Wishes are not reality

I created a narrative. The narrative was true but not in the correct order or context. So does that make it a lie in its entirety? Or did I just create the one sentence to make all of the other memories easier to bear? I think the latter.
In my mind Nana always said, “I’m sorry that Billy Banks did what he did to you.” That made Nana the one and only person who reached out to me, that I remember, who told me how badly she felt for everything I’d been through. My memory deceived me. That does not at all mean that all of my memories are lies or are confused. I’ve said from the beginning that with repeated ongoing trauma, the time line gets all jumbled up.
Last night I dreamed I had just had surgery for endometriosis. I was on the couch and Nana brought over the fake flower arrangement she made for me. She used to make these arrangements. It was black and white. I am absolutely sure of that because I remember thinking it was odd to give someone who had just had surgery an arrangement of black and white flowers. Where was the color. Where was the encouragement. It just seemed dead. She handed it to me and told me she was sorry that I had been through this. It was true. My dream.
I had awful periods and my mother was sure I had endometriosis like she did which caused a hysterectomy and her sister which caused her infertility. I had surgery of what I thought would be laparoscopic to remove endometriosis. I have always remembered distinctly the feeling I had when I woke up. I heard the doctor, interestingly the same doctor who delivered my brother and me, telling my mother that he had found endometriosis on my uterosacral ligament and that was all. He said he did a D and C to clear out my uterus of any endometrial tissue as well. After I heard this I reached down and under my hospital gown I was lying on a thick pad that I was bleeding onto. I had no idea he was going to be going into my vagina to do anything. Then telling my mother…I felt like I had been raped but I had no idea why I felt this way.
When I was 8 years old I became ill with what doctors now think was a precursor to the disease that had adult onset, which infact started when I was 8. I remember not being able to move without pain. I remember the pain being the same as the pain I have now. I also remember crawling to the bathroom. But that’s not true either. I didn’t crawl to the bathroom until I had the endometriosis surgery. After I came home from that surgery, the gas that they put in my abdominal cavity to move things around and search for the endometriosis, rose up into my shoulders. They told me it would take days to dissipate. If I sat completely up it was excruciating. So I crawled around. Until it finally did go away. Maybe I did crawl to the bathroom when I was 8 years old too. Maybe doing it as a teenager reminded me of that and that is what I remember most. But in my dream, which was a real recollection, I crawled down the hallway after that endometriosis surgery.
It took a long time to heal from it. I was weak.
I had come home from a waterskiing job, lived with one guy for a year, then came back home and I have no idea where I was living but I recovered from this surgery at home until my boyfriend at the time insisted he could take care of me at his house. As soon as I got back to his house, which he carried me into because I still could not walk, I had this sickening feeling I’d left a safe place for an unsafe one. But my house was never really safe. My memory of going back with my boyfriend to his house was that at some point in the relationship his wife came home. I head her high heels down the hallway and opening the bedroom door. I was mortified. I had no idea he was married. He was separated apparently. But that’s not the point of any of this. The narrative is. I had gone back to his house because he said he would take care of me after the surgery. My family made fun of him. He was 30 years old and I was only 19 or so. I always referred to him as “the humper” in my mind. You know how you can watch a dog hump on someone’s leg. That’s what he was always doing to me. Humping up against me. It was disgusting. But I was too weak to protest him taking me back to his house so I went.
At some point I broke up with him after finding out he was only separated from his wife.
My memories. All jumbled up. Very clear in my dream.
Before I was sick at 8 years old I was having urinary issues. So I had a surgery. They put me under anesthesia. Exploratory surgery of my bladder. I’m not sure what else happened in that surgery. I remember waking up and the nurse drawing with a pen on my sheets as to what was done. I remember being on a pad, naked, under a sheet. I remember the first time I peed it was very painful and that was at my Nana’s house but I never told anyone how badly it hurt to pee.
I continued having bladder issues, UTIs and my mother even sent me to her doctor to have urethra stretching done. This doctor put these smooth glass pieces in the urethra to stretch it. Getting bigger and bigger in hopes it made me get less UTIs. It was extremely painful. Is that when I peed at Nana’s house and it hurt too? I think so. It was all very clear in my dream.
I also had gotten a sexually transmitted disease that caused my cervix to have an abnormal Pap smear. That doctor did a cone biopsy to get clear margins. She told me she did not know if I’d ever get pregnant due to the cervical dysplasia and the endometriosis background.
I also had polyps on my cervix that a doctor twisted off. I told her to stop but she didn’t. She kept saying ONE MORE SECOND.
My dream reminded me of how many times doctors had made me feel violated. If you combine what the doctors were doing with the abuse that was going on…well it was pure hell. All of it. Even at 18 I had to see yet another specialist due to vaginal pain…I wonder why….he decided to cut the tissue out of my vagina and study it. I had multiple stitches. I was under anesthesia then too. He also put a cancer treatment on my vagina that swelled it closed so that I could not urinate at all. I had to go to the ER. All in the hopes to cure me. My poor vagina is all I can think. Violated by men, traumatized, ripped off and cut out by doctors.
But in all of this I have always thought that in the MIDST of this STORM of my life, Nana had comforted me. She had been the only one to come forward in the Billy Banks abuse to tell me how sorry she was it had happened.
But I created that. I guess I needed someone on my side in my own mind. I needed to know that someone was there to really know and give me empathy. In all reality there was no one. I was accused of being a slut by the gynecologist for the sexually transmitted disease. I couldn’t tell her it was from abuse. I was told by the surgeon who cut tissue out of my vagina that maybe the pain was from past abuse and trauma to the area. He didn’t know. But that did not stop him from using me as a guinea pig. I was too young to object, know better, or stand up for myself. I was desperate for an answer and a treatment. I never got one.
I woke up from my dream/nightmare thinking about my mother. She always acted like we are on the same team. She had endometriosis so I must have it too. She had a big butt so I had one too. She wanted us to be the same and talked about us as if we were. I didn’t need that surgery for endometriosis. I didn’t need any surgery I ever had.
I had a muscle disease that the doctors were too stupid to figure out. It affected my bladder and other muscles. They just “explored” on me and my bladder and my uterus and eventually I even let the doctors take a piece of muscle from my leg. I needed an answer. I had a muscle disease was the answer but the biopsy atrophied my leg.
Such a cost to me. Such a loss to me. I’ve been tossed in the devil’s den too many times to count anymore.
After waking up, everything makes more sense though.
Between the doctors and the abusers, my body was not my own. It still doesn’t feel like my own.
I thought Nana was there for me in a way that she was not. She was in other ways growing up. She was my safe place. She was a protector.
At least that’s how I remember it.
My memories have no real time line. I know they all happened and I know that I did what I had to do to survive.
I just don’t know if I am a survivor. I don’t feel like I’ve survived anything.
I recently wrote my mother a letter. Her husband’s daughter had told me that my mother spoke of me fondly. I’ve heard this before. Apparently all of my family speaks about me to others fondly. But it’s all a lie. They will tell you that they want a relationship but that I have not reached out. They will tell you that they love me and I won’t let a relationship happen. I believed for just one moment that maybe my mother did. I felt like, since 5 years ago when they all disowned me for speaking the truth about the abuse I’d experienced, that maybe they had NOT really disowned me. They don’t make it seem like that to others. I had some things that had been left unsaid. Some things that I had learned in the five years they had disowned me. I still felt that maybe one of them would come to my door one day.
Then I received my letter back from my mother “refused” circled on it and return to sender. And it hit me. In the five years I’ve been struggling, mourning, they really did just let me go. I had created this narrative in my mind based on what they told other people (lies) that maybe there was a chance my family did care.
I wasted five years.
My family did not just stop caring five years ago.
I’m not completely sure my family ever DID really care. I believe now, with these memories coming together, that I created a narrative where they did care about me. That made surviving the abuse tolerable.
That’s just not true.
I will never know what I was to them.
When you are dead to your parents what does that make you?
When your life has been a series of devastating events where does that leave you?
I am 48 years old with severe complex ptsd and seizures and a muscle disease and a bone disease and a vaginal disorder and trigemenal neuralgia and wide spread pain and atrophy. What will become of me now. What will the narrative of the rest of my life be? I’m the only one who knows the truth of it. I tell it here but the truth has not set me free.
It has made me alone. Would I rather be alone in the truth or surrounded by liars. Seems like it would be an easy question to answer. It isn’t.
I’ve begun to lose hope that there will ever be any normalcy in my life. Now that I am living in the truth and am aware of the truth in my past, I can a tiny bit understand why some choose to live in an illusion.
I can understand why I made Nana say she was sorry about what Billy Banks did to me because it was coping. But it wasn’t true. No one really cared about what Billy Banks did to me. And he was only one very very tiny part in the destruction of my childhood. Why would I ever have thought anyone would ever have cared about anything else.
I can only wonder what my dreams will remind me of next.
I know there is more I have suppressed.
I can hope it will stay buried in the recesses of my mind. But nothing does. The truth always comes whether we want it or not. I wish my truth were better. I wish it did not have so much tragedy. I wish my Nana really would have said what I thought she did. Wishes are not reality….

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.

My own narrative

Trigger warning

A few days ago a friend of my husband mentioned an author that talked about vulnerability and courage and shame. She has a show on netflix now called The Call to Courage. It stirred up so many thoughts in me that have not stopped for days.

When my husband’s friend mentioned the word shame I was very quick to say that I had never felt it. Upon great reflection I think during Yom Kippur I have realized that I felt shame on many levels. Mostly I felt shame as a young girl which is why the truth could not escape from my lips for a very long time. Equally important was the shame that I felt others felt about me. Since no one wanted me to speak the truth, or speak the truth themselves I believe it left me in a constant cycle of shame. Maybe I was not good enough for them to accept or validate. Maybe a LOT of things but shame was a big one.

I cannot write the narrative that they tell others about me or that they even believe themselves. I have to some how pull myself out of even the concern of what their narrative of my life even is. I can tell you it is not my truth. It is only the truth they perceived and/or wanted to believe OR maybe it is just all steeped in denial and their own shame. I cannot speak for them I can only speak for how it has all made me feel. I KNOW how much I need to escape from the grips of their stories now more than ever.

I have never felt pretty enough, good enough, worthy enough. I like the person that I am more than I like most people because I know my own heart and it’s ability to care. I like me yet I don’t feel worthy. Worthy of what? I don’t know. Just worthy.

Even when I was doing admirable things like helping animals in wildlife rehab or helping the elderly in hospice, I still did not feel…good enough. Good enough for what? I don’t know.

For one I am not worthy of my own parents. They didn’t feel so as they so easily left.

It’s interesting because I have taken part in a genetic study where a brilliant geneticist has made it his mission to find the mutation causing my muscle disease. To do that I had to revisit the idea of my father’s mere existence on this planet. It’s easier to pretend they don’t exist than to accept that they do but don’t choose me. He was asked to donate a DNA sample for me, the daughter that does not exist. He agreed. He wants to help me he said. He hates to see me deteriorating he said. But he has not seen me in three years. I am worthy of spitting in a cup for DNA but I am worthy of nothing else. It hurts me. (This came to me second hand as I have not spoken to him)

In this week of reflecting on shame in its many forms, I keep flashing back to this photograph that was given to me when I was 15 years old by my boyfriend. It was right before my 16th birthday and he had written on the back of it but I never read it. My mother looked at the photo and turned it over. It was a photo of him standing next to his BMW. On the back he had written, “ From the two things that love to ride you most,” meaning he and his BMW. My mother was unaware I had been having sex at 15 years old and was mortified and I was sent almost immediately to a GYN to get on birthcontrol. I was so ashamed. I was ashamed she knew. I was ashamed that he had had sex with me at all. How ironic that I had not felt shame before. His is my fist recollection of feeling shame. Not when I had been molested by men for the 5 years prior.

I had met my boyfriend on a blind date when I was 15 to go to his homecoming dance an hour and a half away. I always wondered why my mom let me go on this blind date so young. But I also wondered why she let me go to the mans house who molested me all those years before. These things I will never understand because I don’t believe on my mother’s part they were intentional but in my own heart I just wanted to feel safe again. I had hoped it would come from her or my father. It came from fleeting moments of abusers who were mascaraing as people who loved me. Well back to my story…The night my boyfriend had sex with me I think was the first time I truly felt the dissociation that is PTSD. This was no romantic story. This was not a gentle loving experience. But he was my first love. I had no idea what he was doing was not only without my consent but that it would lead me down a path of shame that I would feel for years. It was in some back room. Ramming and ramming and ramming and blood everywhere and him leaving and me trying to hide EVERYTHING. From 11 until many years after I knew love as pain and sex and dominance over me. I find it sad now that I was so in love with…well…a rapist. I was in love with many men who turned out to be rapists. Once a child has been through sexual trauma at an early age their is a veil over what love even is. I did not know love until my husband when I was 24 years old.

So when my mother read the back of that photo she felt ashamed of me but had no idea the shame I felt for myself. She had no idea how horribly the GYN would treat me after finding out I had sexually transmitted disease because NO ONE at the time knew I had been being sexually abused for years and years prior. For some reason I felt that since my hymen was never fully broken that what the men had done to me was not really rape. It was. I guess I just had a super strong hymen! Well that hymen misled me greatly. They were actually more gentle with me than the boy I had fallen in love with at 15 years. Gentle rapists and child molesters. That’s what I thought. But there was nothing really gentle about them. They had just groomed me for so long and I was so confused that I did not know what was good, bad, right, or wrong. I knew that it all felt terrifying. I knew that it all made me feel sick. But I had no safety net or safe space to speak my truth and I had no way of knowing how to get away from ALL of these men who were around every corner of the waterskiing world and after. Everywhere! Men just waiting! Like they somehow knew ” oh yep, she’s been raped before, yep, lets take her!” That is what it felt like. Hmm. I guess that is why sleeping in my car at my Sea world job felt so safe. There were NO MEN.

I was thought of as an introvert, shy, soft spoken. That made me “sweet.” I stayed traumatized and quiet most of my life and those child molesters and rapists upped their game as I got older knowing there were no limits on what they could do. I got passed around from person to person and my value and self worth lowered and lowered and lowered.

By the time I decided to speak my truth I spoke it loudly. And I became not “sweet” anymore. I became angry. Apparently having a voice gave me a new label and changed my personality completely. That is not true. I just…became. Since I started telling my story I left all of the shame behind. In my growth and age I learned that these things done to me were not my shame. I had a blog called: Not my shame…no my secret. I stopped writing that blog a year ago after 3 years of bearing (no clue how to properly spell this word so be easy on me!) my soul to the world. I needed more time to reflect. I needed quiet time to grow more about myself. It is hard to know one’s true self when that self has been layered with lies by others and at the hands of others.

During Yom Kippur I realized that I had every right to be angry but that stooping to the level of those who have hurt me IN that anger was wrong. I have said some unnecessary things that came from emotions and even though they were factual they were also hurtful and mean. That is not me. I allowed that to come from me out of pure fury towards my family who has denied me and shamed me. So as I continue to tell my story, my truth, and facts about my life, I will be aware to not be malicious in intent. I cannot make myself the person they believe me to be.

While watching Brene Brown on Netflix she spoke about who will step into the arena with you. Who will be courageous and vulnerable and speak the truth. Those who cannot will throw criticism at you and I have felt that criticism. I am brave. I am truthful. I have allowed myself to be vulnerable as I have spoken about the abuse I endured in great detail. That detail, those details, made my family ashamed of me. I was even told that no one wanted to hear the details. That would not be true for the 40,000 women and men who contacted me over the 3 year period of writing my original blog. YET a few family members seem to have more power over my own self worth than those 40,000 people. How astounding!

I was molested and raped more times than I can say between the ages of 11 and 24. That was just my life. I had succumbed to it. So many men. So many times. There has not been justice for me. There has been rejection, abandonment and loss. There have been nightmares, triggers, PTSD moments, suicidal moments and ongoing therapy. I cannot change certain things. I cannot change what happened. I cannot change how anyone reacted to it. I cannot change my family. I’ve spent too much time hoping I could and not enough time accepting I cannot.

My father spoke with the geneticist of me fondly. Fondly. That’s his narrative of me. He remembers me fondly as a girl who was sick as a child and as an adult who is suffering with a debilitating muscle disease that he can now help with by spitting in a cup.

I rarely share how much pain I am in with my own husband and I have never shared the pain I am in with my father. My father has no idea how much I suffer. He does not know me. He has created little parts of his nostalgic feelings of me into a relationship that does not exist and where his love is actually real. What he has been in my life is not love. He lives in a narrative : Where he never shook the hand of the man who molested me. Where he never made me second to everything else in his life. Where he spent no time with me and never knew anything about me or what I was going through. His narrative is not true but it is one he created. I am sure my mother and the rest of the people that have left have created there’s too. They think they know how I feel, what I’ve been through and what I am going through. If nothing else I know they view me as weak and someone to be ashamed of. That is not what I THINK their story is of me that is what I know to be true. Because if they were proud of the mother, wife, daughter, woman that I am…they would be here. They are not. I roared. They ran. I am still as equally as sweet as I ever was. I am just no longer silent. But see how much I have gone on about them. Well it is hard not to when someone or a group of people affects you so profoundly in a negative way.

Their narrative should not matter. For some reason it does. So when I told my husband’s friend that I felt no shame, that was not true. I FEEL the shame others are putting on me. My body REMEMBERS the shame of learning I had sexually transmitted diseases because of molestation and rape. My body remembers my mother’s face looking at that photo and her shock at her daughter having sex yet having no idea the same daughter had been molested for countless years prior. My mind remembers the smells, the hands, the pain, the suffering, the desperation, the loneliness. PTSD will not allow me to forget. It seems to have tightened its grip on me firmly. I do not feel shame about what was done TO me by the abusers. The shame is not about them.

So while I capture beautiful moments in nature as a coping skill, it is to practice my mindfulness and to balance out the trauma with something wonderful. It does not mean the trauma is not there. But there are only so many things I can control. Behind the lens of a camera I feel no shame in anything. There is no past or future and just that one beautiful moment.

Learning how to not care about the narratives others have created about me is another story. I have to overcome this. I have to eventually not care because I know none of it is true. I can’t make others proud of me or make me feel worthy. I can’t make my family anything other than what they are and what they were. As I focus on me and my own healing I would say the hardest part is facing, accepting, moving forward, from my family and how they have made me feel.

I am living the truth. It’s all I can do. I wish I had the luxury of living in a lie or denial. I don’t. If nothing else at LEAST I can say I am authentically me. May other authentic people step into the arena with me. It has become quite lonely in here…

“Be kind” ? I say “Be better”

I was sitting in a waiting room this past week when a client came in with her son and his grandmother. She was to have her appointment while the grandmother watched her child. When checking in the mother asked her child to say hello to her friend behind the counter. The child ducked back away from the desk so as to not be seen. The mother asked again for him to be polite and come and say hello. He covered his face and stepped further back. The grandmother offered up to the woman at the desk that her grandchild was just shy. The mother reached out and grabbed her son’s arm and he pulled away intensely and backed further away. The front desk woman said repeatedly that the child need not say hello. She did not mind him not saying hello and wanted to move on to the appointment that was scheduled. The grandmother paid for the appointment and the mother asked the boy to come to her and give her a hug, right in front of the desk where her friend was. They child said, “You’re trying to trick me.” She said she wasn’t so he hugged her. The front desk woman opened the door to let the mother come back and let the grandmother know how long they’d be and AGAIN the mother tells her child to say hello to her friend while holding him in that hug. AGAIN the front desk woman said he does not need to say hello to me and continued with going right in to how long the appointment would be. Meanwhile the child ran out the front door of the building.

Let me break down to you what really happened. The child was not heard. The child’s wishes repeatedly ignored. The child even voiced he was being tricked because he knew that his wishes did not matter. The child was given a label of being shy. In the end the child felt so invalidated for WHATEVER he was feeling, and we don’t know why he was feeling that way because no one asked, he just ran out the front door of the building because he knew the disrespect would just continue.

I can hear the voices of some of the people I grew up with, “I’d beat his ass if he didn’t say hello when I told him to,” or “When I tell you to say hello you do it.” This is a culture that abuse victims do not like. We do not like seeing a child forced to be polite because most of us know when it comes to manners it always squashes out a child’s intuition.

I am on social media. I see how other adults speak to each other. I see we now lack common decency and any moral compass. I witness rage and hurt and disrespect on a daily basis regarding anything and everything. If one person disagrees they seem to be targeted and everyone who can, will, jump on the bandwagon. Adults are now lacking self control and are pushing their own agenda on everyone else. If you disagree, well heaven help you. I also see “be kind” on bumper stickers and on memes. It is not always easy to be kind in such a cruel world. We cannot always be kind to rageful hate-filled people. We can have decency.

I relate the adults on social media to the adults in the waiting room because once from behind a computer screen we DO enter into the real world.

I watched this scene in the waiting room and thought: How can respect be shown if respect is not modeled? In a world full of disrespect can we not at least respect our own children?

That mom was most likely proud of her son. She was excited to finally have her child meet her friend. She had no initial malicious intent. But as the scene unfolded she completely disrespected her child, tricked her child, and manipulated her child, and labeled her child. And for what?

I never forced my child to hug anyone, to say hello to anyone, or to thank anyone publicly. I read her books about being polite. We discussed manners. I thanked my mother for buying dinner and one day my daughter thanked her too. I modeled, guided, and taught. I did not force. I respected my child and I taught her to respect herself.

Most importantly I taught my daughter intuition.

If you force a child to say hello, hug someone, even if they are adamantly and visibly against doing so, you are doing a disservice to your child by forcing it. You are stripping them of their intuition for MANNERS. My daughter was never forced to go hug my father or sit on his lap. If he asked and she said no then that was her choice. She learned by being given that independence in who she touched or talked to that she could have some control. She could then learn how someone made her feel. If they eventually felt safe, on her own terms she would hug them and speak to them.

My daughter grew up to be an advocate for children who were bullied in school. She assisted her second grade teacher with a child who had cerebral palsy. She stood up for her, loved her, even reported the assistant who was being too rough with her.

I did not take away my daughter’s voice or her intuition. I respected her and she in turn respects others. I modeled the behavior I wanted her to see and instilled in her the value of intuition.

If your child rips away from you, runs out of a building, says that a hug is a trick…you are doing something wrong. No one wants to be told they are doing something wrong. But we must have priorities. Is it important to WIN in an internet war against a stranger or can we just walk away and keep some self respect? Is it important to teach our child manners if it means stripping the of intuition that will protect them from a predator?

I got my degree in Child Development. I know what is appropriate for children at certain ages.

I wish they made an adult development book to teach adults what is inappropriate parenting and interacting with others. Adults have lost themselves.

I had no intuition as a child. It took me years to get it back as an adult. Once it is gone it is very hard to get back. Mine was stripped away from me.

Don’t take away your child’s intuition for the sake of what you think looks good. You may not even be friends with that person in a year but your child will always be your child and you’ve just humiliated him. Was it worth it?

And if we are talking about forcing manners on a child where are the manners in adults? They should know better.

A number of years ago I watched a 4 year old punch his 2 1/2 year sister. She was crying holding her face. The mother walk over to the 4 year old and asks him why he hit his sister. She asked him how he was feeling. He replied that he felt angry. The mother asked if the sister did anything to provoke being punched. THE 2 1/2 YEAR OLD. He replied she took his toy and he was angry. The mom spent a ridiculous amount of time talking to this boy about his feelings. Meanwhile the little girl, who got punched, was crying in the corner.

This scene upset me GREATLY. So much that 5 years later it still bothers me. The “ you seem angry right now” kind of parenting has it’s place. Like, oh, when the child seems angry. ” It’s ok to express your emotions, I know you are angry right now,” is not the parenting I think THEY think they are actually doing. They want to validate their child’s feelings. They want to focus on the why, get to the root of it. This could be applied to my children’s area class in college. We were encouraged to, instead of asking the child, “ What are you drawing?” Instead say, “ I love the colors you used…wow that drawing makes me feel peaceful how does it make you feel…those colors are bright and colorful…how did you feel as you were painting this…” appropriate for a child painting a painting. Not punching his sister. I am not invalidating the emotions that were being felt and they should be addressed AFTER it has been modeled to the injured punched child that SHE will get the attention first, loved, made to feel safe, and validated. This teaches the injured child that HER feelings will come first and her safety is the most important. THEN he needs to be told it is unacceptable in ANY circumstance to punch his baby sister. Ever. After all of this his feelings can be addressed and alternative ways to get out his feelings can be explored. A. Come to you, the parent and ask advice B. Use your words to tell your sister that her taking your toy made you angry. C. Go punch a punching bag. And the list goes on. (We always had a punching bag because who isn’t angry some of the time. It is a natural emotion. Punching your sister is not).

Two opposite ways of parenting. One parent coddling and focusing on feelings and the other absent of acknowledging feelings what-so-ever.

It does not have to be one way or the other. Both scenarios a child was ultimately invalidated and the focus was on the wrong thing!

This system, this society can be fixed if adults start being accountable for their actions, try harder for their children (and not societal standards), and not just “be kind” but be BETTER.

The horse that God sent

Laura was my best friend in elementary school. Best friend in the world. I would go to her house for sleep overs and we would laugh, ride horses, run from her bull, laugh some more. Laura was authentic. There was no hidden agenda ever. She was real in all ways. She was the only real thing in my life during some of the worst years of my life. In a world surrounding me with secrets, abuse, and lies…I had the unconditional love of my friend Laura. There was always something about the way she looked directly into my eyes…

We lost touch for years after highschool but reconnected after she was diagnosed with cancer. No time had passed. We were in the third grade again and it was the next day but 30 years later. I had one year with Laura. She had “Laura’s warriors” which was a huge group of supporters. We talked about this. I had a muscle disease and had a few people. She had cancer and had over 300 people. Cancer affects everyone in some way. We all know someone who knew someone, or have a friend or loved one who has fought the battle. Some have gone into remission and some have gone to be with God. Laura had hundreds of people taking care of her. She chose to take care of me. She had a go fund me for all of the alternative treatments she was trying since the chemo did not work. She used some of that money to pay for ME to have alternative treatments for this disease I have. I’ve NEVER in all of my life known ANYONE as selfless as Laura. This is not to diminish those who have supported me throughout the disease I have, but Laura… She would have chemo and then come to my house and make juice for me or dinner. She would take time away from her own family to come and hold me in her arms and pray for me. No one, other than my husband, has ever held me like she did. She understood that having this muscle disease took away so much from me. She understood how lonely it was and isolating it was. We told each other all of our secrets. I told her of some of the abuse I endured in my lifetime that I have never told anyone else. I knew she would not judge me but would instead love me even more. She really hated what men had done to me. She wanted to fight for me. That girl was a fighter. I spoke to her the day before she passed away and she told me that she was fine and she loved me. She never gave up.

Cancer touches all of us. It took away my best friend. I watched her in pain. I watched her suffer. I loved her with all of my heart.

The last few weeks have been very difficult for me. I have been suffering. I have been haunted by all of the men who have harmed me. Haunted. Ptsd flashback. Nightmares. Billboard signs with their photos reminding me around every corner that I will never be allowed to forget. I have also had severe muscle pain.

Let me say that I moved forward from the abuse. The abuse is still with me but I have moved constantly forward. PTSD keeps the abuse there but I chose to move forward anyway.

I MOVED FORWARD. I go out every day with this disease and I fight it just like Laura fought cancer. I look for the beautiful things that God has placed before me and I appreciate every single moment. I didn’t choose to be abused. I did not choose to get a muscle disease. Laura didn’t choose to have cancer. It took her from me and her children and family. I am so glad as I look back that in her last year of life she had that team. Everyone should have a team! Today I saw a woman wearing a t-shirt about team so and so fighting for cancer. I don’t have a team.

I don’t have a team because the society we live in does not give abuse victims a team. Muscle disease sufferers used to at least get a DAY with the MDA and Jerry Lewis but that was taken away. Mental illness does not get a team. We sure do need one though. We are urged and encouraged to keep silent and let the stigma continue.

Nobody tells someone fighting cancer to just let it go, move on, etc. I know not everyone has a team fighting for them that has cancer. I know many people keep their fight with cancer a secret. It may seem like I am trying to make a comparison between cancer and other diseases but I am just expressing what I have witnessed. Their is a society shame put on victims of abuse and mental illness. There is shame in admitting vulnerability with muscle diseases and that it may trigger other PTSD emotions.

There is no shame in saying you have cancer. And why would there be. There shouldn’t be. I guess that is my point. You didn’t ask for cancer so why would anyone want you to be silent about it? They wouldn’t. Yet I am supposed to be silent along with thousands of others about our daily lives after abuse. Whether it be domestic violence, rape, any kind of sexual assault or childhood abuse, silence is the what people want.

Who decided to shame victims?

Who decided to enable abusers?

What is this culture that we live in?

This culture is shameful.

Laura and I talked about these issues. She knew that our stories were not a competition. She was fighting cancer. I was fighting a muscle disease. She happened to have a lot of support. I did not. Not for the disease, not for the PTSD, not for the abuse, not for the anxiety. I was for the most part alone. No calendars were set up with meal deliveries for me. No car rides to appointments were scheduled. Most of what I was going through no one was there to listen and she saw this and stepped up even as she herself was dying. She is and always will be my hero. She did what healthy able bodied people can’t but should.

What people don’t understand is that everyone you know has either been abused, knows someone who has been abused, or has loved someone who has been abused. Just as cancer has touched so many, abuse has as well.

NO ONE SHOULD FIGHT ALONE.

My story is not unique. Almost every woman I know has been abused or knows someone who has. In my years as a chaplain for hospice almost every person I met with had a story of abuse. In working in wild life rehab there was animal abuse. No one talks about it though. No one listens.

We have created an environment where it is not ok to talk about our emotions, our fears, our anger, or our memories. My memories include heinous abuse. You don’t erase a memory good or bad. It is part of my story. I cannot control when these memories surface nor can any other trauma victim but we are encouraged to keep it silent.

I told Laura everything. I sat with her every day of her chemo treatments and we talked. About everything good and bad. No secrets. In her last week of LIFE she sat on my couch with my head buried in her chest, me sobbing as she prayed and prayed and prayed that God would heal me from the pain inflicted by men and by the aftermath and by this muscle disease. Like I said…not many people exist like Laura.

I didn’t ask her to. I didn’t want to take time away from her family. But I was her family in her heart. My husband drove me to be with her during chemotherapy and sat in the waiting room for hours while I sat with her. She then sat with me. We loved each other wholeheartedly and unconditionally. Our relationship remained true and authentic to this day. Even as the years have passed since she has been gone I have loved her the same.

I love that she had 300 people and more that were Laura’s warriors. I love that she felt loved and cared for. It doesn’t take that many people though and in fact with me it just took one person and that was Laura. She was really all I needed to feel like I mattered, my life mattered, I was valued, and she was my team, my warrior.

My husband has always been that person for me and I know that. Women though often need other women who really “get” us.

I miss Laura every day. I miss what she stood for. The authentic, purity, non-agenda, fun-loving, tilt your head back and laugh with no apologies person, and put someone before yourself person.

She knew the culture I was going up against in my refusal of being kept silence in the abuse. She knew the fight against the stigma of PTSD and anxiety. She knew how alone I was in this fearful loss of self with this muscle disease.

Why doesn’t anyone else know?

Was there only one Laura?

Today I went to the park with my husband and fought back tears of pain from the disease and pain from the past that slapped me in the face by means of a billboard with a man’s face plastered on it that nearly destroyed me.

I saw the wild horses in the distance and do what I always do which is feel elated first. Then protective second. I want to get to them and make sure no one goes near them and no one tries to take selfies with them and keep them respected as the wild creatures that they are.

My husband steered my scooter for me and I sat back in my chair and just watched them. The wind blew and I smelled them. It is my favorite smell. They were across the water and I took many photographs as we got closer on the path. I have a zoom lens and never intentionally go near them. About 4 people walked past and I told them to please not go up to the horses if they get closer as they are wild…like I always do. After everyone passed us I put my camera down and watched. I watched them twitch their tails and snort and breathe. I saw each greet the other and nudge the other and nibble on the other’s back. I sat perfectly still and quiet as one of the pregnant mares walked from across the prairie and all the way up to about 2 feet from me. She ate grass and looked at me the entire time. She would step one step closer and look up and graze some more. My husband was behind me. That horse looked me in the eyes and I watched the baby in her belly moving all around. I smelled her and listened to her breathing. It was like Laura was looking at me again. Knowing everything that I felt and experienced. I think that horse was thanking me for always looking out for them and keeping the other people away. I feel in my heart, after these last few weeks, God sent that horse over to me to remind me that I am NOT alone. It may be a horse looking at me in the eyes but I was not alone. I have watched these horses for years. They do not walk up to people. They run from people. This horse walked right up to me and I cried. I cried because I was not thinking about anything but how blessed I felt in that moment. How that horse made me feel like I mattered. A HORSE! The billboard and the abusers and the diseases didn’t matter. It was all gone in that moment. It was just that horse and me. I slowly backed up my scooter because I did not want her to get used to humans like me because frankly I don’t think there are a lot of people that are like me. Not many that I have met. Some. Not many. I didn’t want to back away but out of respect for her being wild, I did.

That horse has a herd. She has her own team that supports her and fights for her and loves her. I have watched them and I know.

God sent me a little reminder through that horse looking at me just like Laura used to that even if we don’t have 300 warriors we are not alone. A horse made me not feel alone.

It took a horse because so many humans are living in this culture that they are enabling and accepting that keeps trauma victims silent.

I have intermingled being a trauma victim with having a muscle disease because being a victim of a crime is not the ONLY thing that we fight. I’ve got a list of things I am fighting…doctors, nightmares, lyme disease, ptsd, anxiety, depression, loneliness, etc. I can’t have a team because no one wants to stand up and fight for these issues. And that is so very sad. But for tonight at least I’m not going to focus on what’s sad. I’m going to look at this horse, think of Laura, and be thankful of the little blessings in my life.

My story: trigger warning as abuse subject matter is talked about in detail

I was diagnosed with a muscle disease 12 years ago and with in that same month was sexually assaulted. It was a month that would change my life in ways I was not prepared for. But who really prepares for the aftermath of sexual assault and/or a muscle disease. I wish the two weren’t in the same sentence. It makes it seem more unbearable. One would have been just hard enough to face and learn to cope with but the two together did not set well. The muscle disease left me feeling vulnerable and helpless which is the LAST thing that a sexual assault survivor ever wants to feel. So, reality check, muscle disease causes daily triggers to the feelings I hated most about being attacked and this muscle disease is not going away!

Those two things made me face a reality that I did not even know existed. I was unaware of it. Well, I was aware of what had happened to me, but unaware of the consequences.

I was sexually abused as a child for many years. I have flashbacks of what he did to me. I have nightmares of what everyone else did NOT do to protect me and help me heal.

Shame is not an emotion that I feel. I cannot feel ashamed of what others chose to do to me. That is on them. Fortunately, that is not a burden I carry because I know that everything that happened to me was not my fault.

Tonight I was having dinner with my husband at a restaurant when I realize a pen had burst in my purse and was on my leg and hand. I tried to wipe it off and it wasn’t coming off. I had a PTSD flashback right then and there. I remembered what I did not want to remember. I tried to refocus but I was gone. I don’t like things to be on me that I cannot get off. I don’t like smells to get on me. I don’t like pens to get on me. I don’t like anything that cannot be immediately removed. It is because abuse could not be removed. The feelings could not be removed. The pen reminded me of scrubbing and scrubbing and scrubbing and not being able to remove what was done to me as a child. I have many triggers of smells, touches, am easily startled, and none of it I can help. None of it is my fault.

This is why I can so freely tell my story. I have written two books of poetry on amazon kindle and if you have unlimited they are free. They are simply written. I don’t feel big words and confusing dialogue are important to express the depth of our emotions. I wrote the books as part of my healing process. Sometimes I can write what is in my soul only in poetry form. The words of trauma are still hard to speak. The two books are called: The Secrets of Lilly Lake and My Body Speaks. Writing them helped me through a difficult time and transformation in my life. They were the first step in discovering my authentic self. It has taken a few years now to shed the lies, shell, judgment, and expectations others have put on me in regards to THE SECRET being the abuse I endured. They didn’t endure it. No one did but me. I endured the abuse. But everyone else had their own opinions, their own agendas, their own coverups, their own secrets, and none of that involved healing me.

I feel like I’m being too cryptic because I know how hard it is for others to read the words of abuse in full description. My life has been a tornado though and it can not be easily written in a perfect timeline. I’ve been blown from here to there and back here again, often lost inbetween. But I will tell my story the best way I can.

I have often wondered why the assault 12 years ago was so life changing. I have been through hypnosis, somatic therapy, trauma therapy, and TONS more therapies, but it was on my own that I realized the truth of this. It was the first time I experienced shock. It was the first time I recognized that I had completely left my body in what I would later find out was PTSD experience. This trauma reminded me of all the traumas I had experienced before. It pulled them out of the layers of secrecy to the forefront of my mind and I had to finally face the truth of my life.

I answered an ad in the paper to assist with wild life rehab. It was something I had always wanted to do. When I met her I loved her way of life. She wanted me to bring my daughter to help with the wild life rehab as well. So my two year old and I fed little baby birds and syringe fed squirrels. We were introduced to her sister who had a farm FULL of animals. I thought it was a dream come true. Her sister had a neighbor who had 100 acres that we could ride horses on. For 8 years this was my life. I was also a volunteer chaplain for nursing homes and hospice and my daughter would come with me to visit some of the patients. She loved making these individuals feel like they mattered again. She brightened their day. Our life was perfect.

On the outer rim of these experiences was always my family that never faced the abuse I went through in childhood and were a constant reminder of what was. They would often burst my happy bubble with, “ I saw Rick at the store yesterday,” knowing Rick was just a reminder of the abuse. We couldn’t talk about the abuse but we could talk about everyone intertwined in the abuse at their will. “ I went over to the ski club today to try and find your old ski,” boom slap in the face reminder that they will be throwing this old life in my face forever. Trigger, reminder trigger, reminder, but I did not realize at the time how triggering it was. I would go back to my wild life rehab and everything was safe there. So the girl in the ad became my best friend and we spent most of our time with her or her sister planting vegetables, riding horses, feeding injured animals. There were red flag along the way but at that time, again, I didn’t know what red flags were because I had not faced my past. Red flags that most people would have run from but I was numb to red flag. For example, her husband confided in me that he didn’t feel he loved her anymore. Another example, her sister’s husband beat her up over a political conversation gone bad. Another example, I trusted her with my daughter alone (which I only did once) and she returned her to me with alcohol on her breath. I was numb from my past so these things I chalked up to…nothing. I was so used to overlooking everything. “ Put on make up. Change your clothes. Do something with your hair,” were constants from my family and I was so used to being berated and not being good enough that I saw these other family dynamics and was not alarmed. My self worth was zero. My value was zero. Every good thing from my family was laced with their own guilt and their own need to change me. I was never ever good enough for them. So when these things happened with my friend I let them go and continued going to her house.

We had recently taken in a dog from Honduras. This part is relevant. A friend of mine was dying and asked if we would take her dog. We did. This dog loved my daughter so intensely that it caused discord with our other dog. A discord that we could not remedy and eventually ended in a fight to the death between the dogs. It was the night of the dog fight that I went to my friend’s house to get supplies to patch up our dog. She was a nurse and I needed her help with stitches and such. I basically lived at her house so driving there and using my key was common. I searched her house and could not find her. I never found her that night. I never did find out where she was. I was frantically searching and sobbing needing my friend to help me with the dogs that were in bad shape. It was late at night. My husband was called out to work but could not leave our daughter alone so he was waiting on me to get back with my friend to help the dogs. He was waiting at home. I was frantically searching. I finally entered her garage where her husband lived, another red flag I overlooked. I noticed the gun leaning against the door the moment I entered the garage and even asked about it. These were kind and gentle people. They never shot guns. He said he was shooting at armadillos. That was his reason. But they saved animals. They would never kill animals. So I just looked at the gun there while crying asking him where she was because I needed her at which point he stood in front of the door with the gun and closed and locked it. I slowly sat down in a chair. I remember watching my hands. I remember looking for a phone. I saw the charger but the phone wasn’t on it. I remember the slowness of everything going around me and the silence as his voice drowned out in the background. I knew something terrible was about to happen but I was frozen there. I would come back to the present moment and here him talking about killing himself or maybe if he could just have sex with me that he wouldn’t kill himself, and then everything would go silent again and slow. I’m going to skip forward past what he did to me because even 12 years later I cannot speak all of the words. I ran though. I unlocked the door and I ran. I got into my car and I looked into the rear view mirror thinking he was coming for me and I don’t remember how I got home. I felt dead. I pulled into the driveway. I was gone along time. My husband rushed out the door because he had been waiting on me and was angry that I had taken so long, not knowing what happened. The next day we put my friend’s dog from Honduras to sleep. There were no other options. I was in shock. I did not speak of what happened to me for a week at least. I did not sleep for days. Life went on. I heard the voices of, “ God your floor has so much dog hair on it,” from my brother and thought in my head why are you here? Why are you commenting on my house? “ You need some sun. You need to get tan! You are so pale,” he said and I thought, why does he care? Why is nothing in my life or me ever good enough for this family. Why do they come here just to say negative things and put me down? I had just been through this trauma but no one knew about it. But they DID know about my childhood trauma and they treated me this way? My shock continued. My dog was dead. My other dog was injured. My child…somehow I had to tell her that our life had changed. There would be no more farm or wildlife rehab. There would be no more horse back riding and picking blackberries off the vine in our friend’s yard. It was all over. I finally told my husband who called my friend and had her come over. We sat her down and told her everything. She would leave him. Nothing else needed to be done. She would leave him and life would go on as it had previously. I did not tell my husband or her about the death threats, about the gun, about the details. I could only say that he sexually assaulted me and held me against my will.

We decided that her leaving him was enough and I had waited too long to call the police so that was out. The next day she called and I could hear him in the background sobbing. He admitted to her what he had done and begged for forgiveness. She was calling me asking me to just forgive him because she was staying with him. She said we could just keep being friends and meet at her sister’s house and ride horse like nothing ever happened. But it did. But I agreed because I didn’t want to take this life away from my child. We met out at her sister’s house and her sister sat me down and told me that had I not dressed the way I did that it never would have happened. She also told me that it had happened to her and her daughter and I needed to just let it go. We never went back there or to my friend’s house. She lives 2 miles from me through the prairie. I couldn’t drive that road for over 10 years. A number of months ago I heard that he had left her. He was no longer there. I drove back through the prairie to visit some old farm friends. They told me I was welcome to visit their animals any time. Some of them told me they knew about what had happened and they had known all along that he was a predator. Why they did not tell me this… I drive back there and past her house once a week to visit some goat and horses and donkeys. It is the only distance I can drive with this muscle disease. One day I drove into her driveway and past that garage. I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. It was harder than I thought.

Before our friendship ended I was taking care of her sister’s neighbor’s animals while he was out of town. The man with the 100 acres. I went to feed his animals and he had set off flea bombs in the house with all of his animals inside and left to go out of town. I went in to try and save them. I exposed myself to toxins which got in my eyes and on my skin. I threw up repeatedly but I got all of the animals out. I tried to save them. I bathed them. I took them to get them activated charcoal. I never thought of myself. I needed to bathe and activated charcoal too! It took a week but all of his animals died.

A few months after all of these traumas I was sent to the mayo clinic and after a few follow up visits, finally had a muscle biopsy. I was called by the doctor and told I had central core myopathy which has no treatment and no cure. I did not listen to her and contacted every specialist in Japan, Canada, US, England, NIH. And over the next 10 years have been a part of every case study that exists. Through my own persistence we have found that I have a rare form of the disease with out the typical genetic mutation but other mutations that could point to 2 diseases or the original disease with a new cause. But I found out I had a disease. I had lost my best friend. I had been traumatized and I was definitely not ok.

I ran into him in a grocery store. It had been so focused on by my friend, his wife, that I did not fight back. That was her main and only focus was why did I not just fight him off. It did not matter that I had declining health because even though I had yet to be diagnosed with the muscle disease I HAD to be stronger than he was since he had post polio which only affected one leg. Another red flag I had ignored when he pulled his pants down in front of my daughter and me to show us his atrophied leg years prior. I saw him in the store and could only think about confronting him and how that would “fix” everything. I did. I started yelling at him in the middle of the store that he is a sex offender and should be in prison and I cannot believe he got away with doing what he did to me. I had him back up against the wall and was in his face and said everything I had wanted to say. He said it was my obligation as a chaplain to forgive him. Those were his only words. There was a lot of cussing on my part after that. He then ran away. Ran out the door and to his car on that leg he said he could barely walk on. I stood there with my grocery cart shaking all over and sat down on the floor. The manager of the store came over to check on me. I asked if he could put all my food back because I needed to leave. He did.

I built up this idea of confronting my abuser and how that would undo and fix what had been done. It did NOTHING. It changed NOTHING. What he did to me was still there. I did not fix anything. I did not feel justice. I did not feel strong. He was still free to be out harming other girls and confronting him did not take away an ounce of the trauma that he inflicted. It quickly wiped away my unfounded need to confront his wife and her sister and everyone who allowed this man to stay in their lives knowing what he did. Confronting them would not change them. They already made their choice. I could only process what happened, go to therapy, try to cope.

It was not until 8 years later that I was diagnosed with PTSD. After what he had done to me, all of the childhood trauma came into focus. I started to see, as an adult, the reality of what had happened to me as a child. I started having nightmares and sleep walking. I showed all signs of PTSD but I did not know what PTSD WAS! I had been groomed all of my childhood to not speak. I was silenced. I could barely speak of what happened in the garage. I could barely speak of anything or show any real emotion because it was a way of life. I was “sweet Bethany.” I was told that by so many for so long. I could not be anything else. If I showed anger, or emotion, or passion, or rage, or tears, or truth, it was, “ well that’s not the Bethany I know, where is sweet Bethany!” I stuffed down my entire life until it began to eat away at the pieces that were left of me (the title of the book I am writing Pieces of Me).

It wasn’t until my dog passed away 3 years ago that I felt the full loss of my childhood and most of the rest of me. I felt the loss of everything. I made an appointment a few days later with a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with PTSD. She has helped me to understand myself. She has helped me to speak and feel and know that this is ok. To know that all of this is normal for what I have been through. Oh, David Bloomquist is his name. The man who locked me in the garage. He was a university of florida professor. Surrounded by young girls. I cannot think about that. I can only hope that I was…well the 3rd and the last. Statistics say there are 12 though with sex offenders. I hope that isn’t true for the sake of other girls. And to think that is only one part of my story…

On the surface, my childhood looked so perfect! It is shocking really how perfect it seemed. We were a part of a ski team, my twin brother and me. We were part of a musical theater group. We were a part of the church. We lived on a lake with a boat. My mom was a stay at home mom and my dad was a play with his kids when he got home dad. It just looked so perfect. My mother’s mother lived across the lake from us and she was an integral part of our daily life. My mom brought in every stray animal so our house was filled with so many dogs and cats to love and I had 5 acres of woods. It was my dream childhood. Filled with nature and water and animals. The things I still love now. I felt loved. I had every toy or article of clothing that I wanted. I actually didn’t want for anything. I didn’t have strict parents and we’d often sit around in wet bathings suits wrapped in towels watching movies on our living room floor with popcorn not a care in the world. We had our house cleaning and lawn chores like every kid of that era that we got our allowance for and spent it at the dime store in the small town we lived in. I mean really. It was perfect. The abuse did not fit into the perfect. It did not fit in to the town. It did not fit into any facet of anyone’s lives, but apparently mine. The abuse was on a weekly basis starting when I was 11 to the best of my recollection. It could have started earlier but I don’t remember. He was the main member of the ski team on our lake. He groomed me from day one to be his victim. I trusted him. My family trusted him.

I can watch myself now as an adult in flashbacks from that time. I can watch myself as a child as if it were on a movie screen in horror! I want to yell at my childhood self HE’S COMING WATCH OUT! But I can’t. The flashbacks are just little nightmares of watching helpless me being traumatized over and over and over again by him. He was so slow and methodical about my grooming that it took me a very long time to understand that what he was doing was wrong. As I got older I realized more and more. One day I actually left his house and felt the exact way I felt as I was leaving the garage from being held. It was the same shock. I did not know it was shock then but I know it now. I had this realization that I was being abused. That everything he told me was “ok” and “normal” was not normal at all. He had power over me. Fear instilled in me that I had not even been aware of. He had pushed my face down so many times and held me unable to escape so many times that I had become numb to it and gave up all fight. It was just something that was going to happen weekly. Little parts of my own intuitions were destroyed by his words so I was left with no intuition at all. I was robbed of everything. I see the flashbacks now of him touching me and showing me pornography and remembering the feel of his body against mine and it sickens me. I was returned home weekly with no one knowing what he was doing to me. And I could not speak a word. It took me years to finally get up the nerve to speak. And it was only a whisper. It was all I could do. A tiny little whisper of words of “ Billy Banks is a very bad man.” My parents called the police and they called in the social services people who sent out older men who I could not speak the words in detail of what had happened to me. I didn’t even know all the details myself! I didn’t know which parts were bad, illegal, and I had blocked out so much (still am) that I was not prepared to speak. No one helped me speak. I had no advocate. I had no guardian adlitem. I had a man sitting at my kitchen table with my mother staring at me wanting me to tell them about the penis that was rubbed all over my body and at that age I was so horrified, embarrassed, mortified by even thinking about what happened I could not speak it. I was only able to say that he had done bad things to me. That was not enough. And just like that they closed the book. Poof gone. My brother promptly cried and begged to go back and be able to ski on the ski team regardless of what had happened to me and my parents, who said they did not want to disrupt his life or make him stop doing what he loved, let him go back to the man who had been sexually abusing me for years. My simple words were not enough. They should have been. But they weren’t. So late one night I paddled out to the ski jump with a friend I trusted with some of the details and we painted on the ski jump “ Billy Banks is a child molester. Protect your children.” That was the voice I had. I had written it. He was a child molester! There it was for the lake, the parents, my parents, the child molester, everyone on that team and lake to see. Everyone saw. The ski club members were out with their roll brushes rolling over those words as soon as they saw them. I watched them silence me. I watched my words disappear and nothing changed. No one’s lives changed. Every day, every weekend I got to watch as my brother skied with all of them. Billy would smile and wave as he drove by in his boat as would the other ski club members and I sat on the end of my dock all alone.

So I tried to kill myself. And when that didn’t work I tried to kill myself again. And when that didn’t work I tried to kill myself again. But I just would not die. My mother took me on some sort of mother daughter bonding weekend at the beach in hopes we could have this great time before I went off to a mental hospital. I could no longer pretend. I remember thinking that whole time how truly pathetic this charade all was. On weekend trips home from the mental hospital I would just sit on the dock watching the child molester wave at me and my brother out there with him. I quit school, got my GED, and got a job as a professional water skier at Seaworld and slept in my car. I HAD to get away from these people. When I got a little bit older I told them more of the truth. And I tried to tell my brother but he said he didn’t want those images in his head. He didn’t want to know. All of these same people from the ski club were part of the musical group and the church. I could never get away from any of them. The job at Seaworld my only refuge. Sleeping in a hot car during the summer in Florida was really a great trade off from watching an entire community go on like nothing had happened. I was finally 18 and decided to get an attorney to take this man to court. It was past criminal and now onto civil as far as I knew and I saved up money and spoke to this attorney. He asked me to call some of the ski club members and ask them if they would speak for me in court. That is when I found out they knew. I never had to say a word. They knew. They knew what he was doing to me and did nothing to stop him. They said they thought I “wanted it” and I was a “slut” and so they did nothing. The news of this was life altering. All of these people knew. They made me feel guilty for not giving more details but none were ever given because HE ADMITTED TO IT. My mother said that that could not be true because he would never have admitted to what he did. But he did. Which is why other ski club members abused me too. I forgot to mention that. I was shared amongst some of the men. So really my choice to sleep in a hot car and work at seaworld I felt was a good choice. I tried to come home some weekends to my mom’s house. She and my dad had divorced at that point so it was only her living there. The memories though…I moved in as quickly as I could with a boyfriend. Then I decided to start living in their secret. In their lies. I started going back home and pretending. I wanted this family. I wanted parents and a brother and to do that I had to fit into their lies. So I did.

I dated men that were far more abusive than what I experienced as a child. I knew nothing different and was easily manipulated and dominated. I was date raped multiple times due to my own (not blaming myself here) vulnerability and shell I was living in as a victim. I never spoke. I never screamed. I never fought. Two men living in this town right now raped me. I thought and overthought why and how those things happened. It was my psychiatrist that helped me to understand that I was groomed and victimized for so long and there are simply so many bad men in this world that I was an easy target.

One of the rapes was because I went on a mud bogging trip with three guys one of which I had a huge crush on and was a police officer. It was very obvious and they all knew I had a crush on him. His friend still took me in the back room of their apartment and raped me. As soon as he picked me up and threw me over his shoulder and threw me on the bed I lay stone still and silent. The one I had a crush on even came into the doorway and watched. I prayed that he would stop him but when he didn’t I slipped back into memorizing the pattern in the sheetless bed that I was being raped on. The trauma just kept going on and on and on. The other date rape was a date rape. He asked me out on a date at the gym. He asked me back to his house to get ready. He raped me in the shower. I never said a word. I remember all of the words he said to me though, “ It will be over in a minute.” I will never forget that. No I should have never even been there. But I HAD NO INTUITION. Everything in me that would naturally protect me from these scenarios was dead and wiped out as a child and never put back in with love or understanding or teaching or nurturing.

I had been trapped in this waterskiing world for so many years and even with summer jobs I had getting away from the abuser, everyone knew. I would go to Indiana or Canada for a job and they said they knew about me being abused back on our lake. Gossip. Gossip led to more rapes. Men in other states in the waterskiing community knew that I would not speak. And I didn’t.

When I finally left the job at Seaworld (where coincidently one of the rapists was also working and often slapped me on the butt in front of other coworkers and told me to “tighten it up” which led OFCOURSE to the obligatory eating disorder) I finally thought I was away. But going back into the world I was just this sheep who should not have been there alone. So many men had taken bits and pieces of me. I had a wealthy friend at the time who was not connected to ANY of it. I was living in this really crap apartment and finding it very hard to get by. Although my father, after the abuse, had little to do in my life, did put money in my bank account every month to help me out. He remarried and was focuses on his wife and her kids, something, one of the only things my brother and I agreed on was that we did not matter to him at all. I had contracted rocky mountain spotted fever from a tick and we think (the doctors now) it was the beginning of the muscle disease I have now. My health was not good. I was very weak. I was tired all the time. I had constant dizziness. I met an old man at the gym who said that he had kids my age, 19, ride horses at his house every weekend. It was the one thing I could do that didn’t make me feel terrible. I would meet a ton of girls and guys and we would ride out in lake butler with this guy who had tons of money. He had a friend that was also an older man. We are talking 70’s probably so older when I was 19. He offered to pay for me to go to the mayo clinic which my parents were thrilled about. No red flags there. Old man paying for 19 year old to go to mayo clinic. They found at the time that the fever I had had damaged my inner ear causing the dizziness. At the time the did not think to look for a muscle disease. I was not prepared for the price of the Mayo Clinic and the payment the old man wanted for that trip which he tried to push on me but in that brief moment I fought. So many bad men. Everywhere. Around every corner.

So I was sick. I was trying to work and even with my dad giving me extra money I could not pay my bills one month. My good friend would take me to lunch. He would always say that at least he would make sure I got a good meal in me. It was during my anorexic years so one meal tided me over just fine. I confided in him about the abuse. About the men. And also about how vulnerable I felt being sick and not being able to pay my bills. He offered to pay all of my bills if I had sex with him. Jeff Ference. One of our own Gainesville’s best. My best pal who took care of me and listened to me had just offered to pay all my bills! What I nice guy right? I mean all I had to do was let him have sex with me. I’d been raped so many times and abused how bad could that be. We even agreed I didn’t have to take all my clothes off and did not even have to move. When he laid the money on the table and got dressed I realized the grave mistake I had made. I thought that it would make me feel in control. No. it made me feel like the prostitute that at that moment I was. Getting paid for sex even if it was by a “friend” who said I had always been “virginal” to him and he wanted to have sex with someone he though of as a virgin. Um I was no virgin. That was gone long ago in a big pile over very scary blood that no one told me about when I was just a young girl! I got therapy after that. And more therapy. And more therapy. Then more therapy.

I THOUGHT my husband had saved me from the last abuse I would ever endure which was a man I was engaged to that was particularly sadistic. My husband saved me from him and I had 10 years of just the most perfect life with the most perfect daughter and I had finally been saved. Until David in the garage.

I’ve never felt shame in the things that were done to me as an adult I am not afraid to talk about them now as an adult. I felt great shame as a child and teenager. Shame kept me silent. Others kept me silent.

After my muscle disease diagnosis my mom was a huge part of my life helping pick my daughter up from school and bringing us meals. We spent a ton of time together. She would continue planting and upkeep of the gardens I had started before my disease and help to keep my house clean. She had remarried a few times and sold the lake house to my brother for few measly dimes really. He wanted to keep the house in the family. I wanted my daughter to be able to experience the water like I did. I loved the lake. I loved the water. It was my solace and my peace. I brought her to the lake. She celebrated her 16th birthday there that my brother hosted for us. I WAS IN DENIAL. OF EVERYTHING. When he sold the house a year ago for over $400,000 I wondered at what price did that house and living there really cost me. I was sad that he sold it because, still, in my mind, there would one day be peace and I could go back and feel free. The abusers would be gone and their supporters, my family would be back together and I would swim in the lake once more.

I went out to the lake and asked the new owner if I could say goodbye. I walked down in the water and saw that same ski team skiing by. I loved that water because it was my safe place. Nothing happened in that water. I could go underneath it and live in the silence there. I didn’t need the lake anymore and I definitely did not need to see the people on it. It was past time to say goodbye and so I did.

I wrote a blog 3 years ago. It started after I had written a letter to my father telling him about everything that had happened to me. I cc’d the letter to my mother and brother. I received a series of hate mail back. My brother called my husband to ask if the things I said were really true. My husband said yes. My brother said he didn’t want to remember things that way. I thought…good thing he didn’t get abused, must be easy to remember just what we want to. My mother’s husband sent me a number of emails disowning me from the family. And just like that they were gone. They wanted the secrets kept. There were many secrets in the family. My secret older brother who came back into our lives which made me think he was no longer a secret! He visited us all the time! But when I told my cousin how happy I was that he had visited my cousin had no idea I had an older brother. It was news to me that this was to be kept a secret as I was proud to have an older brother. My aunt then called and flipped out saying that she could tell my daughter I was in a mental institution. Apparently they really wanted their secrets kept. That I had no idea were a secret. That child molester cousin apparently he was to be kept a secret. We didn’t want to taint the family name. As if we were royalty! I started my blog as a way to talk about my feelings and process what I had gone through…a lifetime of abuse only to be disowned by my ENTIRE family for finally speaking the truth. Something I will NEVER understand nor do I care to waste any more time trying to.

The interesting thing about my blog is it got 100,000 views and I received 4,000 comments from survivors of sexual abuse. I learned that my story was not unique. It was COMMON. Common to be raped. Common to be silenced. Common for families to deny it. Common for families to disown you for speaking the truth. AND all of my symptoms of PTSD…common. I had more support from strangers than I had EVER received from my family. It was a shocking eye opener. I closed that blog when it reached 100,000 views because I wanted to help and connect and reach others and I achieved that goal.

My new blog I started 6 months later. I will continue to tell my story. I wanted it to be about my growth though. I’ve made it past my family and everything they did and did not do. I have moments that it breaks my heart, moments of hate, but mostly moments of acceptance. I have more things to think about, more important things, than people who do not care to love me. I have a daughter and husband and good friends who do love me. I am moving forward.

My story that I have written so far are things that have happened to me. And the side affects of those things being ongoing nightmares and PTSD. If you did not know my story before you will hopefully understand now why I do not want cologne, or fabric softener, or aftershave on me. You will understand why I do not want to be pat on the shoulder or come up to from behind and why that startles me. But that is only what happened to me. That is not the whole of who I am.

I have loved animals my entire life. I am deeply connected to the earth, to animals and to kindness in people. Suffering affects me profoundly. I want to save every hurt animal as much as I rejoice every healthy animal. I am as excited to see a feather on the ground now as a child would be. I am a mother. I am a wife. I have been a chaplain. I am non-judgmental. I love unconditionally. I have learned boundaries and have continued to find my voice. I want to help others and be an advocate for children. I want to help other victims of abuse feel heard and understood. There are many parts of me and the wounded parts are only a small piece.

I chose to start photographing nature as a way to be mindful. I wanted to balance good with all the bad I have had. If you look at my social media you will see I post every one of my favorite photos I take every single day. For 2 years now I have gone out and taken photos. I started slowly and worked my way up to hours each day. My photography has saved my life. If you see me taking a photograph know that I am lost in that moment. That moment is seeping into every cell of my being. It is filling up all of the losses and voids and traumas with joy. Those moments are healing to me. It is not JUST photographs. It is me choosing to go out and find the good and embrace it with all of my being. I can look back at my social media and see that every day I chose good. I chose to live. I could have stayed in bed and given up with this muscle disease and bone disease and seizures and lyme disease and every other bad hand that I was dealt but I have NOT. I made a choice to live. I made a choice to win against the evil! My husband and I go out every single day and we live in each precious moment.

It has taken me 47 years to face the truth of what had been done to me and accept it and move forward to try to find good. I do not always succeed in overcoming the PTSD. I have down days, despondent days, triggering days that are very hard to live through, BUT I have beautiful days that way outweigh the bad. It is balanced now.

We all try to find ways to cope. Nothing has helped me cope and rediscover joy than photography. Finding my way back into nature and connecting to all of the beauty around me. So when you see my photographs, know that each one is removing a little bit of the suffering. Each photo was a moment that was healing and peaceful and devoid of all bad.

This is only part of my story. I will not reread it for spelling errors as I want to continue to move forward. As I move forward I will keep sharing the truth of how it feels to have PTSD. I will also focus in this new blog the joy that has been restored into my life. Thank you for reading and being a part of my life’s journey.