A poem

The best way for me to describe the way a grand mal seizures feels is in this poem. Sometimes poetry is the only way I can express myself.

 

Where have I gone.

Who will I be.

How will I find my way back to me.

Protecting the monsters. Secrets and lies.

 

 

Late last night I lay awake thinking of a time when I was younger.  I overheard that my own grandmother had been sexually abused by a male relative.  I couldn’t remember the exact words that were used, but something had been done against her will.  No one was going to say a word about it.  My family didn’t want this man’s wife and children, who were completely innocent, to be tainted with his predator act.

Anonymity was the cure for shame and preservation. That is what I was taught.  Don’t mention the name and no one gets hurt.  Except, of course, the victim (my grandmother) who was hurt in the first place.  Not to mention his next victims awaiting the same fate with no warning.  Did anyone wonder, like I did, how my grandmother felt seeing this man at family functions?  Did anyone question if keeping it a secret was the right thing to do?

As a sexually abused child I know the difficulty in sharing and exposing the truth.  Especially, with a name.  After my great uncle’s funeral last week, my cousin asked, “Who was it that abused you?” “What was his name?”  His name is hard to speak from my lips.  The sound of his name still churns my stomach.  I have flashbacks when I hear it.  It makes me sick to just read it.  Facebook suggests him as a friend to me all the time.  I thought about withholding his name as I have done through my writings.  I have pondered his “innocent” children and grandchildren that would be affected knowing what their father or their grandfather did.  I am so glad my cousin asked me to speak his name.

I had a revelation.  I typically do once I ponder and pray about something long enough.  I did not choose to be abused.  My name was readily spoken of as the girl who…fill in the blank…tried to kill herself…got put in a mental hospital…and “says” she was abused.  But his name was hushed.  He was protected.  His name was covered up.

 

When I was 15 or so I paddled out into the middle of our lake with the help of a good friend.  We stayed up until 3 am so we could do this in the middle of the night and not get caught.  He inched his way across the lake in his boat so that we didn’t wake anyone up.  There was so much fog I could barely see him when he reached my dock.  We paddled out to the ski jump.  The sides of the jump were made from boards that we could easily paint on.  The ski jump was near “his” house towards the middle of the lake so we knew everyone would see it.  Everyone in our “lake neighborhood.”   We spray painted “his” name on the waterski jump: “unnamed”… is a child molester…protect your children.”  We knew the ski club met for practices that next morning.  We knew the early morning skiers would be on the lake while it was still “glass.”  I sat up until dawn looking out my bedroom window to see what would happen.  I wanted to warn other parents on the lake and other ski club members to protect their children.  I couldn’t speak his name but I could paint it.  That morning I sat on a pink cushion in my bedroom window seat and watched with my hand over my mouth as the ski club painted over his name. Many boats arrived right as the sun came up.  They surrounded the ski jump.  The men frantically rolled right over my warning with huge white paint roll brushes.  His name was gone. The sun was barely up and his name had already been erased.  I looked around my beautiful pink room.  My mother had done such an amazing job painting it pink.  She made this beautiful comforter with lace and matching pillows for my window seat.  I don’t know why this stuck out in my mind but it did.  I watched these men paint over what I had written and leaned against the window of my pretty pink room and cried.

My revelation is that it has never been my job to protect his name.  If his friends and family are hurt by learning what he has done to me, that has nothing to do with me.  By molesting me, he chose to taint himself to his family and friends.  He chose to molest me and by doing so he hurt everyone that loved him. 

 

At the time, I didn’t have the strength to tell my parents all the details of the abuse that occurred.  My husband pointed out to me last night the incredible strength of a 15 year old girl to paint his name and crimes on a ski jump.  I was that girl.  I was stronger than I knew.

Looking back at when my grandmother was sexually assaulted by this male relative, my family protected him just like the ski club protected my monster. I don’t think they knew what to do.  I think they thought they were protecting my grandmother and didn’t even realize they were protecting the criminal.  His name is a secret, too.  I wonder about him the same that I wonder about the man who molested me.  By keeping his name a secret what have they done?  My grandmother may not have had the strength to speak his name.  But certainly those who had been told did.  Had these men’s names been announced, who else could have been protected?  Who else could have been saved by their vile acts?  Many, I would presume.  Many I know.

Sometimes we need someone else to be our voice until our voice returns.  My vocal chords were cut in half the moment he put his hands on me.  But, I painted his name.  Adults on the lake knew and could have been my voice to further protect the others.

I remember my mom talking to me about this man who violated my grandmother.  I never saw him again after she told me what he had done.  Thankfully she kept us away from him.  She explained to me that he had been abused himself.   Perhaps that is why he did what he did.  Says him.  Who knows if this was true or just something he said?  His excuses or lies don’t matter.  Apparently, it worked as nothing was done about him.  And who was protected?  The other women in the family?  No. They were left as innocent lambs ready to have their vocal chords cut in half like the rest of us. They were left vulnerable.  And he did attack again.  I heard about the second woman shortly after my grandmother.  The cycle was not broken.  No one had the voice to speak his name and protect the other members of our family.  Too many were worried about who “they” thought were the innocent ones that would be hurt by what he had done.  His family.  His wife.  His children.  But the true innocence was lost by his victims.  I will not speak his name as I truly believe my story will give his other victims the strength to regain their voice.  His name is theirs to tell.

Who is being protected by anonymity?  The criminal.  The monster.  He owes the apologies.  He took the innocence.  It ALL lies on him! The shame, the secrets, and the lies are all his.

Revealing the monster’s name will cause pain.  It will hurt the family members of the monster who may not yet know that he is a monster.  But I am not responsible for that pain. You are not responsible for that pain. The monster is.

Keeping the man’s name a secret who molested me leaves many lambs unprotected.

The name I wrote on the ski jump when I was 15 was, “Billy Banks.”

“Billy Banks is a child molester.  Protect your children.”

 

Muscle memory.

For 13 1/2 years I have sat down to this computer and put my left hand down to pet Jessy. My other dog Molly occasionally would stick her head under my right hand so I had to stop typing and pet her. I am so used to sitting in this chair and putting my left hand down to pet Jess that I automatically do it. Last night I finished my dinner and put my plate down for him to lick. But he wasn’t there. I reached to put the plate down anyway because my body was so used to the repetition without me even thinking. I have a bench in my kitchen. Every night I lay on that bench and watch a movie holding my Ipad up with my right hand and petting Jess with my left. My left hand went down to pet him last night but he wasn’t there. My left hand still did it though. I let him out every night at 1 am. I got up to let him out two nights ago and it wasn’t until I got all the way in the kitchen last night that I realized he was not there. My body just got up and walked in the kitchen, on it’s own, with a purpose, that was no longer even there.

I had a roommate back  in my early 20’s that was a double leg amputee. He told me he would wake up in the middle of the night and get out of bed forgetting he had no legs and fall!. He had walked on those legs for half his life and been without them for the other half yet his body still thought they were there.

Whether it is muscle memory, repetition, or our brain’s programing our body remembers and acts without us thinking. Molly has been gone for a year now and I still catch myself looking over my shoulder in the front yard to see her hiding in the bushes. Of Course she isn’t there but I looked over my shoulder at her every day for almost 14 years.

My neighbor took my husband to drop the car off at the shop. She called and told me she was so used to dropping her husband off in the car that she leaned over to kiss her husband, stopped, realizing it was my husband, and laughed at the fact that it was such a habit she did without thinking. Her body was so used to the routine of dropping off her husband and leaning in to him before he got out of the car that she just did it without even thinking.

If our bodies do tasks almost robotically on a daily basis for simple life experiences, just imagine what happens in our minds. Just imagine what our mind and body do for the huge life experiences. How long will it take for me to stop putting my left hand out to pet Jessy? Molly has been gone a year and I still think she will be standing around the corner!  At what point does my brain tell my body that it can stop the behavior? These are simple things. These are happy things. These things my body out of habit gave me joy. On the other end of my hand was a dog to love me. What about the hard, painful, dreadful things that our body did out of habit? What about the way our body robotically responded to those bad moments and what our brain then did to cope? How do we stop that memory? How do we stop those bad habits and repetitions?

This is not simple. It is extremely complex. It is many faceted.

When I was being abused my body cringed with touch. I would smile when I was hurting inside. I would freeze and become rigid. My mind was programed. I did things out of habit. I reacted out of habit. I allowed scenarios similar to what happened to me in the abuse moments to then happen with other men because it was all I knew. Every time I was abused by every different man  I felt exactly the same way in my mind and on my body. My body and my mind knew the drill and responded with the same repetition… it went on auto drive again and again.

Whether it is a wonderful feeling, or a painful feeling, if something happens over and over again, muscle memory reacts. Eventually, I will walk to the sink with my plate and not lower it for my dog. Eventually, I will fall asleep before 1 am because there will  be no need for me to be awake to let the dog out. I will create a new routine. My body and my mind will adapt. There is a mindfulness, awareness, and conscious thought process that we have to do to reprogram the old ways. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way but being in control of it instead of coasting through it numbly seems a valuable choice.  We could easily just adopt new habits and not acknowledge why we did what we did. It would seem simpler that way. But doing that doesn’t honor who we are or how far we have come. I could have continued dating abusive men. I could have let my body be used since it knew how that felt. Being aware of these habits makes us able to then change them. I wish all repetition could be because of the good things! I wish there was always a loving dog at the other end of a muscle memory behavior. Instead we have faced monsters at the other end of our hands that we’ve  had to overcome.

It has not been easy. My life has not been easy. I said last night outloud, ” I’m walking into the kitchen and I know Jessy is gone but I am doing it anyway…I love you Jess…maybe tomorrow I will just choose to fall asleep instead…we will see.” I wanted to do something out of choice not just automatic muscle memory.  I have chosen to do the same in dealing with the complex issues of abuse. I will say outloud if my husband touches me and my body reacts in the old abused way, ” This is your husband. He is safe. He loves you. You are okay.” I caught myself smiling when I was scared of a plumber I had let come in the house who was making feel uncomfortable. I was aware. I knew I smiled when something scared me from 25 years of doing it. I consciously told myself that I did not need to do this out of habit. I needed to reprogram this and react in THIS moment in THIS situation and create a new response.

Our bodies remember the good and the bad. Our responses, movements, and reactions are often times part of a system in our brain that is so complex I have barely scratched the surface of the topic. I want you to cut yourself some slack. I want you to give yourself a break. I want you to know that the task of overcoming the pain and memory of abuse is possible, it just takes time. I push myself. I expect so much out of myself.I get frustrated at setbacks.  I know others do the same. But putting it into perspective with something as simple as petting my dogs, compared to the enormous task of abuse,  allows me to give myself as much time as I need to change my muscle memory. To change the way I react. To change old habits that do not benefit me anymore. Allow yourself the time it takes to process, to be aware, to recognize where you are and how far you have come. I am not numb anymore. I am acutely aware of everything. I am acutely perceptive. I will continue to alter my muscle memory, brain response, habits, to the here and now. This place where I am no longer being abused. This space where I can allow myself peace.

 

My boy.

imageI said goodbye to this angel today. He blessed me with true unconditional love. My heart will forever love him. My heart will miss him until I see him again. He took away the lonliness. He brought light where there was none. He was devoted and loyal in ways I’ve  never experienced before. Opened the oven for me when my arms couldn’t.alerted me of seizures. Sat by me when no one else did.

Please pray for  me. My heart is broken. But thank God it loved.

A fragile heart.

When I was a little girl I went to the museum. There were what looked like card catalog drawers in one room. I distinctly remember the moment that I opened one of the drawers. As soon as I opened it I could barely move. There were butterflies pinned down on these cards with the names of the butterflies on them. I was horrified. I frantically started pulling out multiple drawers at a time only to find more of these beautiful creatures dead and put on display. I remember thinking, ” Who would do such a thing?” In my mind as I replay that memory, I go to open the drawer, and there is daunting dark music playing as I do. I also remember thinking, ” Does anyone care that these were killed?” Similar emotions emerged when I went to the zoo. My heart felt saddened as I looked at these animals in cages. An almost unbearable sadness came over me when I first went to the circus. Yet I was confused. Everyone around me was so happy and so mesmerized by these animals. Have you ever had a slow motion memory where you remember what you were thinking and then you look around you at what all the other people are expressing and there is such a vast difference in emotions that you feel like you must be an alien? When I was a young girl still, I picked out parakeets only so that I could open their cage when we got home. Those parakeets tore at my soul though. I looked at them when they were in the cage and couldn’t ever overcome this feeling of cruelty at putting an animal who can fly in a cage where his wings were bound. We often opened the cage for them to fly and I took them out as much as I possibly could. At a very young age I felt that human beings had a sense of entitlement over other things that they deemed less worthy of freedom and that gnawed at my heart until this very day.

My neighbor stopped by with his dog last night. He is an entomologist. He had a container to collect bugs to label and present in a class he taught. I had forgotten about my drawer opening experience until that very moment when I saw his containers. Even now, as a 44 year old woman, I thought, ” How can you capture a flying butterfly and kill it for your class?” I proceeded to tell him in great detail the lengths I went to save a moth who had flown into my house one night when I let my dog out. I’m not sure what I was trying to accomplish by giving examples of my saving insects at all costs when he was killing them. He was actually fascinated by moths and butterflies and talked about all of their intriguing characteristics. To learn about something that makes us curious do we have to kill it though? To advance as humans must we imprison and kill earth’s inhabitants? In talking about nature we switched to the birds of prey that are so prevalent in our neighborhood. He went on to tell me about speaking to a specialist from the audubon society who told him that hawks eat mostly lizards and frogs. Here, I thought, is what is wrong with limiting yourself to knowledge based on other’s opinions. While I kept thinking, can we not just be watchers and listeners!!! I cannot compete with the knowledge of some expert in the bird field, but I can tell you that I have sat in my front yard and watched hawks pluck squirrels from the ground on a regular basis! PFT I say to them only eating lizards and frogs!

This friendly neighbor was chatting about nature and in my mind hundreds of thoughts were racing back and forth. I went from the museum, to the zoo, to the circus, to my parakeets, and back numerous times. My focus, in my thoughts,  was not so much  why others do what they do with animals and insects( and people for that matter), but more so why it affects me so intensely. Why do I hurt so much for the suffering of others? Why is my heart so fragile? How can I continue to feel passionately without it affecting me so negatively?

I have always had a gentle docile nature about me. I am sure it came as quite a shock in the last few years for my friends and family to see me outwardly vocalize my anger  about the abuse I endured and everything surrounding those events. This change happened in me when I had an  awakening and realized that my gentle heart and quiet ways made me easily dismissed and ignored. I went from inward to outward overnight. When you turn your insides out you can feel even more vulnerable and exposed.I didn’t know this when I first switched the switch from inward to outward. It truly is a raw and vulnerable feeling BUT  it was risk I needed to take in reclaiming my life and my identity that I felt was always influenced by other’s need to manipulate and control me. It is like turning a shirt inside out and imagining that all your emotions that were kept in are now in full visual of the world. All the sadness, anger, fear, disappointment are all there in full view. I have allowed myself to feel all of these exposed emotions. In my life I have allowed myself to feel deep sorrow for others. I have never allowed myself, until now, deep sorrow for myself. The more I learn about myself through this deep introspection the more I know that I will not be able to harden my heart to the things I find unconscionable. I cannot change my heart. I can let my words flow freely now carrying years of suppressed emotions.  I don’t have to have a fragile constitution just because I have a fragile heart. I can stand my ground and demand respect for the person that I am.

 

I have often blamed my personality for the abuse that happened to me. I thought, “If only my heart were different then these things would not have happened,” and ” If I acted tougher then he would not have preyed upon me.” I feel differently now. In a world full of so many hardened hearts I am glad mine has remained the same as it was as a child. Years of abuse and pain did not change that part of me. My heart remains untouched. I now cherish my heart. To blame a personality or a heart for another’s choice to abuse is the same as saying a woman asked to be raped by wearing a short dress to a party. It’s absurd.

We cannot allow abusers to change who we truly are or alter how we continue to view ourselves and live our lives. We are not to blame for what they did. We are not to blame for the choices other’s made after the abuse. We have no blame in ANY of it! We must remain true to ourselves, honoring who we are, and cherishing all parts of us. For me it is knowing my heart is not to blame for anything that has ever happened to me and choosing to love myself again that has moved me forward. When we do not blame who we are for what has happened to us then we are reclaiming control.Reclaiming our inner child. Reclaiming our inner soul.

On my quest to be healthy and whole I continue to discover things about myself. In moving forward there are things I know that will not change about who I am and that is okay. My heart will always be saddened by a butterfly in a net or an elephant in the circus. Watching the news will never be something I can do without knowing I will have great sadness in the suffering of others for days to follow. Having a sensitive heart is something that I am proud of. It makes life very hard though. I must embrace all of me though. I cherish all of me. And I reclaim my life as my own.

 

 

The bitch factor.

image

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard, “She is such a bitch.”
Is she really a bitch though?
How about, ” She is very strong in her convictions.”
How about,” She isn’t letting people trample her anymore.”
Maybe, ” She is finally letting out what she has kept in for years.”
Even, ” I am glad she is finally standing up for herself and allowing herself to feel.”
And better, ” She has every right to say and be exactly how she is, you just don’t want to hear it.”
Why is she being perceived as a bitch? Why is it so easy to let that vile word roll off the tongue?
Is it because of what she is saying or doing or is it because of how that makes someone else feel? Is it all just misconceived perception? If you are wrong, and she doesn’t accept that, she is then a bitch?
I’ve often seen a woman pushed into a corner and and when she fights back then it doesnt make the  pusher feel very good to have her not submissive. The pusher will always be the accuser of the so called bitch.

If the elevator opens and a man is the only person in it, I let the doors close, and he calls me a bitch, does that make me one? No.but he seems to think so.
If I am seen raising my voice to a crossing guard as I grab my child’s hand and cross the road, as she calls me a bitch, does that make me one? No. The onlooker may think so.
If I hang up on a friend, If I get up and walk out in the middle of dinner, if I end a friendship, if I don’t let someone hug me, am a bitch then? No.
I don’t get on the elevator because I had an instinct about the man in it, Or I was simply scared of being alone with a man, wouldnt  I just be human. If he judges me for that does it even matter? No.
I raised my voice at the crossing guard because she was on her cell phone and not watching the kids, aren’t I just being human. If the onlooker knew the full story wouod I still be the bitch? No.
I hung up on my friend because she said I wasn’t allowed to be angry at having Lyme disease, I’m only human, and not a bitch.
I ended a friendship because my friend continued to hurt me. I didn’t let someone hug me because they had perfume on and I’d just get a rash. Don’t all the scenarios  make me just a human being, and not a bitch? Yes, because I am  allowed to make choices and to feel without being called a bitch and so are you.

It is easy to throw out the word bitch. It is easy to say someone is acting like a bitch or listen to someone else accuse someone of being one just because they see a two minute interaction. When in reality we have no idea what transpired in that person’s mind or where she went with her emotions that landed her that title.

I am in no way making excuses for cruel or hateful behavior. That is never acceptable. What is the intent? Because I would venture a guess that most women that are called bitches are fighting a battle that noone knows anything about and their intent is only expressing pure emotion rooted in, most likely fear. Other times I believe she has chosen to not be vulnerable and in that moment she is judged by those who are.

Most of the times I have seen someone called a bitch it is not because they are doing something cruel OR hateful. That woman has many other reasons for behaving the way she is and most of the time it is justified.

My daughter has been called a bitch because a guy said something inappropriate and she called him out on it. He was being crude and she did not accept that. That somehow made HER the bitch! When I think of how it makes me feel to have my strong, independent, incredible daughter being called that it puts the word in perspective. It is a word tossed out by insecure people who don’t get their way. It is a word used to knock down, to separate, to degrade. It is clearly a reflection of the person saying the word and not at the person it is directed towards.

Women are expected in to be sweet, polite, and quiet. When we say no, we are a bitch. When we don’t cater to other’s feelings at the expense of our own, we are a bitch. When we stand up for ourselves, we are a bitch. When we don’t agree, we are a bitch.

BUT…we are NOT bitches. Some of us have some sharp edges. The edges are where the smooth got ripped apart. The edge is part survival and part injury and part this will never happen again. The edge is a strength that came out of a tragedy. The edge is our voice finally found. The edge is our protection. It is the, you will never shut me up again!
Some of us are simply strong women like my daughter, who listen to their instinct and stand up for what is right.

I wish I heard more, ” Good for you! I’ve got your back,” and ” I respect how you feel,” and ” You know what, you have the right to be angry right now.” More of lets stand together instead of lets rip each other down. Less judgment. More support.

If we took the bitch factor completely out what would we see?
The wounded?
The strong?
We would see the truth.
Which requires no label or name.
We should seek the truth in others
So that we could then more easily see it in ourselves.
Or rather, seek the truth in ourselves, so we could more easily be open to seeing it in others.
In that space, there are definitely no bitches.