The Family Pull

photos by Patricia

A sister-in-law I have never been close sent a link about their travels cross-country in a camper. She touts how they all gather at Tom’s. His real name is John. Since reading it I cannot wash him off lying awake thinking of the life-time of his psychological abuse. Feelings of being left out is a wound never quite healed and needs tending again.

After making it known to three siblings that I wrote a book nothing was said. One completely cut off ties. I need more and it isn’t there. The failure to offer compassion, alliance or acknowledgment erects a barrier.

Any interaction is like pouring water over rock. The lack of profundity for the truth makes interaction intolerable. Not one stands up and says THIS WAS WRONG. Instead they cling to each other and the abuser.

What happens in families of origin when a sexual abuse survivor comes forward seems a common theme. Don’t talk or speak of it or you’re out. It has nothing to do with the survivor yet has everything to do with her. The ‘family’ cleaves to the natural order of clan instinctively banning together no matter what.

It looks like family but is powered by weak character and lack of strength. Each has their own agenda. I am outcast to have spoken. Yet I must speak and need to belong.

Cherish the family I have built. The more space I have the better I feel. But my shoulders slump walking the meadow. Beauty in the day has dimmed. Lift them up and feel who you are, not what they say you are, or what you think they say to make themselves feel better. 

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RIGHTEOUSNESS IN NUMBERS

foggy sunrise-photo by Patricia

Being a child sexually abused by a family member is a special kind of hell. Family will turn against her clinging to each other if she speaks of it. And that is for life. They gather round the abuser exalting him. At least it seems that way to the child now woman.

Some may find support from family, but many must fend for themselves and make their own family. She returns time and again hoping. She is alone and in her aloneness finds freedom. Eventually the reality holds memories without pain.

The Hole

Help from others in the past brought solace. Leaning on others when the empty hole yawned like an endless cavern threatening to devour my sanity eased me through difficulty. It did not sustain adequately as the empty hole to run from remained. Others were asked for input on how I felt and what I thought because connection internally had not occurred. I was perpetually lost.

How to find that place when trauma kept me from it, when resting in the nectar of the soul is impossible because it is on fire not freshly swelling with honey? The lessons learned in childhood were that I was unlovable, unworthy and not capable. I yearned to belong and fit in. Help from the origin family came with conditions. Eventually those conditions were not possible. 

The pull to the clan is a basic instinct. To be rejected from the tribe means sure death. Once connections began within myself the origin family became poison. They are poisonous still. 

Everything that I knew as a child was stripped away, shattered and stolen. When sexually attacked by those I loved and trusted much was taken, much was lost— trust, innocence, the ownership of my own body, the feeling of belonging, the feeling I even had a right to be here, a sense of self, my sexuality…the list goes on. Challenges intensified as years passed and life’s responsibilities increased.     

The child that was disappeared. Who she became changed. Sadness permeated my being once the running stopped and acceptance came for what was done. The craving for acceptance into the fold kept me returning repeatedly with hope. There comes a time to stop looking for what will never come.

There are many paths to that place within that is home. Fleeing from it throughout life was the norm. With spirit, determination, and a dogged persistence it becomes possible to stay with what is. Instead of a dark scary place the hole became a bright lively room with doors to more rooms. Eventually the rooms open to each other. With excitement the exploration goes on.  

At times panic sets in but a voice, perhaps god speaks. She says, “You have everything that you need.” 

The panic abates. Peace soothes as answers come. It is imperative to connect to ones being. Yet it is only late in life that this miracle has opened up such possibilities. Expansion occurs each new day. The gaping painful hole became home. 

 

ALONE

photo by Patricia

The aloneness of childhood sexual abuse may be one of the hardest to live with in the aftermath. It is not a ‘lonely’ like any others. It is a scratching and clawing on internal walls aching for relief. The spirit insists on splitting from the body and its feelings.

Run. Get away from the feelings but where—toxic behaviors, substances, activities, the list of how and where to run is as long and creative as each person abused as a child. Leaning on others helped until the running stopped.

Venturing into the pain with curiosity and patience as my pen wrote brought out the black tar and along with it the joys. With each chapter my internal world became spacious as the chaos slowly bubbled up and peace settled into places where trauma had been. 

Writing the memoir released my real life for the very first time. With it came sadness, pain and joy. Because when trauma is suppressed so is everything else.

Locked below with the silence, the shadow of a child grew into a ghost of a woman. Forced to stifle horror caused separation and loneliness so great she had to run because nowhere was OK especially inside herself. All the feelings were bumping into themselves.

The child surrendered to the will of the ‘family.’ How could she not, it was the only family she had. Families silence the child because no one should know of their shame and what one of them did. So she shall be ashamed. It is what will keep her silent.

It is also what will keep her from herself with no real friend because she is not her own friend. Nor does anyone know what she endured. She learns to turn on herself as her family does though they disguise it. She is alone. It looks like she is in a family, but she is alone adrift like a dinghy cut loose from the mother ship.

Unable to connect to her center she runs from the scraping and clawing aloneness inside herself. She runs until she can run no longer.  When she stops running she faces the beast of her past. Behind the rage there is terror and deep sadness. It takes years to settle the score. Not towards others but inside where she now needs to connect and learn to love what others discarded. 

She faces the beast of her truth. Some draw, others write, dance or sing, but the beast is cut down with every memory that has been silenced. When the trauma well is emptied stillness provides a place for peace to come. Tears bring relief and when the warring inside is over she can began the process of recovery which may take her lifetime.

The shackles of invisibility fall as she speaks her truth. Her authentic self emerges because she has courageously opened the jail door to freedom. 

TABOO

Patricia

When a child falls into a well then is saved, a dramatic news cast is aired. The family wraps their arms around the child devoting all energies to her survival and care. Not so for a child sexually abused. She stands alone. She is treated like a plague, looked at like one, and trained into silence.

Keeping unprocessed trauma inside her where it festers damages many bodily systems. When one system is damaged such as the nervous system, now on a steady red alert, it impairs the health of other body systems.

The family corners the child into silence no matter what method; shame, guilt, the threat of abandonment, whatever it takes. The child knows and feels these threats though they may never be spoken aloud. She is sacrificed, her life, sanity, and safety for the sake of the family and its ‘good’ name.

When a child grows up suffering the horrors of sexual abuse in silence, she becomes a shell of her real self. She cannot talk about her overwhelming traumas. Nor does she receive condolence, nurturing, support, love, kudos for her courage and bravery for surviving them, or acknowledgement for her other attributes that come from the will and determination to survive. These attributes go unnoticed and not congratulated or reinforced because no one knows or understands what she has endured.

She cannot soak up a community of kindness and compassion for all she has gone through. She would had it been any other trauma. It is not accepted to talk about childhood sexual abuse. A great part of who she is goes underground and stays there, sometimes for life.

She feels fake, unreal, and invisible. She attacks herself in her loneliness, betrayed by every person who will not listen. And the shame felt during the attacks adds to her silence. For a child takes things in as her fault. Keeping her quiet is easy.

If allowed to process the traumas at the time they occurred the damage to body and mind is greatly reduced and even healed. She can continue on as the little girl she was. But the family won’t talk. She is silenced, shattered and alone.

Lock Ness

Forgive: When a person decides to satisfy their lust using a child’s body, their actions are not forgivable. If one does not forgive the unforgivable how do you move on? By unclenching the clawed, hairy fist of the beast from my heart, squeezing it so tight I could hardly breathe or function. Rage, hate and anxiety ruled my life.

It took years to release the grip of each finger, blood flowing smoother until each sticky claw was off. The beast slipped back into the murky black depths of the scum topped lake. My precious heart was free and once again able to gently pump blood to the extremities, pure, clear and at peace.

Yet the beast rears it’s ugly head at times. In present day scenarios hurts occur. Some run deep reminiscent of wounds unhealed that never will. My heart becomes grasped by hate, anger and resentment.

Help me to forgive. Release me from this. The call to the source within that universally connects us all to each other helps set me on the path to peace. So easily my heart is disrupted needing to be soothed.

Compassion and kindness erupt while walking the yellowy meadow. Tears fall for the child held down, the child despised by the adult me.. 

FREEDOM

photos by Patricia

Freedom is an odd word. My thoughts are a powerful prison. Negative thoughts flow like an endless march. The taste of freedom when positivity arises makes me yearn for more. It does not come naturally.

Bounded by invisible chains of silence that protects the family unit caged me. Separating from the family of origin did not release the cement block of silence which stifled my being gagging all parts except hate, bitterness, revenge and rage.

Freedom from repetitive negative thoughts about myself began to occur once my truth was spoken. Freedom, that’s freedom. Childhood beliefs about my core badness were questioned deep down where it counts. The judge and jury ruled that harshness was to be overruled and the innocent shall go free with kindness and compassion.

The binding chains of my childhood wrapped my thoughts about life, living, being and who I am into twisted rope that I hung myself on. There was no way out. Attempts to flee were discouraged. The horrors were unleashed one by one because once tasting freedom, real freedom, I wanted more. The origin family rejects the truth discarding me with it.

Pulling up courage like armor strong yet warm, moments of extraordinary peace settled in my core radiating outward. Freedom, to breath, to be in the moment…safe. To allow myself the freedom to belong just as everyone else does. Others take this human right for granted. There are those who never had it.

Buried in concrete my shame became me. Freedom to speak allowed escape into a life worth living, a real person who had a right to be here with special traits, talents, thoughts and feelings. The path to my heart, body and soul was illuminated.

No one holds me hostage now.