Meditation on Father’s Day from an incest survivor

I wrote several poems today after a meditation walk I do to clear my head. Here are two of them:
3.

 Father’s day
Sobs shake me in the silence
of the labyrinth
the creak of wood floor
He’s not dead yet.
But neither am I.

4.

Blessed be

all of us
strong and struggling

The single lesbian who
wheels a chair
overlooked

The self critical
semi-professional
performer
ashamed.

The daughter
of a psychopath
on Father’s day
grieving.

The alone.
the connected.

This is one of those father’s days when I’m feeling emotional. It isn’t always like this. I’ve been dating a new woman and am perhaps a bit more open hearted, or maybe it’s the Buddhist style meditation I’ve been doing. You connect with whatever feeling you are having, without getting too involved in what it is about, and then feel empathy and connection with all the other beings who are having that same emotion right now and try and send them (and yourself) support. An antidote to shame and isolation is connection, and knowing that we are not unique or alone. I get caught up in thinking I’m unique, but of course I’m not. There are unfortunately lots of people with a psychopath parent and a complicit other parent, and how I feel about all that, however it is, is completely normal. Even if I had a completely unique life circumstance, the feelings I have about it are not unique. Sadness, shame, anger, hopelessness, the feeling of not being understood, of being judged, or oppressed, or even isolated by having a unique tragedy, are all feelings that human beings have, and have often, around the world in this minute.

Even as survivors, we are not alone. There are a lot of us, today, grieving, raging, ignoring or being numb in response to father’s day. There are survivors who are going through the motions, and spending time with their abusers this day and pretending to honour them, because they do not yet have the strength, validation and support to do otherwise, or because their abuser still has economic or social power over them. And we are together in this too.

To my survivor sisters and brothers: We are together in this. You are  understood. You are respected. We will outlive them all, and may we dance upon their graves, for we are alive and we have survived.

Another disappointing response from a relative

I had my aunt visit recently, the one who was also assaulted by my father. When I visited her a couple of years ago, she was very accepting of what I had to say and even offered to put some pressure on my mom to write me a letter.

After visiting me she visited my mother, and you guessed it, went into denial. She wrote me a letter expressing her hope that my mother and brothers and I would all be one big happy family again.  I just got it and I’m crying.

I know, I know that family members do this. That they go into and out of denial, and seldom are able to really handle how bad it is. However it really hurts. Why do I always have to be the strong one? Why can’t I have the steadfast warrior support I deserve?

It hurts.

Here is the response I wrote:

“Dear Aunt J

I really enjoyed your visit. Thank you so much for coming.

You know, I’ve learned a lot in my life in connection to what happened to me. One thing is that people have a very hard time holding in their hearts that it is as bad as it is. It hurts. It is an exceptional person who can do it, usually one who has had to face her own hard truths unflinchingly. I am able to do this for others, and I understand it is a rare gift. It feels better to pretend it is something that can be swept under the rug or that it’s not of much importance. That’s how I understand your letter. I forgive you for wanting it all to go away, and I understand the impulse to put gentle pressure on me to make nice with my mother, which demands that I pretend what she did wasn’t horrific in it’s own right, and give up my right to a confession and apology.

Here is why you should resist that impulse to condone and minimize, however. That impulse is what protects people like Graham. That impulse is what keeps people from calling the police and getting children to safety, or calling child protective services. That impulse to hide from the truth of a horrific situation is why he is not in jail right now, why he got away with raping a child, with aggravated sexual assault. That impulse is why I have chronic discomfort, every day from the vascular damage and scarring he inflicted on me, scarring and nerve damage that in part result from medical attention my mother could have gotten for me, but did not. If we do not stand up to insist on a world where children’s bodies are respected, and those who violate them are held accountable, who will? If we contribute to a climate that sweeps it under the rug as not important, then we are part of the problem.

It is important and healthy to face the truth. It is good for the soul, and our own personal integrity. It is good to be accountable for harm we have done to others and make amends.  That is why I am requiring that my mother confess to me what she did, to make amends by confessing in writing. I have proof, in the form of the scars, that she did know, right after it happened. Those wounds were very severe, and not something a mother would not have noticed in a 5 or 6 year old child. She knew, and she covered it up, instead of going to the police or even a doctor. I got no stitches, no antibiotics, and as far as I can recall, no painkillers. I’m not sure if you tore when you gave birth, but I imagine it is like that. My doctor has given me some strategies to manage the pain and vascular problems I still have, but my body will never be the same. Those ongoing effects could have been prevented if I’d gotten stitched up and removed from Graham’s reach right away. Imagine a child going through that alone.

It is a small thing I am asking for. I am asking only that people face the reality of what happened as unflinchingly as they can. I survived it, I healed it.  I deserve that small thing from people who love me, and I respect myself enough to insist on it. If it means I have no family, so be it.

I was so honoured that you and uncle T believed and supported me. It filled a deep place within me. Although I understand that denial is part of your own grieving process, and that it is difficult to stay connected to the truth of what happened in the face of my mother’s denial, it still hurts. I understand, and I forgive you, but I want to inspire you to do better.

Accepting the truth, even a horrific truth, unflinchingly, has its own gifts. It makes us stronger, and less able to be manipulated by others. I would not go back. I am proud of who I have become by overcoming, and wish that for my mother and older brother, and for you.

May you be blessed in all ways possible,

Love,

your niece. “

Soundtrack for a Survivors Sword Dancing Road Trip

I’m planning to rent a bus to drive up to my father’s grave with all the survivor friends I can muster. So far I have about six, including my Aunt.  (He’s not dead yet, but  a girl can hope.)

I’m thinking of having a road trip CD. When we got married, I spent months crafting four cds of music I wanted played at the wedding. It was great to have.

On the road trip I want women warrior music. Here’s what I’ve got so far.  It’s kind of amazing this music exists.

Dixie Chicks – Goodbye Earl – the story of a domestic abuse survivor and her good friend who poison the survivors husband because he is trying to kill her despite her having left him and having a restraining order.

Dar Williams – Flinty Kind of Woman – The story of a group of New England matrons who mobilize immediately to garotte a child molester in a marsh.

Martina McBride – Concrete Angel – Tells the story of how an abused girl appears to teachers who see bruises but don’t intervene and how she is beaten to death by her mother.

Martina McBride – Independence Day – Story of how a battered mother, when her community looks the other way and will not help her, burns down her house while her child is away, killing herself and her abuser.

Goddess protection song – “I invoke the protection of the Divine Mothers embrace. I invoke the protection of the Divine Mother’s grace.”

George Straight – She let herself go – Story of a woman whose husband leaves her, thinking she’ll fall apart without him, and she starts to have fun and adventures.

KD Lang – Big Boned Gal – Story of a joyously dancing curvaceous woman in small town Alberta.

Terry Clark – She didn’t have time – Story of a woman left by her husband with a small baby and how she puts aside grief and hopelessness to go on living.

Pat Humphries – Bound for Freedom – “Here I go bound for freedom, and my truth takes the lead” ” I will organize for justice, I will raise my voice in song, and our children will be free to lead the world to carry on.”

The Wyrd Sisters – Warrior – “I will a brave warrior be, till not another woman dies.”

Tery Clark – Emotional Girl – “I’ve got a passionate heart, and that’s just the way things are.”

Holly Near – I am willing

Martina McBride – When God Fearin’ Women Get the Blues – “When God-fearin’ women get the blues, There ain’t no slap down or tellin’ what they’re gonna do, Run around yellin’, I’ve got a Mustang, it’ll do 80, You don’t have to be my baby, I stirred my last batch of gravy, You don’t have to be my, be my, be my baby”

Pat Humphries – I will be with you – “You must be who you are, you will find your way through”

Pat Humphries – Swimming to the Other Side (check out the lyrics, they’re beautiful.)

Pat Humphries – Keep on Moving Forward (Never turning back)

Maybe we’ll bring instruments and sing too.

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

Perseverence Practice – Day 4

I was able to practice voice for longer last time, and it felt good. It’s amazing how alive I feel when I’m singing well. I still haven’t done the full routine, but I’m getting there. I had a long day today, and feel edgy and distracted. The last thing I want to do is put focussed energy into anything, or is it to be fully present? Anyhow, I haven’t done my voice practice yet today, but I will.

_______________________________________________________

3 1/2 hours later

_______________________________________________________

I just finished doing my voice workout. I didn’t do all the warmup stretches and really felt the increased tension in my neck and shoulders impacting my voice. I was sitting with my back to the door, and the door open and felt (still feel) a creepy sense that something low and black is slinking up behind me to grab my neck. Lovely being a trauma survivor isn’t it? 35 years later, when I try to focus completely on something I love, I get distracted by phantom abusers sneaking up on me. I hope that rat bastard’s cancer is really hurting him today.

I have my period, which is always a trigger time for me, perhaps because of the blood and cramping, so that probably explains the ‘monstery’ – afraid and wary and haunted by phantoms – feeling I have. I’ve been curled up with my dog and the tv all evening, wanting some time to myself to curl up. I’m proud I did the practising despite feeling like a wounded bear, avoiding everything and everyone and eating a lot of something — fruit?  I still feel monstery, which usually means I’m angry. Ya think? I’ve been working on getting my sexuality back, which seems to be working, but bleeding this month is suddenly having a whole new resonance – reminding me viscerally of how I bled when I got those scars. I think that’s where the trigger is coming from.

I will outlive him and dance on his grave.

Perseverence Practice – Voice Day 3

Well, I’ve managed to practice voice for two days now. Mostly I just did the physical stretches and some warm up vocalizations, not the actual practice, but I’m figuring out when in my day to do it, and I’ve remembered fairly late at night when I was tired. However, I did it anyway, which is good.

Today I’m trying to do it before I start my workday, which might work better. It’s funny that I find it hard to do something I remember enjoying. When I talked it over with my therapist, I was saying that I’m afraid if I get unblocked, whether vocally, creatively or sexually, bad stuff like flashbacks and memories might come out.It’s like I’m trying to break some self-imposed (and partially culturally imposed, to be fair) glass ceiling.

I guess we’ll see.

unfinished business

Photocredit: Lawrence Op
Photocredit: Lawrence Op

(Trigger warning to my ritual abuse survivor allies – the following has description of positive pagan ceremony. )

Last night I got together with a friend of mine who shares my religious beliefs. We got to talking about how neither of us are completing our creative projects to our satisfaction. As we talked, we both realized that it’s at least partly about being seen in our authentic selves. Me, to be seen in my gritty survivor art that I am drawn to now, and her in her art at all. We decided to do a symbolic action in sacred space to magically invoke the ability to be seen. The Goddess we chose to bless us was Aphrodite. Aphrodite is the only Goddess I know of who has no myths about having been raped. She is often depicted naked and makes independent sexual choices about her lovers and seems to have no negative consequences for that independence. I think that a person who is able to be safely naked/vulnerable/visible without need for armour and violence is much more powerful than someone who cannot. So that was the aspect or spirit we wanted to bring in, the courage and strength to be visible in our true selves.

We decided we would cast a circle, call the sacred elements and Aphrodite to be present and then for 40 minutes my friend would write a story, and I would try and complete an arrangement of a choral piece that has been unfinished for over a year.

Something magical happened.

My music notation software malfunctioned and I couldn’t edit my work. Every time I clicked on the score to edit it, it would play my piece for me, in its full imperfection and incompletion. For 40 minutes I read the manual and struggled with it, and got absolutely nowhere. Parts of it were perfect already, playing similarly to how I hear the three part piece in my head, and parts of it were incomplete and didn’t sound right, and I could do nothing to change it. By the end I was ready to cry and wracking my brains for what it all meant.

My belief system is that anything that happens in sacred space is meaningful, and is likely a message from the Gods/Goddess. My friend didn’t seem to get it, and gave me a ‘better luck next time’ kind of encouragement, but what I really wanted to know was why this freak computer bug had emerged in sacred space when I’d invoked assistance on my creative work.

When my wife came home, she understood immediately. Bless her! (things are going a lot better with her, by the way.) In talking it over with her I figured out why the Goddess was playing to me my same old song, unchanged, over and over. It was a song I’d written almost 20 years ago, one I’ve gotten a lot of recognition over, and could easily find a choir to sing for me if I had sheet music to give them. I’ve only heard it sung properly once by three voices and it made me cry. The topic is about finding strength from a relationship with a tree and the earth, but isn’t overtly about the abuse.

It’s an old song. It’s not me as I am, naked. It’s me as I was 20 years ago. No wonder the Goddess of healthy empowered nakedness rejected my work on it as an offering in sacred space.

I have decided to make another offering.

I am promising to myself and Aphrodite that I will practice voice daily. Each day. Every day. Using a CD I have with some vocal exercises, the ones that fill me with a feeling of joy and mastery in my voice. For a year. Voice practice needs to be done frequently and for short duration, as the muscles involved are small and damage easily. By practising a tiny amount daily, I will do more good than practicing once a week for hours. By practising regularly I will build a much stronger voice, that I can depend on.

I need to prove to myself that I can persevere with something I’m passionate about. So mote it be. (That’s a think pagans say at the end of a spell or intention, which means roughly, ‘it is so/it must be so’.

I told my therapist about this today and she’s going to help me stay on track, despite my resistance. I’m also telling you, and I’m going to report in on my blog when I’ve done it each day.

I’ve lost 28 pounds since January. I’m proud of that. I’m eating more healthily, taking my vitamins and getting regular light exercise, just brisk walking but it’s good and my wife walks with me so we’re working on it together.

Feminist Vitamins

I’ve been telling my friends that coming back from my week at camp I feel like I’ve had a megadose of ultra-strength feminist Mother Earth vitamins. It’s not like I”m any different, just more of myself, and I feel stronger and more resilient.

How important it is to be in a space where I can drink deep of the healing power of swimming in a lake, breathing in the moist scent of pine, cedar and soil, having a whole day, a whole week even with nothing to do but enjoy and visit with nice women. How critical it is as a survivor to be able to be frank.

There was a woman there who had just finished hearing about the sentencing of a man who had almost killed her.  I told her I appreciated how frank she was being about it, and we compared horrific life experience stories and betrayal byour mothers and families in a laughing and cynical way that was very refreshing.

I had a huge cry on the first day of the camp about the scars and the deeper level of reality of the rape of  me as a child. It was so good to let my sorrow go into the Earth, and to know that I was safe. For the rest of the camp I felt joyful and strong, which I often do when I’ve been able to let deep feelings flow. Intimacy with myself, in ceremony, lovemaking or sometimes solitude, often produces this type of crying release, but if I stop the flow to spare the sensibilities of others or feel I’ll be judged, it cuts me off from myself, and from my wife. I noticed a few other women crying, and made a point of connecting with each of them. All had something legitimately horrible they were grieving, but by releasing the feelings in safe space, like me, they all seemed to feel better. I invited them to be real with me, and was able to be real in turn, which meant I had women who knew and accepted where I was at sprinkled throughout the camp. I made a point of being a cheerleader for crying “go cryers, go cryers!”  in a playful way to point out that I’m a cryer too and it’s good to cry when you need to. People laughed. Crying when you needed to became a normal and good thing. Blessings.

On my last day at the lake I was swimming with a woman who I’d become friends with. I told her how healing it had been to swim naked, to allow the sacred lake to bless my body in a way that wouldn’t have felt the same in a swimsuit. I told her about the scars I’d recently discovered and she looked at me and said “isn’t it interesting how all sharing here seems to reach an understanding audience”. I won’t tell you what she disclosed to me then, but although she who was not to my knowledge a survivor, she also bore the scars of a betrayal by someone she loved and trusted.

Today on the phone I was talking with a good Pagan friend who knows I’m a survivor. I told her I’d recently had an exam that showed me some scar tissue I didn’t know about from when I was raped as a child. She said “scars where?” and I said “where do you think?”  A silence followed as she allowed that to sink in. We talked together about our murder fantasies of killing the men who had done the intolerable to us – her ex husband who is damaging her son’s spirit, and my father who had done the unthinkable to me. I said to her “you don’t have to pretend it’s not as bad as it is, I’m one of the few people who actually understands a good revenge and murder fantasy”.

Feminist vitamins. Sharing reality, building solidarity, becoming less alone. One capsule at a time.

In the wake of proof

Photocredit: Yann!s
Photocredit: Yann!s

Knowing I have scar tissue has changed my life I think. It’s like an incontrovertable validation of what I’ve been saying all along. No longer can I doubt or go into denial about the accuracy of my memory. I know what happened and I was accurate all along. It is an immense relief.

The other thing about it is I am more in touch with my own vagina, which is not so good on the one hand because I’m in mild discomfort most of the time. but is good because it allows me to be aware and take care of my body instead of just numbing that part of my body out. I think in the long run this is an incredibly good thing. It’s what I wanted, to have my body be my own, and to have no part of me belong to him any more out of my own fear to be in touch with horrors.

I have written a separate letter to my mother to let her know about the scar tissue and ask that she write me and let me know what she remembers. I don’t know if I will send it. I should not be surprized she hasn’t written me yet: when given the opportunity my mother will always bail, will always avoid doing anything that makes her uncomfortable and this surely must overwhelm and horrify her.

I want to tell my family “see, I have proof, you need to believe and support me now”, however, really, I doubt it will change anything with them for me. Denial is a powerful force. It is the societal denial that interests me most now. We have to start believing children and making it safe for them to tell.

I have a therapy appointment on Monday and am looking forward to talking this over with my therapist. This changes everything for me, and I don’t know what to do next.

I realize at some levels I have been depressed for awhile, a low level depression, really not sadness as much as a lack of happiness. I’ve been taking some vitamins, meditating and trying to get more sleep and it seems to be helping. Today I had two moments of happiness. I got a book from the library on singing – Anne Peckham’s Vocal Exercises for the Contemporary Singer. It has a guided warmup and then some more advanced exercises for sopranos. I’ve been doing the warmup exercises a few times a week and today was the first time I did the advanced exercises. It was exhilarating to sing in my high clear voice and to find the places where the voice rings and resonates. I had some advanced voice training about a decade ago, and had thought I’d lost that ability. Apparently not. Apparently all I needed was to warm up and work out my voice and it came back. I was singing for the joy of it and full of the joy of it like I haven’t in a long time.

The second flash came as I was walking back from some errands, and passed by a park I like which has some tall beautiful trees. I looked over at one I particularly like and felt a flash of joy in the rich greens of the leaves against a clear blue sky and the peaceful park.

Photocredit: Greekadman
Photocredit: Greekadman

I am emerging, like coming up from under a pool of cool water into a clear day.

Warrior Victorious in Pap Test

Thank the Goddess for Good Medical Care at Last! Photocredit: Great Beyond
Thank the Goddess for Good Medical Care at Last! Photocredit: Great Beyond

So the gyne visit went about as well as it could possibly go, and better than I could have envisioned.

The nurse-practitioner I saw was very experienced and nice and drew the correct line between warm sympathy and matter of factness. She said we could take as long as we needed, and she did the history taking and blood pressure stuff first. She explained everything really fully and was very relaxed, egalitarian and friendly.

She was matter of fact, thorough and respectful about asking my history – saying it woudl be helpful to know whatever I told her. I did a good job too, matter of fact and calm. She said she’d mail me copies of everything she put in my chart and all my test results too, so I’d have it as well.

I’d typed up all my questions, so I wouldn’t forget anything and just handed them to her, which worked well.

I did ask about the scar tissue.

She tilted up the exam table so I was sitting up and gave me a mirror to hold and I could see everything she did, which was great. She showed me the parts of my vulva that she thought showed old injuries. Turns out I have some vascular damage where the veins/arteries are really big and close to the surface and the whole area is hot, which she thought spoke to me having been injured and the veins being damaged when I was a kid. She also showed me some tags of flesh (like little lumps sticking out around the opening) around my vagina that to her looked like I’d torn and had healed without being sewn up. At this point I took a minute to hold my wife’s hand and breathe, since I got a bit emotional, but I didn’t really cry or anything till we left the office and were in the elevator. I haven’t really cried much yet, but I expect I will.

She knows some folks at a gyne clinic where care is given to children who have been raped, and she said she’d talk to them about what signs the vulva/vagina of an adult survivor might show as well.  She said she’d never had a survivor patient before (that she knew of, I add silently) and that the mirror and tilted table worked so well she’ll probably make that standard. She said when she was trained to do pap tests (I guess they practiced on each other) they did it with the ‘patient’ (another student) sitting up with a mirror, so that’s interesting, maybe a lot of female doctors or nurse practitioners were trained that way and might be familiar with it.

I’m pretty happy about finally having proof to back up what I remember, and also that she was able to give me some ideas to help reduce the irritation and sometimes pain all this causes me, that nobody’s been able to help me with so far. She’s suggested cold packs to reduce the swelling, which I think could actually work. We might also get an appointment with a gynecologist to see if they can remove the tags of scar tissue flesh, since they get sore.

I’m also really sad and angry for that little girl with the torn vagina and no-one giving medical attention I needed. I’m pissed at my mother, who obviously should have noticed a little girl with a ripped, bleeding vulva.

And finally, I gave her a copy of the ‘survivor safety form’ I made, and a copy of the article about survivors and pap test avoiding. I suggested that if the  health region wanted to put on a clinic for survivors, there were a lot out there that weren’t getting pap tests.  She seemed interested and said she was networking with a group of other women practitioners and they were looking for groups to offer care to (or something like that), I offered to be a ‘community informant’ if that would be helpful (in health region they like to have ‘advisory groups’). She asked me to email her a copy of the form, which I’ll do. So that’s hopeful as well.

All in all I feel blessed and hopeful. Yay!

If any health care providers (or survivors who want to talk to them) are reading this, here are some links I recommend:

*** My survivor safety sheet: http://sworddancewarrior.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/information-sheet-for-primary-health-care-providers.pdf

***[REALLY GOOD RESOURCE] Schachter, C.L., Stalker, C.A., Teram, E., Lasiuk, G.C., Danilkewich, A. (2008). Handbook on sensitive practice for health care practitioner: Lessons from adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ncfv-cnivf/pdfs/nfntsx-handbook_e.pdf

Helping survivors of childhood abuse through labour: http://www.gentlebirth.org/archives/abuselbr.html

Prevalence of sexual assault history among women with common gynecologic symptoms. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9790390?dopt=Abstract

Health risk behaviors and medical sequelae of childhood sexual abuse.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1434879?dopt=Abstract

Effect of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Gynecologic Care as an Adult http://psy.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/48/5/385

The Pink Gang – Warrior Women

This is a video I found made by an Indian woman about the Gulabi Gang – women who are fighting government corruption and male violence and promoting women’s empowerment in an empoverished area of India. The woman who leads the group was sold into ‘marriage’ as a child, bearing her first child a few years later. That makes her a child sexual abuse survivor. Good for her fighting back! You go warrior women!

“A rambunctious and fearless posse recognizable by their pink-colored saris, the Pink Gang is the nemesis of violent husbands and inept government officials. Having personally suffered abuse, members of the vigilante club thrash abusive men, wife beaters and rapists, confront and shame wrongdoers and storm local police stations to accost lackadaisical cops.

Formed in 2006 by Sampat Pal Devi, 45, who was sold into marriage at nine and became a mother at 13, the gang challenges everything that is unfair and unjust, like some gang of desperados for justice on India’s wilder fringe. “Nobody comes to our help in these parts. The officials and the police are corrupt and anti-poor. So sometimes we have to take the law into our own hands. At other times, we prefer to shame the wrongdoers. But we’re not a gang in the usual sense of the term. We’re a gang for justice,” Devi told a TV news channel recently.

Fed up with a corrupt system and social discrimination, what finally drove Devi to launch the Pink Gang was the tale of her sister, who was dragged by her hair around a courtyard by her alcoholic husband. This last straw led Devi to “teach erring men a lesson.” She rounded up other women in her neighborhood and confronted the abusive brother-in-law with whatever “weapons” they could muster — walking sticks, iron rods, a child’s cricket bat. He was then chased into a sugarcane field and thrashed by the women.” Full story here

Magic and Meditation

I attended my friend’s celebration of life this week. It seems she was a remarkable woman. I also found out at this ceremony that she was probably a survivor as well. There were about a hundred people at the ceremony, all of whom had been profoundly affected by her support and positive encouragement.  The attendees included the  mayor of the town she lived in, along with someone high up in the RCMP who attended in full dress uniform in honour of her.  I did not know her in this way, or really well at all.  I think she saw me as a powerful priestess rather than someone she needed to support and encourage, which I guess is a compliment.

She and I attended a fairly intense week-long spiritual retreat almost ten years ago, the retreat where she also met the woman, M–, who was to become her wife. M– is also my friend and we’ve stayed in touch. I attended their wedding a few years ago. I went to the funeral primarily for my friend her wife and was able to offer her something I don’t think anyone else could, some spritual witchy support. In a room full of friends of her wife, she was not necessarily among people who knew and cared for her. At least I am someone who knows M– in her own right. The problem with having an intensely social, popular wife is that when she is gone there is no-one.  I’m going to try and stay connected with M–.

I’m still trying to calm my mind and get my life in order. I’d like to feel more centred, have more energy (I’m fatigued a lot of the time) and get the things I’m passionate about done. I’m still meditating once a day, which seems to be helping.

Photocredit: Swamibu
Photocredit: Swamibu

I was telling Butterfly today that many of the people I’ve told about my sword dance ceremony have offered to fly up there with me to attend. This is an incredible thing. Aside from my ACoA days, I’ve never had this kind of support from nonsurvivors, people seem to actually get it.

Once, years ago, perhaps 20 or so now, I was at an ACoA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) conference. 12 step groups were good for me, especially the ones with no cross talk, where I could share about what I was struggling with with the abuse without having to deal with people’s reactions, which seemed to be mostly a kind of horrified pity. I was sitting in a chair in an auditorium, listening to a speaker, and I guess feeling a then-rare moment of safety I seemed to feel only in 12 step groups at the time.  I had a very strong feeling of being touched by a huge, benevolent hand that loved me, a tactile vision of God, which is what I called my higher power at the time.  Later in the conference, I was speaking in front of a large group of two or three hundred people and I asked for something I wanted. I wanted, if they felt it,  to hear people say they believed me about the abuse.  All of them rose and said in unision, “We Believe You [my first name]”. I believe they meant it. It still brings tears to my eyes thinking of it.

Being visible as a survivor can bring a lot of awkwardness and stupid comments from people, but at times it can bring great gifts.

Photocredit: NFlorence2012
Photocredit: NFlorence2012 - "Dance of Shakti"

Email to a survivors organization in my home town

I just sent this.

Hi there,

I’m sorry for doing this in an email, but wasn’t certain I could explain all this well over the phone. I hope you can forward this email to whomever in your organization it might concern. I’m originally from [home town] (born and raised) and am an incest survivor. My abuser, who was my father, is still living in [home town] and is likely to die within the next year from cancer. I’ve been in recovery for over 20 years and in general am very well, but since surviving and recovering has been such a big and spiritually significant part of my life, I know I will need to celebrate my abusers death in a way consistent with my culture and spirituality, as part of having closure with him.

Photocredit: "Crossed Swords" by Bott.Richard
Photocredit: "Crossed Swords" by Bott.Richard

I’m planning to dance a traditional Scottish sword dance that is performed on the death of a mortal enemy to celebrate the victory of having outlived him and banish him from my life. Since I’m fairly certain my father will be buried in [my hometown] I’m planning to do this at his gravesite there, with a bagpiper and supportive witnesses. I’m working with a counsellor here on this and will be bringing my partner and one or two friends with me, but wanted to make contact with your organisation, in case it would be possible to receive some support from you while I am up for the ceremony. I have investigated the legalities of performing this ceremony at my father’s gravesite, and it looks like there should be no barriers. Grieving rituals are not only expressly allowed under the provincial funerals act, they are protected and cannot be interrupted by law. The cemetery itself has a no disturbing the peace rule, but a graveside grieving ceremony conducted by a relative could hardly qualify. My family are supportive and will not object.

I plan to bring a friend who is a video artist to record this event in hopes that it might be meaningful to other survivors, and would like to extend an invitation to local survivors and their allies who might want to bear witness to what I believe will be a powerful and empowering ceremony.

Anyhow, if you agree it would be appropriate to talk further about this, I’d like to speak with one of your staff about this, and keep you posted on the plans that will begin once my abuser dies. If this type of support does not fall within your mandate, I understand. I would also be willing to cover the cost of the counsellors time. Knowing that there was a feminist counsellor with childhood sexual assault literacy available in [my hometown] to check in with in some way during my visit would be very helpful.

Photocredit: Zanastardust
Photocredit: Zanastardust

Sincererely,

[My Real Name]

Obsessing about all the ways I’ve come out as an incest survivor, rather than sleeping, at 5:20 am

It’s 5:20 am and I can’t sleep.
I’m not one of those poor people who actually gets up at 5 am for work or the insane ones that get up at 5 am to do yoga or something.

My bedroom is hot, the comforter is too warm, my stomach is upset and I’m running over in my head all the people I’ve come out to in the last week or so. I’m having a cumulative sense of shame and fear about it, analyzing their reactions at the time and since, feeling afraid that my credibility has been damaged.

I really should get out more if I care so much what a few people think, some of whom I don’t even like. There’s nothing I can do about how others perceive me – I can only be a good, honest and reliable person and let the rest fall as it may. It’s hard to go out and be sociable when you feel crappy.

However, it’s important to me to be taken seriously. Having a history of being the scapegoat of my family has reinforced the necessity of making sure people don’t slot me into that role. I will not be blamed for having the normal effects of being assaulted. I feel like that has happened too much already.

At 5am what is it I’m worried about? I’m feeling less able to be honest on this blog, for fear someone I know will read. I have two non-cyber friends who have this URL, plus I my wife has occasionally read it when it’s left up on the screen. Since I’ve complained about her a bit, that’s kind of dodgy, but I let myself out of that one since she knows it’s anonymous and she’s really not that interested in my abuse stuff, so is unlikely to read much.

I think she’s worried I’ll fall apart. I did once, from her perspective, when we were living together in a shared house with some other people. We’d invited a new roommate to move in, someone I considered a friend. I knew she’d had problems controlling her anger and had been fired for yelling at colleagues on the job. I knew she had a violent fantasy life. I knew she had impulsivity around money and food. But I’d known her for years, she was a survivor, and I thought she’d be an ally in my home of 12 years. What was I thinking?

She moved in and left the living room filled with boxes and furniture for several weeks. She was bossy and cut me down. She started yelling at me and intimidating me when other people weren’t around. She was like living with my father again. I was terrified, I was triggered and because of that I couldn’t seem to access my amazon assertiveness or my brain to think of a way out of this.

For complicated reasons, one of my other housemates wanted me and my wife gone from the house, so I think she was secretly delighted I was so miserable. She would not consider kicking this woman out. I complained, again much more ineffectively than usual, at house meetings, but was not supported, perhaps because people interpreted my desperation and overreaction (I was triggered) as dishonesty or being high maintenance. My wife came home one day while this woman was in full swing standing over me and yelling at me, and took charge of making her stop. After that she believed me (why did she need to be shown?) but being my partner, was expected to be on my side anyway so didn’t have much influence.

It was right during the last time my father was seriously ill, about five years ago, and I was already at my wits end about that. It’s like all ability to be assertive, to stand up to this woman had been sucked out of me by that and I ended up living in fear, walking on eggshells. My housemates choosing this clearly belligerent and abusive woman over me knocked me flat with betrayal and shame.

I was ready to give in. I made a ‘date’ with the housemate who wanted me gone, to tell her we were moving out. She beat me to it, which surprised me a lot, by telling me first she was leaving. The balance of power in the house shifted with this, making it possible to force this woman out. The woman flatly refused to leave. Finally, my wife came to my defense, although she resented it deeply. Since the household was run as part of a coop, she told the woman that she and I would not be endorsing her for membership, which meant that she would be publicly embarrassed at the membership meeting by being an unwanted person who wouldn’t leave.

The woman left a couple of weeks later and during that time I went and stayed at the apartment of a friend of mine, another survivor. Because of our dog, and perhaps because she was mad at me, my wife stayed at home.

We were down two housemates and had worn out a third with all the fighting. It was really hard to find new ones, especially since we couldn’t honestly tell the new housemate that things were good at the house. We limped along for another year or so and then got our own place, which was much better.

With my father sick again (could he please DIE already and get it over with!) I’m back into feeling vulnerable and off-centre. I’m sure it scares her a bit too, waiting to see what will happen to me, needing me to hold it together since I earn a lot more than she does and we have a mortgage. I have held it together under a lot worse conditions, but I don’t know that I’m willing to pay that price again.

All I want is to be understood, to be validated by the fact that someone else sees me and doesn’t think I’m hopelessly damaged and embarrassing. I’m ashamed of things I know logically I shouldn’t be ashamed of.

When I told my chiropractor I had PTSD it went down like this:

Her: Something about not being in my body.
Me: Well I do tend toward dissociating a bit. I have PTSD and it’s part of it.
Her: (Concerned, awkward look) Do you take medication for that?
Me: {in my head: That’s a weird question. Surely other patients have had PTSD before, from car accidents or whatever. Is she trying to ask if I’m on psychiatric meds? Does that mean she thinks I’m really nuts? or does she just not know what PTSD is?} aloud: “No, I’ve never needed them.” [changes subject]

Here’s how the coming out at the work meeting went down as far as I can remember:

Me: [to guy with PTSD who runs a self-help CBT group for anxiety disorders] Do you know of any CBT programs specifically for PTSD?
Him: Well, there’s our website, have you seen it?
Me: Yes. I found it a bit high level, PTSD is a bit different from other anxiety disorders.
Him: Yes, I have PTSD, I know what you mean.
Me: Me too.
Stuff I don’t remember, with him saying his PTSD was from childhood abuse and me saying yeah, me too. Here’s where I imagine the ears perking up around the room with the people who are still drifting out.
Him: Are you looking for yourself or someone else?
Me: [Awkward] Well, I’m really well, but I’m getting to the point where I’d like to find some ways to help others and give back. [nobody think I’m defective please here!] Him: Mentioning something about how there is some stuff with PTSD and CBT and I could do a literature search.
Another woman: Has anxiety too, involves self in conversation.

Now around the table I know that two manage a mental illness (depression I think, including the woman with the anxiety) and one has a daughter with anxiety. All have disclosed these facts during meetings, so you’d think this would be a normal, basic conversation to have. The meetings are somewhat adversarial (non-profits competing for funding) so maybe it’s just that I think at least one of them would try and find a way to use it to discredit me if she could.

Here’s another one:
Me: [talking to friend with intense history of mental illness] I’ve been blogging about the stuff with my dad dying.
Her: [not knowing much about blogs, that’s interesting, you should give me the url and I’ll check it out] Me: (actually why did I say that, I don’t want to give her the URL) It’s helpful and supportive and I really like the writing I’m doing, like real essays and stories and song and poetry. [Changing topic] Later as we’re saying goodbye:
Her: About your blog, you could send me the url and I could look at a poem or something. I’m not a therapist but I could look at it as your friend. [Why did she say that “I’m not a therapist”? I’m the one that was a big part of nursing her through a serious breakdown where she had to be hospitalized and she’s warning me against being overly self-disclosing or needy? ]( I realize as I write this that she was probably just disconcerted by me shifting the role between us, since I’m usually the normal okay one.)
Me: That’s not what I’m looking for, I just want to be honest about my life.

Maybe I’m afraid I’ll fall apart again. Listing up all those reasons why my dad should have died by now from cancer, or flesh eating disease or alcoholism made me think, yes, he really is going to die this time. I know I’ve been saying it, but it sunk in a little more. I’ve got no updated information about his health, and it seems victimy to just be waiting helplessly for him to die, like waiting for an earthquake that is predicted to be ‘the big one’.

Now, the wise part of myself would say – what would she say?
You are a good person and people will either see that or they won’t. There’s nothing you can do about it, so turn it over to the Goddess. You are powerless over other people and what they think. Stay in your body, trust your inner knowing and things will be all right. This is a big time for you, you don’t have to achieve anything but keeping going and nurturing yourself through this and putting one foot in front of the other. Eat well. Take your vitamins. Do your work. Slow down a little on taking over the world. Just do one thing and complete it. Listen to a relaxation recording. This is just the anxiety talking.

Runaway train

This morning I went for an hour long massage.

Photocredit: Cindy47452 on Flickr
Photocredit: Cindy47452 on Flickr - or is my life like this? This looks much more appealing...
I really like my massage therapist. I don’t see her that often, but she’s this nice, smart woman and we have lively conversations while she unknots me.

Today she commented on my back, how profoundly solid and unmovable with tension it was. I seem to be in a ‘coming out’ frame of mind lately, and so I said in the plain calm and collected (I’m just fine) voice I use when telling most people anything about the abuse “I’ve been under some stress. I’m a child sexual assault survivor, and my abuser, who is a relative, is dying. I expect I’ll be on high alert for the next year.” I still can’t believe I said it. Sometimes I’m excessively honest when I’m stressed or tired.

She said “I’m sorry.” and I changed the topic, saying “I’m trying to just be matter of fact about it.” Later on in the massage she was working on my neck from the front and I was starting to feel uncomfortable. I could have numbed out, but instead I said “I’m starting to get triggered, could you tell me what you’re doing?”. She removed her hands and said “sorry”. I said “no problem, I just need to know why you’re doing that? She said something about fascia, which helped,  and did it a little more, but moved on.

I did the “I’m a perfectly capable person and am not going to get all needy on you” thing and immediately started a conversation about politics.

I just want to be able to tell the truth about my life.

Yesterday I was in a meeting – I have a client who is a mental health agency, and all the people at the table were representing mental health agencies. We were talking about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which looks to be pretty effective, actually, for anxiety and depression mainly. Anyhow, there were these two guys from an anxiety disorders organization. One of them I’d met before and knew he had PTSD like me. At the end of the meeting, I asked him collegially if he knew of a specific CBT program for PTSD, we ended up getting into a conversation about it, with some of the other people in the room listening in, and couple involved in the conversation. During the conversation I outed myself as having my PTSD from child sexual assault. You have to understand this is a business environment where it is fine to disclose you’ve had mental health stuff, and I knew the health status of several people in the room. It went over just fine, with the sense that I’d made some allies, but was a little stressful. Sometimes I just do these brave things without thinking about it, and then afterwards wonder ‘what the hell was that?’ However, it’s usually something that I can stand behind, in retrospect.

I seem to be busting out. Last night I had the ‘our marriage is in trouble’ talk with my wife, and it went better than I thought it would. There’s something about being married, that makes it safer to talk about how dire things really are, since we both know we are too committed to make any hasty decisions.  We came up with a plan to fix things – both with some ideas to work on our non-sex life, and to find some things that are fun to do together that she can do with her injured foot. We also agreed that going back to couples counselling might be a good thing.

This morning before the massage, we did one thing we’d agree to do to work back into having a more regular sex life. Part of the problem is she’s too tired to have sex at night (and doesn’t feel like it) and I’m too spacey to have sex in the morning (and don’t feel like it). When we were first together the hormones take care of such trivial matters, but after eight years, there aint no hormones left.

I found out something I didn’t know before, the real reason why I don’t have sex in the morning.

My abuse happened late at night. I tend to prefer to have sex then, and sleep better afterward. It’s a wierd thing like, “now that the sex is over, it’s safe to sleep”. It’s not quite as creepy as it sounds, and for the most part, when I have sex at night, I can keep stray abuse images out of my head and concentrate on the here and now.

However, whenever I have sex in the morning, if it’s at all intimate or intense I end up crying or near tears. For years I’ve thought of it as being that I’m kind of raw in the morning, but now I don’t think so. This morning, I couldn’t keep the flashbacky stuff out of my head, but the unwanted intrusive images were not of my abuser, but of someone else. A woman.  I’m pretty sure the person I thought it was did not abuse me (please Goddess, no…), but the images were ghastly and intrusive. I managed to fend them off finally after a bit of a silent struggle and my wife ended up holding me as I cried. I didn’t tell her.

It’s like morning is safe time. I always feel good in the morning, raw yes, open yes, but more because it’s safe to be open and raw that out of anything raw.  This likely accounted for the brick-back I brought into the massage therapist an hour later.

It’s really going to piss me off if I was abused by more than one person. I’m not even completely sure who these images referred to, I’m used to just batting away flashback stuff during sex, like horseflies. “Yes, yes, you’re trying to terrify me, let’s think about something else. What was I doing again? Sex, right. Back to that.” Sex must be so simple for non-survivors. I can’t imagine it.

I was trying to come up with a title for this post and what came to me was ‘runaway train’. It feels like things are just progressing in my life just slightly ahead of me, gaining speed. No wonder my body is trying to put on the brakes. I don’t want to lose positive momentum, but I don’t want to go any faster. I’ll have to think on how to do that.

Photocredit: Jeff McCrory
Photocredit: Jeff McCrory Is my life like this?

Songs to dance on an abusers grave to

The concept of dancing on your abusers’ grave seems to have some resonance for survivors I’ve talked to. Not all of us are of Scottish heritage, or even interested in learning the sword dance or Ghillie Callum used for this purpose.

For those of you lucky enough to have dead abusers with graves ripe for dancing, I thought I’d provide a list of suggested songs. Perhaps between this and the comments we can come up with a nice long list.

  • Flinty Kind of Woman – Dar Williams – this upbeat country song tells the story of a bunch of upscale New England matrons garrotting an attempted child molester in a bog.
    “Going east of Mississippi got a flinty kind of woman And you don’t act smart and you don’t touch my children If the young man wants to see the sun go down” Here’s another sample (the words are great)
    “And by the “Welcome to New England” sign
    Got him with the fishing line
    In the dark smell of brine
    Betty said “This one is mine.”
    She is ruthless ”
    Here’s a link to the lyrics: http://darwilliams.net/music/tabs/flinty.html
  • Independence Day – Martina McBride – story from a grown child’s perspective of her mom burning down the house to kill herself and her batterer.
    The Chorus:
    “Let freedom ring,
    let the white dove sing
    let the whole world know that
    Today is a day of reckoning
    let the weak be strong, let the right be wrong
    roll the stone away, let the guilty pay, its independence day.”
    Click here to watch the video
  • Concrete Angel – Another Martina McBride Song – more a grieving song about an abused child who died.
    “Through the wind and the rain,
    She stands hard as a stone in a world that she can’t rise above;
    But her dreams give her wings and she flies to a place where she’s loved.
    Click here for full lyrics
    View video here
  • Goodbye Earl – Dixie Chicks – the story of two best friends who kill the battering spouse of one of the women after he disregards a restraint order and get away with it.
    Well she finally go the nerve to file for divorce, she let the law take it from there.  But Earl walked right through that restraining order, and put her in intensive care. Right away Mary Anne flew in from Atalnta, on a red eye midnight flight. She held Wanda’s hand as they worked out a plan and it didn’t take long to decide that Earl had to die.”
    Click here to watch the video – worth it to watch the gleeful dancing when he dies Celebrative and upbeat. Good for a grave-dancing.
  • Testimony by Ferron – not super overt, but about strength among women after sexual assault, very pretty.
    ” But by my life be I spirit
    And by my heart be I woman
    And by my eyes be I open
    And by my hands be I whole”
    Click here for full lyrics

I don’ t have any good incest survivor pride songs yet, but maybe you have one.

Book Review and Divine Intervention

The other day I was picking up a book I’d requested at the library and absent mindedly browsing the books nearby, which happened to be about religion. I picked up about 8 books in all, including one called “Leaving the Saints: How I  Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith” by Martha Beck.

Here’s the divine intervention part. I really think the Goddess sent me this book.

Martha is the daughter of a Mormon scholar and apologist, and an incest survivor. She describes what began as a spiritual search for union with God and progresses toward experiencing repressed memories and leaving the church. At the time of writing she was a straight mother of three (actually according to her site about the book she’s now in a relationship with a woman) with a doctorate in sociology from Harvard, and she was raised within a patriarchal religious community  but other than that her experience reflected mine so much that it took my breath away. It also made me laugh or snort out loud several times, as she’s got a wicked and irreverent sense of humour.

She was raised with the regular Mormonism, not the trafficking-children-in-‘marriage’ -for statutory-rape-by-old-geezers polygamist type  that spring to mind when discussing Mormon child sexual abuse, so her cultural references are relatively familiar. She had a supportive husband who didn’t care that she doesn’t cook, similarly to my spouse.

She was also first raped by her father at the age of five. Her father was also a highly intelligent, high status guy who was highly dissociative, liked to speak in codes (my father once  inserted himself into a college phone conversation with my mother and told me quite seriously not to let any man make me his teddy bear, a comment I still don’t understand), and believed he’d been cured of serious illnesses (in my father’s case, complete blindness) by God. However, given my fathers near miraculous survival from multiple health hazards and accidents, he may have something there.

Unlike me, her extended family were mostly unsupportive, because her dad is so famous in the Mormon world and also because the Mormon’s are all about propping up male authority no matter what. Some of the press in particular has made the usual accusations of false memories, something Beck refutes in a particularly clear statement online.

At this point I’d like to pause for a nice clarifying rant.  Here’s the backup references for what I’m about to say: [click here] So called ‘false memory syndrome’ is NOT recognized as a syndrome by any reputable scientific source, like the DSM or the American Psychological Association. The folks who made this completely false syndrome up and promote it are themselves accused child molesters or their spouses. One of their ‘expert witnesses’ was quoted endorsing sex with children in a paedophilia magazine.  People don’t want to believe bad stuff happens to children because it freaks them out. I get it. But lying and hurting people who’ve already been through so much is unethical, and supporting the propaganda interests of pedophiles and their apologists is heinous. Journalists, stop being manipulated by child abusers!  End of  rant.

Beck says some very useful things about abusers and their behaviour and what causes them, and has also learned the same passionate devotion to truth and hatred of lies, silence and complicity that I have.  She also has had mystical experiences of the divine (although hers seem more striking to me, somehow) and has found them an important part of her healing.  Her mother also initially said she believed her, in a conversation chillingly similar to the one I had with my mother where she said “yes, that’s something he’d do” but also wanted her to forgive and support her father anyway, like it didn’t matter what he’d done at all.

She also has something I’m a bit embarassed to envy – scar tissue inside her vagina  that proves she was raped as a child. I don’t know if I have scar tissue, and I’m kind of scared to find out. I told a doctor I was a child sexual abuse survivor (just in case I had a flashback with my legs in the stirrups, not (gasp!) to get all emotional or needy on her. She was horrified. She told me everything looked normal, like in those words she could erase ten years of experience. What would I gain in making that up? gees!  I’d really like to know if there is scar tissue,  but doctors are generally robots – how could I find one that would seriously investigate for physical evidence rather than trying to invalidate me from their own discomfort? I have some ‘female issues’  that could be related like vaginal infections so constant that a doctor once tested me for both AIDS and diabetes (I have neither) to try and figure out what might be causing it, but honestly, although I enjoy the TV program House MD, and like my Gray’s Anatomy, I don’t have any faith in medical doctors’ ability to figure out more subtle stuff like mine and have simply managed symptoms on my own and do all the recommended things to avoid infections.

Martha (Dr. Beck, actually, but really she feels more Martha to me) has a definition  of forgiveness,  taken from another source, that I can endorse. “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a different past”. If that’s the case, I’ve definitely forgiven my father, years ago,  and probably also my mother. I’ve always just called it ‘Acceptance’ the last stage of grieving, where things actually begin to feel better, even though the tragedy hasn’t changed at all.  I’ve long embraced grief, knowing that when it’s time to cry, it is a profound gift. Grief is my friend, as it it the only thing that actually heals tragedy.

In short, I may need to buy a copy of this book to have around for validation, since the library will only let me have it for two weeks.

On the hiding front, I’ve come down with a sore throat, a few days after my music jamming with my friend and future performing partner. My body has come to the defense of my psychic camoflage, and is trying to shut this scary passion business down. This is good, it’s like learning not to dissociate: I’ve begun to recognize when I”m doing it. I still want to sing, and I’m going to sing sore throat or no sore throat. My fingertips are tender from practicing my guitar and I’m not stopping.

I’m so grateful for this blog and the support I’ve gotten from survivors posting comments. For the first time in a long while, I have a place to be, to tell the truth to the Goddess and people who understand.

The last few weeks, I’ve been gradually eating a small supply of chocolate Eostre/Easter eggs. In my faith tradition, spring equinox eggs are sacred to the Goddess Eostre and represent rebirth, as do the red balls on the evergreen tree at Yule. I’ve decided that every time I eat an egg I’m going to dedicate it using a prayer for rebirth. Rebirth of hope. Rebirth of presence in my body and today, with this book, rebirth of Validation.