*Please note – This is a copy of posts from my old blog. The old blog was redesigned to point to this one, but not before I got all the old posts transferred. What is here and the next few posts to the “Posts from The Old Blog” are copies of what I did thanks to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine and many thanks to Tracie Nall at FromTracie for telling me about this. The links probably do not work and the pictures may not show up and to my dismay, the comments are lost. I will try to reconstruct the links, but I apologize for these posts. ~Jackie
Music has always been a big part of my life. I am at a point where I can no longer sing with much melody, but in my head, I still hear the right notes. One particular song has been running through my head for days. A friend asked me if I knew why. I said yes, but was not ready to say it yet.
The song, Three Wooden Crosses, sung by Randy Travis, is one that I have always liked. It is not my favorite, and I struggle with the notion of a cross. In this song, however, the crosses are the road side memorials for people who have died in accidents. They are always troubling to see, but a different kind of cross.
As I have moved from a victim of abuse to the person I consider myself to be now as a thriver, I have often wondered how I made it. The stark reality is that many people do not. They succumb to the pain. In saying that, it is not my intention to pass judgment on them or claim that they are weak because they cannot take it anymore. No one should ever have to survive the abuse I have lived through. And I know many people who have survived much more severe abuse than I have. I am by no means playing down what I experienced. It was horrible. But it stopped and I have been able to work through a lot of it, even though it still affects me every day.
The one line of “Three Wooden Crosses” that has been running through my head is “There are three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway. Why there aren’t four of them heaven only knows.”
I could never figure out why I survived. The pain and anguish I used to feel should have driven me to my knees. In some respects, it did, but it was also part of my nature to get up again. It was not something I could explain, and I always hesitate to say things like this for fear of sounding arrogant. I cannot explain it, but I did get up – again and again and again.
Now, it doesn’t hurt so much. I feel strong enough to handle it. In looking back, I have a different perspective on the hurt. I will never believe that there was a reason for it. There was no divine plan that allowed it to happen so I could get to this place in my life. It happened. It was unbearably awful. I have done a lot of work to get through the pain and the scars, but now I’m here. On the other side of abuse, the world looks different, but it was forever changed because of someone else’s selfish and brutal actions.
In a conversation with a dear friend yesterday, I got a different perspective. It was one of those things that just finally clicked in my brain. If I had killed myself and had not been able to survive, I would have been doing my father a favor. In his own way, he was trying to kill me. If not the physical me, my sense of self and safety. He was trying to kill my soul. My friend said, “I refuse to do it for him (sic). There are times when I am suicidal but when push comes to shove I refuse to do it for him (sic), he can damn well do it himself.”
And she is right. Why should I help him kill me? He was doing a pretty good job on his own, but why should I help him finish me off? I can’t. I can’t help him take that final blow against my humanity. He has my blood on his hands, but I refuse to finish what he tried to start. He isn’t worth it.
But I have finally come to the realization that I am worth the fight. I am worth the fight against every bit of pain I have known. I have something to say. I matter. And it is still hard to write those words. It brings tears to my eyes for me and for anyone who ever had to doubt that they were worth it because of what someone else chose to do to them. out of selfishness and greed.
It is my hope that I offer an ounce of hope and courage when people are not feeling very courageous. One of the beauties of the internet is that people can find anything if they are looking; and sometimes when they are not looking. You can find a whole lot of junk on the internet, but I hope just one person finds this post and can finally begin to answer the question why their cross isn’t added to the many who have succumbed to the pain of being sexually abused by people who are supposed to love them.
You are worth the fight. Keep fighting and don’t let them, or him, or her, whoever is abusing you make you help them in killing your soul.
I know I have used this poem before, but it still speaks to me in a voice that is loud and clear. My high school English teacher gave me a copy of it when I was a senior and I have carried it with me ever since. It speaks to my soul and helps me remember why I’m still standing.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
So, rage on my friends. Do not help them kill that light within you.
A few months ago, I had to move. The whys and hows are long and tedious, so I will not bore you with them. I had boxes in three different states which I have finally gotten all together.
I live on the second floor of an apartment building so I have had to lug all these boxes up the stairs. A few of them, I have lugged up the stairs, opened, and lugged back down the stairs. They are either filled with books I now longer need or things that I no longer need or want. So, I have been taking them to the library or Good Will.
In some of the boxes I have found things that made me smile. Presents from dear friends or momentos from things I have done. I found medals from a choir competition in middle school. I found pictures with friends in places I had forgotten I had been.
Some of the things I found touched the edges of memories I did not want to uncover. I found picture albums, which I have not gone through yet. I will have to be in a particular mood before I am able to look at the pictures. Now that I have identified the dissociative stare, I am sure I will see it a lot in those pictures. That will take some time.
I think packing and unpacking is much like healing from abuse. When I packed these boxes, I put a lot of things in them, usually because I had run out of time to pack. I didn’t sort through what I put in each box and I packed it all in such a way that it fit perfectly in the box.
With the memories of my abuse, I had to pack them inside and make them at least look like they all fit. As I lived and had different experiences, the memories shifted around. Sometimes, they shifted into a painful position. Then I had to get help, usually through therapy or a good friend, to reshift the memory so it was not so painful. Sometimes it took a long time to move the memory and get in a place that caused me less pain.
This move, I am doing a lot of sorting. I have been carrying around a lot of stuff that I do not need. In the same regard, I have been carrying around in my soul a lot of memories and attitudes that I do not need. As the sorting goes on, space is freed up for more appropriate attitudes and memories.
And I am in charge of them now. I get a say in my experiences. I have choices. When I was a child and being abused by my father and silenced by people who did not want to know what was happening.
I realize that there are things in life that will happen which are out of my control. But the realization that I had a choice in what happened to me was at first terrifying, then freeing. I am no longer that chained up little person with no choice and no self.
I am a person of worth and I do not have to carry memories and pain which I did not choose. This did not happen over night and I am by no means saying it is easy, but I’m saying it can get better.
As we travel through life, we pack things and carry them, some of which we need and some of which we do not. Each time we make a move or make a change, we have the choice what we take and what we leave behind. It is a process of examination, remembering, mourning, anger, healing, and letting go.
As in a move, we will be in a new place and if we are willing to do the hard work of unpacking and examining, we can have a new perspective and a new start. The break isn’t easy, the work is strenuous and in some ways, feels just as bad as the abuse we suffered, but when you’ve gone through the process, think how much lighter the bags which you are carrying will be. The difference will change your world, and in the process, you will change the world.
“There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~ Anais Nin
As a survivor of sexual abuse, I have been in many emotional places in my life. Many have been painful, but there have also been the highs most people experience. Since I started writing this blog, I have not written from a place of direct pain. I have not been in a place of pain related to the abuse for a while, but that is where I am tonight, and so I write from here.
Survivors talk about triggers. If that does not make sense, it is a place, a smell, a sensation or a particular something that takes the person back to his or her abuse. I used to have more triggers, not as many as some, but enough. I have been able to work through a lot of them. Except one.
I have mentioned this before, but in a detached way that did not touch the pain it brings me. My trigger is a song.
No matter how little of it I hear, it stays with me for hours, sometimes days. Since I heard it tonight, I will have to wait and see how long it stays this time.
I like to set my radio on scan until I hear a song that I like. Sometimes, this is a dangerous idea because this song is played on the radio and occasionally I stumble upon it.
“I remember Daddy’s hands, soft and kind when I was crying, hard as steal when I done wrong…But there was always love in daddy’s hands.”
I do not have to hear even a single word of this song. I took enough music lessons that I recognize the notes alone. When I hear it, my heart starts to beat faster. I frantically look for the button on the radio to make it stop. The “off” button never comes to mind. I hit the scan button, but that makes it stop on that channel so I have to listen to more of it instead of less.
My stomach gets tight and I feel like I’m going to vomit. My trigger has been set. My mind sees one thing. Hands. Coming toward me in a way that is far from loving. I will not go on, more for me than for you.
Then I’m very distracted. It is hard to fight off the images. There are many tactics for fighting off flashbacks, very few of which I’ve ever found effective. This particular trigger is only banished by another song and the battle between the two is epic.
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound.” That is as far as my brain will go. Then “there was always love in daddy’s hands.” Then “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, until I can get to “that saved a wretch like me.”
I always wanted to be saved from the abuse, but didn’t know how. I felt wretched. I did need to be saved, but realize now that i was not the one who was wretched.
The first song reminds of what was supposed to be. My father was supposed to treat me in a loving way. He let me down again and again. He hurt me. There was not a single loving thing in his hands.
And it is nothing short of amazing that I survived. But that is true not just for me. Every single survivor who survives is nothing less than amazing.
So, I’m still a little teary and a little raw, but “Amazing Grace” will win out. Daddy’s hands will never win.
(And after the song, a prayer I can never say.)
“Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come.”
There have been a lot of transitions in my life of late. Transitions often mean sorting through things that have been put in boxes.
As I sorted today, I found pictures of past relationships, past experiences, and something I had not planned to find. I found pictures of my past self, and some of them were barely recognizable to me as me.
Other survivor friends have talked about seeing pictures of themselves and what they have described as the dissociative stare. It is the look in the eyes in a picture that most people would not recognize, but survivors recognize it in themselves as pain. They see the dissociation in their eyes that they learned to avoid the pain. Dissociating is a coping mechanism I am not sure I can explain if you have never felt it, and I honestly hope you never have to learn what it means.
The first picture I found was from my passport. I took a trip to Russia in 1997. By that time, I was no longer being abused. My father had actually already been released from prison. Nonetheless, when I look in my eyes, there is a pain I can almost not tolerate to see.
I know you can’t see it well in this picture, but my eyes look completely glazed. I was on the journey to healing, but in the throws of hell.
The second set of pictures was taken when I lived in California in 2001. My sister was attending photography school and one of her friends needed some models for pictures. In these pictures, I am not quite so dissociative, but my weight was the greatest it has ever been. I was in a better place, but far from a good place.
I have said here before that weight was always a struggle for me. It is not the sweater and the turtle neck making me look that way. It’s truly how I was. That was closed to the most I ever weighed. Being larger than society says you should be is not bad, but for me, it was just a sign that I was not taking care of myself. At all. I was unhappy in my life, in my relationship, with the fact that I could not get the counseling I needed because I simply could not afford it.
I have changed so much since 2001 when this picture was taken. I was going through hell and had been for a long time. In 2001, I was twenty-five years old. I had been dealing with the life-altering results of abuse for a minimum of eighteen years. That includes only the time when I remember things being inappropriate with my father, not the whole dynamic of having a child molester always living in my home.
I am now thirty-five. It is hard to realize that the percentage of my life dealing with abuse will never be less than the percentage of my life when I didn’t deal with it. And it will never go away. No matter how hard I work and how much I heal, it will always be a part of me.
I have gotten to the point that it is not a bad thing to be a survivor. I wish I had not gone through it, but I did and I have lived to tell the tale. And I tell it every chance I get.
I was sitting with a group of women the other day, none of whom I knew well. I was asked to introduce myself and explain what I did. The introduction was easy, the general pieces of what I do where also easy, but then it was time for the next step. It was time to describe this blog that I write and why I do it.
I hesitated. It wasn’t that I was ashamed or afraid to say it, but I wondered how I could say it most gently so as not to hurt anyone at the table. Considering there were seven other women sitting at the table, statistics told me that at least one of them, excluding me, had been affected by sexual abuse in her lifetime. No one cringed or looked pained as I talked, but it still left me wondering who the other survivor was.
As survivors, we go through a lot of stages. I know the five states of grief, but do not know that anyone has ever created stages for survivors. Right now, I’d say I’m in the liminal space. I’m not in a hurting place; I’m not in a thriving place; I’m just in between. it isn’t a bad place to be. It’s just where I am.
I keep thinking to myself, “You’ve come a long way baby.” It’s true, and I have a long life ahead of me to go.
Of all the emotions I have had to face on my journey to be a survivor, anger is certainly the hardest. Anger is an emotion, at least in my opinion, society has decided it is not safe to have. The perception is that women cannot control anger, and therefore should not have it. Anger is a masculine emotion.
I never wanted to be angry because I did not think I could control it. I thought once I tapped into the anger, I would never stop being angry or that I would be consumed by rage.
Anger can lead people to be out of control if they are not in control of it. Anger can be taken out on others inappropriately, but anger is also powerful.
I have joined a support group for survivors of sexual abuse. The stories these people, who are predominately women, tell are astounding. They have been tortured by members of their own families. These are people who are supposed to have loved them.
These people have been bound and gagged, electrocuted, kidnapped, raped repeatedly, harassed, burned, drugged, gang raped, raped with objected, beaten. I can barely tolerate to hear the stories of suffering. I am angry at their abusers and angry at systems of “justice” that fail to act.
If we heard any of these peoples’ on the news, we would be appalled. The outcry would be so loud and cries for justice would drown out the sound of traffic in New York. There would be thousands of people storming the gates at the Hague to raise cries of crimes against humanity.
Because that is exactly what child sexual abuse is. It is a crime against humanity and a violation of human rights.
I did not get that for a very long time. I knew what happened to me was bad, but I did not realize how bad it was. To use an overused phrase, I could not see the forest for the trees. I was so broken by the abuse, I could not see how bad it really was. I could always see how bad it was for others, but for myself, I simply could not see how bad it had been.
It was so bad, it almost destroyed me. And there are parts of me it actually did destroy. My thought process has been permanently altered. I have struggled to feel safe, to form a lasting relationship, to be in charge of my sexuality, to live my life to the fullest.
But I have battled back. I am in charge of my life and even thought the abuse has changed me, I push on, even when it’s hard. I get up every day and try to live life to the fullest. Some days I don’t succeed, but I’m come to the point that I can take that in stride (at least for the most part) and get up again the next day and try again.
I don’t do that because I’m a super hero. I wish I had a cape, but that would just make me a regular person with a non-breathable polyester cape.
I do it because again and again, I see the people in this group get up and battle back. They express their pain and frustration, then in the next second, they are comforting someone else who is hurting. I do it because I see people move from being broken and feeling victimized to saying, “I won’t take this anymore. I’m choosing me.”
It is worth it to deal with the anger, even though I don’t like it because on the other side of the anger, there are amazing people living every day. It is hard, and it is hard for them, but they go on and show such strength and such admirable courage. I will keep writing my little blog posts, spurred on by the courage and strength of others.
I make no suppositions that I do this on my own. I write for myself, but then I write for every survivor who keeps pressing on. I also write for the survivors who did not make it, and for whom the pain was too great. There is no shame in that, except that we as a world full of human beings, do not feel the collective anger necessary to stop abuse.
We don’t feel that anger because we don’t feel connected, and we don’t hear the stories. But there are people who have heard the stories, and their lives and perspectives are changed because of it. I don’t give up because I know peoples’ perspectives can be changed and then they are aware. The awareness may not change the world, but it is one step closer to a changed world because another person recognizes the horror of abuse.
So, I’ve been dealing with the anger and the outrage, and in the process, I got a reminder that every bit of it is worth it because I’m not the only one who feels it or who fights against abuse. For me, that is more than enough.