Welcome to the survivor moms speak out blog!

While practicing full-time as a community-based midwife, I had the opportunity to work with many women who were survivors, either of childhood sexual trauma, rape, or both. The experience of being their midwife, and witnessing their challenges and triumphs encouraged me to learn more about the effects of trauma on the body, and on the experience of childbearing specifically. So just as I felt "called" to practice midwifery, I felt "called" to shed light on issues that survivor moms face during the process of becoming a mother. That calling led me to begin the "Survivor Moms Speak Out" project. We surveyed many women who were both moms and survivors; and 81 of those women completed a narrative or contributed a poem for the book "Survivor Moms: Women's Stories of Birthing, Mothering, and Healing after Sexual Abuse."
Read more about the book, or order a copy, at http://www.midwiferytoday.com/books/survivormoms.asp.

Because of space constraints, not all of the narratives that women contributed to the book project were able to appear in full in the final version of the book. So I would like to take the opportunity to share some of the whole narratives in this blog, featuring a narrative at a time.
About reading survivor stories:
Although the stories are encouraging because they represent survivors’ triumphs over adversity, they can also to be hard to read, because of the intensity of the issues and events. I encourage you to check in with yourself while reading survivor stories, especially if you are a survivor of past trauma, and limit your exposure if you become “triggered”. Feeling triggered might take several different forms. You might start re-experiencing a past trauma you have had before, by not being able to stop thinking about it, or dreaming about, or just feeling like it is happening all over again. You may feel distress or have physical symptoms like feeling your heart race or sweating. If you start to experience these things, you may benefit from talking to someone who understands how trauma works and how to help you with post-traumatic symptoms.

To read more about trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder you can check out the National Center for PTSD website: http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/.

The Sidran Foundation offers an information and a referral resource on-line: http://www.sidran.org/

Thursday, January 14, 2010

tedi’s story

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. (John 3:16)

“You were so ugly the nurses in the hospital called you Monkey. I called you Peanut. I felt so sorry for you when you were born, you didn’t even weigh five pounds. I always felt responsible for that. I didn’t want to be pregnant. Your father and I were not getting along at the time and I was going to leave him. So much did I want to leave him that I even tried to abort you three times. Thank God it didn’t work though because as it turned out I loved you the best.”

This is how I was welcomed into the world. I do not know how old I was when I first became conscious and aware of what had been said to me all my time on this earth. I can tell you that when I figured out the meaning of those words (those words and so many others just like them) I felt pure rage for the woman who gave birth to me.

I was born in 1944 when my brother was four. I remember almost nothing of him until I was much older. My dad was in the navy and so he didn’t live with us on a regular basis until I had been alone with my mom much too long. All I can remember is being told how hard she had it, how everybody in dad’s family hated her because she was from the wrong side of the tracks. “They hate you too cause you’re a girl and girls don’t count in this family.” Dad’s brother had nine girls trying to have a boy baby because his brother did. He drank, and abused them all.

Mom would say to me over and over, “Don’t worry, I love you. Momma loves her sad unwanted little baby best. I’ll never let anybody hurt you, never! You’re mine and nobody else will ever have you or hurt you.” She told me she liked to call me her china doll. She told me my skin was so white and see-through that she could count the veins all over my body. My hair was also white and she said she used to love to wash it and keep me clean. She would keep me safe forever. She would keep me safe from men, from the world, from all things evil and bad. Nothing bad would ever happen to me, she wouldn’t let it. She kept me with her at all times after I was born and at the same time if she had had her way, I would have never been born. I can never remember being held lovingly or being loved.

As I have studied to understand what is wrong with me, I see what I am saying is true. Neither of my parents was capable of loving. As a child I had a saying in my head about my mom. It went, “Mothers eat their young.” Imagine my surprise when I grew up and learned that some species actually do!

My mom used to sit me down in a chair from time to time and tell me she hated me. She would say, “I hate you, tedi, I do all I can for you and it is still not enough. You hate me too. You must. You never want to help me. You are hateful, you are willful, and you have always been ungrateful. God, I don’t know what I am going to do with you, you never cooperate with anything, you fight everything I try to do for you. I really hate you.”

One day when she sat me in the chair, in order to stop her flow of words, as soon as she started with “I hate you tedi” I said with all my force, “Well momma I hate you too.” She never did that to me again, but it was too much for me. When I got to my room I beat and beat and beat on myself, my legs, my stomach, and then my head. I beat my head because it would not shut up. It kept saying over and over, “I hate you too momma, I hate you too momma.” Then I crawled into my closet with my pillow to be safe but instead I placed the pillow over my face and screamed and screamed while beating my head against the wall. When I was exhausted I crawled into bed and passed out.

I attempted suicide when I was ten by taking a bottle of thirty aspirins, expecting not to be able to ever wake up again. The intent to die was very definite then. The next morning I was very surprised to have to get up and get dressed to go to school. Not only was I still alive but also my ears rang for a week. It was as if my head was inside a seashell, with the sound of the sea in my ears and my head in a big barrel. I believe it was soon after I had told my mother I hated her. I could not stand having said that to her.

Once when my sister and I were much older, were doing the dishes together, dad was drunk and told us that he always liked to put his mouth on us between our legs when we were babies. He told us how he loved kissing on us there, we were so small, innocent and sweet smelling. I can tell you we were not when he finished with us.

My sister is the only other person I can remember trying to help and to love decently until I was able to have much healing in my spirit, mind, soul, and body. One time when we were kids I was told to watch her for a brief period of time between our parents coming and going. At some point I had told her to do something, and she gave me a sharp “no!” and I proceeded to chase her through the house with a hairbrush. When I rounded the corner into the kitchen chasing her, dad had her in his arms and she was clinging to him as if her life depended on it. I did not even know he was in the house. He was always there when you had no idea he was anywhere around. I remember looking at them and thinking, “Dear God, I’m just like my mother.” Nobody said anything, and I went into the bathroom and threw up. I don’t know what made me sicker, what I had wanted to do to my sister with that brush or seeing her in my dad’s arms. He was drunk and I was fearfully thinking, “Is he doing to her what he’s doing to me?”

I believe from that time on I knew I was not mother material. I began then and there asking God not to let me have any children. I meant it. Between the abuse I had taken and there never being enough of anything to go around, not food, not clothing, not things and especially not good love, I did not want to be responsible for bringing a child into this world. I didn’t think the world was a very safe place.

My dad only sexually abused me once while I was old enough to do anything about it. He treated me like his wife and my mother encouraged it. I can’t say which one of my parents I hated most. The incident was in the summer between seventh and eighth grade, the night before going back to school. The summer was over, and I had managed to stay out of trouble, but I was very lonely and could hardly wait to get back to school. After my dad molested me. What had been eagerness to return to school turned into a living nightmare. I could not break through that haziness, that heaviness, the black cloud that I had awakened to the first day of the eighth grade. I was at school, had no idea how I arrived there, stumbling around in the halls, trying to find my home room, being bumped and pushed by other kids trying to change classes and find their rooms. At school that year I just sat in class, did not even try to be there and was pretty much left alone as I recall. I went through two eighth grades, and almost two ninth grades that way, never being present.

I quit school at sixteen, halfway through the year. I really did try to keep house and be some kind of person, it didn’t work though. Dad was always there drinking, mom was never satisfied still. I couldn’t get anywhere this way, and I knew it. All I can ever remember wanting was a home of my own. I was more miserable than ever so when school started up the next year, I went back. There I was seventeen and in the ninth grade (starting school at the age I did I should have been a senior); but I couldn’t afford to care about that, at least I was out of the house. I never have finished school or gotten my GED.

About this time, my mom and I went to a Lutheran church in the neighborhood for a while. I sang in the choir and had a good time. I loved the lightness going and doing at church made in me. I loved taking communion. Mom received a letter with a red hand on it saying she needed to give more money, and she never went back. I went some more but soon ran away to get married. I had met a boy by the name of Keith while in the second ninth grade. He came over to the house a couple of times until dad forbade him to come back. I didn’t even know him, but he spoke to me a few times, I liked that. He also took me to choir practice a couple of times. It was getting close to the end of the school year and since dad had forbidden me to see him again and I wanted out, when Keith asked me to go to Georgia with him and get married I did. We certainly didn’t have to get married. I had never even been tempted to have sex with him or anybody for that matter. (My way to have sex was with myself and nobody else, that way I thought I had all my problems solved around my sexuality.) I did not know that way was a sin also. I did not know sex and sexual things were optional. After we were married I did go back to school and pick up my report card. I had passed, and that made me feel really good.

The first night Keith and I were married and together to have sex I told him, “I don’t care what you do to me, just don’t get me pregnant.” Within three months I went to the doctor for feeling sick to my stomach and he told me I was pregnant. I was honestly shocked and furious. I had never even been on a real date, and now I was going to have a baby. I remember telling the powers that be I would try to love and keep a girl, but if I had a boy, I would not even try to raise him. I would let Keith and his family raise him. I had a girl.

When I married him the uproar in the family was terrific. Finally it was decided, (by my mom, dad and brother sitting around the table discussing me as though I was not there) that they as well let the marriage stand. One of them said, “She will probably just run off and do it again if we tried to have the marriage annulled.” I sat on the couch in the front room wanting to say I didn’t really want to be married, but I didn’t know how to say this, so, I said nothing. Anyway, I had had sex, and that made me totally not any good now. When I was dismissed mom told me to get my things packed and get out, and dad told me I would never be welcomed in his house again. My brother said nothing, but I thought I saw pain in his eyes when our eyes met. I gathered my things and left. Keith was parked down the street and around the corner waiting for me. I cried all the way back to the apartment. This was the day after we had gotten married. It was a Sunday afternoon. As a parting shot that day dad had said, “I give you six months and you’ll be begging to come home.” Therefore I stayed in that marriage much longer than I would have if I had not been trying to show him I could stay married.

My pregnancy was awful. I threw up the whole nine months, couldn’t keep anything down. I even quit smoking cigarettes as they made me sick also. I finally just quit eating, and drank milk constantly. The only food I could keep down was packaged sugar food (sweet rolls, anything that was individually wrapped and didn’t cost more than a quarter.) I was using my cigarette money to buy the sweets with. I could also eat rice krispies without any sugar on them later in my pregnancy. We had a little neighborhood store right across the street from where we lived. I went there once a day. The apartment we could afford was so filthy I could not eat anything that came from that kitchen. I didn’t ever eat in that apartment, I ate outside. The apartment was $25 dollars a month, and we lived there until the baby was born. I didn’t go to a doctor again until the end of my pregnancy and then I went to a clinic someone at Keith’s job had told him about. We paid one hundred dollars to have the baby.

At first I had tried to clean the apartment, but I had never seen dirt that would not clean up. It was ground in or something, I could not get it to clean or to smell good. I finally just gave up even trying. I was too sick to care. Keith would come home from work and cook and eat out of that kitchen. I never understood how he could do that until I saw his parent’s house, where he grew up and what he had lived in. Dirt and alcohol. Both his parents were total alcoholics. They died from their alcoholism years after we divorced. One thing about my mom, she had kept a clean house. The old saying ‘you could eat off her floors,’ was true for her, you could. Even after she went to work, she had me keep her house that clean.

One weekend toward the end of my pregnancy I left the apartment, ran away really. Keith wanted sex and I said no, that I felt too sick, and he got a little pushy, so I got in the car and drove to a park in my area. It was raining. I stood at the railing; face up to the rain, it felt so good. I was very heavy with my child (although I couldn’t eat much I still gained forty pounds.) I looked down into the St. John’s River and wanted so much to fall in and sink to the bottom. It was twilight and very steamy, foggy even, as it was gently raining in the aftermath of a very hot July day. I was asking to die. I have asked for that most of my life because I didn’t know what living meant. I wasn’t violent or even angry, I was simply asking God to take me and my unborn baby to Himself. I had not officially met God at this time so I didn’t even know if he was listening. I looked to the right and out of the mist walked a man, coming toward me, dressed in khaki, even a khaki hat. At first I was frightened and then I was at peace. He smiled at me and then disappeared. When I got back in my car to drive home, many hours had passed and I was not aware of time passing at all!

My daughter was born at the end of July in St. Vincent’s hospital. I had wanted to try to nurse her although it made me feel squeamish, but unbeknownst to me my mother had told the nurses to give me the shot that makes your milk dry up. Keith had called them when he was waiting for the baby to be born. Also, when Keith was told he had a girl, he stomped his foot and left the hospital. I woke up to mom and dad. I was shocked and furious. Dad was drunk and mom would not shut up: she kept giving everybody orders, including the doctors. I did not want them there; I did not want them as part of my life again. They always brought total confusion to my life, and I did not want them in it.

The nurses would not let me go home with the baby until I had named her. I wanted out of there and away from my parents so I gave the sister standing there my mother’s name, my sister’s name, and my last name. I had not held my baby much while mom was there, which was all the time. I couldn’t wait to get home alone with her, without mom and dad’s interference. When I became pregnant I had weighed 98 pounds, and when I had the baby and left the hospital three days later I weighed 95 pounds and was so depressed I could hardly stand it. I had probably been depressed all my life, but now I was aware of it.

Now that I am supposed to be ‘of age’ I think I should have to apologize for some of the choices I have made. But I never realized I could maker choices until I was over 45 years of age, and now sometimes even at 50 I’m not sure it’s ok to make choices. People do not always believe this statement, but I assure you it’s true in the abused. They have no background for learning to make choices. They mostly copy behavior from others, hoping that something or someone will help them. Hoping desperately that they can make themselves understood, so that they can be helped, having no place to begin. Sometimes I have to remind myself why I am writing this. That was how I started being able to heal and find myself. Reading books and finding statements that were true for me, then, learning to pray about them and asking God to show me if they were indeed true for me. Nothing was ever true for me my whole life. Nothing was ever true for me. When I heard God’s word was truth, I went for it like a drowning man. It helped immediately. But I am getting ahead of myself.

For some reason, work I think, Keith was not able to take me home from the hospital, and my parents did. I saw very little of Keith in the hospital, I never knew why, and I didn’t ask. I did not want my parents to see the apartment. They took one look at it and said I could not take that baby to live in that squalor. They told me to get my things together (which was very little,) and took Lisa and me to their house. I was crazy inside but I thought they were right; I didn’t want my baby living in that apartment either. It was a long time until I got my baby to myself and by then I was afraid of the responsibility of her. Totally afraid that I would be totally responsible for her. I didn’t know about God and His help. Dad helped Keith and I to get into a house for a hundred dollars down and $97.00 a month. We stayed there until I finally left him. I was so sure that I was never going to have another baby that I wouldn’t have sex with him. He took a liking to a neighbor and I told him to do whatever he wanted. I truly knew that I would never be a part of bringing another child into this world. This world is not a safe place. I never asked what he did about his sexuality.

I probably never would have left him if he had not started correcting Lisa in a way I could not tolerate. Yelling too loud at her for something trivial, being on her about something all the time…and then one evening he hit her on her back over her right kidney and left a detailed handprint. I was in the kitchen cooking and I heard a pain-filled scream. I ran in and asked what had happened. He was sitting there drinking a beer and said, “ I told her twice to not touch the TV knobs and she did it anyway, so I spanked her.” I told him, “That is not how you spank a child, you are never to hit her on her skin, do you hear me?” By the time supper was ready her back was swelling from the blow. I said nothing more. I did not eat supper; I fed her, bathed her, and got her ready for bed. I thought all night long, “What should I do? What should I do?” The next morning right after Keith went to work I called dad and asked him if he would come and get us. I did not say why, and he didn’t ask. When Keith came home that night everything was gone accept what wasn’t paid for. We never had gotten much.

Lisa was sleeping in the same baby bed in which we had all slept. Keith drank a lot; in fact he became one of my father’s drinking buddies if we were around him at all. I had not started drinking yet. I drank on occasion, but was not an alcoholic at this time. I practically never saw Keith again, only once in court. He was told to pay child support; he never did. My dad turned him into the armed forces and he joined the Army. The government then sent alimony and child support payments to me. It was the first regular money I ever had. I was 21 years old, and Lisa was three. I tried to go to technical school at night for a while but I still could not learn anything so I quit. I was 21 years old, had a baby, had never held a job, and was living back in my parents’ house again. I did not feel divorced because I had never felt married. I did not legally divorce Keith until he was out of the Army.

Eventually I took a job at a soda fountain. That’s where my husband Joe and I met. He came in one morning for a cup of strong coffee and an alka-seltzer. I should have known right then but I didn’t know to look for the signs of being a drinker. Joe and I didn’t date for a year though we saw each other often because he boarded a horse at my family’s place. We did begin to take my daughter and a lot of the neighborhood kids to the drive-in movies in the back of his pick-up. While we always had beer around I do not think we were alcoholics yet. One statement I always say about Joe and I is, when we met we drank together, then we became full-fledged drunks together and the best part is, we sobered up together.

After about a year I moved out of mom and dad’s house and rented a place on my own. Joe asked me out, just the two of us. We started becoming more serious but he hadn’t filed for divorce although he had been away from his wife for over a year. I had been divorced for two years, away from my first husband for about five years. We had both said we never wanted to get married again when we met, so we really took our time. Finally he said we might as well marry as we were practically living together. Joe is the only man I have ever had sexual intercourse with outside of wedlock. Neither one of us thought very much of ourselves for behaving that way. I was never sober or present but I went though all the motions fairly effectively, I think. I do know I liked Joe from the first time I laid eyes on him. I had never met a man who knew how to take care of himself and his own living quarters. I was impressed. He kept his apartment spotless and cooked better than I did. We got married and we both started drinking more although I don’t know why. The disease of alcoholism I guess. Maybe we neither one knew how to do life or be adult. He worked swing shift and I was still at the drug store.

After about a year of not really getting anywhere, my brother and his wife were going to move to Denver, as she had grown up there, and they were both in their early thirties and not really getting anywhere either. They said, “Why don’t you go with us? There is nothing keeping you here.” After a lot of thought we decided to sell our mobile home and go. Joe and I had been married a little over a year.

We arrived in Denver with my daughter Lisa, about nine hundred dollars, no job, no place to stay, and thought for sure that we hated the big city. Somehow we made it but don’t ask me how. Just as the money was running out Joe got a job from an ad in the newspaper. It was cold and snowing and he had to work outside, but he didn’t care, at least he was working again. He stayed at that job nineteen years. He loves working outside. He found a little white house for rent at $110.00 a month through a guy at work. We thought that amount was outrageous but found out that for Denver that was cheap. Joe started working, I found a job in a drug store, and Lisa went to school. She was miserable, hated Denver, and was really homesick. I was scared but so relieved to really be away from my parents I could not believe my good fortune.

Later, mom and dad came out for a visit. I became very upset because they were coming out for a visit so soon. I had finally gotten away from them and here they came again. I made the bloodiest suicide attempt I have ever made. They were due in on Friday night or Saturday morning.

Friday night I drank all I could hold, and took a handful of Librium. It was late and everybody was asleep. Joe had gone to sleep on the couch in the front room (passed out from too much drink?) after complaining about having to buy Lisa some new school clothes. I filled the bathtub with hot water, cut my wrists, lay back, and hoped never to wake up. I woke up some hours later when the water turned cold. I let the water out of the tub, staggered into the bedroom with my arms throbbing, wrapped a sheet around me and passed out. My wrists started bleeding again when they warmed up. The water turning cold must’ve waked me and stopped the blood flow. In the morning Lisa found me early, she had gone to the bathroom and there was blood in the tub, blood all over the place. She woke Joe and they took me to the doctor. He cleaned my cuts, took a couple stitches, then the doctor tried to talk to me but I was having none of his talk. I told him I was going to be late for work. He did give me another prescription for Librium. I did not tell him I had taken a whole bottle to get the courage to do what I had done the night before, or that I had drunk all I could hold either.

I had called work and told them I was going to be late. I went in to work, and when I left I started drinking and stayed drunk until mom and dad left town, except for when I was at work.

The Sunday after mom and dad left Joe and Lisa were out in the garage working on Lisa’s bike. I could see them from where I stood doing the dishes, and knew I was going to try to kill myself again. I knew they would do better if I were out of the picture. I figured I had saved enough pills to do the job.

I looked to the left and on the wall above the phone there was a suicide prevention telephone number listed with the other emergency numbers. I dried my hands, and called the number. I told whoever answered the phone what I had done the week before and that I was pretty sure I was going to do it again. She said, “Hold on a minute, I’ll let you talk to a counselor.” I almost hung up, but I didn’t. A man came on the phone, sounded concerned, said he could help me, but said he also needed to get a little more information. I gave him details about what I had done to myself. He asked if I thought my husband would bring me in to see him that night and I said, “No, he’s not speaking to me.” He said, “I’ll come and get you.” I said I would walk instead, and he asked me to give him an hour to finish with the person he was seeing right then.

I finished the dishes, got dressed, told Joe I was going over to my sister’s and took my time walking there. When I got there I waited about forty-five minutes until this guy named Bob came out and asked me if I could please wait a little longer. I started to get up and go and he knelt down on one knee in front of me and begged me to wait just a little longer. “If it gets dark I’ll take you home,” he said. I was shocked that he would do such behavior, and embarrassed, but I said I would wait. Finally I saw him for about an hour. I didn’t have a lot to say since I had said most of what I had to say on the phone earlier. He said it would be good if he could see me a couple times a week to start and then we could slack off as I started to feel better. He drove me home. Joe and Lisa were sleeping. I felt honored and relieved that someone was finally going to listen to me at last. The second time I saw him, as I was leaving, he put his hand out to me. Nobody had ever done that to me before. I looked at it for quite a long time and then I took it. He said. “I’ll help you.” I did not know then what I now know about myself. I did not realize how unloved and un-loveable my life had left me, how totally outside my experiences I had learned to live.

During one of our early appointment times, Bob asked me if I wanted him to hold me at the end of a session. I jumped at the chance. I had been telling him of some of my abuse, although not crying or anything. He sat in this big wooden rocking chair, he was a big man and the idea of being held and rocked by him (by anybody) seemed wonderful. It happened a couple of times just like I had imagined, and then he touched my breast. I felt sick but I didn’t say anything. I thought, gees, even preachers do that sort of thing, is nothing sacred? I kept my appointments and now they were only once a week. Soon we graduated to the floor of his office and he started touching me between the legs, and said I could touch him too. I finally did, although I cannot say I wanted to, I felt obligated to. At first he kept telling me my touch was too hard, almost painful, so I lightened my touch. It was awful; I have almost no words for it.

I drank, and then drank some more. For years I never seemed drunk. I was never sober but never appeared drunk either. God, it was insane. After about a year of this “therapy” I told Bob, “I think my father molested me.” He said, “You probably asked for it.” I never brought the subject up again.

I eventually left Bob and the abusive relationship I was in, but the damage had been done. My daughter Lisa hated Bob and that place from the very beginning. By the time summer came Lisa was still very homesick and with all the upheaval in our lives when my parents called and asked if she could spend the summer with them, against my knowing better, and her begging to go, I said yes. I did tell her to stay away from ‘grandpa’ when he was drunk. I also told my mom to keep an eye on her and to not let dad be alone with her. Feeble, huh? I put her on the plane a fairly normal (we were none of us ever allowed to be normal, I only know that now) 10-year-old and when I picked her up three months later I did not recognize my own daughter. She had gained almost 25 pounds and had a cowered slump to her body that had never been there before. She was also very quiet, not normal for her.

A couple of weeks before her birthday in the summer I had sent her a doll. I called to wish her a happy birthday, and see if she liked her doll. At first everything sounded all right, and then she sounded strained and started crying, saying she was homesick for me. I said, “Well honey, don’t worry, that’s no problem, we’ll just get your ticket bumped up and bring you back her a little early.” She told them what I had said and got dad on the phone and then he talked it out of us, saying, “She’s just overcome hearing your voice, we’re doing just fine, she’ll be fine, she’ll be home in a couple weeks.” When we hung up Lisa was still crying. I told Joe I didn’t like the sound of that phone call. I cried myself to sleep that night knowing I should never have let her go to those people no matter what. Later, after she had been home for a while I asked her if grandpa had touched her wrong or anything while she was staying in Florida for the summer. She said “No.” She couldn’t trust me. Later when she was away from my home she told my sister some of what had happened to her. The part I can’t stand is that he had touched her before we had even moved away from Florida. He had also been sexual with her when she was a baby. I think I thought I had protected her.

Joe had gone to work for a week in Colorado Springs and Lisa and I took that week and completely repainted her bedroom, bought her new sheets, curtains, and spread to match. I still have a picture of her in her room when we were all finished with it. We both really liked it. The first night she begged me to sleep with her in her new room. I tried but couldn’t do it. For hours I cried in my room, trying to convince myself it would be ok to go into her room, lay on her bed with her and be close like that. I couldn’t do it. Finally the next night, I went into her room, lay down beside her, joked about some of the things we had done while getting the room painted, patted her, kissed her forehead, and told her I loved her. She wanted me to stay, but I couldn’t, so I went to my own room. I never did feel ok about not being able to stay with her, at least until she fell asleep.

We had moved into a better house by now with three bedrooms. One day while Joe was at work I moved him into the spare bedroom. At first he resented me for it, and then he started liking it, and we have been that way ever since. It’s like we now have the ‘rooms of our own’ that we never had. Joe and I have always needed our own space. I truly believe that is why we have managed to stay together all these years. He has really been there for me as I have been writing this down and seeing what I have really done in my life. I was afraid he might leave me after he read it. We had some adjustments to make and through the grace of God we are better than ever. He was willing to see his role in the mess of my life also. He, too, has been sexually abused and didn’t even realize that truth until later as I started coming to grips with my own abuse. We have always had trouble sharing feelings with one another, but we were so much alike we didn’t know we were not ok. We miss each other very much if we are not there but we don’t actually try to get our needs met through one another. We simply enjoy being with each other. This has taken years to happen. I realize now our way of being together is not for everyone. He has been committed to being there and taking care of me in the way a man’s role used to be. Since this has never happened before in my life it had taken me years to realize how important and valuable he is to me. At this writing we have been together over twenty-five years. If you have had trouble trying to have and maintain relationships like I have, then maybe you can appreciate this fact for the miracle it is.

Another time Joe’s ex-wife called to say his daughter had been sexually abused and could she some live with us? Joe and I had asked to have her before when we had first married and had been turned down. Her name was Lucille and she had begged to come and live with us before, and we had very much wanted her. Within two days I was on a plane on my way to go get her. At the airport, she said she had changed her mind, but I convinced her to give it a try. Well, it didn’t work out. She wanted from Joe what he didn’t have, and she kept telling me she loved me and thanking me for getting her out of Florida and all the while telling my daughter instead that she hated me. This situation broke Joe and I apart. She was sixteen when I went to get her and the day she turned eighteen she left my home. About 25 years later we learned that she killed herself when she was 35; that’s a whole other story. Joe and I had separated, Lucille stayed with Lisa and I. Joe left about three months before Lucille did. When there was only Lisa and I left she started acting out really bad, stealing my car and cigarettes, having boys in the apartment when I was at work. I gave her an ultimatum when she was fourteen and she chose to leave my home. Joe and I got back together after about a year apart, but we didn’t remarry until much later. When Lisa left my home I cannot even try to describe what I was like. One part of me knew it was best for her and another part of me died thinking about her all alone and with no protection. We had never had any, maybe she could do better alone. That’s when I started trying to learn to pray. For the first time in my life my head was quiet from time to time through learning how to pray.

I was working at a credit office, seeing Bob once a week, covering the suicide hotline nights and weekends and trying to get Lisa ready to take dance lessons, something she had always wanted to do. I had very little money but I knew it was important to try to give her something she liked to do. When she started acting out, I felt inside me a rage that my mother had always had toward me so I knew I was going to do anything I could to make her behave. Something in me knew I didn’t have the right to physically restrain her and that’s all I could think to do. I did get her to see a woman counselor a couple times, but it didn’t help. I was afraid of what I might do to her to try to get her to behave, to act right. Here I was, doing what I was doing and wanting her to act right. When Lisa left she stayed with her stepsister for a while (I did not know this at the time) and then she and another girl rode to Florida with truckers. She stayed with mom and dad for about a year. Mom had called me when she got to their house. She went to school, started losing weight and doing pretty good. After about a year she ran away from them. They called me to tell me to get the police to start looking for her from the Colorado end of the country, and to tell me that dad was looking for her from the Florida end. I said, “No.” Dad started cussing and ranting and raving, “What kind of fucking mother are you anyway?” I hung up on them. For two years I did not know where Lisa was, and all I could do was ask God to keep her safe, which I did. Then a week before Thanksgiving she called. I asked if she wanted to come over for dinner, and she did. It was strained and awful but that was the beginning of us trying to heal. It’s been incredible and IT HAS BEEN WORTH IT.

My ignorance has hurt my child. Has she paid for my sins? I believe she has. My lifestyle was all I knew but believe me it was not good enough. I am so very sorry now I did not really know who God was sooner. Satan used every trick in his book to keep me in darkness, blindness, and away from the love of my Everlasting Father and healthy, loving relationships. Although it worked for much of my life it had not really worked since I sobered up. Through His grace I have been ever walking toward the Light of His Love and His Will for me and my life. I have always been so afraid of touch that when Lisa was a baby and I had to bathe her I was terribly afraid to wash between her legs because I was afraid I would make her feel something she was not supposed to feel. MY daughter has problems today and at the same time she is healing also. I cannot ask for anything more for her or me. She has been water baptized and baptized with the Holy Spirit. She is married, second time, to a man who she is trying to love and allow herself to be loved by. I thank God for that for her. She has had a hysterectomy in the last year while trying to get pregnant. Is that a direct result of my asking that she not be able to have children when we were both as lot younger? I asked God to not let any of our offspring be able to have children because we were all so evil. Has he granted my request? I was not a “Christian” when I prayed that particular prayer. Was it more like a curse or a vow? I don’t know, I only know I asked that of God when I was very young out of a deep hatred for the ignorance and inadequacies in my family. I pray especially for the next generation now. I hope they have a chance with God in spite of who their parents are. I pray my prayers will be used to bring this about for the next generation.

I hope that my daughter and others will learn from my recovery. A few months ago Lisa asked to read my story as I am writing it. I did not know what to do, so I prayed and asked a good friend and mentor, and she thought it could be used by the Lord to help her. I don’t know yet if it will help or not. With all my relationships I’ve always known that my love was contaminated. I have always tried to have people in my life while not being part of the relationship personally because I was so contaminated. I have always been an object, even to myself. I have no way of knowing if what’s between my legs will ever be able to actually become connected to me. I know I have never shared myself sexually with another person physically; and at the same time I have probably shared myself sexually with everybody else I have ever met without even knowing it, by trying to live outside myself. I realize something very important to my healing: I DID NOT SIN BY SHARING MYSELF SEXUALLY WITH PEOPLE THAT NEVER SHOULD HAVE BEEN SEXUAL WITH ME TO BEGIN WITH. Nobody would let me say this truth of mine. Nobody!

In writing your own story you get a chance to get real to yourself. I remember when I could not even begin to see what my story or my life looked like. I could not put pen to paper when I sobered up thirteen years ago, nor did I want to. It was too overwhelming. Most of us are afraid to write our own stories; the truth is we know that nobody really wants to hear them. Write your story, see your own truth. Feeling feelings will not kill you. It’s how you will be able to claim your healing. God is the perfect gentleman; He will not flood your senses. If He does it will only be in total purity, nothing unwanted can get to you when He is being with you intimately, I promise. You can space, block, slide, checkout, disassociate, or whatever works for you as long as you need to sneak up on yourself. With each memory ask for the strength to take a little more of yourself into your own center. TO BE! I am certain, for myself, I would never have been able to exist if I had not allowed myself to become willing to look at what happened to me. Of course there is fear, please don’t let it stop you. All my life I have had to live a double life. Until I was healing and not hiding, this had been a disadvantage to me; now in healing it is the very gift that has enabled me to heal. I have been living a very simple looking life while going through the nightmare of my remembering and coming to what is true for me today. I am coming into being integrated, now. It has taken a full ten years. Little by little I have learned how to face my past, stand still, don’t run, and my Lord has stayed with me through it all.

The hook for me was because my innocence and sexuality were taken from me so early in life that it ‘set me up’ to ‘have to have it right’ in me, to be looking for that part of me all my life. I have been trying to be present and get this part of me ‘right’ ever since I can remember. I am sorry I have always been so ashamed of being a sexual being with sexual feelings. I hate that nobody could help me and at the same time knowing that many people have helped me, by being for me. I was so afraid of people I could not let anybody help me. I’m learning now I am OK. I also understand that I am a human being, and that too is OK. Being a human being today means to me that I have faults and I am able to make mistakes without having to think that the world will come to an end because of them, and more importantly I have the God-given ability for much joy and pleasure. Now I am grown-up enough and brave enough to believe it will be all right if I choose to share what I have discovered to be true about myself with others. What a miracle!

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