  i can’t remember a time without him, i felt the feelings that siblings feel of just always being there.  i mothered him and clucked over him as we grew up together and he loved it, he was kind and sweet, would play any game that i thought of because i was the thinker and he was the doer.  boy innocence wrapped up as a gift to me, i couldn’t get enough of him and he loved me the same way.  sometimes, we would just walk through the yard holding hands because that is how life felt the best to me…

somewhere around four or five something different started happening around us.  a switch flipped and suddenly we weren’t being left alone to explore the world together, we were being prepped as if our status had changed.  the men from the farms around us started paying attention to us, i suppose because we were no longer babies and under the care of our mothers but now separate beings left abandoned for younger babies in need; small persons for the men to amuse themselves with.

in the farming world, late afternoon meant coming in from the fields, taking a break from the heat; a pattern that i knew well and even though i knew it was coming, would fill me with dread as the summer sun started to make its downward turn.  these vile, sweat stained animals called men would stomp in from the barn where we would hear the tractor engine turn off, the instant silence of that engine noise fading left an eerie void,  giving me a cold tremor up my spine.  then came the beer can flip tops hissing, they would guzzle one down quickly and have the next one ready to sip with not much conversation at first.  they had to catch their breath which they eventually did by leaning up against the car or a tree, then slowly they migrated toward each other usually forming a semi circle and facing one direction.  looking toward the field or standing with their backs to the sun, these vile men would look for a distraction to the chores that they had been paying attention to all day.

i’m not sure why they picked us to torture and tease, i suppose because there wasn’t anything else for them to do.  their lives were farming, drinking, sex with their wives or the current woman they were cheating with, sleeping and eating.  too early for dinner, the wife wasn’t finished with her chores yet and couldn’t be distracted, they turned to the children who held a status barely above a farm animal.  

as the beer began taking effect, it gave them a glazed, snarly kind of aura.  one of them would start picking at something about us, noticing us, summoning us over to their circle citing some random offense in their ignorant backwoods language…”look at that sissy boy picking flowers with the girl, he’s not a real boy…come over here boy…somebody oughtta teach that boy to toughen up”. . .it would go something like that, my sensitive friend and brother, demonized by his own father and laid out as fodder to the neighbor men;  the father maintaining his loyalty to the adult men over his own son.  slowly they would taunt the boy in, pulling on his good nature and willingness to obey his elders.  verbally they would begin to laugh and snicker at him as he stood before them, eyes filling with tears and head hanging low. i will myself to help but i can’t, i’m already frozen;  my body knows this scene too well from experience and has reacted accordingly.  i know they would soon escalate their taunting so i try to get my body to move, to stop being paralyzed and immobilized by what i knew was coming.  if i could provide a distraction, if i was bigger, if i could only stop them…but i was a very little girl, one tenth of the size and weight of these full grown men.  once they started it would be almost impossible to stop them but then again, i had never really seen anyone try, except me.  

when they bored with verbal taunting, hungry for something bigger,  they would move on to shoving the boy baby from one side of the circle to another, sometimes hitting him around the circle with switches from a nearby tree, and sometimes, when they were feeling particularly cruel, they whipped him until he got his own bundle of switches gathered to be used on himself.  my boy angel would grow wilder and wilder as the shoving and laughing continued; the more frenzied he got, the more frenzied they got.  when he fell to the ground in the powdery dust, they would kick and poke at him to get up and he would shoot up, full of rage, fists flying at the men one of which was his father.  they would hold him out at arms length by the hair on his head and let him flail the air with his rage.  once he was in a full blown hysteria, they might slow down a bit because the howling shrieks of the boy child had alerted his mother inside the farmhouse…or sometimes it alerted his grandmother whom neither would do anything to stop this horror but whose presense seemed to slow the men down.  maybe in some way it took the  fun out of it for them.  i’m not sure at all because try as i might,  i can’t begin to think like these animals do.  even as an adult, i can’t wrap my head around such evil.  

the one person would defend the boy at all costs to life and limb, was me.  i would flail myself at these men as i didn’t care if i got hurt, that wasn’t important.  i would throw myself between him and the men trying to shield him from the shoving and kicking, both of us getting covered the dirt that would puff up everytime we hit the ground. the laughter seemed far off in the distance and the only sounds we heard were that of our bodies thudding against the ground and the breath leaving our bodies….it seemed to go on forever, time stood still…. i would bite the nasty, sweaty flesh of those man arms that would hurt my friend…. their slimy, slick arms picking me up and throwing me in the air…my beautiful summer sundress falling over my head and blinding me…the smell of beer, stale breath, grimy sweat that hadn’t been washed off for days, lingering, lingering still, to this day.

at some point, they would grow tired of the game or the mother/grandmother would give them the look that said “even though i won’t protect these children you should probably stop doing that to him but i know you are the man and i shouldn’t question you because its just not done so instead i will just light a cigarette and avert my eyes from looking at my very own child being actively tortured.”  they would eventually shuffle off, throwing their beer cans at the dog, finding something in the barn that needed to be done next while i gathered up my boy child;  my tear stained, dirty friend who had wet his pants. we would go as far from the house as we could. sometimes i would sneak back up to the house to the water spigot and find a way to bring back a drink or a wet rag to clean him up a bit and hold him until his sobbing and gasping turned into a quiet blank stare.


boiling frog

I had been carrying the Patricia Evans book, “The Verbally Abusive Relationship” around with me in my purse, it being my current bible that I poured through, reading until I assimilated her thinking as my thinking.  I was doggedly determined to end this cycle of abuse with me.  This short but incredibly powerful story was one that shocked me out of my stupor, nudging me toward the next step of leaving an abusive relationship.

If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will of course frantically try to clamber out. But if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath, and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.

This passage knocked me senseless as if I’d been punched in the gut. Oh my God, this was me!  I needed it spelled out in graphic details to get it to sink in.  So far everything Patricia Evans said made so much sense and felt right so I put my head down and never looked back. That was 15 years ago.

The passage came back to me recently because I feel my stepson is slowly being boiled to death.  I’m not sure what I can do about it, he is allowing himself to be conditioned, relegating his happiness to someone’s else and she is abusing him and his good nature.  I’m seeing him in a tranquil stupor, lolling around in the increasingly warm water, not aware of warning signs going off all around him.  

So, its  the age old parental dilemma, when do you jump in?  How far do you go with your child that is post college age but still could require some parenting.  I do know, that when I almost boiled to death, I would have appreciated some intervention.  When we talk to him this weekend, we hope he appreciates it too…


%d bloggers like this: