A year and ten months ago I recovered memories of being sexually abused on multiple occasions and raped as a young child. I am forty now. I have spent the last almost two years of my life in active recovery, and I will be in recovery, in one way or another, for the rest of my life. Last night I said goodbye, for now, to the support group that has sustained me through the healing process, due to a schedule conflict with a class I am taking, one I would not miss for anything. The class is in the degree program I am taking, and it feels right to switch focus at this time, to focus all of my available energies on my studies. I do not, though, want to let recovery, or the memory of what happened to me, fade away unnoticed, unmarked. I do not want to deny the depth of my wounding, how much healing has already happened, and how much is yet to come. My studies now will be my healing path, but I will come back again to active recovery one day. Until then, I want to mark my progress, and celebrate my journey thus far, by telling the story of what happened to me. I've never written it all down and shared it openly, and I've always meant to. This telling feels like a necessary step in moving on. I feel a little sick to my stomach and my heart sticks in my throat at the prospect, so I'm probably on the right track. Here goes.
In the fall of 2013 I began a training, the Sacred Courtesan School, in which we spent one month learning, among other things, about each chakra and its attendant issues, both theoretically and personally. We were on the second month, in the emotional and sexual center, and I had been practicing a meditation daily that brought divine love, and personal acceptance, into my second chakra. I didn't know that much was happening yet, but I kept at it. One night, hot tubbing at a friend's house, I started to feel dizzy (and no it wasn't the tub). I said to my friend that I felt like something was bubbling up from deep inside of me, like through mud or quicksand, and the pressure of the mud boiling was making me dizzy. I had no idea what it was or what it meant, but remembered it.
Maybe a week or two later, after orgasm, I had a sudden vision of walking into the woods only to be stopped by an enormous white bear (more like a grizzly, not a polar bear) with brilliant, shining, ferocious crystal eyes. It stood and snarled and threatened to kill me if I kept walking, and I retreated. When I opened my eyes I realized that I had to find out what the bear was guarding, so I went back in and walked forward with an open heart, reassuring the bear that I meant no harm to him or what he was guarding. He relaxed and stepped aside and I walked forward. What I saw on the forest floor behind him was my little girl self, lying on the forest floor unconscious and bleeding. There the vision ended. I was shocked and upset by it, but even then didn't have any sense of what it meant. I did have knowledge of my grandfather sexually abusing others in our family, and even had heard a story suggesting reason to believe it had happened to me (to which I had a powerful somatic response), but I had had no memories, and never sought them as I didn't want to create something that wasn't there. When I saw this vision of myself the thought of sexual abuse did not occur to me.
Another week or two later, immediately after orgasm (in fact before disengaging with my partner), while still in the luxurious ripples of orgasmic energy, I was suddenly shocked out of them and my body went rigid. I saw the face of the main character in the movie Bliss, about tantric healing from sexual abuse. In my vision, she was a corpse floating in a canal in Milan, Italy (where I lived when the abuse ended), and then the corpse stood up out of the water. As I watched, horrified, her face morphed into the face of the woman who had been my grandfather's lover, leering over me, and the setting changed into a bedroom that I remember to be her house, and she was standing over me at the side of the bed, standing over me as her husband raped me. My grandfather stood at the back of the room at the foot of the bed, with detached, incredibly cold and predatory eyes, studying the scene. I saw no sign of the warm and charismatic grandfather I knew and loved. I was seven. The man inside me, I realized looking at his eyes, was unconscious. It was my impression from what I saw in the vision that he was hypnotized and not in control of himself (and I know my grandfather to have practiced hypnosis, apparently with a degree of success that became dangerous). He was in a rage, in a frenzied fury, and I fought back, kicking and punching and screaming. The woman put a pillow over my face and held it down, suffocating me, and though I tried to keep fighting, my seven year old body did not have enough strength to fight off multiple adults, and I faded in and out of consciousness while he drove into me until I was torn and bleeding. I was noticing, writing this, that I felt detached, had to be to be able to write it, still am detached, but still my throat is- well, I don't know what it is but I feel something there. Tears come and my belly is hot. When I stopped fighting they took the pillow off my face, and when he was done, when he pulled out of me I saw his face, I saw him, just for a moment, regain self-awareness. I saw his face when he saw the blood pooled between my legs (which I also saw from my perspective where part of me was, floating above it all by the ceiling) and the shock and horror hit him, and then he was gone again. He and my grandfather left the room, and the woman leaned over me with a cloth over my face (to clean or to drug me? I don't know.) saying, "There, there, you're alright, you had a bad dream, nothing happened," and I lost consciousness- whether I was drugged or just succumbed to the trauma I don't know. I do remember, before passing out, having this distinct knowing (from a very mammalian place it felt, it was not a thought construct but just an utter sureness) that I was ruined, ruined as a being, that I had no worth, no value left, I was destroyed. The next thing I knew I was sitting at her kitchen table eating Top Ramen, and she was telling me again I had a bad dream. I remembered nothing.
Over the next month I recovered two more memories. In the next one, I was two years old, and my grandparents came to visit my family in Houston, Texas. My parents were not around for some reason, and my grandmother left me alone in the room with my grandfather. I think I had been napping, I was lying down, and he put his penis in my mouth, choking me (I've had a horrible gag reflex my whole life). I couldn't breath, and I thought, "I don't know where my mother is, and my dad doesn't know, and my grandmother is letting him do this to me." In the third memory, I was ten, visiting alone at my grandparents' house, and was asleep in bed when I heard my grandfather open the door and walk in. I lay there, heart pounding in the dark, squeezing my eyes shut and pretending to sleep, feeling terrified and hoping that he would go away.
After recovering these memories, I began to feel some of what I had never felt for almost four decades, the hurt, the terror, the trauma. I was suicidal for the first two months, it was difficult to leave the house, and I had an exaggerated sense of the feeling I'd had my whole life, that I was being attacked all the time. I took everything personally, and nothing was safe, I was in fight or flight on the adrenaline my body was producing in the wake of the remembered trauma. I survived through good support. I had the course I was taking with positive focus and counseling and support there, a partner who was instrumental in my healing process and endlessly supportive of it, and a circle of good women friends, and when I was driving and had the urge to swerve my car off a mountain road into a canyon, I was able to pull over, stop, call someone, and have them talk me down and back to breathing. I immediately got The Courage to Heal which was a lifeline, and found a local therapist specializing in healing from abuse to thriving (Pat Grabianowski at Sequoia Counseling in Redwood City, if anyone needs someone) and joined her weekly support group. It has been an unimaginably tough road. And I want to speak here, as horrific as my experience was, to others who have had it as bad or worse. Over 50% of all women and a third or more of all men have been sexually abused or raped. I was torn and bleeding at seven and had, unbeknownst to me until I recovered full functioning along with my memories, limited sexual function, but I had no serious permanent scar tissue. I've borne two beautiful healthy babies. There are women, raped until their wombs are literally ruined, until there is nothing left in which to grow a baby. This has been done by our own military, in the name of progress and peace. There are women (and men, and transgendered women and men) raped and left for dead. There are humans who go through this unspeakable horror and don't have support, who receive no healing. This needs to change. Toward this end I tell my story, and add my voice to the tide of voices demanding change, because fuck shame. I am not ruined, I am not worthless, and neither is anyone else who has been sexually abused or raped. We will heal. The world will heal. Blessed be.
One post every eight months- sure, sounds good. Barbara Kingsolver said fiction is where you get to tell the truth. Well this blog is not fiction, but it is where I get to tell some of my deepest darkest truth, in the hope that some piece of it will benefit someone out there somewhere, as well as myself. My life presents as, and is these days, rather obscenely (but authentically) happy. There's a flip side to all that, as I drop in to some of the deepest recesses in my healing process. While I've come far enough in my healing to finally understand that I have some worth and deserve some happiness, to do more than just survive (not die), and that understanding is real and unshakeable, I'm just barely out of the woods. I woke from a dream the other night in which, as in my real life, I had just moved. In my real life, I've moved into a truly beautiful home and place of healing. In my dream, my new home was a skeezy hotel converted to apartments, but refinished so they looked very nice. There were beautiful new white carpets. At one point in the dream, the carpets seemed strange, and I pulled up the edge and saw that rather than actually clean out the old floor, they had just put the new carpet down over the old disgusting blood red one that still had dried shit stains all over it. Oh, says my dream, still some first chakra stuff to work on. Figured I'd better get started if I want to keep the nice new home...
A client the other day asked why I hadn't started writing my book yet, and able to come up with no good reason, I figured I should get started on that too. I chose to make my start with a regular practice of morning pages (http://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/), which are supposed to be sort of a clearing out of psychic junk to clear the channels for actual creative juices flowing, and I got a little more than I bargained for. Morning pages appear to be the Oxiclean for these particular shit stains, and the foam is not pretty. Sharing here, as my few minutes got very quickly to the very heart of the wounding. This is the core. (names and identifying details of people other than me changed)
"April 20th, 2015
Good morning, I feel sleepy. Less lethargic sludge in my head heart mind than there used to be, but still a lot left. This is supposed to be a “creative recovery” process, let’s see if it works. Steve asked me the other day why I haven’t started writing my book yet, good question. Bullet points, he says. Why am I always so fucking influenced by damn men. All these amazing women have suggested the practice and I’ve never done it, and a charismatic guy with control of lots of money and power (relatively anyway, or in my perception) says it and I go. In my defense, I could say he asked the right question, put it in a succinct and compelling way, and/or that I am ripe and ready to finally do it. But of course, it goes back to my abuse too, and maybe something about the larger culture as well, valuing men’s voices more. And then I bitch about there not being recognized women thinkers in philosophy. Sigh. My abuse. In group last week I said that I had realized I had loved my grandfather, maybe even been in love with him, or at least imprinted on him and our relationship as far as what love is supposed to be like. He was (I perceived) powerful and charismatic. I felt special, important, with him. We (when I was little) read Shakespeare, poetry. He said I was smart, could be the first president, my mind mattered (then had me fucked until bleeding).
(here my mind wandered to errands needed, my tasks for the day, and I stopped writing for several minutes before I could bring myself back to the present)
Oh, surprise, I am finding distractions after writing that. Anything to turn away from the page, turn away from my thoughts, turn away from my reality. Little distractions, endless other things to do. Anything but this. Anything but the burning pain and endless gaping hole that tears at the center of my being, trying to kill me, whether by quick suicide or slow soul death. Jeezus, fucking melodramatic artsy romantic bullshit, but it’s true. This is the truth at the core of my being. I almost died, he almost took my soul. But some little part of me secreted it away, this secret, this shame, and I can’t believe I’m sitting here writing this, starting to dissolve into tears, while the AT&T repairman is practically under my elbow, repairing the phone line as I sit in my porch rocking chair, Tomas chattering away at him happily. Perfect, really though, this juxtaposition of inner and outer worlds, the show must go on as always, this is how it is. Happy happy on the outside, all is well, dyingscreamingragingHELP on the inside. I don’t think I can write 3 pages of this stuff. I think I’ve been writing for 10 minutes, that was my intention, good enough for a first day start. Maybe 15 tomorrow, then it can be 20 for a practice. Let’s do like group, end on a good note, a light note. Maybe this afternoon I’ll make those bullet points, let my book start to take shape in light skeletal form. Maybe put one thing on my vision board. See if this cobweb dusting of my brain cleared room for just a little good stuff to flow forth. Let’s see."
So, since I want all this to mean something, and I realized there are 20 minutes left in the day, I'm gonna write those bullet points now, put up a piece of my vision. Sourcing in renewal, whatever that means.
Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.
I've been meaning to start blogging about my childhood sexual abuse for. awhile now, but somehow always I'm always finding something else to do. Spurred by my latest impulse, I was going to spend all available time finding the perfect image (there are some great ones of kintsugi) instead of actually writing. I could do that forever, but I'm just going to start writing instead, ringing one bell at least.
I'm about nine months into recovery now, as my memories started coming in December of 2013. Feeling solidly past the crisis (more on that later), and occupied by a lot that is actually happening in present time, I told my support group this week that I noticed my mind wasn't on recovery and that I'm not actively in healing at the moment. Truth is, it is always happening, but there are waves, lulls, resting places, and rapids.
I will write here not only about sexual abuse and trauma but about the intersect of trauma and madness, the connection between unimaginable wounding and alternative states of consciousness. The childhood experience that left me, in many ways, unable to function for much of my life has given me extraordinary gifts as well, which I am learning to use along the way. What happened to me at age seven was so horrific, and so impossible for my psyche to comprehend, that it packed it away like a dangerous treasure, hidden so deep I didn't know it was there for 32 years. Deep in my psychic subterrain, it created space for itself, like sand creating a pearl, or a foreign body creating an abscess, like water dripping into stone and creating an underground cathedral. As one of my first bodywork teachers said upon touching my abdomen and connecting with my center, "I know, you could go for miles."
That space gives useful capacity for moving energy through bodies, and is effective in places where more tangible clinical techniques just won't do the job for my massage clients. I've used energy work as a tool for almost two decades, and I've always seen it as light, usually golden white, sometimes specific colors. Lately, for the last week or so, what I've started to see instead has been patterns of light against darkness, gold and jewel toned webs of flowers of life and other patterns moving between my hands and places of hurt. This has been interesting and useful in my work, and I didn't take it particularly personally. Once this week I laid on a hand to a tight neck muscle, and though I'm usually in control of what I do energetically, I could not stop what happened. Trying to send energy in, energy just poured out, that flower of life web morphing out of control, funneling endlessly into my hand. Unable to change it, I grounded it into the earth and waited for it to run itself out. As soon as it did and I was able to run some clear light back in, I disconnected.
So there's been a lot moving this week under the surface, and last night it got personal. I've come to realize, through therapy and support group, that my tendency to think I'm under attack relates directly to my sexual abuse and that the minute I feel threatened or uncared for, I think it's a life or death situation and I escalate accordingly. My beloved (partner of thirteen years, partner in recovery who has played a huge role in my healing, and as my closest companion, most frequent trigger of said fears and most frequent recipient of said escalation) made a joke that felt, to me, disconnective and not gentle, and I, having learned some about stopping the cycle of escalation, opted to sleep on the couch.
Along with all this energetic movement, my body has burned with what feels like low grade fever (my temperature is normal) all week. As I lay there on the cool leather, under the ceiling fan at high speed, the heat increased, and my closed eyes started to see, first the patterns I've been seeing, and then those took shape into a room, a recognizable space, which was spinning endlessly, terrifyingly. I saw the room where I was violently raped by my grandfather and two other people, and recognized pieces of the images that surfaced nine months ago, but the images kept morphing and distorting like in a fun house mirror. Terror, sheer terror. Spinning, fevered, heart pounding, nauseous. So afraid.
I realized in group two weeks ago that I've never been able to feel, to experience the fear that must have been present for me at the time. It was so much, so extreme, that even recovering my memory, seeing the "movie" of what happened, I could not allow myself to feel the fear. I noticed this with detached surprise last week, and deduced that maybe that's why I always take things so personally, and think I'm being attacked, because I am putting the fear in relatively safe places to feel, or maybe just that it's leaking out because there's so much of it. I've noticed too that I am less fearful of people than I was a year ago, and less likely to perceive attack or take offense where none was given, and noticing how different (and better) I feel than that person I was a year ago. The fear is moving, and getting less overwhelming, and/ or I am getting more able to hold it. Last night was the first time ever that I have been able to feel it. It probably doesn't sound so good, but it's a huge fucking victory. Alleluia, sister, I say to myself. The fear will not win.