14 and counting.

November 13, 2017

Me, too.

I was verbally and sexually assaulted by a teacher at the age of 14.  My story is not unique nor particularly terrible. I am not special.

What is special to me, and every other woman who has experienced such assault, is how this affront ripples through one’s life… what shape it takes, and the myriad of ways in which it affects one’s perception…even forty years later.  The exposure of sexual predators in the news of late has brought up some crap memories for me.  Far too many, I’m afraid.

Something, though, about the memory of this happening at 14 is particularly acute.  I was a freshman in high school, mature for my age, both physically and intellectually, though emotionally right where I was probably supposed to be.  Like most teenagers, I wanted attention from the opposite sex (in my case), though I had no real clue what that actually entailed.  I was basically just a kid.  I’m sure I thought of myself as an adult, and fancied myself progressed.

I remember the day the first assault happened with this teacher.  I can tell you exactly what I was wearing, where he was located in the room, what the sunlight looked like as it shown across the tile floor.  Everything.  Everything he said and did.  I remember everything.

He planted something inside me that day as surely as if he injected me with a virus.

I was not safe in my body, was I?  I was an attractive person, so had I done something to warrant this behavior from him?  I had no idea what to do or how to act.  I remember the mind numbing feeling of trying to act normally in the face of his lewdness.  Nothing would ever be the same.

I was from that day onward in conflict with myself.  One half striving to be normal and desirous of being attractive to men, just like my friends, and the other half wishing for isolation and safety.  This battle waged not only in my psyche, yet in my body, as shortly thereafter, weight became a huge issue.  I have had psychologists since that time tell me that I used weight as a physical barrier of protection. yet all I could feel as a young woman was more depressed and abnormal.

My intention is not to belabor the already well known and documented correlations between sexual assault and weight issues, self harm, addiction, or the like, yet to highlight the fact that even if one understands the origins, the damage is not undone.  It cannot be undone… merely managed.

I manage a lot of things now I wish I didn’t have to.  Most of us do…and some days are better than others.  I am angry, though, that he added something extra to my plate.  Angry at the ways in which those experiences skewed my vision as a young woman.  Angry at the EXTRA SHIT he passed on to me because he couldn’t say ‘no’ to his perverted impulses.  Angry that even at 54 years old… 40 years after this experience, it is still as fresh in my mind as if it had just happened.

That is not fair, nor right.  It never will be.

I am not special.

 

 

 

 

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Chronic Pain

October 28, 2016

You Bitch.

Get out of my head and leave me alone!

Give me at least five minutes

to replenish

My body

My spirit

My sleep.

I am so tired.

You take too much of

My time

My heart

My life.

You Bitch.

 

scribbler_1a

 

After my last visit to the hospital to have the trial stimulator removed (fail), I found an email from MU Health that provided me with access to my medical records on line.  This is fairly standard procedure these days.  I was curious about the doctor’s notes, so I read the charts regarding my visits with two different neurosurgeons.  Nothing terribly enlightening, yet I was struck by a line that read something like, “patient is sitting in no acute distress.”

I remember this visit.  My head was throbbing and I was irritated beyond belief that it had taken almost two hours for me to be seen.  I was patiently answering questions that I had already filled out on the forms that no one bothered to read, and I did not feel well at all.  Yet, in the past year and a half with this headache and almost 20 years of dealing with low back pain, I have acquired the ability to look like I am not in distress.

On one hand, this is a bonus.  A requirement, almost, to living as normal of a life as possible in the midst of chronic pain.  Yet, on the other hand, I don’t appear to be sick, so a lot of people… even professionals, like the neurosurgeons I have visited, probably wonder whether it really is as bad as I say it is.  Why wouldn’t they?  I’ve become a master of the “I’m fine resting face”.  I can do the grocery shopping, smiling and nodding at people I see, while cringing at the pain in my head or my back.  I can function.  I can laugh, and I can act like nothing is wrong.  I have had to learn how to do this.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t get anything done, or probably even get out of bed most days.

Please know, I do not wish for the kind of pain that would literally bring me to my knees, yet sometimes I wish the outside matched my insides so I did not feel the need to plead my case.  After all, who wants to insist that they are in pain?  Who wants to insist that it really is as bad as it is?  Who wants to look like someone trying to garner attention through illness?

What a weird deal.  I’m glad that I haven’t thrown in the proverbial towel, yet I am also saddened that this pain that hugs me like a second skin has inadvertently required me to mask my real self.

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The A in Authentic

May 30, 2014

Many years ago when I lived in Kansas City, I spent some time with an art therapist who helped me with some life struggles I was experiencing.  I don’t remember much about what troubled me, for thankfully, I have freed up the bandwidth previously known as my “angst space”, and have moved on from said turmoils.

What I do remember about that time is the therapist herself.  She was in her 50’s, had short gray hair, a large build, and a strong, clear voice.  An amazing artist, to boot.  The first time I met her and shook her hand, I thought, “this woman is completely at home in her own skin.”  Though I had no experience with such a state of being, I could recognize it in another.  She had such presence!  I was in awe of how calming she felt.  I wanted to sit on her lap and be wrapped in the safety of her energy.  I wanted what she had… for myself.  I wanted this peace, this *knowing* that the person I was, inside and out, was completely and utterly OK.  Somehow she had achieved such grace, and I wanted it as well.

Something rather inane got me thinking about my old art therapist today.  I caught a glimpse of myself in the rear view mirror as I was driving home, and I saw an older face, devoid of makeup, surrounded by graying curls blowing in the breeze from the window.  And, lo and behold, that face staring back at me was simply, a face. The usual litany of harassing thoughts did not follow.  You know, the ones like, “maybe I should color my hair, gray hair is aging,” “maybe I should put on makeup before I go out in public, otherwise I look all washed out, ” and on and on, ad nauseum.  I was simply a gal driving down the road in her car.

This scenario may seem like a superficial spin on the deeper subject of self security, yet to me it seemed like a huge deal to realize I no longer have the barrage of nasty thoughts in the ready when I spy myself in the mirror.  Somewhere along the way down this road we call living, I have become OK with all that I am, inside and out.  I am finally comfortable in my own skin.  How did this happen?  I remember making it a ‘goal’ to find this sense of peace , yet I never really thought it was possible.

It has taken me years to get here.  I’m pretty sure I’ve just stumbled to this spot.  Truth is, I think I just stopped listening to the judgmental diatribe in my head.  Such a ridiculously simple thing, yet so difficult to offer ourselves.

Now I think I know why Avis, the therapist, felt so amazing to me.  She was authentic, uncluttered, and utterly present.  She was yummy artistic energy wrapped in wisdom and kindness.  She was what I wanted to be.

Thank you, Avis.  I know what it feels like now…

 

mandala

 

 

 

 

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