FORGIVENESS

photos by patricia

Guilt? Who needs it? I suffer from it a lot, but am learning to forgive myself, even if I’ve done nothing more than not know how to be ‘my own best friend’. I’m hard on myself. I learned this only because others pointed it out over the years repeatedly. After hearing it enough, I began to believe there was something to it.

I had to forgive myself for the abusive sexual attacks against me by 4 siblings when only a child of 8 and the next few years after. A tremendous amount of guilt and shame invaded my entire being which only intensified as I grew and my thoughts about myself worsened.

In my 20’s, 30’s, up to my 50’s, rage ruled. Behind every interaction rage had to be contained, rage at myself and rage at the world and all the people in it. I was a pressure cooker with the tightest lid around. I appeared nice, sweet and passive but inside it boiled. I do not like looking back at my life and how all feelings had to be contained. 

Writing chapters of who, how and why allowed the pain behind the rage to come up and the tears of healing flowed. As I let the rage and hate go for what they’d done, I needed to forgive me too, for whatever I thought I’d done…even if it was only  that I’d been so cruel to myself, yet kind towards others.

Hate and rage began to loosen its grip during my daily half hour meditation. When I began to find myself and feel my center, nothing else mattered. Being present instead of zoning out began to feel safe and happened more often.

Have I forgiven them? I believe some things are unforgivable. Being sexually attacked as a child is one of them. The best I can say is I let the rage go and let myself off the hook too- and maybe I have forgiven. That doesn’t mean I want to be around people I’m still afraid of.

The most valuable forgiveness was and continues to be… towards myself

ACCEPTANCE

photo by patricia

I fought it, raged against it, but there it was, I was abused. No amount of wishing changing it. Look at her, I want to be her, happy, trusting, loved. The pain, the cruel pain of not wanting to be me followed me everywhere, every minute.

I fanaticized what being ‘her’ was like. And ‘her’ was any girl, adolescent, or woman who looked free of burden. Why me? And the burden became heavier every time I asked.

How could I slow down enough to settle into what is if I couldn’t talk about IT? Familial sexual abuse isn’t light-hearted banter. You can say, “I was mugged on the street and my purse was taken!” And receive comfort and sympathy in return. But you can’t say, “I was raped in my bedroom by my brother!” (or father, uncle, family friend, etc.)

I wrote my book and each word, each chapter, lifted the burden out of a space so deep it was hard to find. It doesn’t matter if anyone reads it. I told my story, I spoke my truth. I am not hiding. And during that process I accepted what is. I was born to a family who hurt me so completely it changed me. I no longer run from that or wish for something else.

At times I’m still wistful when I watch a young woman full of trust and many friends and wonder what that’s like. But it’s not all consuming or constant like it once was. Having many friends does not mean they are close friends. And you only need one. And the one friend I’m learning to check in the most with… is me.

The Silence That Kills

The silence demanded from a child after she is sexually attacked by someone within the family system is where the most harm comes, not from the sexual attacks. A child can recuperate from those with love, help and protection from any further attacks.

It is the silence most children are forced to bear to keep the family safe from shame which kills, figuratively and literally. The family’s shame is too great, greater than the survival of the child. This mistaken belief, that all must be kept quiet to keep the family’s name and unit together needs to radically change to save our children.

Society would not approve, and that must reverse. We as a society must face that this crime occurs and occurs at an alarming rate within families; one of every four girls and one in every six boys.

Forced into silence at an early age, containing horrors that traumatize, a child grows into adulthood mute only knowing how to please others. She is sensitized to the feelings of others not knowing her own or even if she has a right to have them.

It is a constant effort to go down deep and access what is really there because it is still very much a mystery to me. I remind myself daily that I have the freedom and the right to have my own thoughts, views and feelings.

I could have healed and moved on from the sexual attacks when a child. My belief is that an entire family can heal and move on. But only if the attacks are brought to light along with one(s) committing them.

The child should never be alone with the attacker again. All in the family have the freedom to talk about it and to show anger toward the attacker but compassion for the child. Family and individual therapy must be provided.

Compassion for the child must supersede all else. Others are taught to love her even more and protect her from further damage. Then they are taught to work to forgive the attacker(s) but to never forget and always remain vigilant. 

It was the silence demanded that took away everything I had. My body was taken, and from that I could recuperate, it was the silence that took everything else.

Note: I name all childhood sexual abuse as attacks even though the crimes are usually committed manipulatively and quietly. Each one is a heinous, serious assault on a child’s mind, body and spirit.

The Presence of Now

“There go all the good people,” mom said, a bitter triteness in her voice as we drove by the church on Sunday.

Quietly gazing out the window as a teen, my longing to be one of them made me stare believing that we were not. Going to church made you good. But I already knew I was not at age 8.

I still feel it to my core and work daily to grow from a place of shame to a connectedness within where truth, beauty and peace lay waiting. That means letting go of all ties to the origin group I was born into. To others it is called family. To me it is toxic, pulling me down with wishes that only wound me further.

It is time to move on…

Becoming Visible

photo by patricia

Stevie, my one younger brother, emails rarely and does so in group form adding my name to the list with the other three remaining siblings including Tom. It has always bothered me as Tom is the worst offender due to the psychological abuse suffered after his crime which has never stopped even throughout adulthood. Family members seem used to his covert comments about me. 

An email came yesterday, innocent enough. Though I love to hear from Stevie, being in a list with Tom causes my inner core to fracture. It takes the rest of the day to feel restored. In the night after waking in the dark, sleep would not return. It is time to let Stevie know that including me in his group email causes pain and why.

I have been inclined to keep my thoughts to myself because I don’t want to add pain to Stevie’s life after the loss of his daughter four years ago. Becoming visible is very hard— crossing the taboo line that sexual abuse draws.  I dare to cross it, over, and over again. I must. If I don’t stand up for myself, who will? And Stevie is an adult who can handle hearing my preference and why. 

Hi Stevie,

I’d like to be left off emails that include Tom. It brings up a lot of bad memories that interfere with sleeping. He is the worst offender of all four due to the way I was treated all the years after he sexually abused me. I was only 9 when he crept up in the night and committed the crime. He was home from college. You were on the other end of the couch as we had been allowed to fall asleep watching the Christmas tree.

The way he treated me since that shattering moment harmed me more than all I have endured and suffered. He caused great damage that could not resolve because he never apologized or took responsibility. Even in middle age sitting at my table right here, he made remarks to you about how dumb I was when buying this house.

I sat as if invisible while he made the usual sly, cutting remarks and no one thought anything about it. It seemed OK to belittle me. And that is what he has done, albeit slyly, since I was a child… snickered cruel remarks that made me look bad.  

He is not safe for me. He has never shown sorrow for his crime or actions. To be in a group email that includes him causes deep pain as if I still don’t exist because all I went through is not being acknowledged.

Thank you Stevie,

Patricia

PTSD BRAIN

photos by patricia

The mornings feel like fall, cool, damp and with a wet echo-like sound from cars in the distance. Contentment found easily dissolves even from little things. A disruptive thought repeatedly bangs in my head as it rests on the pillow awaiting sleep.

Hopping out of bed to rant at Samuel over not enough to do so over seemed the only remedy. Expelling the vomit did help though left us both feeling bruised. Going to bed a bit later, sleep, blessed sleep came. He hadn’t gotten so upset that his sleep was interrupted and that soothed me.

Part of keeping a contented equilibrium is choice yet the PTSD brain can go haywire without my permission. Little things can set it off. Control what can be controlled, let go of the rest…

CONTENTMENT

“Don’t say anything negative,” I quip to Samuel laying down several green tomatoes from the garden. “I’m frying them the healthy way.”

He is quiet with a quizzical expression then walks away. Later he fills up his plate three times munching happily while watching his show.

Contentment enfolds me with warmth and coziness. There are no emergencies, and with my quirky brain an emergency is ever present. There are no relationships that need dire attention though there is always work to do on them. Everything is alright.

That’s not boredom, it is pure contentment. With the camera hanging from my neck the hammock by the butterfly bush beckons. It is so close to the blossoms there ought to be a few good shots. Today’s visitor is yellow.

Contentment is not something familiar after a life of adrenaline pumps several times daily. Cherishing it while also questioning it, the evenness needs reaffirming. It is OK. This is OK, accepting that it is also ever fleeting. Take it for now and basque in it. 

You don’t need great ups then downs. Like the cat lying in the triangle of sun sprawled out like a long furry rope, then moving with the sun to the doorway to soak up the sunshiny luxury again, you too can follow the sun and move with it.  

Watching the sun rise, then late in the day go down while sipping iced tea with fresh picked mint, the rocker on the porch creaks and I’m settled. Where once there was restless, deep cavernous loneliness, there is now centeredness and contentment.

Something very important inside has connected. When the hide tide with waves takes me to hurricane seas there is a sure way back home, an internal place of peace, contentment and joy. Now to master it even during the storms…