I heard back from my mother on my birthday a little while ago. She wished me a happy birthday, in a brief text message. I was not happy. I have not replied. Continue reading Texts and family reunions
I am whole
I am holy
I was born from pain, raised in pain but I overcame
I deserve all the love this world can offer
I deserve a beautiful life
And I will live it
I told her of my fears
showed her all the things I was afraid
would scare her off
believing they would not
for I am whole
and now I am afraid
Somewhere inside is the little girl
who knows, feels believes that
her story makes her damaged goods
Dirty and unwanted
Why do I tell people this truth
knowing it is only where I have come from
what I have fought to restore my sacred self
I show them the dragon, slain
but then fear they only smell the rotten meat long hauled away
I am still trying to win love with brave deeds
when love is not a prize
I am still trying to prove myself worthy
when I always was.
I wrote several poems today after a meditation walk I do to clear my head. Here are two of them:
Sobs shake me in the silence
of the labyrinth
the creak of wood floor
He’s not dead yet.
But neither am I.
all of us
strong and struggling
The single lesbian who
wheels a chair
The self critical
of a psychopath
on Father’s day
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.
I am going to celebrate Mother’s day tomorrow, in honour of my inner mother – the part of myself that nurtures and cares for all of me, and in honour of Mother Earth. My two mothers, Mother Earth and my inner self-mother love, nurture, feed and protect me every day. To all my incest survivor peeps, may you all be the best mothers to yourselves that you can and may you feel that self-love nourish you.
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.”
Tonight is Christmas Eve. I am grateful to be spending it with my spouse and my dog, in a warm, safe house full of light and love. I am happy. I’d like to share some holiday coping tips and recommendations as I’ve learned them over the past 20+ years for myself and from other survivors of incest I know. May your winter and new year be blessed and full of love, peace and gentle healing. Continue reading Holidays for Incest Survivors
I went out to ‘Trouble with the curve’ tonight with my wife. This story of a relationship between a father and daughter and it’s impact on her life really touched me. Wierd eh? My father is a sociopath, Clint Eastwood’s character is crusty but quite beautiful actually.
There’s a scene where he beats a man into unconsciousness for pulling his daughter, then six years old, into a shed and touching her arm. It is obvious to us, and to him, that more would have happened if Eastwood’s character hadn’t found them. I just realized, that is what made me cry. To have a male relative that would defend me, who would beat the crap out of a child molester, is pretty potent stuff. Just seeing that, portrayed so compellingly by Eastwood’s character, must have opened up the grief. In my case, the molester was my father, so that kind of escape was impossible. My mom claimed once that if my grandfather, her father, had known, he’d have killed my father. I wish it were so.
I didn’t realize till now that that is what made me so sad. I walked out of the movie feeling sad and not knowing why. I felt a longing for the father figure in the movie, who in the end perfectly understood his daughter, who had finally gotten him to hear her about who she was and what she wanted.
My father may have groomed me, and I know my pre-rape self loved him, in such a pure, open hearted way that I don’t think I’ve experienced since, but I haven’t actually grieved the relationship with him on those terms for a long time.
Feeling that longing and sadness, I realize I have to listen to that part of myself who was manipulated into loving an evil person, but I don’t think that’s exactly who I’m grieving. It makes more sense to me, connects more emotionally, to miss the father I never had, the father who would have beaten my actual father to a bloody pulp for hurting a beautiful, pure-hearted kindergartener.
It’s wierd to have an emotional landscape that is so foreign, even to me, at times, so that I don’t even know why I am crying until the tears have run their course. I’m glad I’ve learned to let them flow anyhow, to trust that the truth will come after, perhaps much after. This is what it’s like to have experience in fragments, and to make those fragments whole.
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.
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?
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,
your niece. “
I have two books on the go right now. Writing, not reading. One is a novel I wrote about three years ago, which I’m trying to polish and complete. The other is a self-help book for survivors based on this blog. Both are well along and both have a lot of promise.
I’m having a hard time getting to them and working on them.
I like to write, but it’s so solitary. I’m not an introvert. I’m a highly sensitive extravert. I think about things deeply, but then they don’t really have lot of meaning for me until I share them, understand them by talking about them with others. I like to connect with other people, but I’m happiest if they are people I feel good around and connected with. My skin is not so thick.
The novel has three main characters. Two are recently broken up lovers, who don’t interact much with one another during the book. The other is the new lover of one of the women. I have the plot mostly mapped out, and am just working on improving the dialogue.
I’m feeling a bit dead and hopeless right now. Not that my life isn’t great, objectively speaking, but I’m lonely. My introverted, asexual wife is not really meeting my needs for socialization and intense connection, as you might imagine. She’s also highly sensitive, but in different ways from me. She’s picky about touch and smells, while I’m sensitive to sound mostly. It’s not that I don’t love her, I do, but I need more intense and engaged physical and emotional connection. I’ve been getting out and meeting new women, but nothing has gelled yet.
The self-help book is about reorganizing the material from this blog, identifying gaps and then writing material to fill them, also putting in transitions to make it flow and make sense, changing the voice from time to time. I want it to still stay immediate, a conversation between me and other survivors, but to flow like a book.
What has all this got to do with staying present and moving at the same time?
Well, it’s all about resistance. As a survivor, I learned to close myself off from triggers, from memories, from anxiety, from feelings. I have a hair trigger avoidance process that’s hard to turn off or sometimes even be aware of. If I’m feeling anxious about my skill as a writer or what will happen to my book(s) once they are complete (who would want to publish them, for example, and all the rejection that might involve), I just avoid writing, almost without being aware of it.
If I’m anxious about whether the cute girl from my poly group is actually interested in me or just being friendly, and realizing that I probably need to make a move at some point, I can just pretend to myself without even realizing it at first that being a sexual person isn’t really necessary after all, and that the corresponding loss of life energy is just a normal part of being middle aged. Eventually I might forget what it felt like to have an actual interested, engaged lover and even believe that. [By the way, if you’re new here, (welcome!) I’m not talking about cheating, I’m in an ethically open, polyamorous relationship]
So I was re-reading a book – never mind the name right now, it has the word ‘bliss’ in the title – that talks about two reactions to things: expansion and contraction. People do both all the time, and often alternate between them. However, people get locked into the contraction and it turns into resistance, or as I think of it, the survivors old friend avoidance. Anyhow, the author’s solution to this is to ask oneself two questions:
1) What is happening right now? and then
2) Can I be (present) with it?
The idea is that by accepting what is and then allowing oneself to experience it, it shifts a person from contraction to expansion, and opens them to being able to respond more capably and happily. I should note that being with something doesn’t mean you’re endorsing it, approving of it or interested in that thing persisting, it’s just basically our old friend acceptance, the last stage of grieving. Once I accept reality, I can make choices about it.
So I’m trying to get into the habit of recognizing and accepting what actually is.
I’m afraid of what will happen when I finish my books – won’t I want to try to find a publisher? show it to other people? What if they reject me / my work?
I’m feeling protective of my heart and worried about judgment, but impatient to connect deeply with another woman again. I’m still feeling sad and angry about being rejected by my last lover, and questioning whether she was faking how she claimed to feel and think about me. If that was the case, then was what I felt any less real? Does it mean I made a fool of myself to bring my authentic self into the relationship? No. I stand by what I did and said. But it makes me feel a bit naive and cheated.
I don’t know how to express this, but I’m a rich handful to be intimate with. I’m grounded in a way that makes other people grounded. This brings them in contact with themselves in ways that they may have been avoiding, but which feel like a completion. I think people connect with their own wholeness, because I give myself permission to connect with mine when given the opportunity. People like it but they can’t always handle it. I can’t always handle it either, which is why I dip into my own richness and then avoid, but I hunger for it and I think I do a better job of being present than most people. This is particularly odd given my inherent survivor spaciness, but perhaps it is the discipline involved in undoing that which has given me this skill.
Writing that, I’m wondering if learning myself how not to avoid can help me better recognize who I can be intimate with? It seems obvious that the better I am at being intimate with myself the better I can be intimate with others. It also seems obvious that if I’m attracting people who hunger for connection but can’t provide it, I may be ambivalent about that process myself. Do I really want to be intimate with myself after all?
One of the recommendations I read online for self care for highly sensitive people is to make sure you get enough sleep and alone time, to meditate for an hour daily and to exercise outside daily. I’m trying to implement that, which should perhaps help. Meditation, after all, is about being present with what is and just accepting it.
I know this all is a bit of a ramble, but I hope some of it makes sense. Perhaps I’ll write more when I’ve figured it out a little better.
So, things are still rough with my wife. I was at a practice for the choir I sing with and during the vocal warm up for freaking sake I started crying and had to leave the room to calm down. Then I came back and during the first song we practiced (which was a sad one about the loss of a loved one…) I started crying and couldn’t stop, literally couldn’t stop. I’m pretty good, as I expect most survivors are, at squashing down feelings and going numb, but literally could not stop crying. I had to run out of the room and sob in the bathroom. My friend followed me and gave me a hug and held me as I cried. It took several long minutes to calm down enough to go back in.
Interestingly, I was out of the woods a few minutes later when that same friend asked me to dance with her during one of the other songs. She and I will likely do some choreography during this specific song so we were practicing it. Moving my body in this way got me out of whatever groove my brain had gotten into. I’m all in favour of grieving when you need to, but normally am able to postpone grief until I’m in an acceptable place to cry.
The grief I’m feeling about my marriage is really deep and as is frustratingly usual, I don’t actually understand fully what I’m crying about. Generally I don’t get this information until after I’ve really let the feelings out, which can be hard to surrender to, but seems to be the way I work. It’s another part of my feelings being dissociated from the information about it I guess. I’ve been crying on average once a day since then, which was about a week ago.
What I can put together is this: My wife has been my person, for the last 10 years, who will physically be there for me in the night, and physically hold me when I have a nightmare or need to cry. She’s gotten to be adequate at this over time, although my waterworks isn’t something she gets intuitively, unfortunately. Now that we’re sleeping apart about half the time, I don’t have this body comfort any more. I have a lot less touch in my life, something I really need a lot of. Her not wanting to have sex with me any more is something I really grieve, I crave that kind of intense physical intimacy with someone who loves me. This is not something that is easily replaced. I don’t even really have that with her anymore on the rare occasions we have sex now.
There is something that is so deeply accepting and shame reducing about an intensely intimate physical connection with someone who I love and who loves me. It’s something I really crave. Casual sex isn’t going to do it, and it will be a long time before I’m even ready to find someone else that I can have this with.
There is this central theme in the Harry Potter books, of which I am a fan, that Harry is spared a lot of damage from the abuse by his aunt, uncle and cousin by the spell his mother invoked, of loving him so much she gave her life to protect him. I was thinking about this today, and though I have no-one else’s love to immunize me from pain and psychological harm, I do have my own self-love. It seems to be my duty to learn to love myself as fiercely and loyally as I can.
My wife is out of town for a few days and I’m happy she’s gone. It gives me some psychological space to grieve fully. I’m finding myself hibernating from everyone.
Today, it is probably no accident that I forgot about my piano lesson. I am kind of relived I did, as I don’t think I could have played the piano without crying either. Perhaps that’s what I’ll do over the holidays, concentrate on loving myself and making music to clear out all this pain and grief. Surely there must be an end to it if I let it flow, that seems to be how it works.
To all of you in grief this December, I send my solidarity. May you love yourself fiercely.
I’ve been taking piano lessons. I’ve got a great teacher and I’m enjoying it. As I’ve written about before, I have a hard time learning to play musical instruments, despite being quite musical and not for lack of trying. I get anxious and frustrated easily when doing music, and have a hard time sticking with it.
Apparently my piano teacher has noticed this and asked me about it today, in a very kind way. He asked me if I’d taken piano lessons as a kid, and wasn’t surprized when I told him the teacher was awful. He said he gets that a lot and can usually tell if students have had bad experiences in the past. He even disclosed that he’d had a difficult upbringing himself, I think to make me feel comfortable. He doesn’t (and probably won’t) know the half of it.
My literally psychopathic father played the very same piano I have in my living room. I asked it of him (indirectly through my mother) as an apology offering for raping me as a child. The one time I saw him expressing what seemed to be a sincere emotion in response to a relationship loss was when he played one song, moonlight sonata, on the piano well into the night on the evening he found out his father had died. I think of it as my grandmother’s (his mother) piano.
I took piano lessons at age 8 with a teacher who lived at the top of a tall hill. She expected me to practice during the week, something I did not, at the age of 8, in a chaotic alcoholic home, have the organizational skills to do without support from a parent, something I didn’t get. She repeatedly berated me for not practicing.
When I was about 30, I auditioned for and was accepted into a professional music program at a local college. This program seemed to think it was a good idea to treat sensitive music students as if they were in some sort of boot camp. I got some good things out of it, and a lot of very painful ones. I dropped out after about a year. It broke my heart. It took me about a decade to recover afterward enough again to start creating music again.
I sketched the teacher and music school issues in rough terms for him and I really do get that I’m not going to be berated for not practicing, like my piano teacher, or for asking questions, like my music theory teacher in school. I’m very grateful that my teacher gets that I have issues and will practice as much as my issues will permit, but may learn slower than I might otherwise. Compassion that makes room for us to be as we are, and be supported in continuing regardless, is such a rare and beautiful gift for a survivor. I am blessed.
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 was left a very thoughtful comment today in response to my post about why I’m not going to have children because my father is a sociopath.
In Balbrouchan’s comment, which you can read here, she brings up some good issues. The first is that socipathy isn’t 100% inheritable, since she and I are not sociopaths, and neither are her kids, even with first order relatives that were. She says:
“Since you are not, yourself, an antisocial psychopath, I would say your children, if you had felt like having any, would not have been at risk from inheriting it from their grandfather – since the fact that you don’t have that behavior, plainly shows that you have not inhedited it…”
She also says:
“But I think it’s very harsh to tell fellow incest survivors they have high risks of having sociopathic children. If the survivors themselves don’t exhibit “antisocial behavior with psychopathic tendencies”, and are not married to a psychopath, the risk on their children is pretty low, even with a first order relative who is a psychopath.”
Balbrouchan is right, it is harsh to say children of sociopaths are more likely to have sociopaths for children, and I wouldn’t have the gall to say it if it didn’t apply to me too, and if it wasn’t what I honestly believe. Given the magnitude of damage my father did in his lifetime, ‘pretty low’ chances are just too high for me.
More importantly, though, I think my post could be read as perpetrating the ‘survivors are more likely to be child molesters’ prejudice, and I’m not trying to do that here, at least partly because it actually doesn’t bear out. Child molesters will report being abused themselves at fairly high rates, but when they did studies that were structured to eliminated any benefits from claiming to be abused, and backed it up with a lie detector test, the self-reports of abuse by child molesters went down to the same rates as the general population. (I got this from Anna Salter’s book on predators )
She also brings up an issue common to many survivors with children, the fear of turning into the kinds of parents we survived and abusing them too.
“The good part is that, while I was very afraid of “turning pedophile” on my own children, it has not happened. Time and time again I have checked with myself if I had any sexual desire toward my children and I’ve found absolutely nothing, to my own relief – and to my deeper disgust of my own father. I have never had even nightmares of sexual contact with my children (and you know one can’t control one’s nightmares – at almost 40, I still have nightmares where I end up willingly f*ing my father). I don’t have sexual desires towards other children as well, so all’s good on this side.”
I too, had a big period where I watched myself carefully for child molester tendencies (also something a sociopath wouldn’t do) and have always been extremely careful of treating children correctly. As a survivor and a lesbian, I know the stereotypes and prejudices attached to both of those categories, and have always been scrupulous in avoiding even the perception of creepiness. I go so far as to not usually initiate physical contact with children. Whatever stray hostile feelings I’ve had toward children (barring noisy disruptive ones in quiet restaurants) I’ve always recognized as being truly directed against my own inner child and dealt with them as such.
I’ve done a lot of reading about sociopathy, and one common thread I’ve found is that researchers think it’s partly or mostly genetic. Once a child is born and they’re exhibiting empathy, they’re not going to be a sociopath. They may do bad things, but they won’t be an actual sociopath, because that’s about the ability to feel empathy.
Balbrouchan points summarizes the situation nicely here:
The article you’re citing states that “in children with psychopathic tendencies, antisocial behaviour was strongly inherited. In contrast, the antisocial behaviour of children who did not have psychopathic tendencies was mainly influenced by environmental factors”.
“If I understand well, if your child has no early-onset psychopathic tendencies, then all is well and provided you give a right environment, no antisocial tendencies will appear. On the contrary if he has early-onset psychopathic tendencies, then his antisocial behavior will be mostly inherited and you’re in big trouble.
Strictly speaking, this research paper doesn’t mean that psychopathic/sociopathic tendencies are inherited. It shows “antisocial behavior with psychopathic tendencies” is mainly inherited. That’s a different story altogether.”
I’m not sure I get, in this last paragraph, how it’s a different story. Seems the same to me. Maybe I’m missing something.
It’s the ‘early onset psychopathic tendencies’ that I’m wanting to prevent, since I believe that’s what my dad had. If I’m technically wrong to say that’s sociopathy, then fair enough (although I don’t really get it), but that’s what I mean. I also, even if my kids are fine, don’t want to be responsible for passing a greater risk for ‘early onset psychopathic tendencies’ on to my grandkids or great-grandkids either. We can be carriers of the gene without having the problem. It’s like people who know that epilepsy, schizophrenia or hemophilia run in their family thinking twice about passing the genes on (all of these while serious, are at least treatable, unlike psychopathy), except in my case, it’s not just my descendants who would bear the impact of my decision, but their victims as well.
My kid (or grandkid or great-grandkid) is more likely to be born with great difficulty feeling empathy, and once he or she is born and I figure that out, I’d better be on my A game to make sure I parent in a way that corrects and compensates for that. Even good parents screw things up, and making sure my potential empathy-impaired kid isn’t a monster is a huge responsibility. Even if he or she isn’t, she or he will still carry the gene I carry and one of his kids could be born to parents who aren’t equipped to teach remedial empathy and we end up with someone like my dad again. Adoption or childlessness area perfectly viable options, and one way I can help prevent people like my father from being born. I realize we’re talking eugenics here, which is usually a bad thing, but unlike the Nazis, I’m not forcing anyone to follow my example, and really, is trying to prevent the birth of people with early onset psychopathic tendencies that will predispose them to behaving monstrously such a bad thing?
From talking to my relatives, and observing my dad’s relatives reactions to him, I think that my father exhibited lack of empathy pretty young, and it does seem credible that he was born that way. I think there are child molesters who aren’t sociopaths, and vice versa. They’re not one and the same. Raping me was only a small fraction of the antisocial, ugly and violent things my dad did in his lifetime. He’s not one of those ‘compulsively fixated on kids sexually’ types as far as I can tell, he ‘just’ likes to hurt people and animals and in general get away with things, which is classic for a sociopath.
Anyhow, thanks to Balbrouchan for pointing out I might be perpetuating stereotypes against survivors, something I’d never want to do.
So I’ve been extra spacey lately since the news about the impending letter from my mom replying to the one I sent her three years ago. It’s not like I really notice the spaci-ness myself much, but my wife has noticed and pointed out a few things.
This morning I forgot to feed my beloved dog, and then when reminded, promptly forgot again until reminded a second time. My poor good doggy.
I’ve lost my favourite pair of glasses. No clue where they are. My wife can’t even find them and she’s usually very good at finding things I lose.
My wife tells me things and I forget them. What are they? I forget…
I ran a red light today because I got too distracted when my wife was trying to say something about what lane I was in.
I had a creepy dream where my father was my boyfriend and I was being all nice to him, behaving like his girlfriend. Creepy! The morning I went to the dentist too, as if being triggered wasn’t the last thing I needed before seeing the dentist.
What I did well was to let my wife know that I’m just going to be spacey over the next few days and there’s nothing I can really do about it. I’m not sure if that’s true. Perhaps if I really grounded or something I’d feel whatever feelings I’m dissociating from and then I wouldn’t need to dissociate. That’s what I’d have tried back when I was a therapist and I was working with a survivor who was dissociating, although it’s harder to do for oneself. I’d book an appointment with my therapist, but really, what is there to say? I saw my brother and it went well, and my mother’s going to send me a letter, but I haven’t gotten it yet. What’s to talk about?
When the letter comes, I’m going to give it to my wife to keep in her locker at work, so it’s not in the house. I don’t know why I want to do that, but it feels better somehow. It will help me avoid the temptation to open it before I have enough support. I’m likely to freak out afterward, so I need to make sure the timing is right.
On the up side I went to the dentist yesterday and had a filling. I’d avoided making an appointment for a couple of months, because I wasn’t sure I could handle it, but got up the courage. It was way in the back up near the gum and I was worried I’d be on my back with my mouth jammed open in pain for ages, with gunk going down my throat, something I figured would trigger me bad. I explained to the dental assistant that I was concerned I might be anxious with my mouth open for a long time, and that I thought it would help if I could close my mouth whenever I needed to. She said that would be fine, and pointed out that there was one point in the procedure where the glue wouldn’t stick if I closed my mouth and saliva got on it. I asked how long that was likely to be and said it would help if during that time she explained what was happening. It turned out to be no big thing, ten or fifteen minutes all together and the dentist was told I was anxious and distracted me by chatting about our vacations. She didn’t even have to freeze me, which worked great. Kind of an incentive to make sure I don’t get any more cavities though.
What do I think is at the root of my spaciness? Rage. Having contact with my stinking psychopath-enabling weak martyr of a hypocrite faux-feminist mother really fucking pisses me off. How DARE she want to have ‘a relationship’ with me? How can she really be this dense and want me to f’ing overlook that she didn’t help me at all when she knew that my vagina was ripped so bad I had two tears from one side of my vulva to the other!!!! Who the hell does she think I am? She hasn’t even admitted to the crime and I’m supposed to forget and forgive (ideally in that order)? I want to rip her apart with my bare hands, and I’m going to get words from her, words that will be full of bullshit as usual. I can’t even imagine what she would say that would be enough. If she goes on about how my letter hurts her or something I’m going to freaking blow up!
The parts of me that don’t want to pound her senseless with something heavy, are thinking that any information will be useful, and I don’t even have to respond to the letter, although, realistically I should or she’ll contact me again. However, I could wait three freaking years to respond just like she did and see how she likes it.
I may end up saying “I have now seen the scars on my vagina and vulva. You knew I was raped. I was too seriously injured for you not to have known. You have lied to me for the last time. No, I will never have a relationship with you. You can’t come back from this. You are dead to me. Go to hell. ”
Go to freaking hell, Mom!!
My older brother called me on the weekend and we got together to watch his kid play in a sporting event.
All in all it went well. He made an effort to connect, I brought my wife, and we were on his home turf in a way (watching his kid play) so he felt comfortable and we had an activity to distract us.
At the end we were chatting and he casually asked if our father had died yet, in the same ‘I don’t care about the evil bastard’ way I might have. It must have cost him something to ask. I liked that he asked in the way he did. I told him I’d thought he’d be the one to tell me, but that no-one had told me so he probably was alive. My aunt, at least would let me know. I filled him in a bit on what I knew about what the other family were doing, which I know he appreciates.
It was very human, if you know what I mean, we had a reasonable connection.
He’s still apparently a perfectionist, and demanding on his sons for achievement, which he comes by honestly, since my mom put an enormous amount of pressure on him. If I ever get close enough to him to point it out, I’ll make the comparison, as I know that that pressure was something he told me was harmful when he was younger. Or I’ll leave well enough alone. He’s not without insight into his own stuff and must already know.
He’s a doctor, and he told me that he thinks someone must have been making some of the medical info about our father up, that he couldn’t have survived all the things we’d heard he’d had (.4 blood alcohol, flail lung, flesh eating disease, liver cancer, plus a recurrence of cancer) in combination. This makes sense to me, but I can’t imagine why they would make it up? Maybe to make us feel sorry and visit him on his deathbed? I said it seemed unbelievable to me too, especially after I’d looked up the average survival rates for each of these and calculated he should statistically been dead several times over. I said if it’s true, then I’m going to live to 150, so that’s all right. He said he thought at some point he’d get a funeral invitation and find out that way.
I told him I think that since mom’s still married to our father, the cops would notify her since she’s next of kin. He said he hoped she wouldn’t inherit his debts, and I said I thought they had a legal separation, so maybe not. My brother said that our other brother would probably inherit everything then, which was only fair since he was the one still in contact with the old bastard and I agreed. My younger brother would give it all to mom anyhow.
It was good to have a conversation like this with no pretense. I also got to be kind, to support him in rooting for his son, and to speak briefly with my nephew.
I should find out what the rules are for death notification. If my mom is legally separated, do the RCMP notify her or one of his other relatives when he dies? If someone knows, I hope you’ll leave a comment here.
The spiritual thing about this was that on Saturday, after I visited with him, I ran into a friend and got talking for some reason about my mom, she asked if I was back in touch, and I said no, she was dead to me. She already knew about the scars, so she got it.
Then on the Sunday I went swimming in the ocean with some friends. It was kind of impromptu, so we didn’t have bathing suits with us. In Canada it is legal for women to go topless anywhere that men can, so we swam topless to keep most of our clothes dry. It felt like a purification, to be swimming in salt water against my bare skin, not feeling at all ashamed of my less than slender, less than young body on a public beach.
Then the next day I get the call from my aunt about my mom. Interesting how it all came together. It’s kind of like when you finally let go of an ex girlfriend and flirt with someone new, and they sense it and call you up. People sense when the connections are severed, I think, energetically. If so, that’s good, because the connection with my mom does feel severed – when I said she is dead to me, I meant it. I wonder how this will affect how I read her letter.
My mom’s sister (who I like) called me this weekend to let me know that my mom has finally written a reply to my letter sent almost three years ago with, apparently, answers to my questions. The catch is, she feels it’s too private to send by mail (?) and would like to know how I want receive it. She is, of course, fishing to see me in person, something my aunt suggested (ie: my mom bring the letter in person and I read it in front of her, ick!) which is not going to happen.
By making my aunt, who is awaiting major surgery right now, the intermediary, my mom is once again in fine form for putting her needs above others.
To spare my aunt, who is a very nice person and who has been good to me, I did not go into a rant about how seeing me in the person was out of question for a woman who had not provided medical (or police) attention to her five year old daughter (me) with a severely torn vagina from rape and then lied to my face about it for 20 years, saying she didn’t know I’d been abused.
Instead, I expressed regret to my aunt that she was in the middle of this and suggested (to my aunt) that she let my mom know that if regular mail didn’t work then registered mail, courier or giving it to my brother to give to me would work.
My aunt also relayed that my mom “loves me and wants to have a relationship with me again”. She clearly is buying the bullshit, which since I also bought it for awhile, I’m not going to hold against her.
I’d rather eat dirt, frankly, than ‘have a relationship’ with my mother again. I do not ‘have relationships’ with people who think so little of me. I wonder if my younger brother has cut her off, nurturing and caretaking-wise, and she’s shopping around.
The problem is, that if I see her in person, I’m pretty thoroughly conditioned to mother her – offer her sympathy, help and advice I later (or immediately) resent. My mom must know this, that I’m much more ‘reasonable’ when I see her in person, which is why she wants it. So not seeing her at all is by far the best option for me.
I really hadn’t expected my mom to write back after the first few months, although I reminded her last year when she hand delivered a note, that the only communication I wanted from her was a written reply to my letter. This does of course give me a little time to plan how to read the letter I haven’t received yet. I’m thinking the good old standby of opening and reading it at my therapists office.
I am assuming by now that she knows (via my aunt or uncle) that I know the vaginal tearing was far to extensive for her not to have known about it when it happened. She no doubt has a way to justify or ignore that for herself. We’ll see if she responds to that directly in the letter or not. I expect this might be a bit of a doozy. If she essentially bails and only provides me with some of the info I asked for like giving me a couple of anecdotes of when he was creepy to other women, and perhaps some info on the layout of the house we lived in, topped off with another ‘no I didn’t know he was abusing you’, that would almost be easiest to deal with. If she gives me any real information, it might give me nightmares or flashbacks, but I can handle it. Mostly I am decent now at deconstructing her mind games, but just to be sure, I’ll be opening it at my therapists office, and maybe storing it at a friends until I get a chance to read it.
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?