It is a story of anguish and internal conflict on a daily basis. It is also a story of determination and courage and commitment to change for the better.
It is a story similar to some, but unlike most.
It is my story, and I offer it to you.
This book is a glimpse into the creative process that helped saved my life. I am a survivor of seven years of childhood sexual abuse. I will never directly name my abuser in these pages. That is not what this book is about. I will, however, name all of the ways in which I have been affected by someone’s hands, someone’s words, someone’s inability to address me or the abuse that I experienced. There are many parts of myself whose voices contributed to this healing journey. This book will offer vignettes, poems, artwork, and personal musings, all directly related to the painful and necessary process of coming to an awakened place of healing. It is written in four parts:
Shredded- this section gives space to the pain that was inflicted to my mind, body, and spirit. It talks about identifying triggers, states of numbing out and self-medication, difficulties in relating to my body in a healthy way. It talks most heavily about the direct abuse, although, never gives graphic accounts of what was done directly to me. If you are a survivor reading this, this section may be difficult to get through. If you feel called to read these pages, know that the sharing of my pain in the past has helped others, and this is the main reason why I do it now.
Intricate Catalyst- this section holds space for the poignant agents that ignited movement in me towards a path of healing and gaining access to a life of sobriety and purpose.
Lost Pieces- this section holds space for all of the misfit phantom limbs that were born as a direct result of necessary and essential parts of my psyche that were amputated by someone else’s touch. It looks into the depths of loss of my perception of sensations, including pain, emotions, psychological wellness, and what I experienced as a result of trying to move forward in the world in a state of pushing myself to be whole and complete instead of accepting and counting my losses as a disability holding me back from moving forward. I attempted to move and function in the world unconscious of PTSD, incapable of grasping compassion towards myself. My PTSD symptoms consistently show up as the phantom pains of things that were lost, things that were taken, things that will never be fully restored.
On the Mend- This section reveals tools that I was able to obtain in my healing journey. I talk about what worked best for me to help me reconnect and reclaim all of the parts that had been emotionally and psychologically disfigured. These tools eventually led me to a place of being of service to others who are survivors, as an advocate for domestic and sexual violence, as an activist in the community, as an artist sharing my voice.
To my family...
My intent in publishing my book is not to inflict harm on anyone. Enough harm has been done already. I do understand, though, that the truth is painful, and that shedding light on my struggle with being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse will, no doubt, push many buttons.
It’s not my fault that I was molested. It has taken me years in order for me to accept that statement. I had always, in the back of my mind, felt that it was something that I had done to cause it.
I was told that I dreamt it up, in an effort to cover up the fact that it happened for seven years. Or in an effort to just not face the truth. I am still unsure of why those words were uttered to me at a time when I needed to be loved and supported, not questioned or accused of making up such a horrible story. I wanted to hide the fact that I was sexually abused from others, because I was tired of being attacked even more. I was afraid of being called damaged, a victim, abnormal, crazy, but mostly, of being told I was wrong, or that I needed to prove it. I was angry that many people in my life who were supposed to have protected me from harm had very few internal and external resources to draw from to address my pain.
I had a lot of anger about that for many years, but now I am in place where I see things from a slightly different perspective:
It is my responsibility, to move through the pain and come to a place of forgiveness, no matter what was done to me.
It is my responsibility to speak my truth, no matter if anyone takes my side or validates me.
It is my responsibility to move forward and to learn from my experiences, and to get to a place of healing where I can let go of the pain of the past, no matter how much of me fights or resists change.
It is my responsibility to create a positive future for my growing family, no matter what obstacles I face to accomplish this.
It is my responsibility to embrace opportunities that will help set me free, no matter what threatens to hold me hostage in pain and anger.
It is my duty to compassionately honor the child within me that was isolated for so long in her pain, no matter what.
I look into my daughter’s eyes now. I see her, and I cannot fathom how anyone could put their child in harm’s way. I dedicate this book to her, and to the child within, so that this type of pain may never carry weight on another generation.
To the Survivor...
If you have made it to this page, I applaud you. I could not pick up any type of book that shared personal stories about the effects of sexual abuse until I was about 25. When I was finally able to make it through the first personal journey, Miss America by Day, by Marilyn VanDurber, I got to see and feel the truth that I was not alone. Reading stories like that one, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou, played a huge role in my healing, and is absolutely one of the main reasons why I am sharing my story now.
These pages may be hard to read. There is a great possibility that there will be things that I touch on that will make you uncomfortable. You may feel like shutting down completely. There may be other things that I touch on that may bring you a sense of clarity and a deeper understanding of your own personal truth and pain.
All of it is ok.
This is your journey through these pages, not anyone else’s.
I used to beat myself up every time I attempted to read personal stories of abuse. Most of the times I would just end up slamming the books shut and crying myself to sleep. There were deep, dark, terrible things that lived inside of me, and I wanted to be free of them, but I also didn’t want to unleash Pandora’s box. I was terrified of losing control of my emotions, and the darkness that I felt at any moment would consume me, so I had to take things in small steps.
Give yourself permission to read or not read. All of it is ok. This book is in your hands, and you have to power to do with it and move through it however works best for you. If you get to a place where you feel like shoving your head under a pillow and screaming, take a step back. Scream if you have to, but don’t force the growth. That will only cause further damage. I know this from experience. I rushed around for years trying to fix it all at once because I wanted to be better NOW, but all that did was land me in a state where I shut down longer than I anticipated, my psyche REFUSED to move forward because it was incapable of handling it without tools to help me cope. What I didn’t understand when I read or heard other people’s stories was that I was triggered by PTSD, and I didn’t have the understanding or vocabulary back then to communicate or identify the significance of my experiences or symptoms. Rest and renewal is a part of the healing process. So is learning how to find your limits, and nurture yourself in your pain, not bully yourself to try and accomplish more. I did that for years, feeling that everything that I was trying just wasn’t working fast enough. In the end, I learned painfully and awkwardly how to relinquish my need to control how thorough and fast my healing came about.
The damage cannot be healed with a quick fix, or with one magic “thing” ,and I will expand on that very concept in the section On The Mend, as it relates to addiction and recovery.
There is no race. Get through it at your own pace, and seek outside resources for help as well. There were many counselors that didn’t know how to help navigate my healing process, but there were a few that I clung onto for dear life, because of how tremendous they shifted me forward in my growth.
I will add an appendix of resources for victims of sexual abuse and violence, in case you are needing more support and resources in your life.
If you are an adult dealing with the effects of childhood sexual abuse, please remember that you are not alone. If you feel that it is a safe and empowering step to take, I encourage you to call the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE)
In case you need immediate help and/or you are in an emergency situation where you feel that you will hurt yourself or someone else, call 911. Reach out and talk to someone. Don’t suffer alone. I know the phone may feel like a trillion pounds heavy when it comes to asking for help, but there are people who are here for you, and you matter.
The world is sharp, sending us flailing against our own barbs.
Vulnerability is a threatening and uncomfortable state to embrace. It is not common practice to embrace the unknown, the shadows of life, the vulnerable. Embracing a state of raw openness tends to push people to hide, to cut off feeling, to freeze up and seek the fastest escape route. Many people taught me directly that feelings and vulnerability needed to be cut off at the source. Many people taught me that I should shame myself deeply for my humanness. Many people taught me to punish myself for sharing the deepest parts of myself.
That’s what’s at stake here. On these pages. The possibility of being picked apart, of throwing myself into the lion’s den, if I write these things. If I am honest.
I’ve worked so hard to not cut out the most important pieces of who I am due to someone else’s discomfort with vulnerability. These words may be a disappointment. These words may not capture the full extent of my story. These words have the potential to be translated into other languages of self-hatred if I allow them. Will I share these things? Will I rewire my belief system about the possible damage speaking out could do to me? To others? What’s truly at stake if I stay silent?
The words also have the potential of being a blessing, of being an asset instead of a liability. These words could possibly shed light into someone else’s darkness. What’s truly at stake if I stay silent?
These words carry my authentic voice, my courage, and my resilience. How will I be received by others? I have to ask, on such a deep level, how important is an outside opinion on my story, and does it weigh more than my own?
I woke up from this dream
And it was raining
I had been walking
Thorns in hands
Tearing through people
With language and defenses tightly shredding
Not out of fear
Not out of self-protection
But because I had finally gotten there
I had finally reached the depths
I woke up from this dream
And it is still raining
I had been watching
Like in a theater from a distance
Children from all over
Some being sold because their families couldn’t eat
Some because no one in their lives protected them
Some because it was a way of life
Some because there were too many people pretending things don’t happen
That rape and boundaries never get crossed
That children are meant to be murdered because of their skin color
That children are meant to bear arms to protect their country
But end up bearing their arms, with fists locked and aimed,
At each other
Children from all over are being lost
Because their wounds are too raw to access
Because their pain is too deep to heal
Because suicide, drug abuse, murder, and cutting are the only answers
And ethnic genocide in this country
Gets buried just as deep as the innocent people who lost their lives
I woke up from this dream and I found
That it wasn’t raining after all
For it was only the sound of my own weeping
That had touched the ground
My mind is constantly chasing butterflies. Restless. Always restless. Life seems to be one collective mess of misunderstanding and disappointment. I’d rather feed myself on clouds than anything else. What’s real, anyway?
It’s supposed to be sacred. The first times. All of the first times deserve to be sacred and whole. Not fractured. Not these splinters digging under my skin. Under my nails. Scratching away at my very existence.
Kids are meant to have sacred spaces. Their bodies are meant to be protected. Parents are meant to be protective. Not like this shattered fun house. Everything is upside down.
I have this love/hate relationship with you. You’ve made me literally sick.. swollen tonsils for years of choking on you. Holding words back. I was never meant to be a container for this, feeling endlessly like my seams will burst. Trying so hard to keep everything reigned in and controlled. What happens if I let go? What happens if I let you win?
Silence. I have this love/hate relationship to you. You have brought me peace, and grounding, and have created a space where the spinning stops. Where I can breathe again.
Silence... why do you hold me hostage like this? Always at gun point. Don’t you fucking tell a soul. Silence... I want to break out. To dance. To laugh. To be cherished and joyful. I want more than this tight-fisted, white-knuckle experience. Silence.... you’ve given me space to pray and listen and hold space for other people’s pain. You’ve shown me the fucking importance of finding my voice in all of this. To awkwardly learn how to be vulnerable in your arms.
Silence, how could you have been such a poison to me from the beginning? Laced with so much fucking shame. Led me to believe no one would listen anyway?
Silence... how can you be so sacred to me.. a place to regroup and ground and heal and process in tremors and shaking. How can you hold me so close, yet lead me to believe my story isn’t important?
Why were you offered instead of solace? Instead of understanding? Instead of safe space?
Why did I have to tear through you to be heard finally?
Why were you roaring all around me with such indifference to my pain?
Silence... how can you heal me now? Like a soft whisper through the trees? Like a peaceful night of sleep? Like a lover’s comforting embrace? I’m so confused by you, whether you are a tool or a weapon or a mirror or indifference.
What are you to me?
A friend? A foe?
You surely made me sick, and you also healed my deepest wounds.
Silence... how can you carry so much? Weigh so much on my heart and thoughts? Lift me up out of all of the noise that you first created?
You were a part of the original storm. The secrecy. The lies. The sweeping everything under the rug. The blaming and shaming me for nothing I did. You are a blessing now. To hold my daughter in peace, at least for a single moment and not be ripped to shreds by some version of distorted fear.. you are a blessing and a curse, but the healing you now bring into my heart.
Into my mind... for that space of Peace and trust, silence. .. for that I will be forever truly grateful.
refuses to sit back
and watch the budding life of words pass by
in each breath and each sigh
silence and disillusionment
thrashes about with great strength and resistance
like an innocent man
strapped to death row
gagged in restraint
silences everything that shuts it out
try to fit it with bit and reign
slices through this endless game
knows the secrets that burn on its tip
edgy and swordlike
overgrown with labels and linguistics
dyslexic and illiterate
hiccuped into existence
knows a challenge
like a bull to a red flag
knows when to stand
and applaud in laughter
knows when to sit still in its halter
cannot be silenced or renamed
speaks of the truth that cannot be tamed
rides metaphors with whispered progression
moves heavy into thoughtful expression
alone yet surrounded
in a language and territory clouded
with rhymes and rhythms pounding
alive and alarming
and constantly found in
each mindful dance
of wild tongue’s twisted essenc
I haven’t really known how to carry the burden or telling or not telling. Two separate roads that have the potential to yield devastating results.
I’ve travelled the road of silence. I’ve carried his satchel of secrets long enough. It’s time to put it down. On paper.
There are so many moments that have been clouded over. There were so many people who tried to rub out the truth. Silence, if left to its own devices with this kind of poison can transform into some horrific things. Uncontrollable rage. Disassociative disorders. Self-mutiliation. Suicide attempts and suicide successes. Fistfuls of psychosis. Physical ailments. Debilitating fear. Substance abuse… panic disorders… depression… promiscuity…sexual dysfunction.
Darkness Darkenss Darkness. Everywhere
I’ve seen it in myself, and I have seen it in the survivors I work with on a daily basis.
I am not interested in laying out all of the historic details of every account what happened to me in seven years’ time. Scribing all of that on paper would seem, to some, cathartic. I’ve had several psychologists in the past recommend me make a timeline. Write a timeline, Of seven years of abuse.
Well I can’t and don’t want to do that. Writing a timeline triggers me. Excavating that much detail is not a healthy practice for me. I once, in a vain and compassionless ferver, attempted to just dig and dig until I got to the core of everything. I learned in a very painful way that doing those kinds of things does not bring healing, but in fact re-traumatizes me. I’m not interested in subjecting myself to that process ever again
Ribbons of migration
Like Chinese Dragons
Snaking across the sky
Feathers ablaze in the morning sun
Led from the heart
A balance of trusting instinct
I hope to fly that free one day
What hurts me most about my abuse... shame, guilt, negative body image, can’t share about my first kiss innocently with my friends, nightmares, fear of the dark, can’t sleep without the door being closed, paranoia and anxiety, depression, feeling it was my fault or that there was something wrong with me if no one tried to stop it, going in destructive patterns with men, not trusting myself or my feelings, destroying some of my early artwork and poetry due to negative reactions to my self expression, self mutilation because of how others treated me, anger, had to set boundaries with family members, overprotective with my daughter and fear of things that could harm her, PTSD and how it affects my relationship to others, shutting down in the midst of emotions and not being able to fully express myself, having felt like I was abandoned by God and the current process of working on building trust with God, having felt like I was not protected and that my disclosure wasn’t seen as truth, I had no one to turn to, never feeling safe EVER, feeling isolated in my pain and finding it impossible at times to reach out and talk or ask for help, inability to enjoy sex or talk about sex without triggers, my mind /body/ spirit and emotional bodies were wounded severely, the allies that I found in my recovery were mostly not in my own family, fear of myself and my anger, fear of losing control, fear I will slip so deep and never come back, suffering from the pain and guilt whenever I push away others that get too close to me, not being able to stand whenever I am in a vulnerable state, I still have trouble with walls and trusting people- especially the ones I love, hypervigilance launching me to a constant state of expecting to be hurt and disappointed all of the time, engaging in relationships with terrible men I dated or had feelings for which created more room for self punishment, I’ve had to walk away from people that I care about because it was the best /healthiest thing for me to do, scared of postpartum and it opening more depths of the PTSD, fear of losing control all of the time, obsessive thinking about bad things that could happen to me, expecting the worst in situations and walking around with like Final Destination thinking playing in my head constantly, hating my body, thinking that I was only valuable as a sexual object, convinced I was unlovable and completely disposable...
A simple act of grace
to mend the broken wish
For these children to hold the world
in a masquerade of faith
Dying stars in some
Effortless life in others
Holding wings up with glass hands
Shattered by the weight of it all
How could we not slice each other
As we take to the sky
How dare they expect us to not have muddied hands
Riddled with grief and guilt
Simple children with glass hands
Broken by the burden of hand me down wounds
Try them on for size
We’re too little for this
Not big enough for that
Simple burden over time
A dying star of love
Effortless shame for others
We are too little for this..
My healing comes not from sitting in a room sorting and venting through memories. My healing comes with hands open, heart open, paintbrush and pen, fingers in the soil, ears open with compassion. My healing is active and engaged in the community, dedicated to vital changes and transformations. My healing comes not from a single room with a single person. My healing comes parading in with villages and voices and colors ablaze.
You keep showing up in my dreams lately. Sometimes I scream and tear at your presence. Sometimes I freeze up and can’t say what I need or want to say. Sometimes I see you in a classroom sitting silently across from me. Always learning. Always learning.
I know that I need you in order to heal, but sometimes it feels like I’d rather be poisoned with anger. I know that you are not the same as forgetting and moving on. There are some seriously deep places that could use your presence and healing.
I don’t understand how, in order to get to you, I have to walk completely through the burning rage in my chest threatening my breath in every moment.
The need to heal has to become more important than the need to protect myself. I don’t know how to move in that space sometimes. Actually, more often than not.
Especially with lingering silence and lack of apologies.
I demanded those a couple of times, but in all honesty, I deserve an apology for every single moment that comes to mind now.
His hands all over me in the dark every night. For seven years. His hands on me in the daytime. For seven years.
For being told I was a liar to get attention. How can no one believe me? Must I be the only one to hold the single flame of my story in order to keep it alive? To not lose myself completely in self-doubt so that I enter that place of complete repression?
For being told to get over it every time I couldn’t enjoy sex so that he could cum.
For being told to get over it every time I tried to talk about it.
For being told to get over it every time I tried to love the unattainable.
For being told it wasn’t rape by three different guys.
For the “first time” being date raped while Nirvana played Rape Me in the background.
For cutting out my entire being in the name of a teenage boy who was incapable of returning love, and for that incapability to draw out in me the need to compulsively punish myself with razorblades.
For the rumors that were spread after I disclosed the abuse.
For being called a disposable hole.
For being shunned by some of my family members when I decided to stand up for myself and separate myself from toxic people and relationships. For being assumed that I was a bad daughter and unnecessarily punishing others and causing pain.
For the social ostracization by my peers on a daily basis, and being blacklisted for just being myself in all of my weighted pain.
For being told I need to stop acting out my “wounded child”.
For me accommodating for all of that pain and excusing everyone from their parts
Forgiveness… sometimes you are a wicked bitch to deal with. Sometimes you push me so far into the pain that I have nowhere else to go but to you.
Sometimes I can sit for longer moments and consider you. Truly consider you. I can feel the places tighten up when you walk towards me, this constant fight I have with allowing you close.
I remember using your name first when I found out he was abused himself. It seemed easier to manage in my head somehow. Explainable.
I can feel the vomit trying to rise in my throat as the memories float up.
I definitely have a different perspective now, and I seem way farther away from you now than ever.
How do I do this without apologies? Well-deserved apologies, I might add.
What would I really do with an apology?
Why do I keep expecting them to show up somehow, like a belated birthday card, emptier in value the longer time passes.
I think even if I were to have been offered an apology every time he touched me, I wouldn’t know what to do with it. It would seem inexplicably false to me. You can’t apologize those things away. The trajectory that each ripple of those embraces created. You can’t apologize for all of that.
I think even if I were to have been offered a genuine apology for being treated as disposable and laughable and a complete joke, I would have found myself saying once again, “It’s ok, don’t worry about it.”
I think I’ve only allowed myself the space to reach actual rage a handful of times, and I always apologize afterwards.
"It’s ok, I’m fine..."
There have been places that I have managed to sink to, darkest places ,where compromising every valuable asset that I have is common practice. I don’t know how to find you in those places so that I can apply you to myself. I feel torn between moving backward in shame , self-punishment, and disgust or forward in compassion and unconditional love. It’s a weird and difficult tango with you most times, for sure.
I am definitely more apt to allow you in to mediate my relationships than to let you settle in close so that I can feel you in the very necessary areas that need you the most. Self Love and Self Care have been trying to set us up on a lunch date. I can’t bear to show up that presently for you yet. I just can’t.
I don’t know why it is the hardest to allow you in. Maybe it’s just years of practice of being malleable in order to be accepted. To belong with others, I must accommodate my pain in small, invisible compartments. Keep it hidden under sleeves and tucked away in dark corners, like every time I cut into my own flesh, I never let them see.
I never let anyone see.
How do I let you in to those places, Forgiveness? Or the places that hold the deepest ravines of shame and guilt that cut into the landscape of my tender heart? It feels unruly and impossible. I thrash recklesslessly in those places, lashing out at anyone in a five foot radius of me. In those places I feel deserving to be alone and in pain.
As the tears silently pull me to my knees, I know without a doubt, even if I don’t quite know how to make that journey, I must descend to those very places with you holding my hand. I don’t think I will make it out alive without that necessary journey.
The things that were taken from my childhood, how could this be a place of darkness and self blame for me? Why are my hands the ones tainted with blood. Out damn spot, OUT I SAY!
That’s how I have felt on most days, to the ones that were supposed to protect me from these places. A damn spot that just needs to be scrubbed out completely to get rid of the evidence.
The evidence that something could have been done. I was surrounded by adults who were mandated reporters.... the counselor I was seeing at age 7.
If it had been reported, would I have been plucked from that disaster and flung from the frying pan into the fire in foster care?
Would I have gone to be in my father’s custody and care?
Would there have been a viable option to go up against a court system that probably would call me a liar as well? If most of my own family didn’t believe me, how in the world would complete strangers in a courtroom aimed and whittling down testimonies believe me? How did I even understand that reality in my core being as a child?
What would have happened if I wanted to press charges? Would his attorney have won the case? What would I have done then??
I remember being asked if I wanted to press charges, out of obligation, not actual care to walk with me or advocate for me and my voice. To check it off the list just to say it had been asked. I truly don’t feel like anyone had my best interest in mind. Everyone was scrambling around trying to cover their own asses.
Where do you fit in all of that, Forgiveness? Really, you need to show me, because I can’t see it at all.
The weight of this world has been way too much to bear. How have I made it this far?
How can I bear this much and still manage to have a spot of joy in my heart and mind? How can I have this much to bear and still hope for the best for my own daughter?
Only you can answer that, Forgiveness. Only you.
recoil from the world in such a defensive way
attack anyone who gets close to them
bite and claw and tear at you
with words and actions
try and make you go away
they find ALL of your buttons and push
everything in sight
in an attempt to get rid of you all
daily rituals of regurgitating and swallowing
this belief that they do not deserve love and affection
because they have no clue what it feels
like to be loved unconditionally
no strings attached in this puppet world
authenticity in this plastic facade
it’s an incredibly tough job
in all of this
with all of this
I can be beauty. And talent. And fulfilled dreams. And I don’t have to tear you down, or tear myself apart to reach it. I can dive full-hearted or wade in soft-spoken. I can explore cautiously or express deeply. There will be those who shy away. There will be those who lean in to take a part of the adventure. To not leave myself estranged in the process, that is the ultimate form of beauty
After you add up all of the years it took for me
To break the silence
And after you add up all of the wounds
I had to inflict before I could feel
You’ll get a glimpse of how much it takes
For me to reach out my hand to you
“Aftermath” by Angie Drymala, 2000. Sacred Bearings Vol. 1, Number 3; Fall 2000/Winter 2001.
In my awkward dance for peer-earned approval, I extended shy words with a soft, yielding pride. I made the initial mistake of believing that the ones I chose to share my work with would honor it proudly and confidently. It turned out, much to my chagrin, that some of the barbed individuals that I chose were actually only capable of maliciously plucking my words from those sacred pages , only to wield them into sharp spears to maim me.
It was a crippling experience, one that led to more moments of internal and external self-punishment. I was trapped between needing to use my words as a tool to heal, and refusing to do so, because they transformed into something that conjured up deep feelings of guilt and shame. There even came a point in time when I burned everything that I created as a result. Very similar to how heretics were burned at the stake, I tried to kill off those parts of me. Not because I thought they were sinful, or anything like that, but because they only brought more pain and longing.
I felt driven to write and write , and yet, the initial wounds that I wrote about were used against me. I was held hostage by my own musings in the hands of people who fumbled with some of the most fragile parts of me. After all of the effort I had taken to finally raise them to the light, they were slaughtered, unfortunately by my own hand in the name of self preservation.
I mourn those first journals every day and the magic that came so easily, and see it as one of the many ways my innocence had been trespassed by those that only were capable of harming me instead of offering encouragement.
After many years of working on forgiveness in these areas, I have come to understand a couple of things. It is MY job to safeguard these parts, this access to magic, and hold it as sacred, never to offer it up to just anyone.
Those that have given up on their dreams will move to discourage mine, and I have spent so much time learning how to forgive myself for subjecting myself to public ridicule and humiliation. My creative work and energy are not a source of embarrassment and humiliation, and other people’s opinions, although they may weigh heavy on me, are merely their own opinions, not fact.
After everything that was said and done, I have acknowledged that I did not know at the time how to safeguard my emerging creativity, and honor it as a tool instead of as a weapon.
I have had to spend a lot of energy rewriting and untangling a lot of negative self-beliefs based on these terrible early experiences of sharing my creative gifts with an overly critical audience, a job that is surely unfinished.
In the group that I mostly associated with as a teen, it wasn’t like a gang where initiates had to prove their worth through physical demonstrations of violence to present their willingness to be accepted into the group. An unspoken commonality linked us all, but in different degrees. Some of us came from similar backgrounds and the motivation to escape from some form of emotional or psychological injustice is what brought us together initially. We never named these things in public, we just sensed this deeper need to find acceptance outside of our abusive or turbulent circumstances, and ritualistically engaged in activities that had the potential to take us further away from reality and the pain.
Some slept around, some binged on alcohol, some sought out cocaine or amphetamines, and many smoked a lot of pot. Some did all of the above. It was a train wreck, really, and I watched, at arm’s length, the negotiations we all made with invincibility in order to tranquilize our senses.
I observed, somewhat apathetic, the energetic exchange that I made with these substances within my psychotropic reality, and how that exchange started to play an increasingly larger role in my search for self. I was bartering pain for ineffective, temporary relief, which resulted in an increasing cost that was taxed on my spiritual and mental health.
I saw a lot of my friends, along with myself, slipping away into the taloned grip of addiction, stuck in an endless loop of snipe hunting for that one magical cure that would make everything finally disappear. In my ambivalent haze, I noticed how I was quickly getting sucked into that place where choice was no longer an option. I was now a hostage to another sort of demon. When before it was my fear, now any aspects of my true self were tangled up in becoming the worst versions of myself in the name of simply wanting to quarter the pain
It makes sense to hide
Not just comfort anymore
These vultures are real
Gathering at your edges to eat away at the corners of your Light
The only way to move from this place is Forward
The Light becomes too big a meal
Takes them over from the inside
Guess they never saw that coming...
I am struggling with the emotions of what the memory of you has caused to surface in my life. It has haunted me in hurtful ways, propelling me into fits of shame and guilt, fear and rejection of myself. Each day, every day, I have struggled with the perspective that I am not a person of value. Little did I know it would literally feel like pulling a string of razor blades out of my heart in order to start healing from you. Life as knew it fell apart at the seams. Sometimes, healing isn’t all puppy dog kisses and rainbows. My experience has been that in order to heal from some nasty deep-rooted shit, I have to empty, clean, and pack my wounds effectively . Not fill myself up with painkillers, food, sex, numbness. I did not anticipate the uncorking- I was afraid that there was the potential for some sort of storm, but it truly got messy. I had no voice. I had no one advocating for me. I didn’t trust anyone , and was highly protective of myself. I purged my books of poetry, I was a cutter, I spent time to intentionally punish myself. I tried to erase that part of me.
Dear abuse.. Where do we go from here? Does healing really mean descending to the darkest places to rescusitate the past? How dare you be duality when all I have seen is darkness. How dare you be hope for others. That’s a twisted game you’ve got going on there... push people through hell in order to be used, to be of service to others in the same pain.
Dear abuse= I’ve hardly had the strength and courage to speak your name, let alone scream it in anger. How dare you do this to me!
I’m not done here. in this place, nor will I be forgotten. You didn’t win today, you fucker. Not today. Not ever!
I never got to that place of actually trying to take my own life. I guess I was kind of hoping death would side swipe me somehow, snuff me out, and I would willingly submit to its embrace. I did participate in self-harm, though. Not to the point where my skin resembled the texture of a topographic map. I’ve seen those types of scars on other cutters, as if their flesh told the very story of the peaks and valleys that their soul had traversed. It is powerfully terrifying and sad to see those types of scars on anyone’s body, to see how much they have torn away at themselves in the search for something greater.
I would tear into myself the same way I felt the world around me tore into my emotional flesh, but most of the wounds I inflicted were internal. I would incessantly badger myself about how I needed to improve this or that in order to be acceptable. Loveable. Worthy in the eyes of others. I constantly questioned how I even considered myself to be valued by anyone.
The walls I constructed to protect me were built up of every disappointment that I could have ever possibly mustered in my life, and I used that wall to protect myself from others, but also to protect others from me as well. If anyone were to truly see me, they would know what a huge disaster I was, so I had to keep myself locked in a cage, bound to my dependable companions, guilt and shame.
My experience with cutting was often seen by others as something that could easily be written off as being done “for attention”. I will never understand the cool, disregarding attitude that cutters often are subjected to. Even if self-harm is being done “for attention”, why not pay fucking attention? Why is paying attention to this kind of behavior seen as a bad thing in this type of situation? Step up and do something, say something, instead of just pushing cutters and their disposable pain away dismissively.
It was real, and I was real
Weaving in and out of dead ends
Brush - filled barriers closed off to the light
Some places thicker than others with woods
Deep roots and leafless branches stretched to the sky
How can a place be so lush, yet barren
These trails I wandered
Looking like a path of lost breadcrumbs
Ravens caw crashes through the twilight hush
I must sit down from all of this traveling
Not sure what exactly I’m looking for
Tangible treasures once lost?
A voice hidden deep in the raw meat of these twisted branches
Echoing that crowsong
I’m here... come find me
My hands need a better way of expressing what is going on inside of me. I find relief, then, when my hands become tooled with purpose and a pen.
I found words at a time when everything else I touched seemed to turn to ash, so I easily claimed it to be the only living thing that I could create. Words saved my life, when they could not come easily by speech, as if punched in the gut by my experiences had somehow trapped them like fireflies inside of me. The light almost went completely out, until I found my first journal.
The relationship that I had with those first pages were intense. The first drafts of every poem that I have collected over the years came from those pages. They were soft and breakable, fledgling wings to gain ascension, as well as a tangible ladder that I could climb down and reach the trapped, scared part of myself for brief moments. My journeys upward gave me a glimpse of beauty in the midst of the terrifying realities of life, and my journeys downward helped me to become more capable of collecting a small handful of trapped words, for that was all I could carry with me. They were heavy, but in need of seeing the light.
These words were the only proof
That I even had any wings to escape
Pain was ambitious
Simply sought to take over everything
Weight of dawn
Rose up like a sudden fever
Burning hope upon the horizon
Stitched up in fetal position
Detoxed from all of these illusions
Thrashing about in desperate hunger
Craving all forms of unnamed poison
Obscured and cured in the salty waves
This need to be filled
Only left me even more empty
Congested ambition in these trembling hands
Why so much shame
Why so much disgust
Such unsettling debt
Every dream was bedridden and killing me softly
When I was young, I never drove myself towards the sun
I fell inward instead
Where the sweet blue song of dying stars hummed me to sleep
You’d think that people would have seen
Would have banded together in protest
Would have learned from each other what not to do
Kept me from the bottom feeders
Their genuinely chameleon selves reinforced these rituals
Breaking softly apart
Just to fit the mold
I had been sitting in her office for at least a half an hour, my legs curled up to my chest. This was my second meeting with my case worker since I had checked myself in to the in-patient adolescent drug treatment program. I was a 17-year old on the verge of insanity.
I remember being able to physically feel the thoughts churning, like horses starting to spook at an oncoming storm. They would oscillate into an uncontrollable stampede, which would leave me completely crippled with fear.
I had been having panic attacks consistently for five unforgiving months. My life had turned into this messy, tangled web: a single, unbreakable thread of fear led from one moment to the next and wove me into a constrictive, paralyzing cocoon.
If memory serves me right, which it doesn’t often when it comes to recalling exact details of these early years in my recovery, I had probably just informed her that I was damaged and a lost cause.
Before I had gotten to the point of checking myself in, I had hit a major bottom. Due to the nightmares and panic attacks interfering with my ability to function at school or even in my own head, I had gotten to a place where I needed some kind of tool. A focal point that I could set my attention on instead of on the ominous tides of doom that threatened to swallow me up every moment of every day.
How had I gotten here?
I had turned to drugs and alcohol to console in for three years. I wanted to disappear completely. Life was shit, and I wanted nothing of it. I was angry, bitter, and cynical of everyone and everything. I had been socially ostracized by my peers, and was sick of being treated like shit, so I took measures to shut the world out. The few friends that I did have had no clue of my suffering. I think it took me up until my early twenties, at a safe enough distance from the pain and humiliation of high school, that I ended up confiding in a select few about the abuse. They were in complete shock and horror and could not fathom how I had been able to cover it up so well. You can’t really cover up what you aren’t completely connected to in the first place, so I guess it was easy?
The memories and pain had been shoved so far down that there was no way that I could have reached those damaged parts of myself. I knew it happened, I would get daily flashbacks: slivers of images and scents and sounds that would send me into a temporary catatonic state. I knew I should have been feeling something more than what I was. I was stricken with panic ,when I revealed to one of the many ineffective counselors that I was sent to ,about some of the details of the abuse – how the words just rolled out robotically and emotionless. I could see the concern reflected on my counselor’s face when I said aloud, “It should hurt to talk about these things, right?”
I remember words falling from my mouth like year-old cadavers.. .lifeless and grey. I didn’t feel a thing. I didn’t feel the depth of the trauma. I didn’t feel the depth of the counselor’s sincerity. I didn’t feel how much I should have been feeling something. Anything.
So I buried myself alive in pills, alcohol, and marijuana. I soon came to find that those things served as a really lousy escape route, and just ended up pulling me further into the depths of my despair.
The drugs and alcohol never worked at making me more comfortable in my own skin. I was on a never-ending search for a potent and effective cloak that I could never quite maintain. I could reach momentary lapses, and then I would soon be swallowed in darkness. No one saw it on the outside. I am curious as to what it looked like, because I only knew what I felt like inside. Alone. Terrified. Tormented. Silently screaming for someone to see what was going on. I walked around, shrouded in muted apathy. I had no way to tap into the hidden rage that swelled in my heart until several years of sobriety later. Without the proper tools, I was only capable of functioning as a mirage.
I also partially utilized the substances to help invigorate my writing, but often it turned into really bad experiments of testing the boundaries of my sanity, and prying open spaces and doors that weren’t meant to be opened yet. What I had intended to do was to breathe life into the flame of my creativity. What I was unprepared for was that the very dark places inside of me had been building up toxic pressure, and stoking that fire was the last thing I should have tried to do. Once those suppressed parts of me got intruded upon, like a backdraft, all of those caustic things inside of me exploded, and I ended up getting caught in a powerful shockwave of memories and pain. I was consumed from the inside, like an uncontrollable wildfire. It was as if every ounce of the thick, crude substance of my past instantly transformed into combustible, brittle kindling, easily consumed by the encroaching , invisible flames. I had no way of smothering any of it, and ended up incapacitated and in fetal position on a daily basis, a mute deadweight, caught in my inescapable pain
I was told, by someone else related to me, that my experience of sexual abuse was not the first. This fact alone led me down a very muddled route, laden with various versions of learning how to identify my true feelings of the events that so shaped me in such a tremendous way. As a teenager, I leaned towards understanding that I was part of a bigger system at play, and that it was my job to stop it from repeating again. As an adult, I became closer to feelings of anger and blame, for how the abusive behavior tilted me in such a way so that I would wobble, unbalanced, each day in a different way. The anger was a result of guilt and shame for so many years, bearing the unnecessary weight of blaming myself for all of the years that were taken from me. That anger bled into a different form, and a different target, when my awareness about everything expanded to include the reality that I had no adult ally in any of it to stand up and keep those events from happening from me. I asked the question many times, to no one in particular, why? Maybe I asked God why, in between bouts of seething anger towards a being that would allow such things to happen to children, but that was actually more of a demand than a question.
One of the main reasons that I came up with, since that I was not the first in my family, was that my abuse was a trigger to those that were in authority positions in my life. I have seen and experienced a “shutting down” process occur when anything pertaining to abuse is brought up. It has an immediate affect on those who have experienced it first hand. That reaction tends to look very similar to an ostrich sticking its head in the sand out of fear; don’t bring it up, don’t talk about it, don’t look at me to do something. Fear of re-feeling anything related to their own events, shut down became an only option due to the overwhelming circumstances. To admit that this could occur to a child that you are responsible for protecting and guiding in life is difficult, if not impossible to do. Abuse is not easy to talk about. It’s not easy as someone who has gone through it, nor is it easy for someone who witnessed , who could have done something different, but didn’t. Each party carries with them some form of mutated self -image, dressed heavily with suffocating shrouds of shame and guilt. This is all based on what I was told in that one statement, that I was not the only one in my family to experience abuse in this way.
All of that being said, it’s still not ok. Some of the counselors that I spoke to in sessions about my abuse offered a simplistic remedy to help pack my wounds, that everyone involved did the very best that they could at the time. I tried to use those words as a lantern in all of the darkness I was surrounded by, but failed miserably. It wasn’t enough. Especially as a mother now, I look at my own daughter and think how can someone’s best result in abuse? That question typically leaves me feeling worse, inwardly contorted to a degree where isolation seems the best option. It triggers a feeling of hopelessness and abandonment to such a degree that I end up renegotiating my strategies to cut everyone important to me out of my life in some way, based on that initial belief that everyone WILL hurt me if I just give them the chance.
The thing that stands out in both the overall experience of the abuse, as well as my experience in my teenage wasteland was the element of love and connection: how connection was distorted through mistreatment, what I did to experience a sense of belonging with those that only offered toxic interactions, how trust was mangled by various people in my attempts to find validity in who I was and what I was feeling, how the key players played such a significant role in my relationship with vulnerability, and how I was to learn later how to openly express myself, in all of its authenticity, to those that would abuse their position of trust.
I may not remember the conversation that led up to it, but I clearly remember the words that my drug-treatment caseworker offered to me, “Your suffering is not in vain. Your story will help others who are going through the same thing.” It was like she gave me an instant cure for my spiritual and emotional constipation. I know how that sounds disgustingly graphic, but I truly was stuffed to the gills with toxic emotional and psychological shit. Everything I kept trying to pack my wounds with just made everything inside of me angry and thrash about. Left to my own devices, I made a terrible mess of an already tragic situation. I could not do it by myself relying only on my self-will. I had to open up to the possibility of allowing something greater than myself to take me and lift me out of my circumstances. I so desperately desired to be in a place in my life where I was safe, honored, and protected. I was currently living in a dank dungeon; my thoughts scourged me daily with stinging lashes of grief, fear, and shame. At that point, I saw only three ways out: I would go completely crazy and end up in some padded room, lobotomized with drugs; I would kill myself out of fear of said lobotomy; everything would change, and I would finally move towards a sense of peace and freedom.
I felt small and my emotions felt big, and I was trapped in an endless sense of losing control. There had to be a way out.
The problem was, change seemed to me to be the most terrifying and impossible of those three options. I could not fathom a way out, but I knew, down to the tips of my toes, that I was meant for something better than this.
So, with my caseworker’s simple and effortless words, she initiated an alchemical shift within me. All of those heavy, leaden elements started to slowly transmutate into incandescent gold. I was now filled with the illuminating possibility that I was not a victim and powerless, but instead powerfully reassured that I could actively participate in moving towards personal healing; that I could share my pain with others and it would be helpful and a source of personal success. I saw that the damage of my past could actually create something beautiful.
There are parts
Hidden and gorgeous
Unresolved and distant
-Like caverns of wishful thought-
My eyes echo a gentle sadness
An urgency to open these gates and ood
To reach out and see my hands
For what they really are
Open and ready
To release what rests inside
There are parts
Aching to be resuscitated
To be paraded
And these pieces
-Sewn together with mended memories
And restless wandering-
Form an endless meaning
Open and ready
To release what rests inside
There are parts
The violations of truths forgotten
That summon up my courage
To be the beating beauty
Of passions and pain
And thundering visions
This slumber of my internal changing
Is slowly opening
To release what rests inside