Portland Baby

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October 2017, I received a clue something good was coming to us while we were living in Dayton.  I read this book called Wild: From Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed. It was about her struggles after her mothers death and a long walk through the Pacific Northwest. Interesting and well written, but my mom was alive. Not really related to my life I thought.

Then in November I dreamt about Cheryl Strayed. In the dream, I met her at a conference and she had extended her hand to greet me, but it was a gigantic hand. I was excited but didn’t know what to make of it. That hand was big, almost as big as me. I felt excited when I woke up.

Then in December I got sick and ended up hospitalized for a few days. While I was recovering, Gerard started the application for a promotion in his job, and it would entail a move but we didn’t know where.  It ended up being for a position in Portland Oregon. So, in February 2018, we both ended up working in Portland,. Gerard with his job and I was able to transfer easily with IKEA. We moved into a cute house in Camas Washington, not too far from our respective workplaces.

Later, I found out  Cheryl lived in Portland..  Even though we never ended up meeting her I will say it was a good sign.

Great things happened there for me in regards to healing in a deeper way from the sexual abuse I experienced as a child. Both were retreats and they happened a few months apart.

One was a great journal writing workshop by Mark Matousek, called Writing to Awaken. Wow. It was a very short intense journaling weekend class. He was incredible in his teaching methods. He helped me understand journaling differently. It went like this, he would talk a bit about the Writing Prompt question for the writing segment coming up, then we would write about 20-30 minutes, and then we would talk about what that was like. Actually we could talk about anything related too. What I liked the most about his teaching style was his openness to all our different responses. For me, I didn’t share my writing because I was processing all that had happened in Ohio. It was raw for me, and I wasn’t in a place to explain to others yet. I still wasn’t willing or able to talk about my CSA publicly in its raw state. My shame factor is still pretty high. This combined with not knowing the teacher well enough yet,kept me holding back my speaking. But I reflected on my recent experiences deeply. I felt much better off understanding what had happened in Ohio and could see my mother much clearer.

The second retreat was hosted by the Younique Foundation that hosted a free Childhood Sexual Abuse Recovery retreat at their Retreat Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Another  unexpected WOW. 4 days of educational sessions to help us as Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors gain skills necessary to reclaim and rebuild ourselves. It was amazing. I realized I had done so much healing through the years of training to be a Counselor, through my healing modalities of journal writing, somatic bodywork, and just being alive. It would have been so much more efficient for me had I had those skills when I was 16, or right out of high school. Before starting out into adulthood. I  have so much to say about this and I don’t want to short circuit any of it. So I am going to write about this retreat in a later blog entry. What happened there was so amazing, it deserves its own entry. It confirmed so much of what I had learned the hard way.

By the time I had finished the Younique Retreat and processed all I had experienced there, I was steady enough. I was ready to come back to Missouri that I had missed so much.

Now, we are back, both settled back into our jobs, (well, I am laid off currently due to the Pandemic). But there have still been some more surprises.

The emotional nightmare of Dayton

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To help take my mind off my grief, I started attending a cosmetology school owned by some friends, it was fun.  It had been over a year since my husband had died, and I was trying to move forward in my life.  In many ways, I had been able to accept my husbands death. The estate issues were settled. I was starting to feel lonely. I met a guy (Gerard) through Plenty of Fish. It started out as a booty call so it was pretty easy emotionally in the beginning. But as time passed we started liking each other. More than either of us expected. As we became more involved in each others’ lives, it wasn’t as easy. There were moments when I felt so guilty of being “unfaithful” to my husband. Or like when Gerard and I were having such a good time, I would forget about my husband. Luckily, Gerard was able to respond kindly and openly to my grieving. He understood how deeply I had loved my husband and that it would take some time. 

I graduated from Cosmo school, went back to work using my newly acquired skills and Gerard and I continued to build our relationship. In the meantime, my sister who lived in Dayton was starting to have serious legal troubles, I became very concerned with her having to go through them alone. So after some discussion with Gerard, we decided to move to Ohio. On the surface, the reason I was moving back was to be with my sister, but there was going to be a spiritual healing too.

When we left St Louis in 2015, Gerard was so excited to move away from St Louis where he had lived all his life. We had a pretty solid relationship built on things we loved in common. I had  kept chickens and had a garden, even though he lived in the city, he did the same, had a few chickens and a garden.  He even was a beekeeper, and I had been very interested in bees before he came along. We had similar ways of looking at the world. We also dealt well with our conflicts. I was pretty introverted, he was very extroverted. Lucky for me, he had come along. Not only did it deepen our relationship he also was a steady person who had a fresh set of eyes that saw things without the baggage I had.

The emotions I had buried when I had moved away in 1976, were still there. I had successfully pushed them aside so I could get on with living, but as we all know abuse experiences don’t go away just because we ignore them. Long forgotten feelings and thoughts came to the surface as soon as I starting setting the move in motion.

My idea of who I was in my family consisted of the roles assigned to me. I was the sister to 5 younger 1/2 siblings, I was the shy student who was labeled an underachiever. I had lots of cousins. I was also, the liar who caused trouble in my mothers marriage, the illegitimate child, later labeled the crazy one, who made up horrible lies. No one seemed to listen to me. My mother only wanted me to forget about the abuse and stop reminding  her. 

Where I was wrong was in thinking that Jack (the rapist) was the only problem, I couldn’t see how my mother fit into the events of my childhood.  It was just too hard to see what her contribution was to my abuse, I had always thought of her as a victim too. Being able to see her as an adult who participated through her passivity and denial of anything upsetting was a real breakthrough for me. Her explanation of the abuse shows in some of the things she said over the years: “Kimmy, I don’t know what to think” and ” I can’t imagine why you would lie about this” and then “Why you would let him do that to you?”, or the classic “Why did you try to take my husband away from me?”  Later she would go on to say, “It was hard on me too, you know. You weren’t the only one he hurt.”

Just being around her while living there helped the animosity surface toward my Mom. It was the hardest emotional hurdle was to recognize just how dangerous the passive neglect had hurt me. Breaking up with her brought me the biggest relief. 

But then there were my 1/2 siblings, 5 on my mothers’ side, they weren’t sexually abused they all said.  They knew how much he drank, the oldest ones knew he was running around with other women, and how there were frequent out of state moves to run away from debts. He would cause himself trouble(s) and then pick us all up and move again. Not once, but many times, we would just pack up and leave everything behind. My youngest sister didn’t see any of this, and after talking with her one day, I realized she couldn’t imagine that her dad was that way. Her story was he was a great dad to her. Until then, I hadn’t realized how hard it was for my step-siblings to hear that their father was a rapist. The family story is he had never done anything to them so therefore it didn’t happen.

There are no words to sum up neatly how I felt during the 18 months we lived in Dayton, so many conflicting emotions and feelings. It was complicated by several issues, loss of my husband, finding a great new love, moving from my home of almost 20 years, or maybe I was depressed. I couldn’t tell. But  the wounds I had left behind were reopened. The deeper emotional work was getting done. Then one day, Gerard had an opportunity to move to Portland through his work. We jumped on it. It was easy for me to transfer with my work, they had a opening in Portland. I needed the space to sort things out. I needed some deeper spiritual understanding. This was February 2018. 

It had been 5 years since my husband left this world.  

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The Third Year

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My husband Bill of 19 years died on February 2013. He had a brain cancer called Gliablastoma Multiforme. He was going to die from the cancer itself because it was large and on his brain stem. But in an effort to give him more time, they operated to reduce the bulk of the tumor and he died from complications of that surgery.

I spent the rest of the year laying on the floor, just trying to survive and take in the devastating loss of my love. I cried and mourned our loss. Until our relationship came along, I had never felt that loved or safe as I did with him.

The people around me were kind, considerate and warmly loving during his illness and my subsequent grieving. No one said anything ignorant to me. I had always heard people said insensitive comments, but I didn’t experience it.

The nurses during his hospital stay looked out for me too, making sure I had enough to eat or drink. They offered hugs, support and information when I needed it to understand what was going on. They were there when he needed the pain medication for his last few hours on earth. I was grateful for their kindness, compassion and ability to help us through it all.

I can’t say enough good about all the people who went out of their way to help me, who were kind and thoughtful. Debbie and AL were there from the beginning, immediately and consistently. Bills sister Nancy helped during the funeral arranging. So many that I can’t remember who it was, my memory of the time was softened by the strangeness of it all.

I looked back a few weeks ago into my journals around the time of his death. Surprisingly enough, I didn’t write much during the 8 weeks of his illness. His illness and death triggered high anxiety for me, I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, was fearful and felt lost. I couldn’t focus and couldn’t take in the loss of the first time I had ever felt safe in my life.

I wrote a few blog entries but they were “just the facts” as I tried find a some sort of normal for me. Being a widow sucked. Then a new plan came to me, that it would be a good time to write my story of what it was like to grow up being sexually abused by a family member throughout my whole childhood. Until then it was only been a vague idea. I had been working up the courage to do it through having a blog. November seemed perfect. I tackled NaNoWriMo. Almost everyday, I went to 6 North Cafe in Wentzville, a new coffee shop right up the road. I wrote about everything I could remember about what it was like to grow up being sexually abused. Ended up with a manuscript of over 113,000 words. It helped me to write and have some sort of plan while I was feeling so lost.

There was a turning point for me, while  driving back from Ohio one weekend with Maggie, my German Shepard. I had a head ache and swallowed a few ibuprofen while driving. But instead of going down easily like they usually do, I choked on them. I thought I was pretty sure I was gonna die from choking on the pills. Once I regained my breath, I decided I needed to do something different. I couldn’t keep just going through the motions of living, I needed another goal after finishing the manuscript.

Once I was back home in Missouri, I called a friend I used to work with (they owned a beauty school close by my house).  I enrolled in the next starting class in Cosmetology school starting in January of 2014. Thats how I moved into a new chapter of my life. My thinking was I could learn something new, hang out with young women who were starting out too. We could benefit each other. It was a big step in rebuilding a life.

 

The First Two Years

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My first two years of blogging about being sexually abused as a child was hard and complicated, but overall worth it. I thought talking about Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) trauma was hard, but writing about it is even harder.

When I started, I lacked basic skills in blogging, and didn’t have anything more than general skills in writing. I did have a strong desire to tell others what had happened to me. I didn’t think for one minute I was up to writing a book about it. So blogging worked out to be the next step in my healing process. Blogging was complicated by Internet trolls, my own generalized anxiety and more than a few unresolved but related issues to the abuse I experienced.

But there were some unexpected benefits too. Like connecting with people who had never told anyone that they had been sexually abused during their childhood. They had never told anyone what they had experienced. Plus there was this overall sense of personal growth and satisfaction I didn’t expect from both telling about what happened and the writing process itself. The emotional freedom was exhilarating. I hadn’t ever experienced it like this before. I never really expected it either. This has made it all worth the struggle.

Of course, its horrible that I had to experience Childhood Sexual Abuse in the first place.

When I started blogging the first thing I noticed was how fearful I was. It was a struggle to finally label the fear but here it is. I had a fear that I was going to be punished in some unimaginable way for telling. Even though he has been dead for for over 5 years I was still afraid to say what he had done.  I had been told to never tell. I had no sense of what the punishment was, but I knew I was going to suffer for talking about what he had been doing to me. The fear that Jack had planted in me was designed to protect his shameful secret and to keep me quiet. Worked for a while.

Not only was I fearful of the telling, but I experienced anxiety that was clearly different than my fears. I think it was less the subject matter, but instead was from writing itself. It was quite similar to the anxiety I felt during college having to write papers, essays and journals that I had to do for class. It showed up as rushing through the process of writing of the post and publish immediately before I had time to change my mind. Which lead to plenty of plain writing mistakes. This has gone away to some degree, but not totally.

My inexperience talking about what had happened played out in writing about my experiences. I didn’t know how to tell my story. There isn’t many words available to describe what it’s like to grow up in an abusive household. In some ways, I feel like a child because parts of me are still frozen inside at the varying ages that I was violated. One particular violent rape, at the age of 11, makes me feel like I am 11 even today. I felt like there was nothing I could do to stop him then and it bleeds into my everyday life now. There are adult parts of me trying to live a ordinary life struggling to articulate regular adult things like relationship emotional work, financial decisions, sexual and parenting issues. But for me, they are all compounded by CSA issues of betrayal, distrust, fear, violations and suppressed feelings.

If you are an adult and raped you have many adult skills to help you through the healing and recovery necessary to build your new life. When I was a child I didn’t have the vocabulary to talk about what happened. I didn’t have the emotional or psychological development necessary to cope. As children, we don’t have those same benefits.

Writing helped me to overcome my inhibitions about talking and revealing my childhood to others. I had hoped it would help bridge the divide between my adult son and I but that has not come to pass. I thought he would be more understanding of my life if he knew more about how I grew up. He only knew fragments of what had happened that had been revealed to him by a uncaring adult who had her own thoughtless and insensitive take on the whole issue. She had very limited knowledge of any details of the abuse or my life but still decided to tell my son that I had been sleeping with my dad. She left my son with the question “What kind of woman did that make your mother?”

I had a few negative experiences from internet trolls on the blog. They really shook me and set me back. I found some articles about dealing with internet trolls but they were not much help. Eventually, I was able to move past them using some of the same skills I learned to get through my abuse and continue blogging, but it took some time and slowed me down.

Ignorance is still rampant about childhood sexual abuse. I see that reflected in the general public daily, I see it and I want to do something about it. So I write about it.

But then December 2012 came and brought its own kind of pain into my life.

 

Almost 10 years since I wrote my first blog entry

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Much has changed for me. There have certainly been some setbacks and some giant leaps forward. A major portion of these ten years has been just moving through the day.

  1. My first two years of blogging about my experiences of being sexually abused as a child went pretty well.
  2. My husband Bill of 19 years died on 4 February 2013, from complications to relieve the pressure of a Glioblastoma Multiforme on his brain stem.
  3. I wrote a manuscript for a memoir and only had bits and pieces of it. The draft is gone. Then I recovered it last week.
  4. I subsequently met a wonderful man who I love deeply. Who loves me even more than I ever thought possible.
  5. I moved back to the city where I was abused and had some startling insights into my life.
  6. I spent 4 days at a Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors Retreat hosted by Younique Foundation.
  7. I moved to Camas, Washington.
  8. I changed careers.
  9. My spiritual life is stronger than ever.
  10. I speak more about my childhood experiences than I ever have.
  11. I am firmly rooted back in St Louis now.
  12. My only child still doesn’t talk to me.
  13. I still need to be more assertive and speak up more.
  14. Several friendships and relationships have ended, not all for the better.
  15. I am not sure where I should be focusing my energy right now.

So this is the summation of how I have spent the last ten years. I hope it will re-inspire me to write more. My blog has helped me overcome my fear of speaking about my own experiences. In turn, I hope it will help other survivors to speak up. If we don’t speak up and out about our experiences, CSA will continue ignored and endorsed harming the children who are here now. People think there isn’t much abuse going on because they don’t know anyone personally (they think) who it has happened to. If it doesn’t help encourage you to speak about your experiences, I do hope it will heal you so that you can regain or build your lives after a childhood filled with sexual abuse.

I paid alot for the abuse I experienced.

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The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” —Henry Thoreau

This quote came up today in something I was reading and I tell you now, it hit a sore nerve.

In my years of protecting others from the damage he did I realized it was shame about what happened to me that kept me quiet.

I protected his secrets when I was young because he told me too. I thought he would kill me, he said he would.

I protected my Mother from feeling guilty about her part in the abuse. Not that she was in the room with him, she was not. Nor did she prostitute me out, but she didn’t see me, or notice me. She was too busy watching his drinking and running around with others. Too worried about how she was going to survive with other even younger children. I protected my Mother from the details of the horrors I experienced right under her nose.

I protected my other siblings, submitting to him when he would threaten to go get one of them. He said  he would go get one of the other kids they would do it.

To working so hard on self improvement to not only get over the damage, but make myself into a person that someone else would love and want to get to know. That the shame I felt was held in the idea that I was unlovable. That shame protected so many others, but not me.  I used my feelings of  shame to protect others from my pain and suffering, since I was so awful of a person, I would never reveal the most personal parts  of me. I didnt reveal myself because it would make things worse for me I minimized the danger and damage.  While I desperately wanted to love someone and have someone love me, I couldn’t do the things that help people love each other. Like talk, tell our life stories, share family and be open.

So, in effect I have spent my whole life thus far trying to work through the issues that come from being abused, thus far, it’s been 58 years old – 4 years (when it started)-13 years (it went on for that long)=41 years so far.

The years of self help, individual and group therapy, writing,etc things I have done to get over it have been worth it. And it’s still ongoing.

 

 

What I am doing now

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What issue am I dealing with in regards to Childhood Sexual Abuse?  Dealing with the misunderstandings I grew up with and reconciling them with how things are really. I have returned  to Ohio where the abuse started and continued for 13 years. I have changed for the better. I want to see how my family has changed too. Driving around Dayton has triggered many memories.

What am I reading? Hakomi Mindfulness-Centered Somatic Psychotherapy., Weiss, Johanson, Monda, Editors.

What am I doing to grow emotionally? Practicing my slowing down and becoming aware of what feelings I am repressing.

What I am focusing on? Specifically my breathing and shoulders.

What blog post am I working on? Moving Back, dealing with grief from the loss of my husband and the grief of the family members who have died while I was gone.

Anything in the media about CSA? Athens GA. http://onlineathens.com/local-news/2016-09-18/pastor-charged-sexual-abuse-girl-shelter

Pithy sayings about CSA? Its through revealing that we can heal