Benefits of being a sexual abuse survivor…

I’ve been feeling disheartened lately. I’ve been practicing tantric yoni massage (no endorsement implied in the link, but the description seems about right, and it even mentions survivors), both on my own and with my wife and my lover. I have the injured vulva which has been very sore, and I end up crying throughout the sessions, and crying hard. It feels like it’s clearing held energy out of my vagina and vulva. 

I’m not afraid of crying. I know that clearing emotions is just something that has to happen, like vomiting when you’re really nauseous, and that once it’s passed you feel a lot better. Eventually, it clears so much that acceptance happens and that piece of gunk is fully healed. So crying is a good thing.

Meanwhile, I’m giving my partners multiple long screaming orgasms.

This doesn’t feel the least bit fair.

Yesterday I had a good cry and rage about how unfair it is that 4o years later I’m still trying to heal my vulva, while psychopath father still hasn’t done a day in jail.

I’ve developed a chart and am tracking the state of my vulva plus the things I do to treat it.

I have a 5 point scale from ‘blood red and sore without touching’ at 5 to ‘pink and not sore or itchy’ at 1. My vulva has been at a 4 or 5 for several days now. I’m taking turmeric daily, applying vaseline daily, tracking how often I use the high powered cortisone cream, and basically just monitoring what seems to make it flare up or down rather than numbing out that part of my body. I suspect that learning to be more present in my vulva is making me more conscious of the discomfort that has always been there, not worsening it, but it still sucks.

This article about vulvar skin conditions was a source of some good insight and advice. However, it also lets me know that I probably need to do more medical advocacy on my own behalf, including another biopsy, if I can get a dermatopathologist to examine it and refine my diagnosis. Apparently regular pathologists aren’t good at reading vulvar biopsies because the moist skin shows skin diseases differently than regular dry skin.

Anyhow, as expected, the emotional and physical gunk is coming up to clear.  It’s not like I didn’t know it would.

I’m re-reading Malcolm Gladwell‘s ‘David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants‘, a book about the benefits of being an underdog, or how sometimes an advantage is not an advantage. He talks about how sometimes not being invested in the mainstream way of doing things can be a big advantage and how skills and attitudes people learn when they are the underdog can sometimes give them an advantage. It got me thinking. What about being an incest survivor gives me an advantage?

Now, let’s be clear, I do not subscribe to any victim-blaming philosophies of growth that says basically that we’ve attracted abuse or are asking for it to grow our souls or it’s karma for being complete assholes in a previous life whatever. Despite being wrong, blaming anyone but the abuser for the abuse has been shown to be associated with poorer emotional health. However, since the reality of what I’ve survived is clearly the reality, I might as well look for whatever silver linings I can, right?

The point of the exercise is to look at things commonly seen as disadvantages and figure out situations or conditions in which they offer an unseen advantage. This is not about minimizing or denying, this is about figuring out what I as a survivor or we all as survivors can find to compensate for*  this thing we’ve been handed to deal with. (*terrible wording, but I couldn’t find a better way to put it. Of course, nothing can actually compensate for childhood abuse.)

Let me think:

As a result of healing myself of childhood sexual assault I have the following advantages:

  1. I understand and surrender to grief, but am not overwhelmed by it. Strong feelings are familiar and manageable, and I have ‘let’s get on with it’ attitude.
  2. I see dysfunction a mile off.   I make good decisions about people.
  3. I have a lot of empathy. As part of figuring out my own gunk, I’m often able to figure out other people’s enough to have compassion for them. I can make a frame for people to be who they are and as they are.
  4. I don’t put up with shit from abusers. I can spot them, and I don’t engage.
  5. I am not afraid of other people’s feelings. I accept them and am not easily manipulated by them.
  6. I know I can handle it if bad things happen, so I’m not as worried about things I can’t control.
  7. I love myself, deep down. We’ve been through a lot together, me and I, and I trust myself. I am proud of myself and what I’ve achieved.
  8. I am willing to speak truth to power when necessary and do it effectively.
  9. I have well defined skills for coping with fear, pain, uncertainty and processes that feel mysterious and involve faith and self-trust.
  10. I have close to me people who are real and grounded and honourable. Everyone else has the lack of these qualities seemingly written in neon paint on their foreheads.
  11. I have a deep, engaged and mature faith, and a strong spiritual practice.
  12. I don’t sweat the small stuff, and am great at reframing things so I can turn it into a win.

As a result of experiencing childhood sexual assault (this is harder) I have the following advantages:

  1. I have only family of choice remaining to me. I don’t ever have to put up with the garden variety of annoying relatives or family drama. Anyone who isn’t good and loving is no longer in my life.
  2. I have very strong friendships with other survivors. Because we don’t have biological family, we make our friends into family, which makes for strong connections.
  3. I am a very sensitive and skilled lover. Because my own vulva is often sore and easily irritated, and I am not always able to receive touch on my vulva without discomfort, I have put a lot of my sexual energy into getting off on giving my partners pleasure. I have also developed skills to touch other vulvae well without irritating.
  4. Disclosing the experience of abuse to friends, family or lovers is a bit of a litmus test for people’s character. You can tell a lot about people by how well they handle it. It weeds out a lot of bad eggs that would otherwise take awhile to show their colours.

That’s all I have for now. I’d love to hear in the comments about what ‘earned benefits’ or silver lining items (no matter how ironic or backhanded) other survivors can think of about being a childhood sexual abuse or assault survivor.

New Year Resolution

Stag on Hillside Photocredit: Kev747 via Flickr
Stag on Hillside Photocredit: Kev747 via Flickr

So last Saturday I saw my ex girlfriend (Kitten) and her new girlfriend at the bar. It was no big deal. For those who don’t know the back story, she was my partner for 5 months and we broke up mid September. She reminded me a lot of my father / abuser, thankfully not in the sociopath rapist ways. She’s the first person I’ve dated who had so many profound superficial and deep similarities with him that I saw and recognized it as a gift, since it could not possibly be coincidence.

Okay, I’m going to get all Wiccan and spiritual on you here. If that’s not your thing, I won’t be offended. Continue reading New Year Resolution

New Year – Releasing, Banishing and Blessing

Yesterday I did a ritual of blessing and letting go with one of my friends. We both practice the same religion but hadn’t done any ceremony together before. It was her idea to burn things we wanted to let go of before we go into the new year, and to eat a dinner of black eyed peas and greens ( a southern US prosperity blessing practice).

I burnt three things. The first was a shield I’d made of paper, early into my healing journey. At the time, I was living alone and having night fears and flashbacks almost nightly. At the time I called them monsters. Come evening time, it was like I was haunted by anxiety and the sense that something was stalking me over my shoulder. I would be afraid to look around or to focus much attention on it, for fear the ‘monster’ would come closer.  Because most of my abuse happened at night in my bedroom, going to bed was particularly hard for me, and, although I didn’t know it, I was having memory fragments of the fear I experienced as a child and teen, waiting to see if my abuser would come down the hall to my bedroom and enter to abuse me or if he would pass my room by and go to bed. Since before he would abuse me he would usually use the bathroom across the hall from my room, I had come to associate bathrooms with bad things happening as well. However, I hadn’t had enough time and support to put all this together yet at that point, so all I knew was the fear.

I had created the shield with all of the sacred elements pictured on it, and posted it on my door as a warding to keep the monsters out. That, combined with some other ritual I did at the time, like writing down my fears in bed before sleeping, keeping a jar by my bed in case I was too scared to get up and go into the bathroom at night, and bringing a candle with me to bed so I didn’t have to walk across a dark bedroom, helped keep the monsters manageable until I could process more of the memory fragments. When I moved, that shield came down and didn’t go back up again in my new place, but I’ve kept if for the 20 some years since.

I burned it yesterday because there are no longer monsters waiting for me outside my bedroom door, and if fear fragments from my past emerge, I can name them and deal with them directly. I thanked the shield for protecting me and let that energy go.

The second thing I  burned was a journal from 2003. At that time, I was living with a roommate who bullied me. She had been asked to leave the house, but in the two weeks before she would actually leave, I stayed with a friend because I no longer felt safe at home. This woman, I’ve realized recently, was very similar to both my father and my recent other partner, so it felt fitting to burn my account of freeing myself of her at the same time I am freeing my self of my ex. I do not have to be connected with people who enjoy hurting others.

Also in the journal at the time my father/abuser was in the hospital after a serious car accident, and while there he had been diagnosed with cancer, which they were treating. My family rallied around to nurse him back to help, which felt like such a betrayal, and lessened my ability to deal with the abusive roommate. I now have no contact with my family and have many more people in my life who know my story.

Flipping through the pages, I came across a description I wrote after waking at 5 am to cry over the fact that my girlfriend (now wife), who I had been with three years at this point, was losing her sex driving in menopause, something she thought was only temporary and I should be patient with. Ten years later, we’ve resolved this issue, although in a completely unexpected way, by me having additional partners, something that has completely transformed and blessed our relationship.

I wrote at the time about feeling politically alienated from the queer community, because as a survivor of misogynist violence, my needs are different, and the most  important (only) gender issue for me is expanding power and equality for women for the purpose of protecting ourselves and children from misogynous sociopaths like my father.  When people wish to do away with the concept of ‘woman’ completely, it feels like they are trying not to create equality, but to make women and our struggles invisible.  This issue had come up for me that day in a queer poly group I have been dipping my toe into, that I was concerned would have a rigidly lockstep political stance on these issues.  Instead of being silenced, I spoke out, and got reassurance that my perspective would not be shut down from one of the moderators. Afterward, I re-read yesterday on my blog  a post where I had a wonderful comment exchange with Michelliana ( a woman of trans experience) about the conflict of trans needs and survivor needs. I realized how healing this simple, thoughtful, vulnerable exchange had been for me. All of these things have been ongoing issues in my life, and in the past ten years, all have transformed. It’s good to let that energy burn off and be released.

The last thing I have some mixed feelings about. I burned a bunch of nitrile gloves. As a Pagan, doing something so polluting was a dumb idea in sacred space (or anywhere) and I thought afterward that I could have just cut them to bits with scissors and put them in the garbage. The gloves had been purchased as safe sex supplies by an ex-girlfriend, and barely used. I had requested that she wear gloves, which provide a smoother surface and prevent fingernails and rough hands from irritating my skin, and so make it less likely that I’ll have a flare-up of the inflammatory skin condition I have around my vulva resulting from the assaults. She didn’t like the gloves that I preferred for this purpose and had bought her own, in a rough material and size so large it was wrinkly, causing more discomfort than the ungloved hand would have. They represented that selfishness and lack of empathy and caring that I don’t want to see again in a partner. This was the only thing I burned that was a true banishing, a releasing of something that disgusted me to see and which  I was glad to see the back of. The smoke clung to me afterward, and today I find myself with a headache. I would like to find a way to think about that toxic smoke amid my relief to have them truly gone, to have her truly gone from inside me as well. Perhaps it is reminding me that getting rid of something toxic leaves a residue, and it’s best to avoid those things completely in future, and not rely on my strength to withstand and clean up the damage later. When we are very hungry, it is tempting to take the food that is offered, despite the toxins in contains. It is important to ensure I never get that hungry again.

I think today, I will focus on blessing myself, my life and the people I love, on nourishing myself. Going forward, I will pay attention to my hunger, and figure out a strategy for meeting my needs without accepting toxic people into my life or at least removing them immediately.

May your 2014 be blessed. As my friend Kate says, “Good and Healing Thoughts to You.”

Care and feeding of the unconscious

scorpIf you believe in astrology, I can sum up my experience this morning with one phrase:

I am a Sagittarius with a moon in Scorpio.

This means that my inside and my outside aren’t always on speaking terms. My super open, transparent, honest to a fault Sagittarius outside persona is at odds with an inner Scorpio emotional self that would just like to keep all that sh*t secret and close to the chest. If it lets the information out to tattle-tale Sagittarius, she’ll want to be all open and authentic and sh*t, which makes the Scorpio part of me very unhappy.

My sneaky Scorpio moon fights back against all this dangerous openness by just neglecting to tell me how I feel for long periods of time, then suddenly wakes me up at 5 am on a weekend to tell me all about it, like the girlfriend who wakes you up in the middle of the night to ask you where your relationship is going.

This morning went down like this:

Uneasy dreams about being in a house with doors and windows that won’t even close properly, let alone lock, on a windy night on the third story or so of a low rise building with outdoor terraces.

This is Scorpio code for “your boundaries suck, dude.”

Then I wake up gradually ruminating about the dream and my jazz piano lesson, which I suddenly realized had been dumbed down for me because I didn’t really get the previous lesson. No wonder practising hadn’t sounded as good the night before, all the fun jazz stuff had been stripped out of the exercise after I complained I couldn’t remember it when I got home. I felt shame and frustration.

My Scorpio moon whispered to me. “What are you going to do about it?”

Well what can you do about shame in a darkened bed with a sleeping wife and chihuahua on a Saturday morning?

“You wanted to know how you feel.” Says the Scorpio moon nastily. “Now deal with it.”

But that wasn’t even the main course. As if pulling on the edge of a big knot that had suddenly come loose, all my week’s shame and anger came unravelling into my heart, spooling out from some place I hid it without knowing I’d done so.

The meeting I’d had yesterday with a team I supervise hadn’t gone well. It was the yearly review and while I’d collected feedback, I hadn’t given any.  A key member is moving on, and the remaining team, a performance troupe, isn’t up to the quality I need. I may need to cut some underperforming members and add others, which I need to do without completely demoralizing the group.  Complicated, murky and targetting the very area I feel insecure. The people I supervise are working musicians, and I am an amateur. What the hell do I know?  I know what I need them to accomplish and that sometimes someone has to be the heavy.  I feel a sense of my own incompetence in failing to address this at the time, my unease, and anger at my team.

Then I noticed the birds singing that “you’re up way too early in the morning” song they do when the sun is rising in the summer and I knew I wasn’t going to get back to sleep.

So what did I do? I got up and wrote about it here. Because shame doesn’t go away by ruminating on it in a dark room at 5 am. It goes away by shining light on it. Even if that has to be early morning on a Saturday.

Take that, Scorpio moon.


Fly me to the Mooooon...
One of the things that is complicated about the polyamory community is our strange inability to talk about our love lives, since everyone we know that is poly is likely to be webbed up in some way with whomever we want to talk about.

For example: I’ve been on three dates recently. All women are really nice, but there are some caveats and I seem to be hesitating with all of them. I don’t want to be caught in not acting, but am inclined to take time to digest things when I’m uncertain.

Anyhow, two of these woman are quite connected in the poly community so I can’t talk about my dates with the two others by name or in detail with my poly women friends (who would get it) because they know these women, and if the haven’t dated them themselves at least might be dating a man who is. Nobody wants to gossip, which is good, but makes it hard to hash things out with your girlfriends. I can’t talk to my wife about it either, for good reasons as well.

One of the women is about 15 years younger than I and seems not to have a lot of time. Another is really nice and smart, has some shared values, and is attractive, but has a live in partner who smokes so their place reeks and makes me cough. He’s also quite a dominant guy, and I was sensing him doing some alpha pecking order stuff with me, which as you can imagine, aint gonna fly. I don’t accept male authority outside of work relationships, where who I defer to is based on knowledge or formal rank, and has a rational purpose. This guy is her primary partner, and I respect that. I’m willing to be polite, friendly and fair, but not deferential.

The third is a woman I like and respect that I’ve known peripherally (mostly through women’s workshops) for several years. Let’s call her Jane. She’s a very interesting and soulful woman, and I would have dated her long ago (or tried to) if I hadn’t been in a monogamous relationship at the time. She’s perhaps interested, but we haven’t formally broached the topic, although we’ve been spending time together. She has some of the qualities that drive me nuts in my wife, introverted, kinesthetic, reluctant to talk about feelings, discomfort with her own nudity. She also seems to have trouble setting boundaries with people who are imposing on her, again like my wife. Do I need two of these? On the other hand, she is a lot better at creating community and art than I am and I could really learn from her there. She is also pagan.

Here’s the important thing. Jane told me recently she’d had a dream about me after I’d told her that I was dedicated to Aphrodite (which I am). In her dream I embodied Aphrodite.

Okay, this is a really, really big deal. Dreams about Goddesses are not random things, and Aphrodite is quite a hands on Matron deity. The last woman I was with (independently of me telling her anything) felt a huge energetic connection with me that felt Goddess driven, and I think it was. It’s like some women are drawn to me as a priestess to learn something about love. My connection with that women (Let’s call her Amy) was really intense, and, it felt to me, Goddess driven. If Jane had an Aphrodite dream about me, it Means Something.

My take on life is that the Goddess(es) and Gods guide me – not by bossing me around, but by providing me resources to learn and do things I said I wanted to learn and do, like a mentor.

I have a fantasy where Jane and I become co-primaries and I spend part of my week with her and part with my wife. This woman has a very rich life in a nearby community, so I’d have to travel a short way to be with her, but it wouldn’t be onerous. I can see us having a lot to learn from one another, but I can also see places where she might drive me nuts.

Looking at the other women I’ve been on dates with, I think all of them could drive me nuts a little. Heck, my wife drives me nuts a little, although less so now that we’re poly.

What I hunger for is someone who can meet me. A woman who isn’t afraid to be naked and to dare, emotionally, physically, spiritually. I’m like Hermoine’s purse in the book the Deathly Hallows, a little clutch that was a warehouse inside. There are so few places to unfold.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Challion series has some spiritual concepts in it that I relate to strongly. I love her description of the relationships between her characters and various matron or patron Gods in it. It’s similar to how I experience my own relationship with Aphrodite and with the God as Stag. In her book she talks about how the Gods can only enter and act directly in the world through people who have developed the ability to open to them, usually through pain and loss. One of the characters describes how perhaps a hundred people had been set on a path toward a particular quest by the gods, and only he arrived. She talks about how the Gods most love the great-souled, but that becoming great-souled is the result of a lifetime of learning, opening and making choices.

Dragonfly in a tree; "Stained Glass Dragonfly"Since I’m relatively anonymous here, I’m going to risk looking arrogant or foolish or full of hubris here. I think I’ve earned a relatively large and open soul in my lifetime. What I most want is to feel it unfolded in ways that seem to be rare and few so far. It has opened through surrender to music, through the Aphrodisian albeit brief intimate connection with women like Amy, opened sometimes through writing, through mystical meditation and rare moments of connection with the Gods, or simply doing the right thing at the right time despite opposition.

Generally, I can’t open like that with someone who hasn’t experienced their own losses and grown from them. But people don’t wear that information on their sleeve, so it sometimes takes time to know. And some get overwhelmed with such large energies, in themselves or someone else, and close themselves up, like Amy did, at the moment things are most powerful and beautiful.

I’ve sworn I won’t obsess, but instead will envision the future and create it. In my future – I am unfolding my soul in places that have space to embrace it. I am finding more and more of those spaces. I am trusting my heart and my intuition, as well as my intelligence and experience. I am unfolding the wings I have kept closed to my side and learning to fly.

~ Tricks For Treats ~

Burning the Journals

Midnight ember
I just got back from a camping trip with my wife. With her support, I burned several boxes of old journals, dating back from my childhood through the present. It took me three days. Now that I’ve decided not to sue the old hopefully soon to be dead bastard, I don’t need them any more.

I flipped through each of them, tore out some poetry and things I wanted to keep, and then burned the rest. As a Wiccan, releasing ritual is usually done on the waning moon, but the moon was waxing so I needed to interpret what I was doing in that light, as accepting, increasing or making whole rather than discarding something unwanted.

What I came up with is that I am all of it. I am the woman who  wrote 30+ years of journals, writing mostly when I had too much inside that I couldn’t share. I am the teenage girl obsessing about boys and interpersonal crap with girls, even though I’m a lesbian. I am the young woman obsessing about guys, money and finding a job. I am the emerging lesbian obsessing about women, whether to label myself bi or lesbian. Thank goodness queer wasn’t a label in use then, that would have been way more confusing. I am the woman who lived with a man but knew she  preferred women, who fell in love with her best friend and was rejected by her.

I am the woman who saved her friend from committing suicide because I could read the signs and took a long cab ride out to stop her. I am the woman who stood up at a 12 step convention and asked a crowd of 300 people to tell me they believed me about the abuse. I cry even now thinking of how powerful that was, when they all unanimously stood and declared it in unison. I am the woman with a powerful and direct voice when she has enough social support and a hesitant, anxious and ruminating manner when she doesn’t. I am the girl who wrote poetry. I am the girl who counted in her head to keep from having intrusive thoughts and feelings about the abuse.

I am the woman who successfully pulled her mind away from abuse thoughts during sex, who once despaired of ever having an orgasm without some abuse fantasy in it, who took her sexuality back from the abuser. Who now almost never thinks or feels those things in sexual contexts.

I am the woman who chronicled her flashbacks – reading them I remembered when the memories of the abuse were more visceral, and am glad that has faded as they got integrated.

I accept all of my experience, power and knowledge into me. I integrate that girl, that woman I have been and am. Although I have changed and evolved, it is all me and I welcome that stored energy and passion back to me.

What I noticed as well, is that so much paper was spent agonizing over decisions, fretting and obsessing rather than acting. Some of this is my highly sensitive person nature, where I am cautious and slow to act. Some of it is the chronic anxiety I struggled with most of my life. Some of it is just that I had no one else to tell. Some of that has not changed.

If this ritual, this spell of release and transformation, has one goal, it’s to end that. I will write purposefully – envisioning the ideal future or in poetry, music or prose – or not at all. I will put my feelings into music or art instead. I have obsessed and ruminated enough. Now I will act.

My self-help book is underway. The working title is “It gets better: What I learned from 25 years of healing childhood rape”. I could use some ‘test readers’ to give me feedback on the rough draft – not about fine editing things and grammar, those are third or fourth draft, but about what parts seem most helpful, what might be missing, what’s unclear. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to review a copy of it and give me some feedback. A lot of it is from this blog, just organized in a different way with some added material.

Separating from Wife – I think

I came back home from my pilgrimage today. I have to say to all you Pagans out there – you’ll understand if you do real magic – you really have to be careful what you ask the Goddess for, as she often responds swiftly and decisively.

There was this one temple, underground, called the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum that we visited. It’s very difficult to get an appointment to visit, and we had special permission to visit without all the usual tourist interpretation, so we could be there reverently and sing within the underground chambers, which have beautiful accoustics, and were likely designed to resonate sound. The temple is thought to have been used as an oracle ( a place to see spiritual guidance) and a place where the bones and spirits of the dead were entrusted by their loved ones for rebirth. There are a number of womb shaped chambers where bones were put, and the walls were painted in spiral designs in red ochre, which was commonly used to suggest mentrual blood. This image of the Goddess, called the Sleeping Lady, was found in a place of honour in the temple, and is thought to represent the Goddess of death and rebirth.


Only 10 people an hour are permitted to visit the temple, so we went down in several small groups. I was in the second group. The first group was down in the temple and I was waiting upstairs, in a darkened theatre where they show a film about the temple. I decided to sit and meditate for the 45 or so minutes while I waited my turn.  This theatre was built on top of the temple, so I was right above it.

The meditation was powerful and mystical. I connected with the spirit of the place. It may have been a Goddess. The place was happy we were visiting reverently, in the proper manner, and was yearning to be entrusted again with the dead. It felt right for me to offer the dead parts of myself, and the cold I had at the time, to the temple Goddess or guardian. I felt cords of energy pull dead parts of myself from my body, and the sickness, and willingly let them go. I also released my father, and was assured that he could be safely held there.

When we went down into the temple, it felt safe and holy, not like a crypt but like a womb or a sacred place. We each sang something into the space – I ended up singing a verse from a song for the dead that I sing. I sang it in respect and reverence to the spirits of hundreds or thousands of peaceful dead people who had been entombed there. The culture that built this temple has been studied and no evidence of war or conflict was found – no weapons, fortifications, war wounds on the bones found, no imagery of war.

My cold was healed, I kept a scratchy voice for the next couple of days, but it had broken and was gone. A few days later, I sang that same song while one of the women released the ashes of her recently dead husband into the mediterranean sea. A day or two after that, I spontaneously danced a sword dance in one of the other temples we visited at dawn. It made me wonder if some part of me was recognizing he’d died. I haven’t heard anything but wouldn’t be surprised if my father/abuser has died or dies soon.

Now I’m home. I arrived yesterday but slept most of the day after I returned. My greeting from my wife was friendly but neutral rather than joyful. This morning she told me why. She’d realized while I was gone that it was a relief to live without our struggling with one another. We decided, amicably, to live separately in the same house for awhile. We may go to couples therapy, or we may not. We spent most of today preparing a spare bedroom for me to sleep in, as I’m going to take the top floor of the house, and her the bottom. I go back to work in a few days so we’re going to spend that time separating the space. Tomorrow is our 5th wedding anniversary. We’re not telling anyone yet, except a couple of close friends, besides, what to tell them.

I have more to write about this but that’s all for today. I did a lot of praying about my relationship during my trip, and received a strong message to let go of what is gone and allow myself to grieve, after which I would know what to do. I’m very sad, but am trying to continue to let go what needs to die and be reborn. I asked for this, after all.

No Letter

My wife nailed it. She said “there isn’t going to be a letter, she didn’t get what she wanted.”

According to my aunt, my mom has allegedly written a letter in response to the one I wrote her a few years ago. That letter I wrote 3 years ago is of course out of date, since it was written before I knew about the scars on my vulva which prove not only that I was raped as a small child, but that my mother had to have known about it at the time and didn’t get me medical or police attention for my wounds.

Surely if I’d been brought to a doctor they would have sewn me up, as they would a woman who had given birth and torn in the way I did. I clearly wasn’t sewn up, as I have flesh tags and two long ragged scars. Apparently, vulva wounds on children often heal without scars, so the fact that I do speaks to the severity and perhaps repeated nature of the injury. And if I had been brought to a doctor, my father would have been arrested for raping me. I suppose it’s remotely possible, people being the denying assholes they often are in the face of child abuse, that even with hard evidence in front of them the police or doctor would not have helped me, but somehow I doubt it, and I further doubt that my mom would have hidden it from me all this time if she’d actually tried to get me help. So therefore, she knew and did nothing, and as a result is dead to me.

My mom only told my aunt she’d written a letter to get herself off the hook with my aunt I think, and probably also as a bid to see me. My aunt told me she’d be leaning on my mom to get her to respond to me with the info I requested, so this is the counter move. My response was clear, no direct contact, only via letter. I told my aunt about the scars and that my mom didn’t know about them. It’s possible she passed that information along (which would be fine with me).

Anyhow, I’m going on vacation in a couple of weeks that is a spiritual pilgrimage for me so I was hoping I wouldn’t get a reply before that, so that I could avoid having to process it during my vacation. Status quo has been restored, no contact with my mother, who is dead to me anyhow. There’s nothing she could do now, short of disclosing a phenomenal amount of coercion she’s never mentioned before, to restore her to a living presence in my life now.

One of the temples I’ll be visiting on my trip is called the Hypogeum, it’s a womb-temple to the Goddess. It’s underground, painted in red ochre to resemble a womb and when discovered, contained seeds of grain and a beautiful statue of ‘the sleeping lady’ Goddess. Apparently the acoustics inside are amazing, and we’re going to sing in there. The Goddess is the mother I have now, far more enduring and reliable than my birth mother. It feels like I have shed her like a snakeskin, and only the flakes remain.

I am open, and I am willing

Hey folks. I know I haven’t been writing here much lately. I’m working on my book a bit, it’s coming along nicely, actually. I got a bit of a boost from a reader here who commented with support for my writing (thanks!) and got going on it. Also, I haven’t had anything sworddancerly to report. I haven’t heard from any of my biological family, I’ve not been triggered by anything and life is going pretty well. Mostly I’m just busy at work.

I’ve also started working out with a personal trainer. For folks that can afford it, I recommend it. I would say overall it’s cheaper than joining a gym, because there’s no way I’d go regularly to a gym. Too many thin, fit people there, it’s off-putting. And the music is loud, and… well you get the picture. My trainer brings us to a gym that’s only for trainers, so the only people there are out of shape, older people like me, and their trainers. My wife and I go together.

On the survivor front, I made it really clear to the trainer that I was a “no pain, no pain” kind of gal and not a “no pain, no gain” gal, and that one of my main motivations for working with a trainer was to avoid injury or being too sore or exhausted to work at my main job. I just wanted to learn to have fun moving my body, and do things that made me feel strong and powerful. I like working with the trainer because I can ask questions right away like: “am I doing this right?” or “my knee hurts when I do that, is there another way to do it?”.

I'm guessing Xena would know how to dance on a sociopath's grave....Photocredit: Unknown.

I’m having a lot more fun than I thought I would. I really like the free weights and feeling all strong lifting them. I’ve got a big body (tall and big boned, not just curvy) so I do have quite a bit of power and it’s nice to feel it. I’m actually bigger than your average guy, which is kind of nice to realize if I’m walking on a street at night. I’m aiming to be a big strong sword-dancing amazon. I’m getting what are starting to look like fit-looking muscle bulges on my arms too. Okay, I’m starting to fit the lesbian stereotype, and that’s fine. If I end up looking like Xena or Wonder Woman, that’s just fine with me. (Actually, I do look quite a lot like Xena already…)

My wife is having some challenges lately to do with her work, and is pretty depressed. As per normal, she won’t let me do anything to help, so I’m kind of stuck here waiting for her to figure it out. Depressed people aren’t very creative in thinking about solutions to their own problems or seeing options, which is frustrating to be around. She’s also got chronic pain and what I think is sleep apnea. None of which she’ll do a lot about. I know, it’s hard when you’re depressed to do anything. I think back to when I was depressed in my early healing, though, and know that I fought pretty persistently through it, sneaking around my limitations. Okay, I didn’t have energy to do anything, I’d work on getting enough rest. Okay, I was crying all the time, I’d give myself permission to cry as much as I wanted till it cleared. Okay, I was low energy all the time, I’d make sure I at least took my vitamins.

I’m not one of those perky pollyanna types, really I’m not. I think I’m pretty honest about calling it as I see it when there is a bad situation going on.

Speaking of bad situations, my country is going to hell in a handbasket and I’m really worried about it. We’ve elected a prime-minister (our national head of government) who is evil. George Bush-calibre evil. He’s on record as wanting to dismantle our universal health care system and social safety net. He squeaked in the last two times with a minority government, which means he can’t do much that would really annoy the other two parties elected, but now he’s got a majority, which means he can really do anything he wants. This is one guy I’d like to dance a sword dance for (or on).

This guy is anti-marriage equality, anti-women, and a right-wing religious nutball with creepy eyes. Someone put a video on youtube of him speaking, comparing his manner and words to Emperor Palpatine (who later is the evil emperor, Darth Vader’s boss) from Star Wars, and the comparison is apt. I like to refer to him as ‘Voldemort’. He thinks global warming is a hoax, sent our citizens to for ‘enhanced questioning” in other countries by less torture-averse allies of the US and has taken down pictures of all the past Canadian leaders and replaced them with multiple copies of his own face.  I just can’t believe that the good, decent, let’s take care of each other citizens of Canada elected this creep. He seems to have a lot of money behind him, and used it to saturate the airwaves with ads, particularly attack ads on the other parties. He’s sneaky and Machiavellian, and is right now dismantling all the government accountability and freedom of information services so that when he really gets going doing evil, it will be hard to find out before it’s too late.

It’s kind of like the ‘abuser always win’ problem with survivors. Justice for us (well me) has been so sparse it’s easy to get hopeless. My religious Pagan self says, it’s part of the Goddess’ plan perhaps, and sometimes a loss is the way to a greater gain. Our most progressive party in Canada also won a lot of seats in the last election and is now official opposition, but with a right wing majority in parliament, all they can really do is complain.

The nutballs within the Christian faith (don’t worry, we all have our nutballs, I’m not being anti-Christian here) are going on about how we are in a time of tribulation and the world is going to end and such. I have to say it seems like a time of tribulation to me too, but they’re causing it. A lot of them are against doing anything for the environment because they want to get the end of the world  over with. I say to them, “Don’t you want to hedge your bets?”. It seems like doing evil (destroying the environment and making species extinct and people starve to death  and such…) in the name of religion is still evil. Just saying.

So I’ve been doing a lot of praying lately. My God(dess) is more of an ’empower the people and you sort it out’ kind of god, which isn’t nearly as comforting as a “don’t you worry your pretty head, I’ve got it all in hand” kind of god. The Earth, Gaia, a living and most likely sentient organism, has an complexity and intelligence that is vast and beyond me. She makes this planet function so incredibly beautifully, and it breaks my heart to know that she is wounded by our actions.  I can only hope that each of our hope, goodness and willingness to take right action in the world on Her behalf will be enough to overcome and heal this cancer of greed the way the way a healthy body routinely dispatches cancer cells before they get out of hand. May the less literal soul of Canada do the same.

Photocredit: unknown

As children’s author Dr. Seuss would say “unless people like you care a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not”. The only generally agreed upon moral rule of Neo-Paganism is “an it harm none, do as thou wilt” , which means: As long as it harms no-one or nothing, do as you will. The quality of ‘will’ is important in Neo-Paganism, where we literally believe that you can will things to happen to a certain degree, much in the way that other people pray for things to happen. I am ‘willing’ everything to work out in the best possible way as hard as I can right now. I am ‘willing’ the world supply of Goodness to be blessed and increase.  Anything more specific is too simplistic to have an impact on this chaos; I’m trusting in the mysterious forces for good in the universe to work things out, and am willing to cooperate in any way I can.  Compost, eat organic, sustainable transportation, stick up for others, stick up for myself, vote, help ethical politicians and groups, speak up and out, I am willing.

Holly Near has a great song the lyrics of which were written in response to the US’s dark period governed by George Bush. I can only hope we get our own Canadian version of Obama to clean up the mess this bastard is making too. It’s a grieving song and a hopeful alliance with goodness and change song. Here are the lyrics.

“I am open, and I am willing, for to be hopeless, would seem so strange. It dishonours those who go before us, so lift me up to the light of change.  There is hurting in my family, there is sorrow in  my town. There is a panic all across the nation. There is wailing the whole world round. But I am open, and I am willing, for to be hopeless would seem so strange, it dishonours those who go before us. So lift me up to the light of change. Give me a mighty oak, to hold my confusion, and give me a desert, to hold my fears. Give me a sunset, to hold my wonder. And give me an ocean, to hold my tears. May the children see more clearly, and may the elders be more wise. May the winds of change caress us even though it burns our eyes. For I am open and I am willing, for to be hopeless would seem so strange. It dishonours those who go before us, so life me up to the light of change.”

May it be so.

More great Holly Near songs: Gentle Angry People ; Fired Up

Free your vulva and the rest will follow.

I used to know this woman, a survivor, who was a fitness trainer. She loved exercising so much it was actually contagious. She and I used to go dancing a lot. At the time, there was a song called “Free Your Mind” with an anti-prejudice message. The chorus, which was most of what we could really make out in a noisy nightclub, was “Free your, mind, and the rest will follow”.

My friend adapted it to “Free your ass, and the rest will follow”, meaning “be in your body and grounded and everything gets a lot better”. It has a lot of truth, and has stayed with me. When I moved to another town, she made me a dance tape as a goodbye gift and titled it “Free your ass and the rest will follow”.  When I need to ground, shaking my butt or dancing helps a lot. It’s hard to be clenched up and  anxious when your butt is relaxed. Try it.

Artist Taishe sells these t-shirts. The image is linked to her site.

So this morning, after writing about my internal debate over my mother and whether I have more than just the one main abuser (*I removed this post because I was getting homophobic comments on it), I went to a place I go to do do a walking meditation. During the meditation I came to this.

It doesn’t matter if there’s more abuse I don’t remember. What matters is, can I live my life as fully and joyously as I want to? It’s been my experience that by going out and living passionately, the stuff that gets in the way needs to be cleared comes up. If it doesn’t get in the way, it’s irrelevant at this point.

The only tricky thing is when my unconscious hides my limitations from me (like being unaware that I clench my hands or jaw in sleep until it does damage).

In my meditation walk, I suddenly had a flash that my new motto was “Free your vulva and the rest will follow”.

What this means to me is that I need to stop clenching my vulva, in order to improve my vulvadynia, the sensation in my vulva, and hence, my sex life. I also need to unclench my passion and creativity (symbolized by my vulva) in all the other ways that they’re locked up. So instead of whining about how unmotivated I am to do my singing, I need to press into the resistance instead of allowing it to smother me.

Now, I know from past experience that my resistance is extremely well developed, and battling on to create anyways is a central struggle of my life so I’m not going to promise great results here. However, just as focussing on keeping my hands, feet and neck warm has unexpectedly resulted in me being more grounded, I have a suspicion that keeping my vulva relaxed will have good, but as yet unknown effects. If it brings flashbacks, so be it. If I suddenly find myself singing or making love, so much the better.

What I learned about faith and child sexual abuse

Photocredit: Denis Collette

My adult spirituality developed in first or second year university. I was taking a philosophy of religion course, up to my neck in flashbacks and attending 12 step meetings of Adult Children of Alcoholics. The Courage to Heal and ‘You can heal your life’ were my lifelines.  In the 12 step meetings I went to, the word God was used, but often the phrase ‘higher power’ was substituted. My 12 step colleagues felt that any higher power was better than no higher power, and a person had a right to choose what felt right for them.

By this point in my life I had had quite enough father-rule. I decided that if I needed a higher power, I was going to invent one that I could trust completely. Instead She found me.

But this isn’t what I wanted to write about. I’ve written this before.

The part of faith that transcend all specific religions and are empowering for survivors are these.

Somebody knows all about the abuse and how dirty and ashamed you feel inside sometimes, and loves you. She/He/It/They both see you and love you. This is the magic bullet for shame – to be both seen deeply and loved.

You don’t have to connect with the same God(s) you were introduced to as a child, or if you do, to interpret and relate to Him or Her in the same way you did then. You can choose to believe in whatever and whomever feels right and safe for you. In my case, I didn’t feel good about opening up and feeling vulnerable to a male God. My God had to be a feminist. Your mileage will vary and that’s okay, in my opinion. I don’t know if there is one God with many aspects or many Gods or something altogether different, and that’s okay with me.

It is okay to be mad at God. She can take it and He gets it. Once I yelled at Her at a 12 step retreat. I can’t remember now what I yelled exactly, but it freaked everyone out and then I cried myself into exhaustion. I told Her She might have a reason for not intervening to stop me being abused, but I didn’t have to like it. This was the beginning of an honest relationship with deity that has deepened and strengthened me immeasurably over the years. Sucking up or bargaining with God(s) isn’t nearly as helpful.  There is no point pretending you aren’t mad that a powerful being didn’t intervene and stop an innocent child, you, from being abused and that the abuser got away with it if they did.

In philosophy of religion, this is called ‘the problem of evil’, a core subject that basically comes down to: if God(s) is omnipotent and good how can God(s) allow evil to happen?

The standard answers are: “It all makes sense somehow, we just don’t get it.” and “God wants people to have free will so they can choose to be good rather than have it forced upon them.” A variation on answer number two is the existence of an adversary or anti-God and the two of them fight it out. All of these answers have a lot of logical problems that philosophers of religion haggle about endlessly.

The main thing I learned from philosophy of religion is that all fundamentalists are alike and all mystics are alike, no matter their religion. A Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Wiccan mystic will have more in common with one another in their core values than they will with a fundamentalist of their own tradition.  This essentially means you get two basic types of religion – one where being devout is about obedience to holiness rules and religious authority, where the will of the Divine is interpreted through priests, and a second type where the Divine speaks directly to the person, whose own conscience is informed by that intimacy with God(s).

The first type of faith is about holding to the rules and structure even when they don’t make sense, and being rewarded with a sense of solidity, certainty and connection with community and tradition.

The second type is about ecstatic connection with the Sacred. Faith in the Divine is unnecessary if you experience the Divine directly. Faith is expressed by trusting that the connection is real and opening to it. It can make you feel whole, but it can be very vulnerable.

I personally think the mystic’s path of direct connection works best for survivors. Here is why.

Firstly, the direct and intimate relationship with a loving higher power of our personal and direct understanding is shame reducing.

Secondly most of the hierarchical religions have a vulnerability in that they are easily exploited by predators. Even if survivors escape further abuse, survivors can be re-traumatized by structures and philosophies that enable or condone abuse, and which might not be as painful for others. When people give their moral compass to someone else blindly, they will likely as not have it returned with it’s pointer bent, and this is intolerable for those of us who have been betrayed by authority figures before.

It is my opinion that only God/Goddess is big enough to hold the need, the pain and the sorrow of a survivor’s inner child. Bargaining with that fact by trying to find a lover, therapist or parent surrogate who can do it only postpones the inevitable. We need to learn to love ourselves, and God/Goddess is big enough to hold the enormity of our pain and need. There were times when I was so grieving and heartbroken, that all that would help was to give my pain to the ocean to hold. She was big enough, she could take it, and in the process of giving it to Her to hold, I learned to let the pain flow through me and out of me.

Connecting with the Divine is an ongoing relationship that evolves over time. It’s about learning what connects you to the sacred, what it feels like to turn your burdens over and ask for guidance from a power greater or deeper than yourself, and how that process works for you. It is about healing the relationship and in my case, forgiving Her for not saving me from being abused.

You don’t actually have to believe all the time. Faith is like abuse memories. Sometimes you’re sure they’re accurate, and others the doubt creeps in or you’re cut off from your source  of certainty. God(s) don’t mind if you doubt, She/He knows you and gets why and loves you anyhow.  Connecting with the Divine is like reaching your roots down into fertile soil that steadies and nourishes you, or challenges and heals you. You already know how to do it, you may just not know you do.

I think I have written better pieces about faith and survivors than this one, pieces that actually come from that connection more than I am feeling it today. I invite you to read them here:

What I learned about anxiety – for child sexual abuse survivors

Feel whatever is there in a safe place

The first time I remember not being anxious was after a 12 step meeting. My shoulders were relaxed. This had never happened before, I was certain.  It  was after an adult children of alcoholics meeting.

I found 12 step meetings really helpful in my early recovery, because I could be real there about what was really going on, and because of the structure (no crosstalk) no-one could try and rescue me. I attended almost one meeting per day. At the time it was the only place I could be real about the intense memories and feelings I was experiencing.

I shared my first flashbacks and some very intense things in meetings in those days, so much so that afterward, people would come up to me with the ‘are you all rrriiiight…” and a pitying tone to their voice like they were pretty sure I was a complete basket case. I always took no more than my share of the time, normally about 10 minutes per person, and could get a lot done in that time. I’d always say (and feel) “yes, of course, I just got it out and had a cry, of course I’m all right.” And I was. I refused to let them pity me. I was just having a feeling, and I’d expressed it fully, and could move on to being calm.

This is the first thing I learned about anxiety and other strong feeling states, that being direct and honest about it in a safe space makes all the difference.

Ramping down the hyperarrousal

The second thing for me was the strong link for me and perhaps other survivors between anger and anxiety/fear, which is so big a part of being a survivor of childhood sexual assault that I wrote quite a bit about it in my post on night fears, so I’ll just refer you there.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder. I don’t think of it as a mental illness, but as a nervous system injury. Anyone who went through what I went through, with the lack of support that I had, would have it. The trauma is the cause. My nervous system was set on fear, legitimately, so high and for so long, that it got stuck that way, among other things. Anything that ramps down the PTSD hyperarousal is a good thing.

Physical solutions help a lot more than you’d think.

Exercise: I can often manage my anxiety best by looking after it in completely physical ways. Walking for exercise, which gets the good endorphin benefits without getting me adrenalized the way more active exercise or classes do, helps a lot.

Food: Eating whatever I feel like and whenever I am hungry (and stopping when I’m full) seems to reduce any anxiety my mind and body has about there not being enough food available, and if I’m consistent about it, it helps keep me calm.  Stress-eating can calm me down, but is more of a band-aid thing. Consistently meeting my body’s needs ramps down my anxiety.

Sleep: I play all kinds of tricks to help me sleep, but hypnosis has been the most effective. I particularly like a cd called ‘deep sleep with medical hypnosis‘ and listen to two of the tracks from it (healing sleep and deep sleep) back to back almost every night. Safe routines are good.

Medication: I know nothing about medication for anxiety. I’ve never taken any for my PTSD. However I have taken chamomile tea, skullcap, and melatonin to help me sleep.  The thing I pull out if I’m desperate is one of the old school antihistamines (not the no-drowsy kinds) which works but makes me groggy in the morning. I also almost never consume caffeine, aside from the occasional chocolate.

However, vitamins help my anxiety. I take two multivitamins, six fish oil capsules, a vitamin D3 and a low dose coated aspirin daily. Since I’ve been doing that I feel a lot better. Apparently, there is some research to show that physical and emotional pain are connected. I take the aspirin because apparently when you are over 40 it is recommended to reduce inflammation, but I think it helps my mind ramp down too, by reducing my aches and pains. Pain is a sign that something is wrong, after all.

Safe touch: Curling up with my wife, skin to skin, reduces my anxiety. Petting my dog reduces my anxiety. Hugs that last more than 10 seconds apparently release positive chemicals in the body. Getting a foot rub reduces my anxiety.

Writing it down

Writing: Other than feeling the feelings when they come up, as fully as possible, I haven’t found a lot of mind/emotional things that work, other than journalling. I’ve journalled at night, and in the morning, artists way style where you write non stop for 3 pages, and both help clear out worries and obsessive thoughts. I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night when I’ve had a nightmare and written in this blog. It helps.

What I’ve learned about happiness

I am a student of happiness right now. It started when I realized that I wasn’t actually happy. Nothing bad going on particularly, but not happy. That has changed.

Then I came across this video: and something in it clicked for me, about how I need to let people see me, people in my regular life ( you folks already usually get the straight deal).  She has this great quote: about being authentic. She says people are happier and experience less shame when they can be authentic. Makes sense. I know as survivors sometimes being authentic freaks people out, so it’s not easy, but I still think it’s worth doing to the extent that feels safe.

Then I got this audiobook from audible called the Happiness Project The author, Gretchen Rubin, an organized type-A ex-lawyer New Yorker and mom of two, researches what makes people happy and sets out trying out and evaluating various strategies. It appealed very much to my left brain way of organizing my life, but is also quite soulful.

So I’m trying some of her stuff. Being a pretty devout Pagan, I’ve used the concept of the five directions to organize the strategies into groups by element.

The first direction is Earth – which I associate with the body. I’m tracking in a chart on my computer whether I take my vitamins. I’ve read that Omega 3s are good for the brain and eyes. I follow a recommendation from ‘Dr. Oz and Deepak Chopra’ and take two multivitamins, one vitamin D3 and one low dose aspirin daily along with six fish oil capsules. I know from the past that taking vitamins helps keep me from getting depressed, particularly B’s.  I also track keeping my hands and feet warm and doing something for exercise every day. I took Gretchen’s advice and am paying attention to getting a good night’s sleep and made my bedroom very dark to help with that. I also have a resolution I’m tracking to go to bed as soon as I’m tired rather than staying up. I’m making a point of eating slowly and enjoying my food, and of eating whatever I want when I’m hungry and stopping when I start to be full. I do this about 60% of the time, perhaps a little more, which is an improvement and I’m eating healthier than I was because of it.

The results from my ‘Earth’ strategies are very positive. The warm hands and feet thing keeps me in my body more than I’d be otherwise, which thankfully isn’t bringing up any gunk, and is improving my sex life and enjoyment of food. I’m sleeping better and waking more rested, with less midnight anxiety. I’ve been walking for exercise, which doesn’t trigger me like other exercise does, and it seems to be making me calmer. I sometimes walk on a treadmill, watching tv on my laptop at the same time which keeps me interested, and sometimes I just walk to wherever I’m going. I walked to a stressful early morning meeting that usually flattens me, and I realized midway through the meeting that I wasn’t the least bit anxious, which has never happened before.

All this is to say that, as survivors we often have a crappy relationship with our body. What I’ve learned about happiness is that doing small baby-step sensible practical things to improve my relationship to my body and to take better care of it, actually improve my well being. This may seem obvious, but it was not for me. Tracking it in a chart also seems to help me do it consistently.

Other things that seem to help me be happier are:

Air (communication, boundaries): Not nagging my wife and negotiating with her not to nag me. We have created a ‘nag board’ where we write down things we might otherwise ‘remind’ each other about or nag each other to do. The nagger writes down the date, what they want the other to do, what room they want them to do it in and their initials. When the ‘nagee’ does the item, she erases it from the board. This has eliminated almost all of our mutual nagging! As survivor space cadet girl, most ‘reminders’ to do something or not do something are almost instantly forgotten, and then my wife thinks I don’t care about her when in fact I’m just spacey. Writing it down and crossing it off seems to work for me. As the nagger, I also feel like my request is recorded and I don’t have to remind my wife or remember to remind her. She is more likely to do whatever it is if we don’t get in a big power struggle about it. Now that I’m happier, we seem to have more ease in our relationship as well and things are going a lot better. It’s not perfect, but I can feel hope. An Air resolution I haven’t gotten under my feet yet is practicing singing and writing three pages daily, although I’m making progress.

I’ll write more about Fire, Water and Center when I get to them. I figure once I have the Earth and Air resolutions nailed down, I’ll move on to Fire (passion) and Water (emotion and connection) and then figure out what Centre is for me.

I’ll keep you posted.

Feminist Vitamin Camp

I’m heading off to a camp I enjoy for a week or so, run by some Goddess-oriented gals. It tends to charge me up, but there is a possibility, since I unfortunately joined the somewhat drama-filled organizing committee this year, that it will not be as nourishing. Not doing that again.

Anyhow, I’m going, and I”m going to avoid all drama and just enjoy being in a beautiful place with mostly nice women for a week. I’m sure I’ll have lots to write about when I get back.

By the way, if you’re here reading, leaving me a comment, willya? I’m having some marital issues and my main survivor friend moved out of town and I’m feeling kind of alone. It’d be nice to hear from some survivors.

A picture is worth…

Butt Prints in the Sand, click on picture to view source and credits

I got my wife to take a picture of my vulva so I could see what I’m dealing with. A mirror is quite an awkward way to see one’s vulva if you’ve ever tried it. It was easier at the nurse’s office, but she had a magnifying mirror I think and a good light and angle.

Anyhow I now have this good quality, close up picture of a part of my body I’m trying to have a happier relationship with. It helps.

I can see the two scars leading away toward the front of my body from the vaginal vestibule. One reaches all the way from inside my vagina opening to the place where the two labia minora come together at the top (where it disappears from view in my picture), which is almost to my clitoris. And the other is almost that long, but goes off to the side a bit. They are quite faded now, as she said, very old scars, but I think about what kind of injury would create that much tearing to be that long and that visible over 30 years later.

That old fucker better die soon.

Seeing how faded the scars are, and how clearly healed it is helps. If you know about or suspect damage to your own vulva I recommend taking a picture and having a look. Use a flash, a lot of the detail isn’t easily visible at first, particularly with old scars. Mine look like faded white/pale pink  lines leading out from the vestibule. I probably wouldn’t have known what they were without my nurse, who has seen scars on women’s vulvas from childbirth, identifying them for me. Since I’ve never given birth or been raped as an adult, (and apparently my cervix does not show evidence of having opened for birthing) there’s only one experience I’ve had that could have made these scars.

In my religion, the vulva is particularly holy, being representative of the Goddess’s creative power in the universe and the sacredness of both sex and of giving birth. The Gods are valued as lovers and brothers of the Goddess(es), and also as fathers to Her children. I think it’s great I’ve chosen to participate in a religion that calls this part of me holy, that is unafraid to talk about or honour vulvas. My father is not a pagan, but he’s done what must be the greatest act of sacrilege, violating the most sacred part of a woman’s body and his sacred role as a guardian and nurturer of children.

Well, my little sacred warrior vulva, you’ve come through a lot. May you be blessed, may you be happy and whole and an honoured part of my body and being.

Blessed be.

P.S. I was looking for some links for explanation of the medical terms above, and ran into some journals, which led me to others. I found this article: which has the following rather chilling phrase, which made me cry a little out recognition of the validation it provided for my recollection of what happened. “repeated abusive genital penetration significantly more often than non-penetrative abuse leaves deep posterior hymenal clefts and/or vestibular scarring”.  This particular study took pains to match the girl’s disclosure of what happened to her with the perpetrators confession, so there could be no argument about what caused these particular injuries. The exams were also done ‘non-acutely’ which I think means that they were done some time after the actual injury took place. This article also might be valuable to other survivors with genital injuries, which talks about the healing patterns of pediatric genital injuries. : It also has pictures and shows what the same injuries look like when healed, and has arrows showing where the injuries are. The vulva is such an unfamiliar organ, that the arrows pointing out what’s wrong are helpful. A lot of the sources make it clear that lack of visible injury does not rule out abuse, and that often the injuries heal without a scar or vascular damage. What I am understaning from all of this is that my injuries were particularly severe, even as far as these things go. Yikes.

Turning it over

Okay, I’m going to get a bit religious below, so if that stuff doesn’t appeal to you, I won’t be offended if you skip it. You’ve been warned.

I was feeling so overwhelmed yesterday night. I had a two hour meeting with a really unpleasant client who is associated with one of my best clients, and was putting me in a position where I felt pressured to do something I didn’t feel was fair or right. She was so pushy and demanding that I didn’t really realize what was going on until afterward (and hence didn’t have an assertive response in the moment), as I tried to convince her to do the right thing, but not alienate her. I compensated by working into the evening (I’m self employed) and feeling tired and yucky, and like I’d had some kind of workaholic anxiety binge.

When I finally stopped, I hung out with my wife for a bit, and we walked the dog and then I had a bath before going to bed. She and I have been sleeping separately, because she has been having problems sleeping and we thought we could get a handle on it more easily if she slept alone for a week or so. This makes me feel a bit lonely, and frankly, we’re not doing well, relationship wise. She’s sleep deprived most of the time (I think she has sleep apnea, which she’s not taking as seriously as I’d like) which makes her cranky, and well, frankly a bit slow witted. I need her to get this handled so I can figure out if the problems we’ve been having are due to her being so sleep deprived or if we’re really not a fit any more. Divorce would suck, to put it bluntly.

So anyhow I decided to take a bath before bed and realized “I can turn this over”. I have a little ritual I do when I’m feeling overwhelmed, where I take some salt representing whatever problems I have and put it in a bowl of water representing, well, actually, water, which is considered sacred in my religion. So I’m giving my problems over to the waters and to the Goddess, by extension.

So I’m sitting in the warm bath water, holding a bowl full of water with salt in it. I felt so overwhelmed, and prayed to the Goddess and had a cry about my marriage and my life and my client’s troubles. I started thinking, “but the Earth is so under siege by all the assholes that dump oil and garbage and plastic in the oceans, and pollute the air and cut down old growth trees and all that, how can I give her my problems, dump even more on her back?”  Unlike the believers in gods you can’t see and touch, I’ve got no illusions about my deity being untouchable and omnipotent. And then it came to me – the Universe is broader than that. What is sacred about the Earth is sacred about the sun and planets and the whole universe.  Who is to say that the consciousness of the entire universe isn’t focussed on slowly evolving us on near geologic time toward Good? Maybe things are turning out in the best possible way right now and I don’t have the perspective to see it.  I’m just a part of Her, my consciousness is a part of the web of life on this planet, and in the organism that is Gaia, it’s my responsibility to be a positive part, like some sort of special immune system cell, rather than a cancer cell or a virus infected one. (Okay, I realize I’m mixing the metaphors a bit much here, but I’m trying to capture something that wasn’t in words at the time.) I thought about this book I read “The Conscious Universe” which gave some quite credible scientific validation for certain kinds of psychic phenomenon. It showed for example a large series of studies, evaluated by skeptical scientists,  that during the Olympics, when a huge amount of people were focussed on the opening ceremonies, for example, random number generators generated non-random numbers, but then went back to being more random after the program ended. So it seems credible to me that our beliefs and mind-sets, what realities we hold, have an influence on what happens. Maybe not a big one all the time, but like that butterfly in Brasil in the chaos theory example, may have a bigger impact than you’d think.

Photocredit: Greenhem

I thought about a tree or plant and how the branches and leaves seem randomly placed and yet are so beautiful. They grow where they grow to share the sunlight that falls, so that each can have it’s share. I thought of myself as a leaf on that tree of life, or a plant in a forest canopy, all growing toward goodness like sunlight. The Goddess creates beautiful families of plants in this way, all self organizing in their reaching for sunlight. It made me feel that all I have to do is grow toward goodness and believe that things can work out well, and the rest will sort itself out.

My shoulders relaxed and I felt the stress melt away into the water. This morning I took a sip of the ‘solution’ my spell had made of the water and salt to accept my responsibility for making it happen, and put the rest down the drain respectfully. I may have to do this ceremony more frequently – I forget how healing it is for me.

Transition Point

Photocredit: Zanastardust

She walks toward
swords held crossed above her head
kilt swinging
strong legs, proud back
the bagpipes drone and wail, supporting her
carying within it the voices of ancestors
the strength of traditions of a proud people
who tolerate no dishonour

Stopping at the grave site
laying the swords crossed before her
her sword of will and power earned
his of pain and power taken
She leaps in the air
flying feet in warrior rhythm
No preparatory dance this, traditional to prove one’s mettle before battle
This is the battle dance of victory for enemy defeated
the battle dance of survival and the dance of triumph
Leaping over crossed swords as her ancestors taught, she banishes
she honours them and herself
She does what they did,
pinning unquiet ghosts to earth.

Leaping the final complicated steps over and around swords
faster faster
spinning, then stopping, fists held high, then drawn from sky to waist.
a knot tied.
a battle completed.
She bows and walks away.
head high.

Non-Random Events

One of the things I believe as part of my religion is that communication with the Gods is not just a one way flow.  Events that feel significant in one way or another, probably are. Many people believe that their Gods answer their prayers for help or guidance in this way.

Photocredit:  Zanastardust
Photocredit: Zanastardust

I went downtown on the weekend where there was a big community festival and stumbled into a speech given by an aboriginal woman who was an Olympic gold medalist. She talked about how she had gotten severe PTSD from being near-fatally stabbed by a Canadian soldier during a historic conflict between the military  and her nation that happened when she was a child.  The conflict is a shameful event in Canadian history when the Canadian military supported developers wanting to turn her people’s burial ground into a golf course. Since her nation, like many aboriginal cultures (and my Pagan tradition), practices ancestor worship/veneration, desecrating a burial site is a sacriledge. She was speaking to a mostly aboriginal audience, and talked about how her determination to be the best in her sport saved her life by giving her meaning. It had affected her powerfully when a person from her first nation had won a gold medal in the Olympics, how it counteracted the racist prejudices and beliefs of the majority culture against aboriginal people, and she wanted to give that gift to other aboriginal children. She said to consider how your descendants would remember you. She also said that her people alive today are survivors, and by the process of survival of the fittest, were therefore the best of her people.

This had me in tears and I left the hall and went out into the street where I walked away from the crowds. A few blocks away there was a bagpiper in traditional dress just standing on the sidewalk, playing traditional songs I’d heard in my highland sword dancing days. Again I had a strong emotional reaction and thought immediately of the sword dance. I  felt a strong sense that this was important.

I continued down the street and went into a cafe and ordered a latte and some cake. I sat down and a few minutes later, in came a woman I had met at a Pagan conference about a year ago, and run into recently at another Pagan event. She came over and greeted me in a friendly way and we spoke for a couple of minutes.

Three events occuring at a time that affected me emotionally and spiritually, like there was something inside that resonated with each.

Making meaning of trauma by providing inspiration…Sword Dance…Pagan

I should have prefaced this with the fact that I’ve been seriously considering what I’m meant to do with this new evidence about the abuse, and how to make meaning of what happened.

These events helped me come to the conclusion that the best way on is forward.  It’s like I got permission from the Goddess not to go to court, that it’s okay, he doesn’t have some little girl held captive I need to rescue. The sword dance is enough. Perhaps knowing about the scar tissue will help me be more definitive when talking about what happened. I certainly feel more confident that what I remember is correct.

Photocredit: Wigwam Jones
Photocredit: Wigwam Jones

Like Cazaril, I need to trust that the talents I have been given are the ones I am to use for good. Like the speech-giver (I’m withholding her name not to deny her honour but for my own privacy), I have a duty to give hope to the survivors and children who come behind me. My Scottish heritage has given me a tool to reframe how society sees survivors, as warriors and veterans who fight for justice and virtue. My Pagan training and faith gives me a way to structure that fight that is meaningful and powerful, as well as, in my faith, a spell that actually changes reality for the better and focusses people’s will on stopping child abusers.  

I think I’m finally ready to be at peace with my father/abuser’s death (if it ever comes) and to celebrate surviving him with a sword dance.

Now would he please just die already?

Photocredit:  byronv2
Photocredit: byronv2