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. “

Bailing vs Being Self Protective, a case study…

Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.- Albert Schweitzer
I’m fine. All is well. There’s no drama, generally or abuse wise, in my life.

Except, I feel edgy and menstrual, which in itself is probably the cause of the edgy.

I have a performance this Friday. I’m not looking forward to it. I’d like to be better prepared, but feel like I’d be wimping out if I bailed.

I really really want to bail. Firstly, my guitarist who would normally play for me can’t make it, so if I want accompaniment, I have to sing with a recording. I’ve never done that before, and don’t have a lot of faith in the sound tech for this event. This in itself gives me a good reason to bail, as I told the organizer my acceptance was contingent on my guitarist being able to make it.

What is actually a bit worse is that I volunteered to help with the opening blessing, and yesterday got an email letting me know who the other priestesses are to be. One of them is a woman who is an ex housemate. We had to kick her out of the shared house we lived in because she was bullying me.  What this looked like was a lot of yelling and imposing body language on her part and a lot of cringing and ineffective arguing on mine, much like my experience was with my father/abuser. Generally she did the worst stuff when no-one was around to witness, until one day my wife came home when she was at it and intervened. We lived together during the time shortly after my father/abuser was in a car accident and I thought he would die, so I was quite fragile and definitely in no shape to defend myself the way I would normally do. It is the first time since I left my home with my parents that I have felt that afraid and helpless.  At one point I was so afraid of her that I left my wife and dog at the house and went to live with a friend for two weeks, so I could make it through to the time she was due to move out. It was a close thing as to whether she would succeed in bullying me to leave or would leave herself.

This happened over six years ago, and I have run into her at events from time to time since then. Mostly I ignore her and don’t initiate contact with her, and that works out tolerably. Since she seems to have gotten into leadership roles in the community, I’ve mostly bowed out completely so I don’t have to be around her. This has cost me opportunities to priestess and be in community, but honestly there are other things about this community that don’t fit well either. Priestessing a blessing together would require interaction.

Generally, the more orthodox Pagan protocol for these types of situations, is that if two members of a circle have a conflict they cannot resolve, it is the responsibility of the parties to put it aside during the ceremony completely, or if they cannot, to withdraw. It’s kind of like “speak now or forever hold your peace” at weddings. Some circles even ask “is there peace on the circle” before starting to ensure that people have a chance to withdraw if they need to. I’m on the orthodox end of things when it comes to pagan ethics, and this community isn’t, so withdrawal wouldn’t be required of me by community standards, but is absolutely required by my own standards.

I have stopped going to religious events in my former community because this bully is quite active in leadership roles. At the time, she was angry that she was kicked out of our house, not accountable for her behavour (as bullies seldom are) and has no doubt spread her perspective among the other people in our formerly shared community. One or two of her friends, when I have run into them, show signs that they have been told something (I’m not sure what) that makes them cooler toward me. The way Pagan opening ceremonies work is that the people doing the opening have to stay to the end and participate in the closing, so I wouldn’t be able to leave if the going got tough.

My third reason for wanting to bail is that, I lead a choir that has offered to perform that night, and we’re just not ready to perform publicly.

The fourth reason is that there are lots of other performers, and we probably won’t be on till about three hours in, and I’ll be fried from the priestessing and the waiting and even less likely to be able to perform competently because of it.

One other glitch is that the organizer has disclosed to me that she has BPD and I know rejection, if she takes it that way, might be particularly painful for her.

I don’t want to do a bad job in a hostile environment as my first time performing in awhile in front of people who may have been poisoned against me. I don’t think it would be good for my currently fragile performer’s soul.

I am an amazon; I can get through anything, but do I want to? I really should let the organizer know now, so she can find someone else for the opening.

_____

Okay, I’ve finished drafting my bail email to the organizer. I haven’t sent it yet, but I should do soon, as the gig is less than a week away.

Now I’m not certain. Is this a challenge I should accept, making myself visible and possibly a target, or a valid warning that I should avoid?

EQUALS: Belated post for International Women’s Day

This video really sums it up. I wish I could just play it for people like the idiot guy I met who said “men are raped by women just as often as women are by men, they just don’t report it”. I was flabbergasted. Those of us who are survivors know what the impact is of being targeted for sexual coercion and violence.

The day before the pap

Yesterday I saw my therapist and we talked about the pap test appointment tomorrow. What’s different about this appointment is:

1) the medical professional will know I’m a survivor.
2) I’m planning to ask if I have scar tissue.
3) I’m planning to ask about all the wierd things I have going on with my vagina.

It feels incredibly vulnerable to do this this way, consciously, asking for the compassionate care I want, especially when I didn’t have any care that I remember for my vagina when I was assaulted as a child.

I have duly printed out my ‘survivor safety lecture’ pap test sheet and marked the appropriate boxes. I also have typed up all my questions, and the rationale behind them on a single sheet of paper so that if I can’t deal with asking verbally, I can just get her to read it.

At my therapists suggestion, I’m going to reserve the right not to go through with the exam if I don’t like the nurse or her responses, so the questions have a dual purpose. I get to see how she handles them. My therapist also offered me an emergency session on Thursday or Friday if I need one, an offer which brings tears to my eyes even now.

It was good to talk it over with my therapist, and more importantly cry it over, cry over the body of the 5 year old girl with the injured vagina, cry over the lifetime lack of anyone to ask questions about my injuries or to care about them. Cry about the shame and fear of judgement / condescension / freak out of a nurse or doctor knowing my history examining me.

So, I’m going to watch some nice, anethesizing tv or read my new book.

On the up side, I’m still meditating 8 minutes per day and still practising either singing or guitar daily. I also started a tai chi class with my wife yesterday. So in general, things are good.

Wish me luck.

Rage

Now, probably some folks will think that with name like SwordDanceWarrior and a project like planning to dance on my fathers grave, I have no issues with expressing my anger. Quite the contrary.

I finally got in to see my therapist today and figured out the intrusive images of being abused by a woman. We stayed in the ‘I don’t know’ place with them and did some EMDR with the images. If you’ve never had EMDR before (I hadn’t), its a technique where you basically get distracted by a visual or kinesthetic stimulus while you’re paying attention to the intrusive image, flashback or whatever. The idea is that it makes your brain integrate it better and reduces the level of anxiety/emotion/gunk attached to it. It’s a bit like when you’re in therapy re-living some crappy thing that happened to you, but you have part of yourself watching and comforting or analysing or just being aware that you’re an adult and okay at the same time.

I’ve always thought that it was not fair to turn down the volume emotionally on a memory or flashback until I’d made meaning of it, but today I didn’t really care.

So my therapist sits in front of me and to the side and waves her fingers back and forth in front of me while I’m supposed to call up the intrusive images. She stopped and grounded me whenever I couldn’t focus on both at once. It worked a bit better when we tried the tapping method, where you cross your arms and tap one side and then the other. I couldn’t do the staying open to the image and at the same time look at her finger thing, but the tapping I could do.

Anyway, my point, rage.

I’m enraged at my mother. I’m angry at her for allying herself with my father yet again by not replying to my letter. It’s been a couple of months.  But instead of feeling my rage at her (I’m thinking I needed to maintain connection with her as a child, and she had a thing about anger – I was not to express even annoyance in her presence), I create an image of her hurting me instead.  Helpful, huh?

I’ve done this to myself before.

When I was about 20 my best friend got assaulted and narrowly escaped being abducted by a truly evil man who was a serial abductor/rapist. She escaped, thank Goddess, and thank herself for being a fierce and resourceful amazon, before many of the truly evil things happened to her that happened to the other women. This guy got caught and tried and it was a big media circus. He was also rightly sentenced as a dangerous offender, which I understand means they’re never letting him out.  It was all over tv and radio, announcers describing what had happened to my friend and what had almost happened to my friend.

I was angry, but I didn’t feel it. I was extremely stressed out, but my best friend was in hiding from the stinking media so I couldn’t talk to her, and besides she was in worse shape than me. I also couldn’t talk to other people about my connection with the situation to preserve her privacy. Instead I sort of hallucinated (I say sort-of, because I knew it wasn’t there, but it was still pretty damn real seeming) a guy hanging from a rope in my bathroom who talked to me saying he was going to kill me.  I’ve never experienced anything like that in real life, so it wasn’t a flashback. It was me projecting my rage, like a movie, in my bathroom, but having the man I wanted to kill threatening to kill me instead. It was terrifying. Crappy, eh?

A therapist finally figured it out for me. She said “You’re having revenge fantasies. You’re in a murderous rage.” This made sense. I figured out eventually that the sure-fire way to make these images go away was to say to myself ” I’m angry, I’m really angry” and to intellectually figure out what I might be angry about and say that to myself. “I’m angry at shithead rapist abductor for hurting my friend” “I’m angry at my father” etc… and the monsters (as I called them) just dissolved. The more I could feel the anger in the correct place, the less power these projections had. I eventually stopped having them.

Needless to say I’m not real open about having had these experiences. I also want to note that a boyfriend concerned about the monster experiences I told him about got me in to see a psychiatrist, who confirmed that I was a garden variety survivor, not coming down with a nasty case of schizophrenia, which is a relief.

I haven’t had them in so long, actually  that I’d kind of forgotten what they were like. I get a bit triggered by scary movies and such and sometimes have intrusive images, but not nearly as persistent (and disturbing) as these ones recently.

Labelling them as repressed rage against my mother feels right in my bones, and is frankly a bit of a relief. I’m too fricking old to remember another abuser. I don’t want to go through all that again. 

I am angry at my mother. She’s chosen shithead over me and she is so fucking clueless about what she’s missing. I’m quality daughter material. I’m a woman to be proud of birthing and she blew it. She’s a disappointment to me, again and again, stubbornly sitting down to the occasion. I repeat – I am enraged at my mother. I hate her. She betrayed me and she’s going to keep betraying me. She doesn’t deserve me as a daughter.

And while I’m on it, why the fuck isn’t my father dead already?!!! liver cancer 5 years ago with recurrences last year, necrotizing fasceitis, .4 blood alcohol, flail lung, chronic alcoholism, chronic heavy smoker, 68 years old, living in a town with a lot of air pollution. What is his problem? Die already!! I had a nice murder fantasy going on in my therapists office, where I go into his hospital room and remove whatever tubes or masks or whatever is keeping him going and bludgeon him to death.

I’m that angry.  

And this, as my friend Butterfly would say, is why you shouldn’t fuck kids. (Or fuck them over, in the case of my mother).

Compost

Photocredit: Ollie-G "A Leaf in Spring"
Photocredit: Ollie-G "A Leaf in Spring"

The last few days I’ve been lonely. Being sick with a sore throat and earache, and kind of tired, I’ve not been working much and have had lots of time to myself. I find myself logging in to my blog and looking at the posts of other survivors, looking eagerly for comments on my own blog.

I’m tired. Nothing’s wrong, but I’m sick and tired, I’ve got my period and I’ve got no mother. I never had a mother, but now I really don’t. It could be I never hear from her again.  I told her the truth, and she’s not a big fan of facing facts, at least not on a time scale less than glacial. I don’t regret sending her the letter, but I am a bit sad.

I’m thankful this weekend is Easter weekend. I don’t celebrate Easter, except in those areas that overlap with Eostre, the holiday Pagan’s celebrate on Spring Equinox, which are mostly the good bits about new life and bunnies and eggs and blessing children (and therefore, metaphorically, Spring Herself) with gifts of sweets.  This is good because I have the time off, without the commitments.

I’ve been hungry for time to myself, but time for myself feeling sick and tired isn’t really it. One thing I’ve noticed is that although I haven’t been working as much, my business hasn’t fallen apart. Perhaps I can have a soul-life and a work life at the same time.

I’ve been able to work in the garden a bit this week, weather permitting, which has been a blessing. We’ve put in a huge rasberry patch in the back yard, and some new grass for the dogs to pee on. They set to work right away, eating the new lawn, rolling on it, and other dogly stuff. Our big dog is getting a bit frustrated with having two mommies sick, and no-one to give him the abundant affection he so clearly deserves…

I’m taking a break from the acupuncture too, till I’m well again.

Part of being Pagan is having respect for the cycles of life, the waning moon as well as the waxing, fall as well as spring, winter as well as summer, compost as well as planting, menstruation as well as ovulation.

There is a tarot card, the Hermit, which to me is about big, barely visible things happening when nothing important seems to be happening.

So as a good religious Pagan, I need to cover myself metaphorically in leaf mould (or a nice soft blanket) even when the weather and my fear of losing momentum says grow, grow, grow, and allow a little fallow stage before I move on.

And maybe that’s okay. Like spring, where things grow in fits and starts, weather and frost permitting, I’m allowed to expand and unhide and then contract a little too.