Category Archives: recovered memories

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.

 

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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

 

 

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what it takes to start writing….again

1604885_10152130171577702_1009583295_nSomewhere 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. 

Blessings to the women of Sacred Circle Retreats:  Jackie,  Melynnda,  Joss and  Deanne.  May we nourish the Divine Feminine in each other. 

Photo credit, used with permission from Sarah Durham Wilson, DOITGIRL .


Memoirs of the Molested

51zFnhVYnKL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_I’m so excited I can hardly think to put this post together.  But I must share this news with my friends and invite them to dance with me now.

I’m sharing a success that isn’t just my own.  It is one born of the many women and men that I’ve come to know through the unifying experience of trauma and abuse.  We have listened, supported and honored each person’s story.  Together we share the goal of education and enlightenment on a subject usually hidden from view.  The wise words of my friend, Joss Burnel, are relevent to this moment (and I’m paraphrasing), “We must hold hands together until we circle the world”.

My story was accepted to be included in Valerie Perez’s recently published book, Memoirs of the Molested. and displayed in Amazon’s preview “Look Inside” feature. Whoa!

“Memoirs of the Molested is a collection of literary works meant to promote awareness of child molestation and help to educate the public on the effects this type of abuse has on the victims and their families. Proceeds from the sale of this book will benefit a nonprofit organization in the San Antonio area that provides specialized services to children recovering from the trauma of sexual abuse.”

Kudos to Valerie Perez for the courage to put this book together for such a worthy cause. I couldn’t be more pleased to be a part of this journey with the other survivors and authors contained in the book.  What an incredible family we are becoming.


this is where i sit tonight….eyes down, no one daring to look….

Worldly Winds

Broken Reflection

 

 

 

 

 

Shhh, don’t tell

don’t let on

that you’re in hell

hush now

 

Your lips are pursed

don’t tell the doctor

or the nurse

eyes down

 

What lurks within

can’t be without

masked by a grin

and bear it

 

So well hidden

the mortal sin

guilt well ridden

(Angels don’t sing)

 

The mask of norm

slips on by

distorts the form

stiff upper lip

 

Word to the wise

soured apple

of your eyes

windowless soul

 

Darkness falls

eclipses all

no voice can call

chin up

 

© Eyes Down 07.03.2013

by Alexandra Carr-Malcolm

Broken Reflection (Photo credit: shinealight)

 

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gonna kick the demon in the ass today….

4006206a3e604e4d8860122730daf432Unlike my usual self, this will be short and to the point.

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.


my shattered voice mends slowly….

21bb59a4c8d0d5e07fe1d9b2cfe2d516I’m keeping this short today.

Too often, I write with frustration and angst of not being able to do something.  Either I can’t write an outline, function as a “normal” person, protect my ultra sensitive self from the world or in the case of today, I’m struggling with my writing voice.

It isn’t frustration that I feel today, its more raw.  The tenderness that precedes healing.  There’s a hint of cohesion and acceptance.  I continue to look at the work that I’m doing with Warner Coaching and my first instinct is to beat my head against the same wall that I’ve beaten a rut into my entire life.  I don’t want to do that now and I’m sure she doesn’t want me to either.

Here’s my question that I’m pondering and hopefully, re-outlining and writing upon.  How do we access and write about memories so cellular that you experienced as a small pre-verbal child?  They are there but yet they aren’t.  How do we assign words and streams of sentences to an experience at a time when the child didn’t have words?  There are fragments.  Shattered, shards of splintering pictures that I, as an adult, must name and tell.  The abused, disassociated child must come together enough to write her story.  The process of sweeping those fragments out from under the rug, identifying and cataloging them is proving to be tougher than I ever imagined.

I’m painstakingly applying glue to delicate, tiny pieces of psyche.  I keep telling myself not to rush it for I want to slap the glue on and hold up my prize proclaiming it as my finished art.  But the glue isn’t dry yet and all the pieces aren’t in place.

My Novel Writing Winter may have evolved into more of a journey into my core viscera.  “Remembering is not something we do alone….. negotiating an account of the past is a fraught, dangerous process. Memories can be weapons as well as instruments of persuasion. And memory has only a part-time interest in the truth. It deals in scenarios, real ones and imagined ones, making and remaking the self from the partial, damaged information available” from Creative Memories in Harold Pinter’s Old Times by Charles Fernyhough.

So its acceptance that I must practice.  Radical acceptance.  My story will happen and in its own time.  I’m stretching myself in an unchartered direction. I’m learning and rebuilding from the ground floor up, setting a pace for myself that I’ve never reached for before. Marsha Linehan, DBT creator, defines radical acceptance, “As a practice, acceptance is highly important in working with impulsive, highly sensitive, and reactive clients. Validation is an active acknowledgement, often offered as an antithesis or synthesis to a distorted expectation or belief. It jumps the tracks of demand, soothing or defusing the emotional arousal associated with failure, feat, shame, unreasonably blocked goals, or a variety of other stimuli.”

I reach for the loving support of my family, friends, writing coach and virtual writing pals.  These gifts combined with prayer will suffice for the day. Soon I will know what to do and how to proceed.

Suggested reading:

Cast Ashore http://throughthehealinglens.com/2013/01/24/cast-ashore/

 


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


why i’m unusually comfortable with death….

Last night, I turned on PBS and caught a show about the suicide assistance program, Final Exit Network.  I wasn’t really looking for a program to get interested in yet I found myself oddly attracted to the high emotion of this episode giving options to end one’s life with dignity.  In a nutshell, Final Exit Network provides support and guidance to candidates looking to end their life because of extreme circumstances of intolerable illness.  They have been lauded as compassionate by scholars in ethics and heretics by religious groups and physicians who oppose an individual’s right to choice to the timing and implementation of a dignified death.  As I’m watching this, I clearly see both sides.  There are many issues at play here and it is a complex subject that few even wish to visit.  Those special individuals who are willing to extend their compassion to a person who asks to die, are clearly in touch with the sensitive and personal issues involved as to why someone would seek out the means to end their life.

I got it immediately.

Their stories spoke directly to my heart.

Until one directly deals with madness and horror of pain; emotional~physical~spiritual~relentless~daily~mind bending pain that isn’t relieved even though one has exhausted their finances, resources and partners.  Because until a person deals with this pain on a day to day, minute by minute way of crawling through life, I realize that the “unaffected” won’t get it.  And that’s fine, because the “unaffected” are living productive lives with good enough health to not feel the burden that the “totally affected” person does.  It isn’t a place that one visits until they have to and once they have to, one doesn’t waiver as much.

I recently had an “episode” brought on my the perfect storm of triggers.  It put me in a place that most would call mental illness.  Since I don’t thoroughly subscribe to that label, I did something entirely different this time upon the suggestion of my friend Heather.  I surrendered to the madwoman.  Blindly, I charged into this event with a headstrong, full of steam and hope approach, calling in all the divine helpers I could find.  Basically, I told it that I was in control and taking over from here.  I told it to FUCK OFF and walked straight into the madness.

Now here’s the really interesting part.  In this swirling anxiety ridden mania that I felt, a story emerged.  I actually took the wheel of this runaway train and channelled it into something productive.  And for the first time, I think I’m really onto to something here.  The outcome was a story I’ve known my entire life and one that I lived and almost died through.  But this time, I was my mother.  I became her, feeling her feelings and seeing the exact places that she was.  I have some thoughts and explanations for this but that is an entirely different post.

There was a time when I censored myself heavily regarding these mystical occurrences but not any more.  They are simply part of me. I now let them flow and even have the nerve to write about them.  A force greater than I is wanting to come through, a story is begging to be told.  Once I rode through the mania and channelled the story, a peace ensued and I share that story with you now. And finally, I’ve come to understand that embracing the dark doesn’t mean succumbing to it.

Her heart leaps from her chest when the kitchen phone rings harshly, shattering the silence of her usual household day.  She must have drifted off to sleep when she sat down to rest for a moment and wait for the coffee pot to finish percolating.  Her day is usually peacefully quiet, save the occasional phone call from a neighbor friend or the dog barking to announce a truck passing by the road out front.  She blinks and tries to steady herself as she waits for her pulse to resume its normal beat, shaking off the images of the place she just visited while asleep in her mother’s sturdy rocking chair.
The phone has stopped ringing now but she knows it was Doris.  Doris is the only person that will let the phone ring for at least 15 times full well knowing that any respectable farm woman would have to put down her dust rag or put down the pan of beans she was shelling before making her way inside to the kitchen.  
She’s fully awake now and glad that there is some hot coffee waiting for her.  She yanks the plug from the wall and lets the percolator relieve itself with a puff of steam.  Damn coffee pot.  How many years is this damn thing going to go on, she’s had it since her wedding which was a full 25 years before and would certainly love to get one of the modern ones that she’d spied in the Sears Roebuck catalog.  She adds a jigger of milk and a spoonful of sugar, stops a moment and dumps another one in.  Its that kind of day that she feels she needs extra sugar.  She goes to the porch and lets the screen door slam behind her.  Today she doesn’t care. Usually when the kids are home, she painstakingly makes sure it doesn’t slam because she knows that she can’t fuss at them without setting a good example.  That’s just the kind of woman that Louise is.  
Her coffee is steamy and sweet, just the way she likes it.  There isn’t a care about the excess sugar intake or the mid morning nap.  There is no never mind about the future, what her kids will do this summer soon as school lets out or whether she’s staked the tomatoes good enough.  All she can think about is tomorrow.
~~~~
The doctor said it was a uterine mass.  It would need to come out and soon.  
His words played over and over in her head.  She wonders if she should have asked more questions in the doctor’s office or if there was more to what he was telling her.  All she can see is the bulbous man coming into the exam room after she’d finished getting dressed and put together.  He sat down with a harumpf, fished in his shirt pocket for his Lucky Strikes, put one between his lips and lit it.  She sat there proper in her good dress, legs together, nylon hose sticking to her and the garters making an impression in the back of her thigh that would last for hours.  
Good god, would that man at least turn the window fan on.  She doesn’t object to the smoke because she’s a closet smoker herself.  Plus everyone she knows smokes; young, old, pregnant or not.  Its a breeze she’s aching for because she knows herself well enough to know that she gets woozy in the high humidity and she’s barely holding it together anyway.  He grunts when he reaches forward and clicks the fan on, letting the steel blades start their acceleration.  Finally the breeze reaches her and she feels like she can finally stop holding her breath, that she isn’t going to fall out in a dead faint.  
“Mrs. Hauner, can you get in here next Monday for an operation?  You have a uterine mass that I felt during the exam that we need to get out.  This is why you haven’t had your monthly cycle”.  He stops for a moment to take a drag from his cigarette while he glances at his clipboard and some notes he’d written outside.  He shakes his head and says, “Nope, pretty sure this isn’t menopause, just the mass that is messing things up.  We’ll know more after the operation”.
With that he stood up, paused briefly as if to see if she wanted to ask anything or have a reaction.  When she didn’t, he continued to tell her that the nurse would be in to make
the arrangements.
~~~~
From her porch seat, the conversation didn’t seem very eventful.  When she replayed it over in her head, she liked to reassure herself that the doctor didn’t seem upset, therefore, she shouldn’t be either.  He’s done this kind of operation many times before and from the appearance of the new hospital at the edge of town, it would seem that they had things under control.  But why then, has she been in a cold sweat since the words were delivered to her that morning?  Was she reading something into it like her husband had told her that night when she gave him the news?  No matter how many times, she replayed the words, there was a cold, eerie feeling that crept up the back of her neck and grabbed her around the throat.
She finished her coffee and stood up to go back into the house.  For a moment, she paused to look, as she always did, at the front yard flowers that she so lovingly planted this spring.  They look good.  Her gardens always looked good.  
Plopping the coffee cup down on the kitchen table, she continued on to the back of the house to her bedroom.  She admired her freshly smoothed bedspread, put into place hours before at the crack of dawn.  The breeze was blowing nicely in through the back bedroom windows and she wondered how long she could leave the windows open before the humidity made it impossible.  
Louise slowly opened the door to the closet and gazed at the beat up brown suitcase.  She hated the sight of it.  To her sister in law, “the world traveler” it meant adventure, escape and respite from all things Southern Illinois.  Theresa jumped at the chance to travel and any man who would take her.  In her eyes, the god forsaken town they grew up in deserved to be left behind and she fulfilled that every chance she had.  Unfortunately the last husband left her as quickly as she had left town and the suitcase became available.  Louise didn’t travel or leave the farm except to visit a sister that lived several hours away, mostly when she’d just had a baby and needed some help with the kids.  But even then, a paper bag and her overnight kit always sufficed.
She was relieved that the kids were still in school for the day and the house was quiet.  She didn’t want to have to face that suitcase with all the daily hubbub going on because she found herself barely able to think even with no distractions and dead quiet.  Louise grabbed the handle and set it down on the bed without taking her eyes off of it.  Her reality was sinking in and the more it sunk, the heavier she became.  As if in slow motion, she reached down and popped open the two snaps and lifted the lid.  As it opened, Theresa’s perfume and cigarette smoke wafted out, causing her nose to wrinkle for a moment.  Her wooziness hit her and the room lifted and started to spin a bit, she tries to settle herself down by speaking out loud to herself in a scolding sort of way.
“Okay, I’ve gone this far.  I’m getting ready to go the hospital and I’m going to be fine.  I don’t have to think about my kids being left motherless if something goes wrong because it won’t.  And the doctor didn’t mention having the cancer that her neighbor ladies are always talking about taking someone unexpectedly.  And even though I don’t know anyone personally that doesn’t have their uterus, I heard about Arlene’s sister who couldn’t have children because of this same thing and she’s just fine”.  
She takes a deep breath and wills herself to believe everything she’s just repeated to herself and begins to fill the musty suitcase with a nightgown, slippers, cold cream and other essentials for her week long stay.  With her task completed, she lowers the lid and snaps the suitcase shut, setting it beside the bed.  One step closer, one more thing off the list until tomorrow.
~~~~
The early morning sun cuts in through the venetian blinds of the hospital admitting area and emphasizes the green linoleum floor and how clean the Sisters of St. Joseph keep it.  She smiles to herself thinking how those gals do take pride in their work and momentarily understands why her sister Helen might enjoy being a Catholic.  She spies her husband outside the window having a smoke with the groundskeeper who is also a drinking buddy at the local tavern and a cousin.  Briefly, she imagines what it would be like if she were viewing her life without her in it.  Would her husband and children continue on like before only with one less place at the dinner table?  Would her absence even be noticed?  And like it or not, Louise realizes that she’s been thinking more along the lines of dying than living through this.  
The light from the center of the ceiling is blinding her. So bright that its burning her eyes.  She squints and tries to shield her eyes but the nurses tell her to leave her arm stretched out so the IV doesn’t get kinked.   They also tell her its necessary for the doctor to see what he’s doing and give a little canned laughter of “you sure do want him to see what he’s working on down there” which doesn’t comfort her a bit.   They are robotic in their movements and she’s feeling the full effect of the pre-op shot they gave her in her room.  Louise doesn’t like this feeling at all which is why she doesn’t drink except the occasional snort of Mogan David that she keeps in the back of the Frigidaire.   
She feels the medication working against all of her coping skills.  She’s losing control. Until this very moment, she has steeled herself against the bad news. Her intuitive feelings of impending doom were screaming. Louise tensed her body hard and fought to regain her centeredness, slamming down every ounce of emotion and stuffing it down her throat.  From there, she didn’t care where it went as long as it went away.  She figures it feeds that uterine mass but would have to deal with that later. 
But the grip is loosening on her self control and she doesn’t like it.  It is unfamiliar and unsettling and harsh.  The cold metal table underneath her has chilled her to the bone and she realizes that she is not only shaking, she is almost convulsing in her movement.  Every word that she’s wanted to say her entire life of silent servitude is now stuck in her throat and she can’t breathe.  A panic spreads over her and in a fit of uncharacteristic behavior, she finds herself trying to escape.  She notices that they notice her.  Her periphery is suddenly full of nurses heads with white pointy hats holding her down as she feels a pinch of another injection in her thigh.  A white cloth comes down over her eyes and stops over her mouth. She takes one frantic breath of the toxic smelling anesthesia and the world goes dark.

the baby floats.  floats in darkened, buoyant bliss.  a little girl.  transitioning from the heavens.  growing, floating, connecting to her new world with every breath and heartbeat of the mother that carries her.  she wants to feel nothing but the beat of her own heart and the arms of the Divine spirit that is lovingly embracing her.  but a primitive feeling, too much for the infantile synapses of her nervous system spreads through her.  she learns about danger from a cellular level.  she is not safe now nor will she be for a very long time.

Little L comes out of the virtual world….

There are many milestones to this writing~healing journey that I embarked upon almost 5 years ago.

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.

Go figure.

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?


shining Father’s shoes

This is going to be one of those stories that makes me queasy to put down on paper.

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.

You never thought I would grow up to be intelligent and courageous about all of this dysfunction, did you?  You never thought that I could outsmart and outwit you by escaping far into my brain only to thaw out later.  You had not idea of my strength as I tackled all the screwed up thinking given to me by you. BUT I DID.  Guess what? You are dead and I’m over here finding and claiming my power.  Little by little, memory by memory, I am blotting you out, I’m blotting out all of the men you let near me, I’m reprogramming my brain, one tiny detail at a time until soon, I will have a completely new way of seeing myself and the terror I grew up with.

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.


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