I need advice on this photo for a survivors exhibit

I am submitting this photo to be displayed at a museum that has a survivors of abuse exhibit every year. I have two photos I am going to put up for display.

This one though I took today and it really embodies what I want to express in a way that words can’t about the importance of always being able to speak out truth.

My question for you all is….should I write ON the photo that will be printed on the left side? Something like speak your truth or anything like that? Or should I let the photo speak for itself? I can’t decide. I’d love opinions! Thank you!

Crying

The problem with not allowing myself to cry for most of my life is that now, when I do allow it, I can’t stop. I purposely didn’t let myself feel. I did deny myself those feelings. Who wants to cry over vulnerability, pain, abandonment, loss, abuse? I’d rather, and I did, push it way down so that I didn’t have to feel emotionally what my body was denying physically.

I had a dream last night. But it was more than a dream. I was listening to myself as a child calling the ski team asking them to please come pick me up for practice. Then I walked down and sat on the dock and waited for them to get me. I would dangle my legs off the dock and watch as they took skier and skier and skier past me. I didn’t wonder until much older why they always made me wait. But they did. I’d sometimes sit there for an hour waiting for them to just pull the boat up and let me jump in.

In the dream though, it was my voice. My child voice that I had forgotten until I heard her speak. So full of hope and joy and anticipation of a good day on the water. I loved the water. I loved skiing and I loved the water. I loved it so much that I ignored the abuse that went on around me every week. Yes, as an adult I understand I was groomed and knew no better and blah blah blah. But I was in as much denial as my family stayed in. Even after I left that house I would take my daughter back to swim in those waters. Something about that lake I loved. I loved it so much I could shove the abuse down and take my daughter and choose to just remember the good. I so much with every fiber of my being wanted JUST TO REMEMBER THE GOOD.

Until I was attacked as an adult and sexually assaulted. I could not stuff it down anymore. It all flooded back full force for years. I remember the first time I really allowed myself to cry over it all. I was on my kitchen floor in my late 30’s. It took 30 years to really cry.

No one wants to believe or hear or understand what I went through growing up. They want to stay in denial which is incredibly invalidating and cruel to me. I’d like to have stayed in denial too but then that would have made me as weak and cowardly as they are.

I knew one day these dreams would come and I have dreaded that day. The repressed memory dreams. The ones that I left during dissociation so that I could cope. THOSE dreams. I dreamed a few nights ago of my mother and my therapist talking about something I’d told my therapist in confidence. When I woke up I felt as betrayed as I’ve always felt but more. I had forgotten what I had told the therapist until that dream. As if what I remember is not enough? I have to see myself as a child, I have to see that hope, I have to see my mother talking to my therapist about things I totally blocked out. It’s so difficult. Do we ever outgrow the need to be comforted and told it will all be ok even though everyone knows it won’t?

There will be no pictures today. There will be no searching for the good. The memories of abuse, lack of protection, and sadness have enveloped me.

I’m crying. And I can’t stop crying. And I will keep crying. My heart is broken. My body is broken. So I am crying. It only makes me feel worse but I am unable to suppress it any longer. That poor little girl that was me. That poor poor little girl. It’s just so unbearably sad.

Picking up the pieces

I have felt anguish. I have felt sadness. I have felt many emotions in my life to include joy and bliss. I have rarely allowed myself to feel anger. I have felt disheartened and broken over injustice. I have spent most of my life feeling great feelings of empathy and compassion almost to a fault.

One day I woke up and felt like I needed to write my father a letter. I felt a great sense of peace when I wrote it. It was the truth. It was the truth that they always said they wanted to hear, my whole family, and I’d convinced myself that the could finally handle that truth.

They could not. My father, my stepfather, my mother, cousins, brothers, aunts and uncles…no one could handle the truth. My twin brother told my husband that he didn’t want to believe what was in the letter because he didn’t want it to ruin his own memories growing up on the lake. My stepfather reacted by emailing me that I was disowned from the family until I got therapy. I’ve had therapy for most of my life. The only people that needed therapy was them.

My mother told me I was angry but that she still loved me. I was still disowned though.

Once you draw that line in the sand it is hard to come back from. A person would have to love unconditionally and drop their ego and pride to apologize for that line.

I was never angry. My entire life I never felt anger. I never felt rage. Not over being molested for years and raped. Not for my parents lack of reaction to it all. Not to the fact that everyone involved continued their lives as if it never happened. The child molester’s family stood by him. And yet…my family did not stand behind me. A man can molest a little girl and still have the devotion of his family. I tell the truth of my life and no one wants to hear it. And poof they are gone. Drawing that line…they were not thinking that one the other side of that line was their niece, granddaughter…my daughter. She lost everyone because of that line. Collateral damage that no one could even see. No one could even to this day step out of their illusion, lie, pride, to reach out to a completely innocent child. But then again, I am their completely innocent child too. Murderers have their wives stand by them. Bad people have the loyalty. I’ve never done a bad thing in my life! I am aware of my being. I am a kind and loving soul who is devoted to everything in my life! Creatures great and small, strangers in need, animals in need. But I am not worthy of them which does not define my worth. It defines them.

I was never angry about my life. I was not angry that I got a muscle disease. I was not angry at the comments people said to me in my scooter “ woman backing beep beep” as if joking about my disease made it less real. I was not angry when my daughter got sick. I just felt broken over it. I was not angry until my family MADE ME ANGRY.

They are self-serving. They are narcissistic. They are awful human beings. And yet, I still cry over them so easily casting my daughter and me aside.

The child molesters and the rapists and all of their entourage did not break me. The diseases I have been diagnosed with did not break me. My family broke me. My mother, my brothers, my father. They broke me. They reached into the areas that had not been affected by the molesters and the rapists. They reached into my soul and heart and broke it.

I will never get over that. It will never be OK that my family are who they are and have made the choices that they have made. Criminals are treated better than I have been treated. I care more about a bird in my yard with an injured wing than my parents care about me. I care more about a girl I met today at the park than my parents care about me. I love deeply and therefore I feel pain and suffering deeply. I cannot let it go and I will never be able to. I can understand why a man would molest me more than I can understand the thinking of the people who were supposed to love me for my entire life. The man who molested me was a sadistic bastard. I understand that. I don’t understand how a family, an entire family, can choose to abandon ME. And I never will.

I never hated until now. I hate every one of them. I hate with the passion that should only be felt to love. They made me hate. They created that hate.

Now I see things differently. I found my voice and in doing so I have had to learn the balance of using it or not. Reacting or not. I allowed myself to be angry. Some days I yell at the people who joke about my scooter. I allow myself to use my voice. Some days I ignore them and don’t allow them to steal my joy or my moment. Allowing myself the anger validated the horrific things that were done to me and the injustice of it all. There WAS NO JUSTICE FOR ME. It was easier for them that way. And I forgave them all along and loved them anyway. I forgave my brother for continuing to ski with the man who took my childhood. I forgave my father for shaking the child molesters hand because he didn’t know what else to do, so he claimed. I forgave my mother for allowing life to go on and make me live in that house and watch as everyone pretending nothing had happened to me. They all knew but pretended not to. They wanted to hear all of the details but in the end I knew they could not handle them and I was right. I gave them all of the details. And they said I was angry. As if that were wrong. To be angry of the things that were done to me by so many men before I was even 11. There was no compassion for me, no empathy, no acceptance of what I’d been through. I wasn’t angry. I was telling the truth. But their reaction made me angry. Now I know what anger feels like. And hate. I see the child and the men and what was done to me is now in perspective. And I hate everyone involved. I always will. And I”m ok with that.

But to be very clear, I was not angry until THEM. And maybe that is a blessing. Anger can be healthy. Hate can allow boundaries to be made.

The thing about me is I love far more than I hate and anyone who knows me knows that.

It’s a joke to say I am an angry person or hateful. I have allowed myself to feel hate and anger. That does not make me an angry hateful person. I am a very loving person. I always have been. I always will be. I love to the core of my being. I love my friends, my daughter, my husband, other family members, and like I said…strangers and animals. I love. I love so much that I then feel hate again because how could anyone hurt my child! How could anyone who knows anything about her abandon her to prove some sort of point with me. The pure selfishness and distortion of reality is appalling. And heart breaking. My daughter and I deserved so much more.

When I found out some of the genetic mutations recently that I have, I reached out to my brother just to let him know because it could affect him. He did not reply. It seemed the ethical thing to do for me to let him know.

The anger my family caused opened the door for me to see others for who they were. I had made excuses for them my entire life. There are no excuses for cowardice. No excuses for not protecting and defending me as a child. They gave me the gift of anger. What a cost though. What a loss. So I’ve faced the truth in its totality. In writing that letter I faced the truth and in the years since I have processed that truth even further.

They broke me. I’ve been trying to put back the pieces. It’s difficult when my muscles and bones are disintegrating around me. It is difficult living in chronic pain, muscle cramps, seizures, bone pain, joint pain and more but still press forward. But I do. I deal with the flashbacks, the PTSD, the anxiety of the past that is ever present from nightmares and smell triggers. I deal with it all. I have faced everything.

I have chosen joy. I made a conscious decision, in the face of all of the hate and anger, all of he lies and deception, to find joy. Every single day I go out and I look through the lens of my camera and I capture moments. And I share them. I pass the joy on. I pay it forward in the way of photographs. When the world is so filled with negativity I have chosen to find the good. And I find it every single day. It is my family’s loss to not have me. They have missed out on an amazing person and her amazing daughter. They’ll never realize that but it’s important that I say it and know it. It is all their loss.

I will continue to speak the truth about my life, my health, my feelings. I am not ashamed of any of it. I will continue to feel love for all of the lizards, and squirrels and birds and deer that I photograph. I will push myself beyond what my body is capable of for my husband and my daughter because I love them so deeply. Love is supposed to be unconditional, loyal, and forever. That is the love felt in this home. That is the love I try to spread in each photograph and each encounter that I meet someone. I have been broken that is absolutely positively a fact. But I will not let them win. They just aren’t worth it. They aren’t even worth another thought. But I am human and I will feel. My intention is to move forward and try to keep finding joy and love and hoping that the balance in my brain helps my body to recover and the pieces to fit back into place. Enough has been taken from me. I’m now putting it back frame by frame.

I reached my arms up to take a photo of this great horned owl today. It was a challenge. It was difficult. Holding my arms up in the air with a camera is almost impossible. But I did it. I saw that owl and knew I just had to get a photo of her. She was so beautiful. In that moment I only felt love and joy. All of the bad in life was wiped away and I felt peace. Photography has given me peace. The objects, animals, in the photography have given me peace. You can follow my photographs at bethanykaysphotography on instagram. Hopefully they will bring you some peace too.

A cardinal christmas

Ginger was released at my house after being rehabbed at a wild life center after being hit by a car. We named her Ginger. She has been with us a week now. She does not know how to find food on her own or even get water from the bird bath so I had to put water and food for her on the ground . She also has our bird feeder. But Red Velvet, named by my daughter, has been showing her how to use the bird bath and he hops around next to her on the ground then flies up to the feeder. I am hoping she will learn by it being modeled but she is very young. Too young for a mate and barely should be on her own.

Me being me I worry. I worry she is cold and lonely and scared. She kind of taps into my childhood fears. Yet, she was placed here where I have watched her every day. She used to sit on the chair on the deck and fly very little the first two days and then I decided to move the chair into the yard. Now she is flying further. I moved it further. She is flying further. Her wings are weak but she is getting stronger. The second day she was here I had set this up for the squirrels to make a christmas card and both of the cardinals landed next to it to check it out so they get to have a christmas card too!

I pray she gets stronger and lives a happy life! But again, me being me, I had to tell my husband “If anything happens to me, make sure you feed ginger every day!” I don’t have the strength to get a dog and yet somehow I now have a bird!

The endangered snail kite

I was deeply blessed to be able to have this many close encounters with snail kites that are endangered. I went to Payne’s Prairie where they have come to eat the invasive apple snails. Invasive to one, saving a species to another! I thought in my wheelchair it would be impossible. Infact I was at first disappointed when I saw all of the men with their huge cameras holding them up knowing I had no strength in my arms for anything but resting my camera on the monopod on the seat of my wheelchair. Then the snail kites just started landing near me and I had the perfect shots and not only that I got to look them in the eyes. It was breathtaking, awe inspiring, I had no words. My husband and I just sat there listening to their screeches and watching them dive for the snails floating on the water. I’m thrilled I was able to get these photographs to share.