Light in Darkness

This morning was beautiful. I woke up at the ridiculously early hour of 5:30 am, so I could be bright and cheerful for working at church today. I am so not a morning person and those extra moments with me and the coffee are best for all I encounter. I made it there when I intended, attacked the day with vigor and joy. I fixed what needed fixing, and I watched and took care of things before they could be a problem.

I walked into my day full of light and the hope that had been recently kindled by my forward progress. I have reached a new level in my healing, and it felt wonderful to finally realize that I have honestly accepted the memories as truth. It was easier to think I was crazy or that it was all my fault. I had to deal with the internal struggle of realizing that there are people in this world that hurt children intentionally. That they hurt me intentionally. It was an accidental destruction of me as a child, and it also was not my fault.

Some parts of that will likely need to processed more than once as they are hard things to fully accept. Some times I think the reason it is so hard for non survivors to listen and accept the things we say is for the simple reason that we, as humans, don’t want to think that the every day people walking around can do that much intentional damage to another human being. The intentional nature of abuse, rape, murder, or any other violence inflicted upon people rips the rose colored glasses that wear right off our noses. If things like that can happen, do happen, and it isn’t just a wrong place, wrong time event, then we aren’t as safe as we like to believe. If we cannot do all the things in a magical formula to keep ourselves safe, then its harder to have hope. It’s harder to see the light.

I’m writing this tonight in the midst of my own darkness. Right now this moment is so hard. My switch was flipped today as I sat and watched children play in the lobby of my church. They were so beautiful and carefree. The parents and other adults were completely unconcerned. They were not creating havoc or interfering. When they needed a hug or parental attention, they were  gathered in even as the adults continued to talk. I could feel it, in that moment, my heart seized and another wall cracked.

I wasn’t expecting this one. I’ve dealt with a lot of the obvious walls as a childhood sexual assault survivor, and this one came at me from left field. I had to journal to really get to the point. When I was being abused all those years ago, the house was very cold emotionally. The only freedom was in those times when it was just me and my small family. Any times with W (wife) and P (pastor), were so regulated and stifled. Children were seen and not heard. If I was seen or heard, the consequences were harsh and always when my parents were not around.

I’m afraid of adults attention both positive and negative. I struggle with compliments. I struggle with being noticed in any way, and I am an adult living in a world full of adults. This is a ground breaking realization that will no doubt lead to an even deeper healing and growth. Right now it feels like I have had a hole blown through my chest. The tears keep falling. Tears that soften the hardest edges of my heart. Tears that express the ache of my heart that did not have the freedom to run and play as a child. Tears that drown the pain that shakes the foundations that I have built during all of these years of survival.

The pain is hard to continue to feel. My mind reaches to all of the things I once used to get past, over, and around these emotions for all of my years, anything except actually feeling. I want to live, and I want life with every breath I breathe. I get up each morning and choose to live. I want love. I want joy. I want to dance, climb rocks, and go white water rafting. I want to do all of the things I have only ever read about or seen in movies. Live, not just borrow other’s lives.

This moment is very hard. Thoughts of self-injury are there. The suicidal thoughts that really only ever fade are bright and incessant in my mind. I know the path those both will lead me down, and I don’t want to go that way again. Instead, I will feel and cry the ugly tears that heal. I will text or call crisis lines, and I will speak even when I don’t wan to say the words. It’s hard to admit how present those thoughts are in my mind. It feels like I’ve lost ground, but I haven’t. I am following the path of healing, and some days even though I continue forward, it feels like the unbearable pain of the worst days of my life.

I am not who I used to be. I am not alone no matter what the darkness whispers. I am not an inconvenience. Even though I still don’t understand or really feel it, I am loved and wanted.

There is always light in the darkness even if it is only the reflection of the moon in a pool of tears. There is hope, there is help. I write this not just for me, but for all of us sitting in the dark wondering if it is really this hard, and wondering if there is a better day. The world needs you. The world needs me. Stay this night.

Until Next Time….

Anger

Where am I today? I am at a point in my recovery/healing journey where I just have to be honest. I cannot hide from those who love me. I cannot downplay the depth of feelings. I cannot be afraid to show my fears and anxieties. I am at a point where the rubber meets the road, and this all becomes real. I can no longer live in a state of denial or semi-denial. It’s the time where I have to say it over and over, I was trained and sold. I was a slave. I was trafficked. I was forced to do things that no person, let alone a child, should ever have to do.

I am at the point where I have to trust in bits and pieces, that those who are in my life want to know all of me. They want to know me even on the bad days. They are not afraid of the darkness because it has always been there and it is not me. They may choose to put up boundaries for their own sake but that is not a rejection of me. They really do love me, and by choosing continuously to deny them access to my life, I am shutting off the very reason I have undertaken this journey. I want love. I want to love, and to be loved. I want intimacy between relationships, not in the sense of a physicality, but in the sense of two souls sharing life.

I am coming to terms with two realities that I am facing. I am angry. It’s ok to be angry. I have misunderstood anger my whole life, and it took this process to even see it. Last week, I discovered that my latest bout with emotional numbness had nothing to do with sadness, fear, or a new memory. My numbness came because of anger. I couldn’t figure out why without my counselor’s help. He helped to put words to it, but mostly he helped to slow down and really try to track the emotions to where the hang ups were in my past. When I thought of anger, I saw in my mind the cold cruelty of w who enjoyed my pain. When I thought of anger, I saw in my mind the uncontrolled verbal rage of my dad. Those were options when I thought of anger, and, in defense, my mind didn’t want to be either one so it chose to go numb.

Neither of those is true anger. Anger is not rage. Anger is not cruelty. Anger is not pain. Anger is a proper response to injustice. It is a righteous response to handle those situations in life where injustice happens, from bullying to cruelty. Anger is about standing up and speaking out in this world. It is not meant to be a weapon used against one another. Anger is not an emotion to fear; it is a path to courage. Anger is not about tearing down another or proving my point. Anger states that is wrong, it is not ok, and it must be fixed. Anger can change the world especially when tempered with love for myself and also for all those who are my neighbors, near and far. A neighbor is not a physical description, but an emotional one.

I have found as I journey that my family is more vast than I have every been able to appreciate. As the walls fall, as my heart breaks and heals, as my mind is opened, as the scar tissue falls away, I am able to see how full my life has truly become.

I am angry and it is a thing of beauty.

Girl of mine, that is me

There once was a girl pretty and bright. She wore pigtails in her hair, and dragged dollies by their arms. Her hair was red, and her smile lit up the room.

She awoke each morning cheerful and light, clearing the cobwebs with pure delight. Her heart was full, and her laughter blew away the darkest night.

An evil came one day, secrets and tales wound deep inside. The roots carved away her light, and drove her deeper and deeper into the night. Her face split to hide the night from those she loved with all her might.

Evil tried to turn her heart from brightest light to darkest night. It tore and ripped, she screamed and cried, but her heart still stayed with the light.

She hid her hope deep inside and swore her light would not due. Her grip was less each passing day, and her heart grew slowly grey. Her face froze and she forgot to speak, her secrets were hers to keep.

Freedom came on a sunny day, and all was washed away. Her face forgot the saddest side and only smiled, laughed, and sighed. She grew up, she grew strong. She was wise, and gentle, and small. Evil visited again and again, but never as dark as where her secrets began.

There came a time when the darkness seeped and writhed and wormed its way to her face. She could no longer deny its trace. Her mind would not remember the roots, but she felt the pain and felt the truth.

She wanted no more of this life, and she could not carry on her fight. She tried and tried, but alive she stayed. She learned to cry and grieve and crawl. She learned to scream and shout and stand. She learned her voice, her run, her way. She grew even older and wiser.

She turned to those behind and sought to lift and teach and grow. She passed her voice and thoughts around. She loved them and gave her all. She would not know what was about to be, she could not see what was to happen next. A friend, he was, who took his life. He broke her heart, and the secrets tumbled out.

She could no longer hide the slpit within, and now the fight must begin. She wants to live this girl of mine. She wants to be and do and see. She wants to be whole and true and free. This girl of mine that is me.

Turtle is my spirit animal

I would love to say my spirit is a tiger or a mountain lion, an eagle or a hawk, a deer or a horse, but they are not realistic. I am a turtle in pretty much every way. I have carried my home with me everywhere with the baggage as well. I retreat within my walls at the slightest provocation. I am soft and gentle wrapped within a shell that can withstand any force. I survive. I know how to do that.
I have survived by hiding and keeping secrets my whole life. I have hidden the secrets so far within myself that finding the roots of my fears and worries is like going on an archaeological dig Indiana Jones style, only it’s all adrenaline and very little of what most people would call reward. My rewards are tears streaming down my face as I speak words no little girl should ever know. My rewards come in torrents of memories that beat my mind and body and spirit as I trip through my acceptance journey. Rewards are days when I am fully present at an everyday event, and even when I am triggered I do not retreat but allow others to see my reality. Rewards are experiencing the wide variance of emotions and not just the extremes.
I have carried my safety with me since I was little afraid to set aside the thick protection crafted from my survival. There has really never been a person I have allowed past more than a few layers. There are layers upon layers built upon each other until my shell is diamond strength from years of pressure and fire. I cannot even penetrate the depths of my heart. The secrets even hide from me. I seek them out, and pursue them one by one. I chase the roots of my pain to find the end that I may rip out the poison and release a little more of the light shine in the dark. My shell is not as whole as it was once. I have opened many wounds and ripped the roots from deep inside. I still carry my shell, and seek to retreat within whenever my heart or pain is exposed.
I have recently begun sharing my truth. I have told several people I was trained for sex at the age of 4 and trafficked by my Pastor and his wife. I say the words or type them in a forum, and as soon as they react, I must run away. It is not that I am not heard or that they are not supportive. It is that I cannot believe they believe. Why would they believe? How could they believe? How could they say my how that must have been hard? How could they believe it was bad? It couldn’t have been that bad. It wasn’t that bad. I would rather deny my own validation, my own truth than believe it is on par with all survivors truth. I run from it. The more I speak, the more my heart runs wild wanting to escape. Secrets have been my life. But secrets are not easy to hold, and they become heavier with the passing of time.
I am the Turtle inching my way forward in my recovery and my healing. I am slow and steady. I am brave. I walk forward not able to see very far, taking each step in hope and faith that I am going the right way. I am strong from carrying this weight for so long, and I am able to handle the work as hard as it is to face. I still carry my walls with me, but there are fewer than ever before. My journey is continuing with each truth told, and the love I am shown in return, even when I run from that love. There will come a day where I will stand and take that love and accept it as my own. That love will be more worthy of my time than all of the secrets I have carried for too long. That love is lighter than air and relieves the force of what has been holding me down all these years.
My spirit animal is a turtle, and it truly is a thing of beauty.

Control

Today has found me in a paradox of recovery. I am strong and breaking down cages from long ago all so I can live free and whole. As I am finding this freedom, I find that the structures of my life rub me the wrong way causing spirals of anxiety to flood my system.

I was not prepared for this part of my healing and recovery. I knew that I would change. I knew that my relationships with others would change. I have not been prepared for others reactions to my changes. I have not been ready for the incredible exhaustion that comes from building these new muscles and hold these healthy boundaries.

I have found in these past few weeks that I quickly reach a level of intolerance in my every day dealings with people. There was a time when I would be the chameleon by adjusting my mood and affect for all around me. I did it without thought. Its a survival mechanism. On the days that I could not “solve” the riddle of what the other person wanted from me, I would curl up inside my innermost hole and wrack with shockwaves of doubt, shame, guilt, and fear. This was my reaction as an adult to people I love.

I have been learning boundaries, and I have been beginning to understand that I have the power and ability to say no. It was the weirdest experience knowing I could say no, and they would not turn on me, hurt me, or silence me. It was beautiful. It freed me and my relationships.

I am learning now about myself. I am learning who I am through my own lens. I am learning how to stand on my own. I am more confident in my skin. I am also a bit fragile at the moment.

My confidence and beliefs in myself are not set in stone. They are new, and today they took a full frontal assault from the world. Its been almost a week of cannon fire and bullets ripping through my new foundation. I realized this morning, before I even left the house, that today was going to be a day I needed to be gentle with myself. I did not heed my own warnings, and I am paying the consequences in my body.

I had to say no tonight to something I dearly love because I would have dissolved at the slightest pressure. I could not withstand even friendly banter for I would have rewrote into hate mail. I could not withstand a withering look. I could not have stood beneath the power of a hug.

Today I hate my recovery even though it is my greatest desire to heal and be whole. I hate that I have to withdraw because the energy it takes to hold my new boundaries drains me. I hate that my trauma becomes a weapon in the hands of others simply because they trigger me, I hate that I have to think in advance and be so aware of myself to know I have to say no, or tomorrow I can’t say yes.

Today I hate the aches and pains of muscle spasms because of all of the stress and adrenaline this battle for my future takes. Today, all I want is peace and rest. The answer is simple and yet very hard. I am safe in this place, and what I most need to do is let down the walls and rest. I survived by holding the walls created by a child. I cannot keep building walls and clinging to them in hopes they will save me. Boundaries are healthy, but the walls that I can’t even release in the privacy of my home, those are the ones that need to go. I need to let go. I need to surrender and trust the tools and lessons I’ve learned. I need to surrender and have faith that I can really do this. My walls have been a prison, and it’s time to walk free. I imagine I will falter a few times. I imagine there will still come days when it is wiser to put distance between me and people I will want to make happy, as if I really could. I need to be ok with the raw days and be gentle with the new soul gaining her strength and walking among the waves of this world. She really is a beautiful thing, this woman I am becoming.

Until next time……

Sami_Sunset – Light Bringer

Tonight, I find myself in a moment after discovery. I have been on this leg of the recovery journey for over a year. I’m in a new place.  A place that doesn’t even resemble where I was when I began this walk. I keep growing, learning, and adjusting my course as I come to terms with who I am authentically. I’ve been working on a decision lately. I gave myself weeks to think about it, pray about, and finally to just take the step. There was a peace that came with the exhale I set my foot onto the path. But today, all the doubts and fears descended like the ravenous monsters from my childhood.

I didn’t fully explain my name when I chose it for my Twitter account. If I am being honest with myself, I didn’t fully understand it at the time. There were some other discoveries I had yet to make. I have long associate the names Samantha and Sami with my favorite names. They are safe, and warm, and a balm to my spirit. I didn’t know why until recently. The abusers that trained me, sold me, broke me, used names to communicate the behaviors that I should exhibit. My own name became the name used when it was time for punishment, but Sami, Sami is the name they used when it was time to go home. It was the name of safety. It was what they called the little girl who was me when it was time to shut down and go home.

There are Light Bringers in this world who shine the light into the darkness. The brightest of them have often lived in that darkness. They made it their own as it was the only way to survive. They walked it, lived it, breathed it, conformed to it because that was the way to have hope that they could make it to tomorrow. When they find the way out, what they desire most is to burn the light further into the dark and bring others forth. They find the way, and they want to help others make it as well.

Being a Light Bringer is a beautiful gift when shared with other survivors because it imbues a strength in all who see it. The Light Bringer is a beacon showing that you are not alone, and all of the people who want you to feel that way are lying. The trouble comes when the Light Bringer points out the obvious flaws in the thinking and actions of this world. Our world is created on illusion that we can prevent the bad things from happening. We believe that just by working hard and doing all of the right things that we can hold the darkness at bay and maintain our control. Bad things cannot happen when we do the right things at the right time.

You can see it for yourself in conversations about almost any world event. We want to know what happened, but we also want to know the why and how. We will say, this happened because of their beliefs, that happened because of what they were wearing, you would have been safe if you had stayed home, going out after dark was the danger, people not like myself are the hazards, if you would only, why didn’t you……. The list goes on and on. It is not a list really about the event. The list is about all of the things that we can do to prevent whatever it is from happening to us. Because the alternative is not something we really want to accept.

I was trafficked and exploited as a child from the ages of 4 – 7. I have googled trafficking and exploitation, many times, and most of the information to be found is for teens, adults, women, foreigners, but its harder to find articles and people talking about little kids. When a person is raped, we analyze their clothing, behavior for all time whether they have changed or not, where were they, why were they there, anything and everything to put a reason as to why it happened to that person. We as a society practically make it an inevidable conclusion that the perpetrator could not help but rape that person. They didn’t have a choice. Besides its not that bad, just shake it off, we can’t ruin the perpetrator’s life because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and could not help but rape that person. Bad people don’t exist. Bad things only happen to those who deserve it.

We run into a bit of a cognitive dissonance when faced with a 4 year old rape victim. We, as a society, cannot write that off, and we don’t really like that. There are statistics galore out there, and we quote them at each other and say something must change. Yet as we say this, we analyze over and over how did it happen to them and that is how we fix the problem. The problem is not in that place, though, the problem is in the dark. The problem is in the things that we don’t want to acknowledge and face. Don’t look, don’t see, doesn’t exist.

I am one of the ones who chose not to exist, so I could survive in that dark. I am not a statistic, but a person with a story. Some if it is heartbreaking, some of it is hilarious, some of it is ugly, some of it is filled with all of the mean and horrible things I have done, some of it is filled with my mistakes, and some of it is so beautiful. There is a time coming when we will have the option of being honest and saying that darkness exists, evil exists, bad things happen and we cannot always control it. A time is coming when people will want you to ignore the full ramifications of what they want you to do, say, or think.

By not looking in the dark, shining a light, we are ignoring one of the few things we really do have control over in this world. We ignore the impact of our relationships with each other. We forget just how important it is to love one another. The dark is a scary place, but it still cannot exist in the light. If you walk into a room, and turn on the light the darkness must flee like scuttling cockroaches.

It is not easy to be a Light Bringer, and I know quite a few these days. I have found them in my real life and also in my digital life. Even as they stand and shine their light, there are those who sling mud at them trying to darken the brightness with which they stand. These people, these Light Bringers, are not statistics. They are real flesh and blood. They tell the stories of their lives that are hard to hear not just because of what happened, but because it means the numbers aren’t just on a page. The numbers are living, breathing, crying, hugging, loving, amazing people who have suffered and chosen to live and grow and burn brightly. They did not choose to stay in the dark. They did not choose to turn into the dark as the ones who came before. The world understands that better than it does the ones who choose to love. The world sees pain and understands why it creates pain and propagates pain. When the world sees pain that has turned into hope and love and infects others, than it must be stopped, for then it means that the dark does exist and it can be defeated. It just can’t be defeated by ignoring it.

My name is Sami_Sunset. I am in the sunset phase of my recovery. Granted this phase may still take quite a bit, but it is ending. I will not have to hide behind the safety of my digital name. I will be a Light Bringer and take my place among those who shine into the dark. You are loved, and you are not alone.

Until next time.

#IfMyWoundsWereVisible

Tomorrow, June 1, is World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day and the hashtag #IfMyWoundsWereVisible is the rally cry of us survivors. For each of us, the recovery journey is entirely unique, and yet the similarities and the choruses of me toos cannot be denied despite how much our abusers want us to feel utterly alone. This is my journey and my story about my wounds and what might have been and still what can be.

#IfMyWoundsWereVisible, my skin would be scar tissue on top of scar tissue. Her words were so long ago, and yet they have resounded through my mind and my body every minute of every day since they were voiced. W was my beginning as a survivor. Her cruelty knew no bounds, and her words were sharper than any knife. She was not just satisfied by speaking the words herself; it was far more pleasing to her ears to have me repeat the horrible words over and over during each punishment. So, her voice speaking of my mistakes, frailties, weaknesses, humiliations, and idiocy has been replaced my own. Long after I had hidden the memories so I could live, the words still rang throughout my life in my own voice.

#IfMyWoundsWereVisible, you would not question why I find it so hard to stand up and speak with confidence on even the most basic of things like my name. You would not wonder why I shake and tremble in a room full of loud noises that overwhelm my senses to the point I cannot determine whether I am really in danger or not. You would understand why the simplest failure and fault in my memory makes me want to hide instead of stand and continue. You would know why I both prefer to remain unnoticed and crave to be loved and accepted.

#IfMyWoundsWereVisible, my heart would be laid bare before you. There are no secrets when the wounds are seen. It would not be just a matter of vulnerability, but a level of truth that even the most honest person cannot achieve. You would know my shame. You would see my pain and my despair. You would witness the strength of will, hope, and faith it takes for me to do everything. You would also know my empathy for your pain is real and not just empty words from an empty vessel.

#IfMyWoundsWereVisible, you would know that you are not alone. We would know that we are not alone. I would know that I am not alone. The greatest weapon, the greatest lie, and the hardest wound to heal is the one of isolation. The secrets kept on behalf of our abusers force us to put up walls and barriers with the outside world. Without those walls, it would be too easy to slip and tell. Those walls and barriers protect us from others noticing our pain, our horror, our stories. Our cages are forged with secret upon secret, lie upon lie, and fear upon fear until the world around us is at such a distance it feels like we cannot be seen or heard. I feel like I cannot be seen or heard. I feel like I don’t even belong in this world, like I cannot touch it, or taste it, or feel it for the distance is too great.

#IfMyWoundsWereVisible, I could cry the healing tears that I so often deny. I will hold them back, hold them in until I am fit to explode because who am I. I have no value. My pain is small, it doesn’t matter. I look and see the pain around me, and the words I speak to my damaged heart are not ones of kindness. The words I speak to my damaged heart are words of blistering criticism. How dare you break? what is wrong with you, my heart, that you cannot just move on. If I could see for myself, I could not deny my own damage. I could find the healing in the tears, in feeling the pain, in acknowledging and accepting, that I can release it all and begin to put those pieces into a beautiful mosaic of the love I so desire.

#IfMyWoundsWereVisible, I would have been a little girl. I could have been a child. My innocence would not have been perverted because their secrets would not have been kept. It rarely starts with the physical pain. It begins with the words. Its always the words that snake and sneak deep inside of us laying eggs on the way into the inner sanctum of who we are in our core. The eggs hatch and spread laying roots that twist and twine with other roots becoming stronger as they are reinforced over and over. If the words are not a secret, then the actions that follow are not either. I lived a double life. My life with W filled with pain and humiliation and things that have words that I wish I didn’t know. I also lived a life with my parents and brother where my mom used all the voices in the bed time stories, and my dad would carry me on his shoulders and in his arms of strong protection. I could not have carried the secrets from my dark life into my light life.

#IfMyWoundsWereVisible, I would not be who I am. I will not trade who I am because there is good that has come from my hell. I will find my voice that I may stand for you so your wounds may be visible where mine were not.  I will be resilient and strong for a future where the wounds won’t have to be visible because it will be a different place. I am a survivor, and today that is enough for me. Today, the weight is not so heavy I cannot breathe. This moment is not so bad and that is because in this moment you can see, and it is not a question of #IfMyWoundsWereVisible. You can see the wounds; you can see me.

Until next time, thank you, and good night.