Photos and mosaics by Patricia
It is a rare family that discloses sexual abuse upon one of their own by one of their own. Instead the child is silenced due to the family’s shame. And she is left to hold the trauma’s within her and bear the load on tiny shoulders.
So much stolen. Family stolen. Family that grounds us, terrifies. Family that grounds, betrays. Family that grounds a person through life, gone.
Because a child grows, and she learns that it was not her fault, and she opens the wounds to heal. But family betrays her again. To remain she must be silent.
For many, taking a life all over again is too much, and she goes it alone. She has always been alone anyway. The ones who did it, the ones who knew and did nothing. And if they didn’t know then, they know now.
And still betray. Still abandon. Still stay silent, as silent as she was forced to be. There is no one to stand testament to her pain. Not family. But others who become more family than blood. There is trust in the world if you persist in finding it.
Too easily this haven is taken for granted. One day upon returning from another’s home restless feelings waken. While yesterday’s morning was overflowing with gratitude to feel safe, this morning a reminder was needed.
Remember? It can all be gone in an instant. Soak it up. Luxuriate in it. Be still, breathe. Even the dreaded mockingbirds have become friends, though building a nest nearby is not going to happen if there’s a way to avoid it.
The windows are flung open from the air being on all night. Coolness seeps in. Pink hues rise over the eastern horizon as fog lifts from the meadow. What wonders await on this new day…?
It’s the PTSD. Remember that? The thing that you spent most of your life not acknowledging because nobody else ever did. (which would have made it real, and more importantly would have brought intervention with the possibility of recovery) Laying my head down the thought comes, will I get to sleep tonight? Never a good sign. It is as if I’ve already made up my ever restless mind.
PTSD made living so unbearable, wearing my body down over the years as I tried to keep up with others, so much that the effects became life-long. It literally broke something in the brain, and all the pathways to it. Negative thoughts take hold choking me. There is science behind it, but don’t ask me to explain, or do a research paper. (I have enough to worry about) The neural pathways are funky, even the slightest disturbance fires them up.
That’s what happens when trauma goes unprocessed. My family, and most family’s, sure as hell won’t give credence to sexual abuse occurring within their midst. Intervention is crucial at the time of the trauma(s). Will it ever be? Will sexual abuse to a child by a family member, or friend of the family, or even the camp counselor ever be talked about openly? So that the child can process the trauma?
I know I would have needed to talk about it, all of it, over and over again. Just like my grand-son after the terrific car crash where his baby sister and mother were beside him as the lights swirled, and the ambulance paramedics loaded them all onto stretchers.
He spent many visits with me in the garage and on the driveway putting up bright orange emergency cones, and turning on the red flashing lights Samuel had installed on his battery operated jeep. The story started with Mommy holding up her hurt arm, and his sister crying. But over time he became the paramedic saving everyone. The hero mastering the situation that threatened his psych now healed. He went on to other things, the crash no longer holding his mind, memory or nervous system hostage to the terror. .
That is the intervention needed but never comes, a safe accepting environment where the trauma, like any other trauma, can be worked through with care, love and patience.
That must change for our little girls (boys) to survive. The dirty details others are uncomfortable listening to need to be spoken. Only in hearing the evil things done to little ones will change occur. It is happening in your family, behind the closed door bedroom where the children are ‘exploring’ but it goes too far because one of them already knows more that they should, or in the tent out in the backyard, the tree-house at the neighbor’s, at Auntie Peg’s when Uncle George is home, at Scouts, camp, or anyplace when you are not watching, noticing, and intervening.
It could be as simple as saying, ‘OK you two, find another game to play,’ with a smile, not a look of horror on your face. Or keep the door open, don’t allow long periods of time out in the cute little playhouse where nobody’s watching. Watch. Kids explore. And too often older kids, even young children, have learned too early what feels good ‘down there’ and act out for more on other children who don’t yet know.
Having sexual feelings awakened at too young an age causes it to expand to other children quickly. It isn’t always an adult, adolescent, or teen. It can be a child of the same age as your own child who had it done to them, and now knows about the powerful feelings that feel so good more is naturally wanted.
Waking in the night, or unable to fall asleep without a sleep aid isn’t always about something wrong, something that needs changing, or something that needs paying attention to. Often everything is in its place, and my life is being lived in alignment with my beliefs and principles.
Nothing is wrong; everything is wrong. It is unprocessed trauma that damaged my systems permanently. It is PTSD, my little beast that won’t be tamed. My mind turns on the negatives which become louder in the darkness, rolling through like thunder, activating the system that has been on the edge since age 8.
The courage for family’s to intervene when Uncle Joe, Daddy, or even sometimes Mommy sexually abuses a child at the time it occurs, saves her, and offers a road to complete healing. That is yet to come for most families who allow their shame to cause destruction to their daughters(sons). It just doesn’t happen, not yet. Not until we are brave enough to stand up and say this happens, and at a rate you don’t want to know about, which is why it happens.
Recently I woke up dreaming of Tom. We were close by each other and seemingly alright, but I clearly remember thinking, He doesn’t know how badly he hurt me. He never asked, nor ever asked to be forgiven. No one did. The other three are dead. I don’t know about Chet’s two friends who also attacked me, having such fun while I suffered silently.
I am 66. I still need to speak of what was done. I never had a chance to. And I may not live long enough to process it all and be done with it because the damage still causes suffering. I will do what I need to do until it is done. I want it to be done now, but wanting is not reality, and denying what is doesn’t work. The damage is irreversible. Due to diligence, courage, strength and miracles, periods of graceful joy occur, then inevitably tumble into times that are not.
photo by Patricia
Upon waking the first feeling is a flash of fear. How to mold the day with discipline, another one to face in a way to feel good about at day’s end. The sun sunk behind the horizon will shine, and the dark thoughts will be chased away by its beams.
That is it, how to live each day so that the brilliance within shines. So that the best comes out, and the rest is worked with patiently, and with loving acceptance.
Beyond the years accumulated where the childhood beliefs ruled, there is a being who partook in life with the wild abandon of joy. Moments of it erupted while doing things dearly loved; running the horse through the fields on a summer’s day, digging in dirt to plant, the soil tying me to mother earth as one while bird melodies make sweet music to work by.
Just sitting, paying attention to the body, allowing each muscle to relax, the cool cement of the patio on my feet while the sun warms the rest of my body. Relaxed enough to feel the sun, hear the birds, and ingest the intoxicating aromas around me.
It is news to me that the many milkweeds Samuel so carefully harvested in the meadow for the monarch’s to multiply on, emit a fragrance so luscious it made me wonder where it was coming from. The wild roses had come and gone while we were away, but the blissful hint of another blossom made me walk over to a milkweed that had flowered. There was the answer to the mystery as I breathed in deeply.
Directing myself to just be takes deliberate intent, but worth the effort as all the senses come alive if relaxed enough to let them in.
Life became an all-out war against myself. I made it that way when turning each day into a pass or fail day depending on the scale, just as my family had done. Lose weight, you are normal. The punisher took over, always ready to take on the job with glee; chastising, criticizing, stealing the joy out of life.
Take back the moment, which means dwelling on now, not the size of my body, and what a failure I am. Days became dark. The usual depression combated by working at positive self-talk deepened without knowing why.
Eating patterns developed in childhood to survive came on stronger manifesting into all that mattered. Life is so much more than about that.
None of the usual summertime pleasures were enjoyable, but robotically completed instead. All of my psyche turned on me, like it had much of my life. The only way these past few years that life became joyful was remembering that it is not the size of my body that matters, but the being inside it.
Yes, the body matters, but so does treating myself lovingly, which includes understanding why my food habits are such, not hating myself for them. Softness simply destroyed, gone, lost, and out the window.
I want the life back that says I am good inside my soul, no matter the outside trappings. To feel good about who I am, what I do, and what I say. Confront the beast that tells me otherwise, because that loud echoing from my past— the family I came from who taught me to be silent, meant eating to stuff it.
How quickly I became lost. Interactions lately with each of them has poked the ‘beast.’ She arrived frothing with self-hatred stealing my joy.
I don’t know the answers, only that it is my life to love and I will.
I am so sorry for the burdens you bear and I hope your struggles find you some measure of peace and serenity as time moves on. With my love, that is my wish for you. Don
My response: Thank you for that. I am more at peace than ever before, which equates to happy. Patricia : )
Relief arose with a few tears. My needs were spoken and heard. No offers of coming, but it was clear what I’d like even if not provided. It was hard, and not my way to spell out burdens. My life teachings from the origin family is silence. What comes out of my mouth is not what is in my soul. That has become untenable. If it can’t be spoken, it can be written… and was.
Only here where no restraints are felt is a place of freedom. Every time he’d offer a welcome to come visit feelings of guilt came, that the scarce relationship was all my doing. It felt up to me to do something about it. It weighed on me heavily, not wanting to feel a deep, cumbersome, cloying regret if he were to die first.
I have a friend like that, calling when she’d like a warm body to visit decorating her home with her needs being met, but coming here is not on her agenda though if pressed she will.
Laying in bed at the usual wake-up in the middle of the night after using the bathroom, negativity began overtaking me. Rolling over determined not to get up to watch news, eventually sleep came. Perhaps it is the cold, dark days which should be summery, but are as stormy as my thoughts,. Go back to the basics.
Live each moment as a gift no matter how it is wrapped. Often the wrapping is anxiety, so unfold the buzzing crunchy folds by doing things you love. Puzzles calm. Walks open mysteries lost if not out there doing it. Simple daily chores are satisfying when in my body and core. Do not be afraid, be grateful for this gift called life.