Tag Archives: writing to recover

Dark Souls Are Not to Fear, But to Love

Darkness

 

These words are not mine but instead, those of a courageous and insightful fellow warrior.  I’m fortunate to find these souls who in the absence of my words coming together to provide hope and compassion, they take over and provide us with comfort.  Please visit the link below to see the full article and more of Matthew’s beautiful writing.

In fact, do better.  Follow his blog and mine.  Spread the word as kindly as you can about the specific limitations and ultra-sensitive delights of a sexual abuse survivor.  We are worth it.  In this age where we strive to embrace the issues of racism, bigotry, violence, LGBT, transgender, bullying, etc., let’s begin by getting to know one another, the history we’ve experienced and the path on which we forge forward.  I’m ready, are you?

 

Dark Souls Are Not to Fear, But to Love

From Matthew Eaton: Writer, Child Sexual Abuse Survivor, Blogger

 

Do you languish in the darkness, or do you thrive in it?

This question lingers in my mind as I recall a conversation in my idle time.

“You know, the stuff you post is dark – really dark – but you’re always coming in here all cheery and happy.”

I discussed some people’s need to make me be something I am not. Instead, I learned a little more about myself.

I didn’t think anything about this statement at the time, but as I worried over it like a priceless possession, I wondered if it was possible the world was wrong and I, indeed, was correct in my darkness.

I live in the darkness, laughing at my disaster.

Dark souls are not to fear, but to love

What brought this post around was recalling a devotional my mother and I read when I was young. We were still members of the Foursquare church in Scotts Valley, and we weren’t the best of advocates to the holy life. No deep bible studies, no real praying or bonding with other believers, but we did invest in small devotionals that were to be ready daily. We read them in the morning.

They were filled with allegories and mental iconography galore.

So what made this particular devotional stand out? It contained the scientific knowledge (and commentary) on plant growth and the toxicity of continual exposure to light.

Since the beginning of my time as a God-ite, I questioned being in the light all the time. The thirst my other god-ites at the time held was rather interesting and confounding. They would shun people going through darkness, in fear the darkness would get into them like some sort of transmuted disease.

Nevertheless, here we were, reading a god-ite sponsored piece regarding the value of light and dark cycles with plants.

This is paraphrasing the work itself: “Too much time in darkness, and the plant withers. It is unable to reach any potential. Too much time in the light, however, is dangerous as well. At first, the plant thrives, but eventually it also withers and dies, burned beyond the point of recovery.”

Full article here

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 


How we rationalize the privacies we invade

you know my name

I loved her perspective and reminds me of one of my favorite Anne Lamott quotes, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

Vanessa Martir's Blog

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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Still-face paradigm

Henry Avignon image

Image by Henry Avignon-Used with permission

 

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.

Henry Avignon Art

Margot Muto Contemporary Art

 


the drawback of being a “top feeder”

Underwater-Photography-by-Kurt-Arrigo

Underwater-Photography-by-Kurt-Arrigo

 

I’m trying to break this crazy habit.

Each morning, before I even open my eyes, during that time where you’ve just broken into consciousness, where you hear the birds outside, the air-conditioner kick on, the sticky feeling of humidity on your skin, I instinctively begin to think of what I need to do for everyone else.  The list goes something like this as my eyes scan the room, sizing up the day. Usually before I tend to any of my needs; food, water, time to wake up, I’m devising a list of what to do for my dogs, husband, friends, daughter.  Now while that doesn’t seem too extraordinary in itself, many parents do this, I can do it to a fault.

As a trauma survivor/mild BPD/ultra-sensitive person, my need for connection supersedes any worldy need such as food or rest.  My extreme neediness to connect is based on survival.  As a child, trauma and neglect can be so life threatening that the sooner we connect to someone who can help care for us the better.  And this is where it gets tricky.

By serving others, as in doing favors for them, being available to chat/pray/cook/etc. when they are having a rough day or one of my worst habits of over-mothering my animals, I get that much needed connection.  And as my therapist-extraordinare Cathy says, I become a “top feeder”.

A “top feeder” is her self-coined word to illustrate a person who is SO functional in receiving cues from other people’s needs, that their existence is the opposite of the less empathic, less motivated, parasitic by nature “bottom feeder”.  Uck, you know those nasty catfish that lay on the bottom of the river, who eat any garbage that sinks to the bottom, who don’t bother with trying to find a better food source?  Yep, that’s a bottom feeder.  And for the sake of this conversation, I’m grateful that my therapist feels that I’m on the other end of the spectrum here.

Here’s what we do.  We are so naturally tuned into our worlds and all its nuances that we essentially “know” what family/animals/friends/plants need.  That makes us a kick-ass person to be around.  We’ve developed this finely tuned, sensitive radar built on extreme hypervigilence that we often can’t turn off.  We are masters at intuiting information and messages.  It’s like stuck on being the eternal and forever cheerleader.  Still rooting everyone on, celebrating all their accomplishments, looking for ways to promote and lift up EVERYONE else in our lives.  To a fault. Until it makes us sick.  Until we crash really, really hard.

And that brings me back to my opening statement.  I’m trying to break this crazy habit now that I’m aware of it.  Thank you Cathy for nailing me on this.

Again, it comes back to balance.  Be that cool intuitive friend but feed yourself breakfast first.  Yes, mother that poor rescue dog but remember to shower.  Cook a healthy meal for your family and friends but remember to make yourself a plate, sit down and eat it.  Understand and help people in your world with…. their health problems/oppressive bosses/poverty/animal cruelty issues/the environment/addictions/homelessness/social injustices but make sure you’re rested first.  And ultimately and most importantly, come to grips with this fact as soon as you possibly can: others WILL NOT necessarily respond as well as we do.  You will probably be the best friend or partner that you know unless you are friends with other sensitive people.  It’s a very bleak and discouraging fact that often results in an intense feeling of loneliness and isolation.  BUT knowing and ultimately accepting this truth can bring a lot of peace to a situation that can be repeatedly heart wrenching.  

Most likely, we won’t receive the kind of nurturing that we give out unless we give it to ourselves.  It doesn’t mean we can’t have it, it just means we need to look to ourselves for the biggest part of our care and recognize with compassion the limitations of others.  While it isn’t ideal, Cathy states, acceptance will ultimately bring more peace. And I believe she is spot on.

I’m creating the persona of a more balanced, “middle feeder” kind of gal.  Rested, zen, creative.  One that takes naps on most days. One that enjoys taking the much deserved time to write.  After all, I can’t imagine being an old, worn out cheerleader at 57 years of age.  What a hysterical image. Besides looking really funny in my faded skirt, the image doesn’t fit me anymore.  I’ve long since given up gyrations where I put myself last and others first. 

I’m laying these pom-pons down.

 

 


Why Too Many Flashbacks Might Be a Warning of Deeper Story Problems

I just enjoyed the heck out of this post.

It’s part stand-up comedy, enough vulnerability to make Brene Brown proud and teeming with great points about flashbacks.

Survivors live in the world of flashbacks. We experience them often in our day-to-day, hour-to-hour lives until our heads hit the pillow and then they often dominate our unconscious dream time.

What appeals to me here is that it gives us an element of control to our otherwise uncontrollable lives. Many of us owe our past a debt of gratitude for making us a fierce, strong warriors of the present. We’ve endured some major shit and can often yawn in the face of adversity as adults. But this gives us the tools to pull the meat of those experiences off the bone and finally end that pointless blabbering of our flashbacks.

Kudos to Kristen Lamb for this gem.
http://authorkristenlamb.com

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Image vis Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi. Image vis Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.

This week we have been discussing flashbacks. What are they? Why do readers, agents, editors generally want to stab them in the face? Is it truly a flashback or is the writer employing an unorthodox plotting structure (The Green Mile or The English Patient)? Shifting time IS a legitimate literary device, but like ALL literary devices, it has strengths and weaknesses.

Theme is wonderful. But if we lay it on too thick, we can turn off readers because our story comes across as preachy or lecturing. Symbolism? Love it! But overdo this and readers can get irritated. Can the drapes JUST BE BLUE? Deus ex machina IS a legitimate literary device. Feel free to use it. I wouldn’t recommend it, but knock yourself out.

As I like to say, Have fun storming the castle! *waves and grins*

Deus…

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an unexpected moment of peace…..

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Photo credit: An’ Marie at callmeanmarie.com

Peace and joy are elusive to survivors.

We have to learn and re-learn these types of experiences, cultivating the beautiful aspects of life as if we were students in school grasping a new skill.  I’ve usually been able to be kind of a joy parasite (not to be confused with a joy sucker) who gravitates toward frollicking animals, playful children or any group or individual who is just laughing unabashedly.  I watched and learned what this beautiful emotion was and then set out to mimic it.  These situations always felt right and kind to my heart although in direct conflict with my upbringing.  Kindness and love weren’t taught or shown but pathology and self destruction was handed out freely and often.

Survivors as a general rule haven’t learned how to play well or experience peace.  If we did learn to play, what we were probably experiencing was destruction in action disguised as play;  i.e. out of control drinking/drug/food/anger (fill in your favorite addiction or crazy shit here), driving recklessly, giving ourselves hearts and bodies to men that were undeserving of that sacred gift.  So many behaviors were masked as “a good time” that it took decades for me to truly figure it out.

During my high school years, I usually found myself gravitating toward healthier families.  I certainly can’t take credit for this action for it wasn’t conscious.  But I’ve come to believe that living things; plants, animals, people will gravitate toward health and love and I base that belief on some serious reflection upon my past behaviors.  I wanted a better life and in many ways, set out to get one even as a child.

One family I attached to had two parents, 6 children who were blissfully crowded into a tiny house with a tiny kitchen.  Many families grew up in this fashion in my day, no one owned a McMansion or rarely had a bedroom to themselves.  It was customary to share a room and even a bed with a sibling.  And this was the way it was at C. J.’s  house.  She, myself and several other friends grew up in that tiny house; from junior high girls, into high school girls, to brides, then mothers and now grandmothers.  We’ve buried parents, sent sons to war, survived cheating husbands and celebrated our re-marriages. We’ve lost touch and reconnected many times, rarely without missing a beat.  They are my ya-ya’s, my sisters.

I had the good fortune to spend a weekend with C.J.  It’s always an easy kind of experience to spend time with friend from long ago, who knows your stories and your quirks.  We’ve transcended needing to explain things as we just know each other that well.

It was the usual agenda; yard sales, thrift stores, food, playing with the dogs and cats, naps, late night talks with the girls.  Yeah, girls….56 year old girls. All the good things in life.  My last afternoon was marked by C. J. hosting a dinner (and she’s a fabulous cook by the way) for me before I left for home. Her modest farm home was full just as her childhood home was and served as a playground to many activities that day. After an afternoon of swimming with the grandkids, I plopped myself (temporarily of course) on the living room couch where I soon found myself snuggled in and stretched out.

I can’t exactly describe what happened but whatever “it” was, I’ve managed to hold onto “it” for weeks, even sharing the feeling with other friends. Sitting on the over stuffed couch, I found myself sinking in deeply, letting my tension float away and began to absorb the energy of this household. The sheer comfort of the environment gave way to me lying down putting a throw pillow over my face.  I became so relaxed and peaceful that I couldn’t resist  the temptation to surrender.  During the most blissful two hour nap I’ve had in a long time,  I floated in and out of the commotion of the grandkids playing and eventually crying, the miffed off weiner dog’s continuous bark to get back into the house, doors slamming, the phone ringing, the parental and grand-parental units shushing the kids to be quiet as to not wake me and the most delicious smells of garlic and anchovy coming from the kitchen.  It was a sensory delight.  And it was heaven.

The more that the everyday, normal family life noise increased the more peaceful I became.  A thought came to me as I grinned under my throw pillow; this must be what its like to be a part of a family.  It was okay for me to relax, to feel peace, that loved ones surrounded me, even cooked food to nourish me after my nap.  I recalled a long forgotten dream as a child to belong to a nice family.  And that simple gesture on C. J. ‘s part became a truly, magical afternoon for me.

I left for home that evening, after my nap and dinner, accompanied by my yard sale treasures and fresh tomatoes from their garden.  My most treasured gift was the lightness and peace that I felt.

During the 2 hour drive home, I think my heart actually smiled.

An Marie 1ecc9394106646b69ed2a35e726cecc5

Photo credit: An’ Marie

To view other works by this artist, visit www.callmeanmarie.com


love story in there….somewhere….

girl and dragon

There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.

I seem to have made it through the latest chapter of dark times.

Hopefully.

When I started this blog, I felt lost.  Then I found myself through writing and gave myself a voice that I’d never possessed before, at least for myself.  I’d been championing for others for decades; animal rights, women’s rights, diversity, environment.  It had become painful apparent to me that a great deal of time had been spent advocating for others and not myself.  That was a game changer.

Writing this blog has enabled me to find my voice through writing but look several issues squarely in the eye.  Honoring myself was one.  A simple bumper sticker noticed by the artist, Terri St. Cloud of Bone Sigh Arts.  Honor Yourself.  Simple words that were nearly impossible to integrate.

The next issue was that I couldn’t wrap my thinking around the fact that someone, anyone would want to read what I had to say.  In my mind, my words had to be profound, a literary masterpiece before putting them out for the world to see.  Shouldn’t I get a MFA in writing or something or some sort of artistic approval before being so bold as to put my words, my life, my history into words?  Well, that answer came soon too.  Survivors trickled in, slowly at first, some stumbling and fragmented, some already having honed their beautiful craft of expression.  All were worthy and I felt so blessed to be a part of a counterculture emerging for survivors, men and women, who were taking back their power.  I wanted to be a part of that.  For me, it was coming home.

My most recent absence is due to my utter confusion and re-entry into that dark place.  You see, I thought I’d been through it and had emerged complete, or at least complete enough.  I thought I was finally, finally in that safe cocoon where I could share my story of abuse and survival with the clarity of hindsight.  I was wrong, at least sort of.

This summer I separated from my husband.  My fairy tale crashed and I felt that I was a fraud.  How on earth could I write stories of hope and love when I had failed at my own love story?  Slowly, I moved through the hazy days of summer with my tool bag (purple of course) of rest, solitude, meditation, reading and dark chocolate.  I cried when I felt like it, wandered through the library, raged at Grandmother moon in the wee hours of the morning when sleep eluded me, slept any time I felt fatigued and tried, oh how I tried, to find joy anywhere I could.  I picked flowers and herbs from my beautiful garden and gave them to anyone I could think of; my church for Sunday morning service, the women at the convenient mart on the corner who are always so kind and make me laugh every time I’m there buying chocolate, my dear friend’s mother who was passing this summer, a friend who works long hours and commutes into the city each day.  I gave them just because.  Just because in the absence of my own joy, I needed to create that precious spark of joy for someone else and live vicariously off of that until I had my own.

Many, many people supported me though this passage, you will find them on my blogroll and Facebook page.  I simply couldn’t have weathered this without logging on to see their daily posts on love, writing, poetry, painting, nature, food.  I traveled with several as they made major changes in their lives too and hope that I provided them a wee bit of support also.

Slowly that spark began to burn again.  Now I have more words and more insight into myself.  I tip my hat to the dark side, purpose well served.

I still live a love story.  Really, there is a love story in here somewhere.  One that, once again, must begin with myself.  With or without a partner, my daughter, my dogs, my house.  I can write words of hope because now I’ve lived them again.  I’m not a fraud but an innocent person who stumbles and trips often, sometimes sitting in the mud puddle I fell in, squalling and crying.  But then there are times, when I laugh and dance around with a soggy tutu.

It’s all good.


So the woman who has danced out of control….

So the woman who has danced out of control, who has lost her footing and lost her feet...has a special and valuable wisdom

 

Thank you Jackie Robinson for coming to the rescue today.  This is the beauty of connection at its best.  One of us puts wise words out in the world, another friend finds them and passes them on.  And so it goes.

As I combed through my inbox, I found this jewel just waiting for me to find at the perfect moment.  From Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run with the Wolves

‘So the woman who has danced out of control, who has lost her footing and lost her feet and understands that bereft state at the end of the fairy tale, has a special and valuable wisdom.’

Wow.

I would consider it an honor and privilege to rise to this occasion that Dr. Estes illustrates.  It would be a personal challenge to take those life challenges where I’ve lost my footing and turn it into my own fairy tale. First, I have to fully grasp and accept the feelings that arise from losing one’s footing.  Each time I do, I believe it to be the last and final time that I’m faced with such challenge that completely knocks me off my feet.  Yet again and again, I’m plunged into that dark place where I must face once again the end of the fairy tale.  But now, I’m starting to understand that there is more than bleak, painful acceptance.  I can use the opportunity of the darkness to rest, spin a beautiful, silky cocoon around myself and re-invent myself, my soul and the fairy tale.

This really got me thinking hard again.  There is much dancing to be done.  Dancing with wild abandon.  Dancing out of control.

I would encourage you to visit Jackie’s site, A Heart’s Whisper and especially Sacred Circle Retreats.  These women, among others, in person and online have kept me afloat during those “bereft” times.

They dance with me out of control.

 


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.


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