Category: Survivor Stories

Weighing Forgiveness

It seems hard to conceive. Forgiveness? Why should I give him forgiveness? In my case, he’s not around to apologize. He’s not even alive to benefit from it. Why should I bother, when he hurt me without my consent, and left my family alone to pick up the mess?
The concept of forgiveness isn’t new to me. Back in college, during my happiness seminar, we were supposed to work on letters of forgiveness. She told us not to forgive our level ten pain, but instead to choose a five or six. I didn’t have a level five or six pain. I had a level ten. That day in class, I was antsy, my heart raced, as I prepared to sit down and work through things I hadn’t worked through in years. A classmate decided she wanted to work outside, and a bunch of us joined her. We talked about anything other than forgiveness, and fulfilled a different class objective. I dodged my bullet.

But now, it seems to keep popping up everywhere. At church, my Pastor preaches about it, about giving our burdens to God, and letting Him carry that weight. I’m ignoring. A song comes on the radio telling me to forgive and forget. I’m intrigued. I skip two weeks of church due to travel. An article shows up on facebook about forgiveness. I’m annoyed. When I come back from travel, my Pastor does an entire service again about forgiveness. I’m listening. Every time I hear it, I shake my head and laugh to myself. The signs are all there, will I listen?

Forgiveness Isn’t Something for Our Abusers

It turns out, forgiveness isn’t something for our abusers, it’s really not about them. It’s something for us. It allows us to live our lives to the fullest without being held back by our pain. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have pain. It manifests in funny ways, but it’s there. It’s there when I hear that stupid nursery rhyme that triggers me. It’s there every time I lock my bedroom door. It’s there in November when I don’t sleep because I’m afraid of the nightmares. I hide it really well, but it’s there.

Should I work on forgiveness if it will help me with all of these things? Maybe. But maybe I’m putting too much stock into an abstract thought. Maybe expecting all this will set me up for failure. If I’m being honest, the idea of forgiveness scares me. I’ve been holding on to my feelings for almost eleven years now. I’ve taken them and channelled them into something good, into my activism. Will this little seedlet of thought change my whole outlook? If I’m no longer holding on to pain, anger, and fear, will I be the same person? It’s easy to stay the same, it’s hard to grow, and I think my fear of forgiveness stems from this ease. But the truth is, all people must change, no one ever stays the same, and if I must change it might as well be for the better, right? I think I’m ready for this next step. God, I hear you. And I am listening.

He Was My Older Brother and I Trusted Him

Warning: May contain triggers for survivors of childhood sexual abuse

Starting at a very young age , my brother would show me my dad’s adult magazine collection. One story, told by my father, places me around the age of 3 when my brother was caught showing the neighborhood boys that month’s Playboy edition, which he had cleverly hidden in a Boy’s Life magazine. He is 6 years older than me. My brother had found the key to a locked cabinet in my fathers sock drawer and would retrieve it as soon as the coast was clear and my parents weren’t around. This key unlocked a treasure chest of porn magazines and videos. I remember my brother was allowed to start baby sitting me, he showed me the hidden cabinet. I was around 6-7 years old. I remember knowing that we were being sneaky and I couldn’t tell mom and dad, but I don’t think I really know we were doing.

This behavior continued for a while until he started asking me to perform acts on him like the people in the videos. I remember feeling very uncomfortable, but he was my older brother and I trusted him. He told me that what we were doing wasn’t wrong because we didn’t “like each other like that” and we were “just having fun”. This continued until I was about 8-9 years old. Then, I vaguely remember telling my mother about what was happening but it was swept under the rug. I don’t think my mother was trying to hide anything in the sense of not believing me; I think she was scared to tell my father and of the beating my brother, and maybe even me would have taken.

Haunted By Memories

Once my brother got to high school, the behaviors ceased happening between us. I have a feeling he upgraded from his younger brother to a few girls or guys at school. I held on to the memories for a long time, but they did not start to really bother me until college. Vivid flashbacks and unwelcomed memories started flooding my brain. I can still remember specific instances where we were almost caught and he would somehow lie his way out of it or convince me everything was fine.

One night after a few hours of binge drinking, I was haunted by the memories and became furious that my mother never did anything about it when I told her many years earlier. So I called her. She remembered. She was devastated that I remembered. She was so sorry that nothing was done and we cried together. She called a cab company and had me dropped off at my house. I haven’t opened up to my mother about that situation much more since then and I’m still not sure my dad has any clue about any of this.

Around the time of the phone call to my mother, I started to spiral our of control. I did not seek help or someone to talk to. I would mask my depression with whatever substance I could get my hands on. On two occasions, these benders lead to me sharing my story with “trusted” friends. I think sharing these experiences with friends can be very powerful and healing thing, but not when you are blasted. Those convo’s were one and done’s.

 

It Never Feels like a Good Time to Have “the Talk”

Over the past few years I have become much more accepting of what happened. I have talked to someone who went through a similar experience, a therapist who knows me very well, and a girlfriend who was more understanding than I could have ever imagined. One person I still have not talked to about any of this is my brother. I don’t even know if he remembers. I have thought about approaching him about it, but there never seems to be a good time. He is constantly addicted to another drug, getting fired from a job, cheating on his wife, losing custody of his child…. It never feels like a good time to have “the talk”. Sometimes I think, if I told him, he would kill himself. I feel like he is so mentally broken from everything else in his life that being reminded of what he did to me would push him over the edge. If that happened. I think I would feel responsible. That frustrates me because I feel like he is responsible for so many of the negativity in my life – why should I even care.

I Don’t Let It Control My Day Anymore

For me, I am okay now. I have become better at letting myself feel sad if those thoughts arise, and then I let them pass. The feelings of depression, anxiety, wanting to know why or if my brother even remembers are still here everyday and just as real as they ever were, but I don’t let it control my day anymore.

I am more than my past and will not be held back by the memories of my abuse. It feels good to talk about this in this setting and I’m thankful for this group.

Coping

Coping

Some of you may be wondering why I have shared this picture of frogs. Others, who are disnerds like me, may be wondering why the photo of Tiana and Naveen. They are not my favorites, it’s not a covert message that I thought I would share. Instead, last night, they were a coping mechanism.

Will I be ok this time, or will I have a meltdown

I was triggered last night at the Magic Kingdom, the one place in the world that my problems don’t tend to affect me. Part of it was because I have discovered one of my triggers in the last year. That nursery rhyme that starts, “star light, star bright, first star I see tonight.” It was part of our nightly prayers with my abuser, and the day I heard his voice in my ear is the day I realized why I hated that rhyme. I hear it and immediately want to be sick. It makes me angry, and afraid, and my reaction tends to be out of control. Part of me thinks that being consciously aware of it should help, but I fear the anxiety that grips me every time I hear it, wondering whether I’ll be okay this time or if I’ll have a meltdown.

Last night, I had a meltdown. I called my Mom in hysterics, unsure of what to do with myself as I waited for my bus home. Now, I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again now. My Mother is the best. She talked me down, reminded me of my strength, and made me tell her all the wonderful things I had done with the rest of my day, even though I’m sure it wasn’t easy to listen to me like that. And when I got home, she told me to get some sleep, and reassured me that she loved me.

I didn’t sleep though. Instead, I grabbed the coloring book I have of Disney animals, and colored a page, blasting Carrie Underwood’s So Small in my ears until my roommates got home. I talked with them, and continued my coloring after they went to bed. I colored and listened to that song until all traces of him were scrubbed from my conscious thought.

Healing is a process

Now you may be wondering why I am telling you all this. I tell you this because I worry that I am falling into a trap that I don’t like. When I created my blog, I did it because I always wanted people to know that someone out there gets it. Because we don’t always see how this may affect our favorite celebrities who have been through the same thing on a day to day basis. And I worry that by being an activist, people may not think that I struggle with the healing process. How outspoken you are or aren’t doesn’t show all the work that you’ve done. Having a bad day doesn’t mean that all the work you have done is invalid. Healing is a process. It’s never the same for any one person, and I never want anyone to discount their healing because they think that someone else is doing better.

Today is a better day. I made food for the week, I’m going to work, I got to know one of my roommates a little better, and I’m still in a better spot than I was a few years ago. And I want to thank every single one of you for listening to my ramblings about a subject people don’t want to talk about. I’m thankful for you, I’m thankful for life, and I’m thankful that I’m in the spot I’m in today.

For anyone having a bad day today, you’re so much stronger than the shit that life is throwing at you. I believe in you.

 

This post was originally published on June 26, 2016

Nothing Poetic

Warning: May contain triggers for survivors of childhood sexual abuse

I was raped when I was 8
Over and over
When I should have been safe
There is nothing poetic here

They always call us crazy
They always deny, say we lie
As recent as last year
I was called a stupid “victim”
By a Buddhist thinker
Who called the memory of my rape
And the flashbacks, my illusions
Symptoms that he called my fault
Nothing new, this sanity assault
I know you’d be more comfortable
If I locked it in my body vault
But I will not
My honesty does not mean
I still feel like a victim
It simply relays the truth of
What he did to me when I was,
And he did, and I was 8
And now I fight, and I heal, and it’s real
And I say clearly this is me
Because brutes and blind society
Cannot scare or quiet me
Ever again

This post was originally published on February 4, 2014

Gone. But never forgotten.

When I received a phone call informing me my abuser had died, I can’t remember if sorrow or relief won as my initial emotion.

I would like to say it was sorrow. Maybe to make myself appear as if I’m not completely desensitized to the death of someone I loved. I honestly believe it was relief that flooded me first though. Relief and then anger. Sorrow coming in a distant third.

Anger because there would never be any closure for the death of my childhood. No apologies for what was taken from me. How do you mourn the murder of innocence? Put to rest the death of what I could have been?

I do strongly believe that sexual predators cannot apologize for their actions. They do not feel that they did anything wrong and build their lives on lies and manipulation. Admitting guilt or feeling apologetic for any acts they have committed is not part of what makes them tick. Even knowing that, there will always be a part of me that yearns for that admission of guilt. Knowing I would never receive that closure made my hatred come back full force, regardless of whether or not those words would have come when he was alive.

 

I still don’t know how to mourn his passing, though it has been well over a year since he has been gone. None of what I have expressed above negates the fact that I did love this person. The emotions expressed by others that it was better for him to be gone or that his lack of remorse should release me of my feelings of sadness did nothing to lessen the fact that it was incredibly painful for me to say goodbye. That was my reality and it was valid, regardless of how others may have felt when they experienced the news of his death.

The rational adult that is somehow able to coherently express any of this will always be at odds with the scared and defenseless little girl that just wanted someone to save her. To love her without hurting her. That child will always miss her father. The woman writing this now is grateful he is gone. Feels safer knowing he will never be able to hurt anyone again. Both of those feelings are valid and neither is easy to live with.

An Open Letter to My Abuser’s Former Victims

An Open Letter to My Abuser’s Former Victims

I’ve oftentimes wondered if you exist. I find myself sometimes, combing through the young women in his life, wondering if he ever did the same things to you. Maybe you don’t exist. Maybe you’re just my imagination running wild, my yearning to find someone else who gets it, creating stories in my head. Sometimes I imagine you coming to me, and whispering in my ear, “Me too,” and I would instantly get it. Sometimes I imagine a message sent from miles away because it is just too painful to say out loud. Whether you exist or not, I have a few things I want you to know.

1. I don’t blame you

I never will. I never have. And it doesn’t matter if you never say anything to me, or if you do tomorrow. I don’t blame you. The only person to blame for my abuse is my abuser. Not me. Not my family. And certainly not you. And if you honestly don’t believe me, I want you to repeat the words “It’s not my fault” to yourself every day until you know it in your head and in your heart. It’s not fair to put that kind of burden on yourself every day. Lighten the load, know that I don’t blame you, and keep moving forward with your own healing.

 

2. I believe you

I’m reminded of a story I heard, where a young girl told her mother that her father, who had abused his niece years earlier, also abused her. Her mother didn’t believe her, just thought she was competing with her cousin for attention. Because that’s the kind of attention we want, am I right? I will never understand why people treat you like you’re riding a bandwagon, trying to get your fifteen minutes of fame, why we can’t believe that an abuser may have hurt more than one person. I believe you, like I believe every survivor, with every fiber of my being. I believe you because, if he did it to me, it just makes sense that he may have done it to you. And I’m sorry, because no one deserves it.

3. You are brave

Do you know that? Do you believe that? Because I do. I know that any person who endures this particular kind of trauma is brave. If you are out there somewhere, breathing, alive, thriving, then you are brave. If you have to push away the thoughts that creep into your subconscious like I know I have to, then you are brave. If you never told anyone, you are still brave. If you have stumbled a few times in your healing, you are brave. Don’t ever let someone tell you that you aren’t, especially if that someone is you.

4. I love you

More than you know. And I want you to know, from one survivor of sexual abuse to another, I support you.

The Void

Originally published April 4, 2018

“It is not easy to stay conscious during a painful and frightening process. We would rather turn away, drug ourselves, or feign indifference. It requires a delicate blend of curiosity, fortitude, and patience to trust in the wisdom and the purpose of pain.” ~ Elizabeth Lesser

I would like to try to explain the place I have been over the last several months.

I sometimes refer to it as the dark.

The Dark is the place I find myself falling into time and time again, no matter how well it seems I am moving through life. Appearances are deceiving when it comes to my particular type of self-loathing. I’m a superb actress. I can nod and smile, say all the right things and go through all the appropriate motions when inside I feel absolutely nothing.

I can never predict when the dark will take over.

Sometimes it is an obvious buildup of emotional exhaustion, fear, anxiety and illness. Sometimes it stems from lack of sleep and a general feeling of not being seen or heard or appreciated. Sometimes it is isolation or loneliness. Usually though, it takes me with no warning and no obvious explanation. It hits and consumes me, completely and devastatingly and I’m no good for anyone, especially myself.

Saying the dark is scary is inaccurate and doesn’t give it the justice it deserves. I can’t feel terror when I’m there because I don’t feel anything. I’m sure there are myriad clinical terms for the dark. Medically accurate, professionally studied and justifiably applied terms. Labels like disassociation, bi-polar, mood dysregulation, PTSD, depression. The list created to pacify the mass population by “naming” the dark could fill volumes, but calling it something doesn’t make it better and telling me what it may be does nothing to help lift the veil. To bring me back when I’m there.

Success does nothing to break down the wall.

If anything it makes it worse. “Who are you to think you deserve anything good?” my shadow self asks. My only companion in the dark. The other me that knows who I really am. A used up kid, already worn out and damaged before I was 10 years old. Worthless.

Past experiences in the void have taught me that the only way out is to self-destruct in some way. To negate any positive growth I have managed to precariously scrape together. To destroy any positive I have managed to create in the worst way possible. To feel hatred for myself is to feel something and that is when the first pinprick of light finds me.

I know how dysfunctional this sounds and yet I also know from years of intimate time spent in this place that the worst must be honored before I can come to the surface long enough to hope to feel the best again.

I don’t like this part of myself.

This person lost and willing to do anything, no matter how painful, to bring me back so that I can smile and laugh and make others feel better. To love and not feel a black void. To have faith that I’m worth not being in this place. I don’t want to stay stuck in the dark for so long that I embrace it as permanent, never able to care again about being productive and available and present. Not able to make a difference. I hope that expressing it honestly helps me to come back in a semi positive way and that anyone reading this who can relate knows they are not alone.

Trauma and Meditation: An Open Letter to the Community

Warning: May contain triggers for survivors of childhood sexual abuse

Dear “Awakened” Communities,

Yes I mean YOU, Buddhist and Non-Buddhist alike. I am angry with you. Yes angry, oops am I not supposed to be angry? Well buckle up, you may not like this ride, or just jump off and avoid all these “negative emotions” if you can. You are good at that…unless of course you are wielding them at others while they are all dressed up as truth and passive aggressive compassion.

Yes, I am angry…but YOU are dangerous.

I am angry because I was raped when I was an eight year old little girl. You are dangerous because you tell me that I should live as if this didn’t actually happen.

Continue reading “Trauma and Meditation: An Open Letter to the Community”

I am a 73 year old male
I am a 73 year old male. I discovered my abuse in my late 60’s after 3 years of therapy I was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder. It was quite an ordeal to recover these memories. I was abused by my mother and male friends of my family, my male grade school principal. The abuse happened from when I was approximately 4 or 5 until I was 12. Both my mother and father denied this was happening during those years. This denial and punishment did as much damage as the actual abuse.

 

The Impact 
Although I have a very successful business life. CEO of a large company for over 25 years. Underneath I was never happy and felt I belonged. This hidden trauma caused family and marriage issues. Although my marriage has survived 42 years.

 

What I want others to know/understand 
It is never to late to face and find the truth no matter how frightening and terfying it is
Today

There is this constant feeling of not fitting in. Of disassociation. It takes monumental effort to speak. To get me to come out of the corner I have been hiding in my whole life. Then after all the work to reach me I’m gone in a fraction of a second.

Terrified of being noticed or exposed or heard. Ashamed of anything I said or shared.

Why am I still so afraid?

Silent screaming.

I have nothing to hide anymore.

How can I continue to have so much hatred and anger? I can’t get upset when people don’t listen if I am not speaking.

Not everyone is out to get me.

Rationally I know this.

It doesn’t lessen the fear.

I sometimes wish there was a way to get everyone to understand but I also know understanding is an overused concept.

Today I’m feeling ashamed.

I know I often tell others that we shouldn’t feel that way and that we need to know our worth and that we didn’t deserve what happened to us. I also know that healing or attempting to sucks and is not going to be a straight or easy path.

I would like to believe that someday I can stay above a 7 without having to plummet straight to zero, taking everyone in my way along for the ride.

This post was originally published on October 11, 2015

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