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….

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.

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.

Fluid

****TRIGGER WARNING**** Oblique and minimally detailed descriptions of childhood maltreatment are discussed in the recovery journey talked about below.

 

A fluid is a substance that can take the shape of whatever vessel into which it is poured. I have been a fluid for over 30 years, and I am only just now in these past few months awakening to that fact and what it means. My counselor last year suggested that I try new things to find out my feelings about them. He encouraged me to try something that I have always wanted to do but haven’t. I tried to make plans to try white water rafting, but it all fell apart and my friends and I were unable to make it happen.

I kind of understood where he was going with his request. He is able to see things that I can barely grasp from my perspective. Mainly because he is a guide on my journey, but he cannot do the work. He can see more of the picture because he doesn’t have to feel or see the revelations of my mind from my past. I don’t mean to say he is without emotion because there have been more than a few times that I would be describing and event in this dead flat voice, and I would hear him choke up as he asks a question to make sure he heard me correctly. There have been many a session I didn’t even cry until I heard or saw his emotions. It was like I could feel, but what those feelings meant beyond their intensity was not within my knowledge.

In my sessions, I have learned to put words to my emotions. I have learned to quantify and qualify my pain, my anger, my fear, my gut wrenching despair. To find my healing, I have to feel what the little girl who was forgot in order to survive. Do you know how much hope a child carries? Do you know that no matter the difficulties and problems there is still a piece of that child that will hope because hope is life. Hope means that there are possibilities.

My hope, my survival, was in my ability to be fluid. I learned quickly to become whatever the person in front of me needed, wanted desired. Some of them would be very straight forward, and all they really wanted was a hole to fill. The hard ones were the ones who wanted more. W was my main caretaker outside of my family. Her and her husband are the ones responsible for breaking me and beginning my training as a sex slave. She was also one of the most sadistic people I have ever personally met and interacted with on a regular basis. She was unpredictable in her desires and wants and needs.

In the beginning she was fairly straightforward, she wanted me to obey and service her and her husband, until he died. After he died, she became harder and more harsh. I could not work out the when, but at least once a week there were days when what she really wanted was my pain however she could get it. She would make me do things, only to flip and say that is something only bad girls do. Then there would be punishment. She would take my most basic rights like going to the bathroom and make it into something humiliating. She got such a thrill out of watching me trying to please her on days when her pleasure was really watching me fail and continue to try anyway.

I became fluid in those days. I learned to do it without thought. In all situations, I would analyze it and determine how best to survive. If it was being loud and silly, then that is what I was. If i needed to be the strong, do everything, gopher girl, then that is who I was. If I needed to be sexy and knowledgeable, then that was who I was. If they wanted my innocence and purity, then that is what I would give. I did not really exist beyond their desires. My opinion would only come out after the path of least resistance had been determined, and it would change with the wind because I craved safety, security, and what measure of hope of survival I would get by just agreeing and being what you needed.

The reality of living my life like this brought me to my knees a few months ago and threw me into the worst depression I have had as an adult. I didn’t want to live with this reality. It broke my heart to realize that my whole life, in every interaction, small or large, I made myself fit for you, whoever you are to me. I did it, not because I was asked, but because so very long ago it was how I lived.  It was how I minimized the pain that was coming whether I liked it or not. It was why I carried such guilt over things that were done to me. It was how I could keep my hope. My hope that ensured my survival and kept me going.

I pulled myself away from almost all interactions with people simply because I no longer had a vessel to fill and I was a puddle on the floor. I couldn’t have told you how I felt about anything. I could tell you that my favorite color was purple, one of the few things I have always known about myself. As I began to sort and come to terms with this aha moment, I began to solidify. I began to realize that there was more substance to me, and a lot of it had been found in the past few years.

I no longer want to be purely fluid. I want to know what I really think and feel in situations without first taking taking the temperature of my surroundings. I want to have dreams that are mine, and even if they are similar to yours, I will have my own milestones, my own difficulties, my own joys, my own journey that cannot be co-opted by you even accidentally. There are situations in life where it is necessary to bend and adjust for others, but not at the expense of my whole. There are also situations in life where it will be necessary for another to bend and adjust for me, but again not at the expense of their whole. I do not want to be so solid I am brittle, but I no longer wish to fill the vessel where you think or want me to be kept.

There is another kind of fluid, and it is found in the grace of movement and form. Fluid is found in the way that one move of the body comes from the one before. As I heal on this journey, my movement and my life will be more fluid. One moment, one event will build and become the next, and the next, until a grace filled dance is what will define my life and not the shape of a vessel given to me by another.

Thank you, Until next time