The dark place Tw

There is a dark place. A dark space. It is where I go when something triggers a memory of the abuse I had to live through. I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to ever feel those feelings again. The dark place lies in a frozen state between now and long ago. It used to be a place of survival. I froze to survive. It first happened when I was a child being molested by an old man, and then his friend, and then his friend. It was a space of deep fear and survival instincts. A place of pain and loss. After a childhood of this place, I never thought I would experience it again until a number of years ago when I was sexually assaulted as an adult.
As a child I was so conditioned and programmed, and it happened so regularly that my brain and body knew how to shut down. I was on autopilot. I minimized the gravity of what had been done to me because it was all through a child’s eyes. When the same thing happened to me as an adult, every event I had blocked out as a child came flooding back. I thought I knew most of it but it was a mere fraction of the truth of my past. There were many that played a part in the destruction of my childhood and teenage years. It is a story of secrets and lies and abuse by too may to count, all at the cost of me.
As an adult the assault took me back to the place I had created as a child. I believe that is what saved my life. It benefited me at that moment but it is not benefiting me now.

I did not fight. I did not scream. I was frozen. I could not feel my arms or my legs. The sound of his voice was droning in my ears but fading in and out as I focused on things like the door knob and the telephone and the way he was pacing like an animal in a cage. It is a place in the mind that later feels like a weakness and a shameful behavior. It is hard to redefine those times of abuse as “survivor” or “warrior” when it really just was horror that still gives me nightmares every night of my life.
What I learned as a child was to never speak. Stay quiet. Be a good girl. Be still. And that is what I did as an adult which made him furious at first but also, most likely saved me. My head was spinning and I could not hear the words coming out of my mouth but when I did, I was begging. “Please just let me go.”
I do not choose to feel these feelings again but PTSD is a diagnosis that explains why trauma resurfaces sometimes daily.
PTSD is the dark place.
I want to stand up for myself. I want to say what I’m feeling in the moment. I want to be able to walk away (or drive away in my wheelchair) but I go to the dark place.
The smell of certain colognes and aftershaves take me there. Certain songs. Having a man come in my house to fix something that is broken that I don’t know. Not being able to get a smell off me. Dark place.

The baby owl story:
Last week I was out for a walk in my wheelchair and I was told of two baby barred owls in a nest. Being an animal lover and photographer I headed in that direction. I saw one baby in the nest and heard the distinctive cry of the owl. I also heard another cry on the ground. There were other people passing by and stopping and going and asking me questions but they did not really exist at that moment to me. I had to find the baby. There was a hawk that was flying near. The baby was crying. So I got out of my wheelchair and I crawled and crawled until I got the baby and wrapped her in a towel. When I got back in my chair I could not think. I knew I had hurt my hip and I was starting to shake. The mother owl landed at my feet. She looked at me. The baby looked at me. (Barred owl mothers cannot put their babies back into the nest)
I had opened an umbrella to try to keep the hawk away. People were asking me questions and I was ignoring them. My brain kept saying “ you have to save the baby, you have to save the baby” over and over again. ( I later apologized to those people and said I was really in another world at the moment). The mother was calling and I kept thinking what she must feeling not being able to save her baby and wanting to. I also kept thinking why did my mother or father or brother ever save me! They pretended like nothing ever happened to me. Anyway…I called the wild life rehab and everyone I knew. It took a few hours to get to someone and have them come meet me. I started to cry. I rocked the baby bird. I sang to the baby bird Amazing Grace and she fell asleep. Then I cried more. No one ever saved me. No one ever held me. No one ever sang to me and told me it would be ok as a child when I had clearly fallen out of the nest and into a den of vicious men. I went to the dark place.
When the rehabber got there she took the baby and I knew the baby would be in perfect hands. She was. The baby was fed and gained weight and was returned to the nest a few days later after a bad storm had passed.
I don’t remember getting all the way home. I just remember that I poured lemon juice all over my body, then alcohol, and I scrubbed my skin raw like I did as a child to try and remove the pain. I did not sleep for 3 nights. Thinking about the mother wondering where her baby was felt like it was destroying me. The mother owl, that night, flew with me as I went home. She landed in trees next to me.
When the owl was put back in the nest I went down to see her. I took photographs and planned to monitor the baby who I had named Melody until she was stronger, incase the rehabber had to come and get her again. Melody and her sibling who I named Lyric immediately snuggled and preened. I went down daily and for a few days Melody looked very weak. I lay in bed thinking would she have to be taken away from her mother forever? Would that be for the best? I mean should she starve or be saved and never see her family again? Would she be able to ever learn to hunt if she had to go back to rehab? She had to be safe and that was all that mattered and I declared I would make sure that she was. I prayed round the clock. I’ve always been this way about animals. Connected on a deep level. But this was different.
Due to the place that Melody fell from the tree, many neighbors gathered to look at the owls every day. They are beautiful. I went down every day and wrote extensive notes on Melody’s movements and if she was flapping her wings, all to note for the rehabber if she was getting stronger.
I realized soon after all of this that I had refractured the same hip that I fractured twice last year. Due to the bone disease and muscle disease I always know it is a possibility. This makes me feel weak. Feeling weak takes me to the dark place.
I had felt these feelings before this disease but I could always go for a run, punch a punching bag, or lift weights to ward them off. In place of that, since these diseases, I have taken up photography instead. It brings me joy.
My therapist and psychiatrist ( there is no shame in admitting I get help for PTSD even if someone later uses it against me by calling me crazy, and they have, I get treatment for the trauma) told me to try and rewire my brain and fill it so full of good that it will overpower the bad. So I take a thousand photos a day to create and experience 1000 good moments. Most of the time it works and will outdo the PTSD moments. But not this week. A few little angels were placed before me not even knowing how important they were in grounding me in the now.
This week a few women have taken it upon themselves to treat me poorly. That is putting it lightly. They have gossiped about me. They use the premise of just being “concerned” about my safety when telling me to GO HOME when I am photographing the owl baby. There will be 20 people but I am the only one told to lower my voice, turn my wheelchair light off as it is disruptive (as if all the car lights and streetlights are not worse), and it goes on and on. Wheelchairs should not be in the road…even though we have no sidewalks and people bike and push strollers daily! And I have used this chair for 14 years! All of a sudden I’m put under a microscope on where I park, how I close the gate, etc and etc. I’m yelled at from doorways to “make sure you are being careful” in the MOST NOT actually care about me tone you could imagine. More bullying tactics that catch me off guard and startle me.
It’s not the women that upset me though. It’s ME that upsets me. They are pathetic, cowardly, passive aggressive, narcissistic bitches. I know that. But when they speak down to me or berate or embarrass me, I shut down. I cannot speak. I cannot say what I want to say. I am even nice. It’s sickening.
When I was locked in the garage with the man who was sexually assaulting me with his gun leaning against the door, I was nice.
These women are not that man.
These women are not the men who raped me as a young girl.
But they make me go back to the dark place.
They trigger PTSD.

Here I am with a bone disease, a muscle disease, a fractured hip, just trying to watch out for the baby I saved and somehow I am a target.

I get that. I have been a target before. The wheelchair puts me as a target. Being a little girl left alone with men, with parents who did not watch over me, made me a target. Being abused as a child and groomed to be silent makes me a target.

But I am kind. I am generous. I am loving. I don’t deserve to be a target but I cannot control other people. I also cannot control the PTSD. My nature is to love and that is why I helped with wildlife rehab for 10 years and was a hospice chaplain.

Out of all of the beauty I have experienced this week, the birds that I tell you God put there in front of me because He knew I was in need. Birds I have been looking for for years just appeared in front of me. It has been an incredible week of neighbors reaching out and being kind and understanding, being helpful and accommodating. Yet all it takes is one person to freeze my body and take me back to when I was 11 years old feeling the weight of a 60 year old man on my back and listening to the clock ticking not being able to breathe.

This week has been one of the darkest in a long time. Everyone thought saving that baby bird must have been wonderful. It was excruciating. Holding her as she was crying was excruciating. It reminded me of how alone PTSD makes me. It reminded me of how many times I was never saved. It reminded me that my worth to so many people who have abused me, to include my own parents, is nothing. I did not just have one trauma. I had thousands. And no one did anything. No one’s lives changed. But mine. So holding that baby owl was like holding me. I was holding myself. Giving that baby away was like giving away my own safety. I felt alone again in the dark place of PTSD.

I decided about five years ago to speak my truth and only my truth. I cannot always do it in the moment but I can do it after the fact. That is what I am doing now. I am being transparent and honest. Many nights this week I went to bed hoping that I would never woke up again. My therapist is on speed dial. Then I wake up and start fresh. I look for beauty in nature, in people, in wildlife and I hope that the good will outweigh the bad.

I am
In a dark place
Hoping for light
Knowing when I go to sleep the nightmares will come
Like they always do.
I am fighting battles that only someone who has gone through it could possibly understand. Rape victims and trauma survivors are often very lonely…because of the dark place.

I am not ashamed to speak of what was done to me.

There is a stigma against mental illness, PTSD, anxiety, violence against women, and I will stand up to it all by speaking my truth..when I can. I hope to educate others about what we go through so that maybe you can bring a little bit of light to the dark place.

The rehabber took this photo of Melody and me before she took Melody to be cared for.
Melody and Lyric back in the nest
Melody
Two days ago, mama watching as Melody was learning to leave the nest

The stick pile of my will.

One of the biggest triggers for my PTSD is vulnerability. Having multiple chronic illnesses can bring that feeling about in one moment. Seizures are top of the list. Watching my body deteriorate with this muscle disease is another. Something as simple as dropping a dish and knowing there is no way I can pick up all the broken pieces can bring a flood of emotions.

I’ve worked my way up driving the car to 5 miles. The grocery store is 5 miles away. Once I get there I can’t walk though and I don’t have a lift on my car and the scooter’s at the store my arms don’t have the strength to drive.

I woke up thinking about this muscle disease diagnosis. The “rare” and the “prognosis” and the “atypical atrophy” and the only doctor working on my case giving up on me. I wondered, what if 11 years ago I had not had that muscle biopsy. What if I did not get this diagnosis. What if the diagnosis just sealed my fate and put into my head what was to come and I stopped trying?

During this pondering I looked outside and saw the neighbor had piled all of his branches from his yard (probably from my own trees) in front of my fence. He’d done it before and then burned the pile right under all the trees. I voiced that I really did not like a huge pile for animals to hide in right there. For whatever reason, and there are many, seeing that pile of sticks in front of my fence did SOMETHING. That something was the opposite of feeling vulnerable. I felt angry and I felt strong. My wheelchair can barely make it through the grass but I drove that sucker over there with my husband’s work gloves and work boots and I picked up those sticks and moved them into a pile on his property. I knew I’d have to tell my husband that when he got home he’d have to then do something with them because I could only drag them about 2 feet. This is something my body had not done in OHHH ELEVEN years! I work myself up doing small things in the house. Even the driving, it took me one year to get 5 miles in the car. My doctor told me the more I use my body the more I lose it.

I have to tell you, I was listening to Eminem. “You only get one shot. You better never let it go. Here i go.Feet fail me not.Do not miss your chance. You can do anything you set your mind to.” Yep, I listen to a wide variety of hard rock, christian rock, opera, country, and rap. I was listening to Lose Yourself lyrics. I was repeating his words. Then I started my own. I started saying out loud:

“This disease will not win.”

“They will not win”

“I can do this.”

“No one determines what this body can do but me.”

Each stick I said one sentence. ” I will win!” ” This disease will NOT stop me.” “No one gets to control this body anymore!” I kept going and going until I couldn’t move my arms anymore. I sat in my chair and yelled out “ I WIN!” At that moment, I won. It wasn’t about the neighbor or the sticks at all. One day I will thank him for those sticks!

It was about me determining my own fate. It was about me not letting other people dictate my future or my now. It was about the abusers, my family, the doctors, not determining my capabilities. My diagnosis should have been a guide to lead me not hinder me. If my body does fail then it will be because the disease did it, not because someone else determined my fate by their negative words.

In all reality no one knows what has caused this disease, what the mutation is, what the treatment would be, or what my future holds.

Each of those sticks represented a human being who tried to throw sticks and stones. With each stick I picked up and placed where it should have been I felt a dagger being pulled out of me. One dagger at a time. One stick at a time.

If everyone is going to give up on me and my ability, I cannot give up on myself.

Moving those sticks was me not giving up on myself.

When my husband came home he grabbed them all in one handful and burned them. I watched them burn thinking as the embers were flying into the air that I had just let go of just one more piece.

Having this diagnosis, at first was empowering, because it was an “ IN YOUR FACE” to everyone who said I was making it up. Then I thought, ” oh no, I’m never going to go to the beach again, or drive again, or live again.” Getting a diagnosis should move you forward. It should not stop your growth or process or journey. Knowledge and wisdom should lead to empowerment not vulnerability.

I gave up then.

I decided to not give up anymore.

If it does destroy my body, then at least I will have lived.

Getting the PTSD diagnosis was an epiphany and a revelation and an aha moment that put me in the right direction to heal. Getting the muscle disease diagnosis was like a death sentence.

I needed to move those sticks more for my mind than for my body. The absolute agony I am in a week later is well…pretty unbearable. Muscles and bones hurt that I didn’t even know existed. I am aware that I need balance. At that moment though, I just needed to beat the odds. And I did.

I want you to read this and be empowered. Know that your diagnosis may change your life, shift the focus, alter your ability, but it should not be a cement block tied to your ankle. I decided while being “disabled” to embrace what I CAN do. Being mindful. Being self aware. Practicing self love. Photography. And MORE.

Right now, as I write this I am listening to Pink sing Don’t give up.

I implore you, “Don’t give up.Please don’t give up.”

His pile…..

MY PILE!!!

I will move forward with my mindfulness pictures, my wheelchair walks, balancing my physical abilities and inabilities, and continue to work on coping with the abuse that caused the PTSD.

What is your stick pile?

Who is in it?

What do they represent?

Abusers?

Abandonment?

Anger?

Burn those sticks even if only metaphorically.

I leave you with Rachel platten lyrics that I am listening to now as I finish writing…

“I will scream them loud tonight

Can you hear my voice this time

This is my fight song

Take back my life song

And i dont really care if nobody else believes cause i

Ve still got a lot of fight left in me

Take back my life song”

Poetry


A poem from my book of poetry : The Secrets of Lilly lake *trigger warning


I saw a Snoopy doll, 

and remembered him on my bed. 

As a little girl, 

he sat next to my head.

 Watching, 

so I could sleep.

 Standing guard on the ship, 

my bed on the sea

Just Snoopy and me. 

We floated away and tried to forget, 

all of the nightmares you put in my head. 

I tried to stay a little girl in spite of what you took. 

I tried to hide in places I thought you’d never look.

 I hoped that Snoopy and I could sail across the world,

 and find a place of solace, 

an island of rescued girls.

 The sun rose and he came again, 

So I left my Snoopy there.

 I don’t think what was about to happen

 he could even bare. 

It’s OK Snoopy, 

I’ll be back, 

I swear. 

We’ll get away one day. 

Some day, 

Somewhere.

*after I wrote this poem I bought a stuffed animal snoopy doll, online, that got me through those years of abuse

Not my shame

*graphic sexual abuse detail trigger warning. 

*photograph of me looking in the mirror by me


The things that have been done to me are NOT MY SECRET. The things that have been done to me are also NOT MY SHAME. 

“Such shameful things should not be spoken of,” she said. 

“You don’t need to tell everyone the nitty gritty of what happened to you,” he said.

 “No one wants to know the details of the abuse,” they said. 

“You are tarnishing the family name,” she said. 

“You are making us look bad,” he said. 

“You are going to hell for what you have said,” the wife of the man who abused me said. 

I DID NOT CHOOSE TO BE ABUSED! THE DETAILS OF THAT ABUSE ARE NOT MY SHAME. THEY LIE ON THE MEN THAT COMMITED THE HEINOUS ACTS AGAINST ME!!! 
Abuse was inflicted upon me. It started when I was a very young girl. The man that took me skiing every afternoon on our lake, took me to his house and abused me first. This happened for years. He made me feel ashamed. He made me feel small. He made me feel unworthy of love without hurt. He molded my brain by repeated sexual abuse. I was rubbed around on his penis, layed on top of, touched repeatedly sexually, and forced to watch porn. He groomed me to be his victim. I was trapped in his web. He silenced me. It would take me 30 years to find my voice again. I was shamed into silence by him. 

A friend of his abused me during the same time.  I was 14 years old. He made me pull out his penis and I was unable to say no. I was frozen. I was petrified. I was ashamed. I just a child still. I wanted to be a child still. He took that away from me. The moment he grabbed my hand. The moment he ordered me and I was unable to say no to him, he took the rest of my childhood. The inability to say no was programmed. The inability to say no was fear based and trauma inflicted and trauma induced. I could not speak. 

That same year I was sexually abused at a ski school by another friend of the man on my lake. They were all connected to the waterskiing world. Three men had sexually abused me before my 15th birthday and I was overtaken by shame. 

All I knew was abuse and shame. I felt dirty. I felt used. I felt like I would rather be dead more often than not as the years went on. During my late teenage years, when men showed interest in me I jumped at the chance to experience something other than abuse. I was so conditioned to be silent though that I fell into abusive relationships that I ended up being trapped in time and time again. 

I had a guy friend during those late teen years. He thought I was a virgin. He wanted to take that from me. I thought I could take back myself by controlling what happened with him. He offered me a large sum of money for my virginity. I needed the money to pay my bills. I was so sick and living off of ramen noodles that I just wanted to pay my bills and be taken out to dinner. I allowed him to have sex with me for a price. I thought the price was me regaining back control over my body. I was clearly not a virgin due to all of the previous years of abuse. He thought I was though. He thought I had worth because of my virginity. He wanted to take that. I thought by being in control of this decision I could regain my choice of my body.  I thought I had to say yes. I had never said no. I thought yes would mean my choice. Yes was not yes. He knew it and I knew it. I had just sold myself and it was a shame that would not be washed off for a long time. 

I searched for love. I wanted to be loved with no strings attached and no shame. I wanted love that did not involve feeling used. Loved beyond physical. I did not find that kind of love. The boyfriend that I had at 23 years old was the worst. He put a ring on my finger to ensure the use of me.  He got to me after 11 years of constant sexual abuse. He came in at my weakest moment and took the last parts of me. Someone recently asked me if I wrote about domestic abuse. I naively said no. I wrote about sexual abuse. I had not come to accept what had happened to me with my fiancé of a year when I was 23. I would like to change my answer to yes. I do write about domestic abuse… now. 

He gave me the greatest shame. If there is a shame greater than another. By the time he got to me I had given up. I allowed him to use my body in some of the most vile ways I had never even heard of. I couldn’t say no. I never said no. He used every square inch of my body at will. I was at his disposal at all times. That is all I ever knew. I had never known the idea  of love without suffering. I love you always meant harm to my body. He said he loved me. He also caused great suffering. He was fixated on feces. He enjoyed pooping on me. I just lay there. He was also into sodomizing. Something I had never had happen in sexual abuse before. I thought domestic abuse was being hit or beaten or berated. I just never thought of being bent over a table and sodomized as domestic abuse. I never said no. I never said no to anyone. I never said no when I was 11. I never said no when I was 14. I never said no when I was 18. I never said no when I was 23. I took on the shame of everything everyone of those men did to me because I felt because I never said no that it was my shame. I didn’t say no but he knew perfectly well what he was doing to me. He was pathological. He was a sociopath. He had no real feelings just his sexual urges and how often he could use me to satisfy those at a great cost to my body and my soul. 

I felt such guilt and such shame for all of these years of abuse. That was before. This is now. 

I know now I could not have said no when I was 11. I was conditioned. I was silenced. I did not have a chance to say no. That man worked on manipulating me for years. By the time he was finished with me, “no” was not in my vocabulary. I will NOT feel shame for what a 60 year old man did to me as a child! That shame lies solely on him.

The man that abused me at ski school was in his late 20’s. He came to me in my sleep and layed on top of me. Woke me up with his tongue in my mouth. I was only 14. I was scared. I was horrified. I could not say no. I shouldn’t have had to. I was just a child. I will NOT feel shame for what he did to me. The shame lies on him. 

The friend of the original abuser who made me touch him when I was 14. He was in his 30’s. He trapped me. Grabbed my hand. I was frozen. I could not speak. I didn’t know what he was going to do. What was going to happen to me now? I was alone in another country at the mercy of this man. I will NOT feel shame for what he did to me as a child. That shame lies on him. 

These men are predators. They preyed upon me. The shame lies on them. 

The fear stays with me in the form of hundreds of PTSD triggers. I am working on that. Getting rid of the shame was the first step. 

For years I felt I did deserve shame for allowing a man to have sex with me for money.  Until now. He knew I had been abused. He knew how fragile I was. He also was willing to pay money for my virginity. He is deplorable. He is disgusting. ALL of the shame lies on that predator. As he was having sex with me I never moved. I cried. I lay there and cried. He did not stop. He simply finished and put money on the table next to me. I was desperate. He took advantage of that. A man willing to pay his “friend” for her virginity is an abomination to human kind. I no longer feel shame for allowing him to pay me for sex. All of the shame lies on him. 

My fiancé. He was a sexual deviant. He liked to have sex with anything. Fruit. Holes in the wall. It did not matter to him. He also allowed his brother to watch. There was a secret place in the door where he let his brother watch. When we moved in together and he knew there was no one to curtail his behavior. His violence and repulsive behavior escalated. I had no idea how to get out. I knew that he would kill me in the end. Not physically. Mentally. I knew that what he was doing to my body physically would eventually end my life. I had given up. When he would wake me up and force himself on me I just lay there and took it. I thought it would stop. It didn’t. He would go on for hours. He damaged my body. You don’t imagine that your fiancé will rape you. Mine did. Does the shame lie on me for not fighting him and telling him no? It does not. The shame lies on him. He knew what he was doing. He knew that this is not what I wanted. The words did not need to be spoken to any of these men. That is just another way to blame women and children in their inability to speak. No. I will not allow that to continue. A child or woman’s inability to tell a man no while he is assaulting her does not make it her fault. The man committing the act holds all accountability for the shameful acts HE has committed. Lack of voice is not an open door to a child’s body or anyone else’s. 

All of the sexual abuse commited against me was just that. Sexual abuse. It was not consentual. I did not consent. I was a victim of repeated sexual abuse. I was unable to consent.  They KNEW that. They knew exactly what they were doing. Pedophiles and sex offenders know wha they are doing. They will trick you into thinking it was your fault, you were to blame, or you should have said no. It wasn’t your fault. Ever. Listen to me when I say this. Get their lies and their words out of your head. Listen to my words when I say that it was never your fault. 

These are a few men that have violated my body. I share these words and as I do it pains me. It hurts my actual body to remember. My body remembers. Every part of me remembers. They are hard words to speak and write. Predators do not want the truth of what they do to be told. Social media is afraid to tell the details of sexual trafficking which is essentially what happened to me. My family does not want me to speak of these details. They have even blamed me for some of them. Society does not want to hear these words. They don’t want to hear rape, sodomy, sexual deviant, rapist, child molester. Ouch. The words hurt to hear. Put them on the face of an 11 year old girl and no one wants to know these details. In this silence the bad guys keep their power. We regain our power. We take back our power by using our voice to release THEIR secrets and THEIR shame. 

I was sexually abused when I was 11 years old. That is when it all began. He destroyed my innocence, my free will, my self esteem, my self worth, and  my essential sense of self. After him there were predators just sitting in wait for me. There are many predators out there. For those of us who have been through an entire childhood of sexual abuse, I can only speak for myself, I was an easy target. And that is not my fault. 

Lets keep the blame where it should be, on the predator. 

Nothing was my fault. I may not have said “no” but I didn’t need to. Each of these men knew they were committing horrific crimes against me. They knew it and they enjoyed it. 

They are predators. I cannot say it enough times. All of the shame lies on them. They are shameful criminals. 

It took me until I was 43 years old to speak the full truth of the things that have happened to me. Those men threatened me and used fear to silence me. I am not afraid of them anymore. I am not afraid of family who blames me. I am not afraid of any of THEM. I am working on recovery. I am striving to heal from traumatic abuse every single day. It started with me breaking the silence. 

These men I have spoken of are now in my past. Unfortunately, the years of repeated trauma as a child caused severe PTSD. I have learned through therapy that PTSD and “freezing” and “dissociation” that began as a child carried through to the other abuses. The dissociative states of PTSD happened every time abuse occurred. Therapy has helped me to understand why I could never say no and how I lost my voice as a young child. I am regaining my voice. I am speaking the truth. I am setting boundaries. I am saying “NO”. I have rebuilt my self worth. I have learned self love. I have taken back what was taken from me all of those years ago. I am here now to share my story so that we can come together as survivors and let go of the shame that was put on us. 

I have been married now for over 20 years. I have learned what true love is. I have learned what true love means. I have been loved. I know love. In true love there is no suffering. My husband has allowed me a safe 20 years to heal and know what being loved is supposed to be. 
I no longer feel shame for what others have done to me. 

I no longer feel silenced by what others have done to me. 
I look into the mirror and I know…This is NOT MY SECRET. 

I look into the mirror and I know. This is NOT MY SHAME. 
Release the shame. Put it back on the perpetrator. It was never yours to begin with. 

Poetry


Enough.

“Was I supposed to be looking for a pedophile around ever tree?” 

Yes mother, you were. 

“Should I have not shaken his hand?”

No father, you shouldn’t have. He is a pedophile.

“What could we have done? You didn’t tell us enough.”

I told you both enough.

Enough.

I lay here.

The sticks thrown,

Laying at my feet.

Lashes felt through out me.

I lay here,

As the green algae envelops me.

They won’t notice.

They scoff at my defeat.

“She’s just mentally ill.”

They say to disregard me.

To deflect my persistent screams. 

They mock and minimize the anxiety.

My spine is crooked from their feet. 

I said enough.

I shouted to the world. 

But enough is not what they ever need.

“Silence!” The continue to plead.

I will never concede. 

They want me down with the sticks

And the stones.

They want me covered in the mold.

I’ve had enough of that life.

Look at me

Here,

Now.

Look in my eyes. 

“ENOUGH!!”

I say.

I claim this life

Without you

As finally

Mine.

*photographs by Riley Kays

The girl and the boat man. 

The girl was so hot. Sleeping in her car was safe. Sleeping in her car was hot. She had to cover herself so no one knew she was there. Florida, in July, under covers in a car is stifling. Fortunately, she could shower at work before her shift started. The boat man saw her getting out of her car one morning in the parking lot. It was a back lot, grassy, no tree covering. Her car sat there alone all night. He got there in the morning and saw her climbing out in last night’s clothes. He asked her if she needed a place to stay. She did. But she knew he would want something. The boat man had to want something in return. So she waited for the price.He made the couch up for the girl. She couldn’t sleep. He slept with his bedroom door closed and she was afraid. After a number of nights she asked if she could sleep on the floor in his bedroom. He put a mattress on the floor for the girl. She waited. She felt safer in there. She just wondered when she would pay for a place to stay. He would come for her. They always did. 

The days at work were long and hot. It was so nice for her to have an air conditioned place to sleep. She had nightmares screaming often. He rarely woke up. When he did she asked if she could sleep next to him. He had a girlfriend and she hoped the girl friend would never find out. 

The girl climbed into bed with the boat man. He rolled over and went to sleep. His girlfriend came by the next morning and was not at all surprised to find the girl sleeping in bed with the boat man. In fact, she invited the girl to have a cookout with her and the boat man at her house that weekend. 

The boat man never touched the girl. He never treated her differently at work. He taught her new things to further her career every day. 

One day the girl was very ill. She climbed the steps to his apartment and fainted. He lifted her into his arms and put her into her car. He drove the car so quickly to the emergency room that the car started smoking. He burned up the catalytic converter the girl was later told. The girl looked at him as he carried her so gently in his arms and saw fear. He was scared for her. He cared for her. The boat man sat and waited until she had scans and found out she had a concussion from a previous fall at her job. 

The girl was cared for by the boat man and his girlfriend. She slept in his bed with him until she was better. The boat man was a father. His girlfriend was a mother. She’d never slept with her mother and father and felt that kind of safety. They must have discussed her, decided she needed to be saved. 

She quit the job shortly after that and moved back home. She didn’t stay long. That world was the one she was running from. The next man was not so kind as the boat man. Not many are. 

But the boat man gave the girl faith that a man could love without hurt. A man could take care of her without asking for anything in return. A man could choose to not take from her, or touch her. 

Her life has been sprinkled with saviors. Her life has been blessed by short spurts of light that got her through the darkness. The boat man was a ray of sunshine in a world of darkness that had surrounded the girl for a very long time. 

Thank you boat man. Wherever you are. Thank you for loving the girl. Thank you for being the one of the sprinkles of light that touched the girl’s heart and gave her reason to keep on going. 

Poetry

It was on this night, after waterskiing with the ski team in Costa Rica, that this poem comes:


I’ll always be that girl. 

I so very much don’t want to be.

But I am her in the memories. 

She is me.

I can’t escape.

I won’t be free.

I’ll always be what he did to me.

Don’t give me the lines!

Don’t pacify!

I am far to old for that. 

No quotes,

Stop with the anecdotes. 

Love will not mend this.

No way to cope. 

No distraction.

No tricks.

He is there in my muscle cells.

My tissues.

My very being. 

He infiltrates my dreams.

I stay a prisoner.

Part of me he owns.

That which I cannot control

Belongs to him.

He is

My dead end.