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This area is reserved for the tidbits I know hope will be of interest to my readers. Check back often for regular updates. 

 

Check out this article about the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomena, including a list of organizations which strongly oppose this sick trend, and have implemented various means of helping women who have been sexually victimized.

 

Were you raised by a narcissist? Chances are you were if you suffered any form of childhood abuse. The Little Red Survivor website is filled with excellent articles examining the many faces of narcissism.

 

It's been a long time coming---7 years to be exact---but finally email notifications for new BD posts is available. Sign up today and never again miss another post. You know you want to!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Kate Is Rising has an excellent Survivors Resources page which directs you to numerous websites dealing with issues of abuse, healing and recovery. Please bear in mind that the information on these pages may be triggering.

 

 

There's lots of good stuff at the Dissociation Blog Showcase, including a list of 180 blogs dealing with some aspect of this disorder. 

 

 

On the Overcoming Sexual Abuse site there's an article entitled, "It's Not About You Mom" which I could have written myself. I bet many of my readers could say the same!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wednesday
Feb142007

Journey Back to Me

Sometimes a creeping sort of discouragement sets in, a malaise of spirit which lets me know with strident certainty that I never do anything right. That I haven't made so much as a thimbleful of progress over the years, haven't changed for the better, grown or healed. When this happens, I'm usually so taken off guard that I sit helpless, unable to refute these charges. Just this morning I felt the beginnings of that old, old nagging message. Once again, for the billionth time, discouragement settled heavily on me. And then . . . and then I found some old scribblings of mine, written during the last few months of my last marriage, when I was desperately trying to free myself from a man who scorned my health problems, drank like a fish, and wanted nothing to do with my kids. (I had moved with him across country, leaving my teenaged kids and native state behind.)

 

As I re-read these pages, strength began to flow through my entire body. These were the writings of a miserable, but very determined woman. Reading them brought back a flow of memories; I recalled vividly how it felt to be stuck in that relationship with seemingly no way out, with no one to help me. But I made it! I got away, ran for dear life with my integrity--my most treasured possession--intact.

 

There are countless stories like mine being enacted every day. I thought it might help someone who is floundering in a hopeless relationship to read these words of mine, and realize that there is always a way out. But first, we must give ourselves permission to do the unthinkable: to choose life.

January 1994

Things I want back: my identity, my maiden name, the ability to trust my own instincts. A sense of healthy boundaries. The freedom to express myself without fear of ridicule. The security of feeling that I belong on this planet, a certainty I've not experienced in 40 years. What I'm willing to do to reclaim these things: anything, anything at all.

This is how I mark time. I write imploring letters to friends I haven't lost contact with, pleading for some kind of help (if only emotional support.) Read books about co-dependency. Chain-smoke. Paint my face, whose features suddenly seem more dear than ludicrous. Wait hungrily for the mail.  Fix meals, stare out the window at snow-covered field. Gaze at empty bird feeder. Shave my legs for me, not for him. Listen, really listen, a mug of hot tea in hand, to my own good instincts. Visualize my future, imagining emotional health, wholeness, healing. Do loads of laundry, make sack lunches. Speak lovingly to my jabbering parakeets. Try to find a comfortable balance between being true to myself, and not tipping my hand.

Make mental inventory of every CD, book and painting I plan to take with me. Stare into a lit, scented candle while a deep sense of peace permeates my bruised mind and soul. Dream about my sons, my beautiful sons. Soak in the tub, imagining this is my own apartment 2,000 miles away without the intrusive presence of a tyrannical man. Envision my skinny knobby-kneed self who bravely climbed trees, caught spiders in wide-mouthed jars, and envied my brothers their male prerogatives. (I wanted to be a cowboy too, but at best all I could do was play the cowgirl, using a towel secured under my hat to improvise a wild mane of hair.)

Go to the movies, alone. Study the lines of my hands. Give myself encouraging smiles in the mirror. Go over every thought twice, deciding if it is true and thus worthy of me. Nudge myself out of this stupor to reject the old clichés (of happy ever after) learned by rote in the land of suburban childhood, where even the clothing we wore was fashioned from synthetic fabrics. Climb my childhood backyard fort, in my mind's eye, once again relishing the bliss of seclusion, the tranquility of my own enjoyable company.

Brush my hair, trim my nails, empty wastebaskets, sit for hours deep in thought, declining the background noise and canned laughter of the TV. Read all of my old journals, and think of future ones. 10 years from now, will I still be writing the same depressing drivel? No, I decide. And then: no, of course not. Now I know I have a choice. It's that uncomplicated.

Make lists of Things to Do and Things to Take. Remind myself 1,000 times a day of P.'s crimes against our marriage so that my anger and sense of righteous indignation will carry me through this nightmare all the way back home. Daydream about my native state: the trees, the rain, the mountains, the laid back lifestyles. Stare with burning eyes at this ugly suburb, hating every pot hole, every deserted disintegrating building, and the weeds flourishing in cracked parking lots.

Crack my knuckles, smile at the freckles on my hands, trace my life line with a fingertip. Run my hands over my emerging hip bones, caressing them like welcome, long lost lovers. Hunt for new words in the dictionary, underlining the ones which intrigue or delight me.

I'm marking time like a woman deep into the last trimester of pregnancy, longing to see the conclusion of sleepless nights and raging hormones. I am swollen with this new life, about to give birth to this self created of my own blood and marrow, my own audacity. I am about to give birth to me, baby girl ____.

February 1994

Out of the blue P. asks, "Do you want to move back to ____?" I am taken off guard by his atypical direct question.

"What do you mean?" I say carefully, stalling as I try to gauge his mood, his motivations.

"You're obviously miserable here. Do you want to move back home?"

I get up to stir something on the stove. If I don't respond, I tell myself, he'll forget the question. How many times has he frustrated me by asking something, then not waiting around for my response?

"Are you going to answer me?" he says to my back. His words snag my robe and tangle up my emotions. Slowly I turn, sit back down at the table. His bloodshot eyes bore into mine.

"Of course I'd rather be there," I blurt out, willing myself not to cry. "What do you expect me to say?"

"You mean with me, or without me?" His eyes don't waver from mine.

"I can't imagine you leaving your good paying job here." It's the best I can do. Better to not let him sense that's it's not just my native state I'm pining for, but an end to us.

"So, without me then."

"I guess so." He slightly nods, as if signaling the end of the conversation. When he disappears into the living room, my thoughts swim. He knows I'm miserable! He actually initiated the conversation! I'm stunned, thrilled. Will it be this easy, then? Will he release me without a struggle, without an ugly, accusing scene?

Two days later the subject has not been broached again. P. is quieter, kinder. His eyes study me sadly. With resignation? I can't tell. Do you realize I've been leaving you for a long time? I want to scream into the silence, that your kindness is too little too late? Despair floods me. If he is kind, attentive, loving, will I cave in, traitor to my own soul? Suddenly I know that I'd rather deal with the tantrums, threats, name calling, than this return to the affectionate person he once personified so many years ago when I fell in love with his facade. When I fell in love with love, abandoning myself in the process.

He can't see that everything he does and says irritates and chafes me, even the little attentions and gestures. And this blindness I find saddest of all.

The end of February 1994

I awaken to anger, my dogged companion, nipping at my heels, steering me away from treacherous passivity. Before my first cup of coffee jolts me out of my grogginess, the anger is at work, feverishly propelling me along this straight forward path I've chosen.

You can do this, anger whispers in my ear. You've survived far worse than this. And so I have. Refusing to cringe from the ever insurmountable obstacles which loom before me, I press forward, plotting, scheming, hugging this new sense of power and validity to me as if it were a beloved child.

P. is cautious, tiptoeing around me as I, these past 4 years, have crept on tippy toes, afraid to arouse his anger. He speaks kindly, attentively. But I'm lost in my own thoughts. What will it profit a woman if she gain a husband, financial freedom, and lose her own soul? I'm not able to pretend much anymore. Does he see the absence of my old submissive timidity? Of the old caresses and inane baby talk which, after all, was appropriate: we are 2 children playing dress up, preening about in adult clothing, playing our roles. Pretending to be husband and wife. Does a marriage license make it so? A ring on the proper finger?

When he is here I can't wait for him to go to bed. When he awakens, I can't wait for him to leave for work. Much in the same way in which I couldn't wait for my truck driver stepfather to leave on a trip so that I could relax, let down my guard.

Outside, the wind howls and moans. Snow blinds my eyes. The long winter. I'm trapped on a prairie starving, but not for food. Starving for peace of mind, human contact, and the life I willingly forfeited so that I could hide behind the label wife. One must become invisible to wear that label, so why are we women so anxious to acquire it, so proud to surrender one name to take on another? I have become all kinds of idiotic nicknames and, better yet, Wifey. If I'm stripped of my true name (and thus my true identity) what does it matter which name I answer to? It is always a lie.

I can no longer respond when P. announces his love for me. I've become the bad wife who will not read her lines as scripted. An anarchist. Oh, the mutiny of turning traitor to the empty routines of 4 years. From where do I derive this newfound boldness, this untypical gumption?

Today I longed to shatter the silence of my cell with hysterical screams. Instead, I contemplate my next move, and the one after that. When my eyes move toward P. I see a stranger with long matted hair, pouches under his eyes from years of excessive drinking. He undresses and I'm filled with angry revulsion. He leans close and his sour beer breath all but gags me. I pull away. He looks hurt, puzzled. Soon, when it dawns on him that his attentiveness and little kindnesses aren't penetrating my steely resolve to leave, he'll revert to his usual hostility and caustic put downs.

I am my own Knight-in-Shining-Armor, my own Prince(ss) Charming. It's a lie that the prince kisses the woman back to life. We must be our own rescuers, our own kind guides out of the darkness of invalidity and oppression into the welcoming light of our invincible true blue hearts.






 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday
Feb132007

Messages

When I reach the end of my days, what kind of legacy will I leave behind for those who knew me? Will I bequeath to them a lifetime supply of brittle bitterness, carefully bound together with nettled, stinging grudges? Will I leave behind a wealth of sour self-pity, or perhaps a shining example of how best to keep one's head in the sand without suffocating?

Will the battles I've waged as I've gone through life dodging the landmines of others' scorn and caustic remarks be all for nothing? Oh, I won't minimize the sorrows and torments I've endured,  yet it occurs to me as I look back over my life that more than anything it's been the messages of others which have been my greatest trial ( or--thank goodness-- my greatest source of encouragement.) Messages such as:

  • He only did this to you because he was tired from working overtime. (my mom, explaining my stepdad's groping hands)

  • Why don't you just die? You're no use to anyone anyway. (an ex-hubby who was sick and tired of dealing with my Chronic Fatigue)

  • I think that kids who have had unspeakable things done to them would have been better off as abortions. (my mom)

  • You're such a talented writer, you could write anything you set your heart to. (my dad)

  • You'd better get a babysitter to watch your kids tonight. I'm going to give you truth serum and ask you questions; for every lie you tell, that's one broken bone. (psychotic ex-boyfriend)

  • You're my Sweetie Pie, Nana, My Love! (my young grandson)

  • I have loved you with an everlasting love. (Jesus)

  • I love you with all my heart and soul. (a son)

  • If we send your (step) dad to prison, we'll lose the house and have to go on welfare. (my mom)

  • "Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me. . . ." (a grade school classmate's serenade to me)

  • If it wasn't for your sense of humor, I couldn't have made it through the stresses at work this year. (a friend at work)

  • Better watch your step, sister. . . . stop being an idiot! (my stepdad, whenever I did the least little thing, like say, spill my milk)

  • Are you joking? Who's gonna want you with 5 kids? You're lucky I waste my time on you. (same psychotic ex-boyfriend who loved to use me as his own little punching bag)

  • Nana, I love you bigger than this house, bigger than all the houses in the whole world! (young granddaughter)

As you can see from these samples, the messages of my life have been varied, the good interwoven with the bad. Had I listened only to the bad I wouldn't have had the courage to continue living. I wrestled with suicidal tendencies for most of my life, most abuse survivors do. But in looking back and trying to see the bigger picture, I must see with uncompromising eyes. I must admit to the golden threads interwoven with the coarse drab ones, for they are impossible to miss. They shine and twinkle, as if barely containing a private joke. They seduce me with the simplicity of their loveliness. Oh how I love these golden threads! They don't boast their presence; they don't have to. They are apparent to even the most casual glance, for they stand out so from the rough and grubby threads of my life which have tried in vain to weave about me a web of despair.

What messages I dwell on is always up to me. I haven't always been able to avoid obsessing on the unkind words of others. How easy to simply accept that I am no good, that my life has no value, for that was the strongest message taught me during my childhood years. But I've learned over the years, slowly and painfully, to pay attention to every message sent my way--not just the negative. If I have the need, for whatever reason, to obsess about the horrible messages which so pierce my heart, I find that once they have run their course they are automatically replaced by the lovely and kind messages more fitting to who I truly am. A well of joy deep inside bubbles up, washing away the old and slimy. I seem to have no control over this, except in the sense that I have the power (the choice) to staunch the flow of joy.

These days, I haven't the patience or energy to focus on the negative. Though they still wield power to maim, their force is greatly lessened by my steadfast refusal to take them seriously.

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(I fly high above the poisoned darts and arrows of this world's lies.)

Monday
Feb122007

Rainy Days and Mondays

 

 

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Oh the wistfulness of rainy days!

(Click here to check out more of Becky Kelly's wonderful art work.)

 

Thursday
Feb082007

Ten Things I Wish I'd Done (Some of Which I May Do Yet)

  1. Learned to play the guitar.

  2. Kept all my childhood writings.

  3. Run away from home.

  4. Mastered the art of homemade ravioli while I still had an Italian mother in-law.

  5. Had a heart-to-heart with my dad before he died.

  6. Blown the whistle on everyone who ever raped or abused me.

  7. Spent more time pursuing my dreams, and less time worrying about what others think of me.

  8. Learned a foreign language.

  9. Visited Ireland.

  10. Spent one night with John Lennon.

 

Wednesday
Feb072007

In Which I Make My Escape (Part 2)

He wasn't a murderer  during the period of time that the rapes took place (not that I know of, anyway.) He and his wife hired me to babysit their small children during my 15th year, the year I moved in with my dad and brothers. Though a bit rough around the edges and full of quirks, I never would have pegged Gary* for a rapist, let alone a murderer.

This was proving to be quite a tumultuous year for me in many ways. I fell in love with my first real boyfriend, while at the same time enjoying more freedom than I'd ever experienced before. Whether he simply didn't know how to deal with a daughter, or was afraid to run me off with too many rules, Dad simply let me do as I pleased. This meant being saddled with the freedom of an adult. At first, like any typical teenager, I reveled in living my own life without answering to anyone. What became a serious problem was that, having just spent 8 years of my life with no decision making power ( and being severely abused on top of that), I had no sense of self or of my own power. I didn't know how to resist peer pressure, or even that it was something to be resisted. For the first time in my life I was free to do what I chose to do and, much like the proverbial kid in the candy store, I grabbed at everything that came my way.

There seemed no reason to turn down LSD when it was offered, and so I didn't. The same went for drinking, dating a 25 year old, divorced Vietnam vet, or staying out all night or weekend without calling home. Once I started at the top of this slippery slope to destruction, there was nothing to hold me back. No one kept tabs on me, really, except for one of my brothers who protected me as best he could from my self-destructive ways.** But he worked full time and couldn't babysit me around the clock. In any case, we hung out with different crowds; he was so responsible and straight that I wouldn't have told him anything anyway.

When I started babysitting that summer, it was more out of boredom than anything. Gary and his little family lived about an hour away, out in the boonies. Friday evenings he'd pick me up after he got off of work, and break the speed limit all the way home, just because he could. Other times he offered me pop which had more than the usual additives, and I'd start hallucinating long before he pulled his truck into the woods. There, in the middle of nowhere, where he could have killed and dismembered me and my body parts probably wouldn't have turned up for a long while, he raped me repeatedly. This happened on several occasions and, thankfully the memories are a big blur.


Whatever he gave me was powerful enough to strip me of all but a smidgen of awareness of his heinous crimes against my body. I seemed to have been wrapped up in a huge ball of wool, with the tiniest of holes where my eyes should be. There is no audio memory of these incidents; everything seemed to take place in slow motion, with no sound.

When finally we arrived at his home, my sense of time was totally shot. Glancing at the clock only confused me. I sensed that we had spent hours and hours in the woods, but the homey little clock on their kitchen wall revealed that we were only an hour or so later than usual--something he lied glibly about to his wife, blaming traffic.

Why I kept going back to babysit I can't explain. The druggings and raping were bad enough, but even more frightening was the time he burst into the living room with a loaded pistol. I was on the couch with his kids, the youngest in my lap, and he pointed the gun right at my head.

"Bet you think I can't shoot this without missing your head, huh."

Everything inside of me froze. I hoped he couldn't read the panic on my face, and was careful to keep my voice even and low. "Of course you can," I assured him, believing no such thing. I'd seen him do enough fool hardy things while driving to know that the worst thing anyone could say to him was I bet you can't do such and such.

Clearly expecting resistance and looking for an excuse to fire the gun, he said, "Oh, you don't think I'll pull the trigger, do you?"

I tried to shrug nonchalantly while surreptitiously tightening my hold on the little one in my lap. "I think you will if you want to."

Bang! The bullet whizzed close enough to my right temple for me to feel its path. The rest is another blur. I don't know if his wife heard the shot and came running into the room, or if his kids freaked out and it snapped him back from that crazy place in his head. This may have been the last time I agreed to babysit. I hope it was. I hope I had enough sense not to go back after that. What I do know is that within the next 6 months he would murder his wife, shooting her twice in the head, outside of her parents' home. That he would be sentenced to life, escape after many years, and rape a 13 year old girl.

The reality of my 15th-16th year was not a pretty one. On another occasion, a boyfriend set me up to be raped by his ex-foster father. This time I fought back with all my might for nearly an hour, kicking, scratching and gouging the ugly monkeyish man forcing himself on me with his wife and child sleeping in the next room.

Stranded there for the night (by my pretending-to-be-passed-out boyfriend), I didn't dare allow myself to sleep. By morning my eyes were dry and burning, and I had a good case of the shakes. I called up a friend to come get me, and climbed gingerly into his car feeling as if every bone in my body had been broken. When I arrived home I smiled at Dad, making some humorous remark, not even once thinking that I could confide in him, that just maybe he would seek justice on my behalf if only I'd let him.

This year proved to be a transitional period of sorts. I would go from it's horrors (most of which can't be written), to the extreme of hiding in legalistic religion in a hopeless attempt to earn God's approval. In the meantime, before hitting that extreme, I kept my mouth shut, not knowing that people reported such crimes or, rather, it was more like I didn't understand that any crimes had been committed against me. Sad to think that I had been so desensitized to abuse that when it kept happening long after leaving that house of incest, I didn't recognize it for what it was. But of course not! It felt familiar. Turning to a safe adult for help and protection didn't.

No (in response to Austin's comment on the first part of this little tale), I didn't tell my dad anything. Not about Gary or other horrors, and certainly not about my stepdad. I can only think my reticence was due to 8 years of being threatened with this and that if I spilled the beans. That, combined with the fact that my mother didn't protect me when she found out, set me up for a lifetime of bearing my abuses and sorrows and nightmares alone.

About 6 years ago I discovered that my dad, several years before his death, found out about my stepdad's abuses. My brother told me this, and of Dad's absolute rage that such abuse had taken place without his knowledge, without his having had the chance to come to my rescue. Why did I think, as a teenager, that he wouldn't have rescued and protected me from all the stepdads and Garys of the world? I really don't know. I just flashed on this long forgotten memory: not long after moving in with dad, I went to the movies with him and my brothers. This was in the late 60's when a lot of really bad hippie movies were being made. We didn't know anything about this movie; it turned out to be about a bunch of drop-outs and hippies who decided to experiment with drugs. The whole thing was rather silly. There was one scene which should have disturbed me, but I don't think I blinked an eye.

A foolish teenaged girl decides to do drugs with a houseful of guys and gets ganged raped. I remember Dad's rage after the movie, how upset he was that he'd brought me to see something like that. I don't know if I'd ever seen him as visibly angry as when he said, "If anyone ever did that to you I'd tear them to pieces with my bare hands!"

And there it is, at least part of the reason I didn't tell. I'd seen the fire in  Dad's eyes and knew that, unlike my mother, he wouldn't sit passively by knowing that someone had defiled his daughter. And I just couldn't bear the thought of contaminating him with the foulness of being me.

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(*Name has been changed)

(**There were 2 guys Dad actually forbid me to see during this year, though of course I did anyway.)