Blooming gardenias. Blooming gardenias. A cool breeze to blow the sweet smells through my house. The simplest of things makes me happy
Following her blog has taught me a lot. An understanding and validation of myself. I have never felt “stronger” and finally someone understands that.
Throughout my work as an advocate for abuse survivors, I have seen a considerable amount of victim shaming, victim blaming and shame shifting. And I see the bigger picture of how much harm this causes.
Many abuse survivors are not ‘stronger’ after the abuse they have suffered. And for those who claim they are – that’s great, but it is very narcissistic to then look down on those who are struggling and mock, belittle and/or shame those who are deemed to not be ‘as strong’.
Many abuse survivors already feel considerable shame, due to the abuse they have suffered and when they are treated in this victim shaming way, that shame increases, and often leads to increased mental health issues, and can lead to suicide. When shamed for not being ‘strong enough’ – survivors can feel a burden, useless and weak. For those who have spiralled down to suicidal thoughts – this added…
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A black crow and a yellow butterfly
flew together side by side.
“They think raking leaves will build her character,”
the crow squawked.
“Visiting the lonely, giving compassion to the desperate would give more growth indeed,”
the butterfly whispered.
The crow agreed.
“Why do you shout your words,”
the butterfly asked.
“Some things must be spoken loudly for people to fully grasp.
Why are you so quiet, just fluttering your wings?”
“Some things can only be learned in silence,”
The crow agreed.
“We are a nice balance,” said the crow to the butterfly.
It’s a shame the humans can’t see life
Through our eyes.
When I first got my scooter from the MDA after I was diagnosed with Central Core Disease I was 110lbs. I was often told that I “looked” sick. A year ago I got up to a little over 140lbs. And I started getting told, “Wow, you look great,” or “I can tell something you are doing is really working,” or ” You’ve put on weight finally! You look like you feel so much better.” And I ask this:
WHAT DOES MY WEIGHT HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING?
I have recently lost 25lbs. We are back to the, “Oh no, you look so thin, you must not be doing well.” I was doing the same at 145lbs as I am at 115lbs. My weight is no indication of how I am doing in regards to my muscle disease nor does it reflect how I am feeling emotionally. At 145 I was exactly as sick as I am at 115. But somehow my weight gain seemed to warrant comments about my assumed health improvement. My weight loss has warranted comments about my health decline.
WHY DOES ANYONE’S WEIGHT ALTER WITH OTHER’S PERCEPTIONS?
I know my arms look like sticks. I can see them. I don’t need to be told that they do. I am painfully aware of the atrophy that is happening all over my body. When I weighed more, it was just less less noticable. When I first got my scooter I was told so often that I was too young to be in the scooter.
WHAT DOES MY AGE HAVE TO DO WTIH MY DISABILITY?
I have heard the comments towards others while just going through a parking lot. “If he just lost some weight, maybe he wouldn’t need that scooter,” and ” She must have MS poor thing,” and ” Maybe if she just ate more she would gain some weight and not need that scooter.” People talk. Others listen. I listen. I know that the judgments made by others are also made towards me because I have heard them. Sometimes I brush them off. Sometimes they hurt. Sometimes I feel outraged at the unwarranted comments towards a complete stranger.
WHAT DOES WEIGHT HAVE TO DO WITH IT FOR ME?
Weight is a touchy subject for me. I have been on a rollercoaster with weight since my teenage years. Being a professional water skier put a lot of pressure on weight. The actual salary I got was based on my weight. If I was thin then I could be on the top of the pyramid and that paid more. There were no overweight waterskiiers. There were underweight, unhealthy, anorexic waterskiiers. Some of the “big” girls were the foundation of the pyramid. Yes, they were called big. Looking back, they were tall and thin. But we were all labeled and that created very distorted self images for all of us. After the sexual abuse started I found great power in controlling my weight which was a dangerous and slippery slope. My weight was a great point of distress when I was pregnant with my daughter. I eventually stopped looking at the scale as it upset me so much that I was not “perfect.” I feel sad for my pregnant self that didn’t just enjoy and relish in the beautiful body of pregnancy. But ingrained thoughts of thin being perfect were there. I find this ironic now as I am atrophied into thin and thin in all reality equals muscle wasting.
After I was assaulted 11 years ago I was blamed in many ways by the abuser’s family. “If you weren’t so thin,” was one of the biggest reasons. Apparently, because of my weight, a man felt it was okay to assault me. And again I ask:
WHAT DOES WEIGHT HAVE TO DO WITH IT?
Other people caused my weight to fluctuate for a long time. Their comments allowed self doubt, self hate, self worth issues. A few years ago I decided to eat everything that I denied myself from eating most of my life. I gained weight. And apparently that weight gain meant to others, that I was finally getting better. My muscle disease miraculously was healing and Lyme disease treatment must finally be working. None of the above were correct. I was just simply eating more. Then my daughter was put on a specialized nutritional plan due to her health. Since I was cooking it for her, I was eating it myself. I lost 15 lbs right away. Now the next 10lb weight loss DID come from health issues. My labs have been way off due to Iron toxicity, low phosphorus, low zinc, chronic anxiety issues and an increase in PTSD symptoms. But no one actually asks. They assume my muscle disease is just getting worse.
WEIGHT MAKES PEOPLE ASSUME.
So what does weight have to do with it? Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, sometimes not at all. But that is nobody’s business. Making a comment, an assumption, a judgment, on someone’s weight, are words best left unsaid. Infact, they are words best left unthought. Behind my weight, at any given time, can symbolize hundreds of things, or it can mean nothing at all. My weight is not a reason to ponder or reflect for anyone but me. Commenting on my weight is just a reminder that this vessel for this soul is what most people focus on. No one asks, “How are you feeling?” No one asks, “How is the treatment going, ” and no one ever asks, “How does it feel to be going through all of this?” Nope. I have to pay a therapist to get those questions. Or I come on my blog to find compassion and understanding for virtually every topic that I face or battle or struggle with. But people in my present life, face to face people, rarely ask, and listen, and want to know, how I really am. There are a few and I cherish them. It is difficult sometimes to remember the few when there are SO many of the others. I hear the mumbles, “I wonder what is wrong with her knee,”and “Why is she parking in that disabled spot,”and “Wonder why she needs that scooter,”and “She looks too thin.” And the top of all questions I heard this week was, “Wow, you look much younger than 45, must be because you are so small.” So if I were 10lbs more I would look older? Who on earth knows.
There are so many struggles we each have in our lives. So much happens beneath the surface of our skin and yet our skin is the focus of so much. I challenge everyone to watch their thought processes when they see another person. You know “Everyone is fighting a battle” meme often put up on social media? It’s true. But it is usually just a meme that people scroll past. They don’t internalize it and use it as a step to being more enlightened and more compassionate towards others. But we all should.
MY MIND MATTERS MORE THAN MY WEIGHT.
Where I am emotionally, and mentally, and even spiritually, matters far more than my weight. Or my hair. Or my skin. Or my clothes. Or my make up, or lack there of. The outside of me has been a topic of conversation for as long as I can remember. It has been used to diagnose, to blame, to judge, and to condemn. My body is just that. A body. Sometimes it is an indicator of what is happening on the inside. But most often it is just a vessel for a heart and soul that often gets overlooked because weight, in society, seems to take precedence.
I am not a crier. For ONE reason. Once I start to cry, I absolutely cannot stop. Nothing can be done to stop my crying. It comes in waves and lasts for days. Typically after my cry fest I get sick with a cold or fever because my body just shuts down.
This has been a very exhausting 7 days. I learned that my body is toxic with iron and I had to get a pint of blood drawn. After I had the blood drawn I got chills and my bones and joints ached. I was told this is the iron being pulled from the tissues. That night I started a new medication to lower my heart rate. I was awake all night long. The med wired me. The next morning on the way to therapy I started slurring my words. I felt completly drunk/drugged. The med was extended release and it must have hit me 12 hours after I took it. My therapist had me call the doctor’s office that prescribed it because I was obviously having a big reaction from this medication. Then the specialist that has been overseeing my muscle disease case for 11 years, sent me an email that they have found a new genetic mutation and he wants to test my blood for it. After 11 years, we have yet to find the mutation causing this muscle disease. The fact that this doctor in England is still willing to try to help me, a person he has never met that lives in the US, gives me hope. During this week we have had a foster dog Jillian. A few days ago I noticed scars on her neck from her previous owner putting her in a collar that caused wounds and scarring. We knew she had had a hard life already by her submissive cowering. I wanted to keep her. Our family loved her. But I noticed I was allergic. I tried everything possible to NOT be allergic but it was what it was. We had to take Jillian back to the rescue. The beautiful part of this story is that Jillian immediately bonded with a woman looking for a dog after her own dog had recently passed away. Jillian’s story has a happy ending. When my husband took JIllian back I started to cry. This is the last time I will look at her picture for while because looking at my daughter holding her…I can’t bear it.
We decided to go to Panera to pick up some food, buy some claritin, and distract me from my sadness. It didn’t work. I started crying in Panera while placing my order. I cried while waiting for my food as my husband hugged me right there in the middle of the restaurant. I cried all the way home and all night. It was Jillian. The innocent precious being that she was. Someone was so cruel to her and YET she still had the ability to love. She still had sweetness, gentleness, and love to give. I wanted to save her. I had to be okay with the fact that we were blessed with her for a week. But the knowledge and proof on her skin of the cruel world and cruel people broke my heart. It started the tears that I cannot stop. It reminded me of my need to be saved long ago. It reminded me of my scars. My husband then reminded me of my ability to still love in spite of everything that has been done to me. Even the IDEA that anyone would ever hurt Jillian again or that Jillian would not have love the rest of her life literally breaks my soul. Matters of the heart start my tears. I then cry for every wound, every other innocent animal, or human being, or child, that has been abused. I cry for the pain and suffering of others. I cry for the pain I never allowed myself to cry for when I was younger.
My friend stopped by last night to bring me some food. Fortunately, she was able to stop my crying for a short time. I thought, Okay, I’m good. Went back inside, started crying again. Woke up crying. Woke up to anxiety and dread at the thoughts of what if Jillian isn’t okay. The strong need I have to make sure the innocent are not left alone and suffering and are loved is overwhelming to me. Just the idea that the innocent can be targeted and harmed makes me feel broken inside. This is how I have always been though. I know this about myself. I found an injured cardinal once with his mate chirping in the bush right next to him and I cried for days at the sorrow I thought that bird must feel losing his mate.
I woke up this morning and my entire body hurt. Taking care of Jillian was harder than I had expected. I realized today that I would have never set up a boundary for my own body if we kept her. I would run myself in the ground making sure she had the perfect life. At this point my body is broken. With the bone disease, the muscle disease, the toxic iron, and the countless other things going one with me, I need to rest. I know this now. But that just makes me cry more. My body is so broken I cannot save a sweet dog who only wanted to be loved. I have to accept that a week of love from our whole family MEANS something in this life of cruelty. I have to hope that for now, that was enough.
Sorrow. Innocence. Brokenness. Helplessness. Love. Loss. I cry deep in my soul for all of these things. But I never let the tears fall. I keep them inside because I know when the floodgates open, it may be awhile before I have the ability to close them again.
I can still remember being a young teenager and my mother calling the man’s house who abused me. I didn’t hear the entire conversation but it did consist of him saying he had no part in it, whatever that meant, and his wife telling my mother I was going to hell. I still remember the me going to hell part.
Why do human beings feel so…entitled….so….self righteous….so….on a pedestal? How does any one human being deem another to hell? The wife of a child abuser felt my worth was hell. The worst place anyone can imagine. That is where I was destined to go. Hell. It so easily slips off the tongues of so many and it should not.
In our mind we may think that a person should go to this worst place ever for a number of reasons: They raped someone. They killed someone. They abused a child. They abused an animal. They abused an elderly person. Everyone has their own catergory they put someone in that is sending them straight to hell. If they do this, then they are going there. my neighbor’s kid said my entire family is going to hell because they are Jewish. The supremacy of this child to think she can say something like this appalled me. Yeah, you don’t get to tell me my family is going to hell. Not gonna happen. But I am an adult so I can take these words with a grain of salt. When I was a young girl finally having the courage to tell I’d been abused, going to hell was the last thing I needed to hear.
I don’t have a catergory I put people in that makes me assume in any way that I have any IDEA where they may go after they die. But that is not why people say it. They say it to condemn. They say it to hurt.
My blog post is not about religion and it is not about hell. It is about the hurtful things that one person says to another. What does one get out of telling another person they are going to hell? Some phrases will change nothing in another person’s life. Does it just feel like a good thing to say if you’re angry? I said it to one person. Once. It didn’t affect him. It only allowed me direct my anger. It didn’t feel good after I said it. The OTHER things felt good. He was the man who locked me in his garage and assaulted me. We have the gift of language and words. We can use them in a much better way than flippant judgments. Every other word I felt had meaning, accountability, and strength behind it. The, going to hell part, seemed…weak.
It is a tough phrase for me. I have always been sensitive to it. If I hear it for what I feel would be a justifiable topic or whether I hear it as an insult it rubs me the same way. Because a woman, whose husband molested me, felt justified to tell my mother I was going to hell. I still remember it. I still feel it. I’ve come to the place where I don’t think it should be said.
Say what you really mean. Telling someone they are going to hell just seems so juvenile, so elementary. The man who abused me, his wife deems me to hell. What she really wanted to say was she was furious I was accusing her husband of molesting me. She was so furious and so much in denial that I MUST be a terrible person who should have terrible consequences of my accusations. But all she could come up with in the moment is, I was going to hell. Come on lady.. If anyone is going to hell it would be her husband. Ah…see how easily it can be said. What I really want to say is I have no idea what will happen in this man’s life. But I have more elaborate words. I feel disgust of him. I wish justice would be served. I wish he were in jail. I wish he paid for his crimes against me. And maybe he will…in hell…I know, it is just hard to get around. Which is my point. It is such a used phrase that anyone can be tossed into the sentence with it. It is simply a phrase meant to declare absolute hatred for another human being.
You know what bothers me? I’m not thinking about this man’s life in eternity. I care about right now. It infuriates me that he gets to walk around on this earth at all. He gets to roam freely to hurt others. He gets to enjoy the life with his wife and family. I am upset about his life right now. Whatever happens after this life is not up to me. That is for God.
Hurtful phrases can cut deeply. If you take out the pedophiles and the sex offenders and all the other people in the “bad” catergory they we feel free to send to hell, you are left with innocent 15 year olds who are being told they are going to hell for finally telling the truth. And that is not okay. We have powerful capabilities with the use of our language and words. They should be used wisely, especially with children. 30 years later I still remember that woman’s words. I was going to hell. Her words contributed to my attempted suicide. Her words and the words of many others who chose to minimize and trivialize the abuse. Event those who chose to not speak at all in my defense. You add up the condemners and the silent watchers and you’ve got a perfect storm for a young girl who has actually been through hell.
“Go to hell,” lets do better than that shall we.
Boundaries. You name them, I have never had them. I didn’t really even know what boundaries were until my therapist broke it down for me. When I say boundaries I mean sense of self and protecting that self. What do I want. What do I not want. Where is my actual spacial boundary. What do I consider my space and who do I want in it our out of it and why. Am I able to tell someone who is in my space to get out of my space. Am I able to establish a boundary where I feel safe in any environment. Am I able to say no. Am I able to explain what my boundary is and why. Am I able to speak my wishes and my hesitations about my own personal space.
These are questions I have been asking myself. Reflecting on these questions I have been accutely aware that I never say no. Whether it is a hug or someone sitting next to me or just telling someone they cannot come over right now to my house. I have not thought about myself or my needs or my boundaries or when someone violates my space… because no one taught me how. My space was violated most of my life with abuse. So my ability to establish my own space and how close I want someone in my own personal space has not been established. It couldn’t be. My space was invaded with molestation and rape. I HAD NO SPACE. This has left me open for many triggers and PTSD episodes. I have often felt like I cannot say no because every time I ever have, I was not respected. If I know a man is coming towards me and wants to hug me, but has cologne on, I will allow him to hug me. Every part of my being is saying no. But up until this point my ability to set a boundary has been non existent. Then I would spend the next few hours in a dissociative state until I could wash my clothes and scrub my skin raw in the shower. All because I could not just put my hand up and say no.
Establishing boundaries is imperative in the healing of sexual abuse. It is crucial. Just last week I was able to tell someone that I was sexually abused and his cologne would be very triggering for me and THAT is why I could not hug him. It is THE very first boundary I have ever set. It was very empowering to not cower and not be submissive of the boundaries my body so desperately needed. And he responded with complete understanding and compassion. It was a very positively reinforcing moment for using my voice and protecting my body’s needs. Not everyone will respond to my boundaries with understanding. I know this. Not everyone will listen or respect my boundaries. I have recently been shown this. It was a simply boundary that I set this past week. Someone wanted to come over and spend the night. I said no. I said that she could come over for a few hours but spending the night is something I can not do right now. It was a very clear boundary- I am not okay with what you are suggesting because of (bland) but we can do this instead- I cannot have an overnight guest. She did not accept this boundary. She pushed and she pushed to get what she wanted with no regard for my boundary. The consequences of her actions resulted in not being able to see us at all and infact me putting up a larger boundary that said I personally did not want her in my home period. Putting up this boundary and having someone so blatantly disregard it created my need for a larger boundary. Something I also have never done. She had no respect for my boundaries and I was not okay with that. Setting up boundaries will not always end feeling victorious. Yay! I set up a boundary and told someone what was not okay for me. But they didn’t care. They didn’t listen. This is hard. When you finally set up your boundary and the other person just doesn’t care. That was very triggering for me because when my “no” doesn’t mean no to someone else it is incredibly upsetting. It actually resulted in me having a seizure. My point in sharing this experience is: setting up and implementing boundaries is not easy. I did not back down though. Once my boundary was set, it was set. That boundary was me listening to my own body and what it could handle and not handle and stating very clearly my expectations of another person. It is victorious though, even if it doesn’t feel that way, even if they don’t listen, because you have chosen to speak. Speaking in the face of a manipulator or a bully or a selfish person will always be victorious to a person who has been beaten down by similar abusive individuals. I will always consider my voice to be a victory, even if in that moment it may not feel that way.
It is not your fault or responsibility if someone chooses to not respect your boundaries. That is on them. We have the right to FINALLY after living for years of having our space violated, establishing a protective space that has a voice. I can say no. You can say no. No to a friend stopping by. No to being hugged if you don’t want to be. Even no to something so simple as your child wanting you to lay in bed with them before they sleep. If tonight is a night you need to be alone, then they will be okay. You can lay in bed with your child another night and they will be okay. It may be as simple as someone offering you food that you don’t want or hand me down clothes you don’t want and actually saying no. I cannot tell you how many times I have taken someone’s hand-me-downs just to donate them to goodwill because I could not say no. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have done things I did not want to do, accepted things I did not want, because I did not know how to say no. I couldn’t say no. I had no boundaries.
Boundaries are about listening. Listening to the parts of yourself that have been violated. Listening to the parts of yourself that want protection, security, and safety, and putting a voice to those needs. It is a process that will be ongoing or me. Part of setting up my boundaries is learning how to tell people no. Learning what is best for me and my healing and implementing that. Setting up boundaries is giving my body the nurturing and protection that it never received. Those boundaries have to begin with me. I have to figure them out. I have to then voice them. I have to then understand that if they are not respected, that does not fall back onto me. I will not be guilted or burdened with someone elses inability to respect my boundaries. No has to mean no. I will stand firm. My body deserves it. It is time to give my body the boundaries it has needed since the day those boundaries were violated. I have said before and I will say again, I am a work in progress. Healing from trauma is a continuous work in progress. Boundaries are a big part of that healing work. This is only the beginning.