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Archive for June, 2011

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I thank blog reader, Monica, for providing me the link to this important article from MSNBC:

Effects of sexual abuse last for decades

Study finds levels of so-called stress hormone are altered for years, sometimes causing physical and mental problems, researchers findBy Joan Raymond

The findings of this 23-year-long study following the lives of women who were sexually abused “by a male living in the home” parallels the important findings the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is documenting in their research on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) studies.

Many sexual abuse consequences are the same as ones suffered by child abuse that does not include sexual abuse.  EXTREME STRESS DURING IMPORTANT EARLY GROWTH STAGES changes the direction physiological development takes.

Resiliency factors available to traumatized children need to be studied equally with the traumas that create such damaging stress.  Without this information nothing useful can be said about what contributes to some people having much more ‘damage’ than others seem to.

Information in studies needs to also be gathered about the overall environment the abused child is living in.  Most importantly, was the abused child’s mother abused herself as a child?  What kinds of attachment patterns were present in the home?  It is very hard for me to imagine sexual abuse happening in a home where safe and secure healthy parents are present.  That means the child did not have safe and secure attachments in the first place.

All research on healing from any kind of trauma concludes that safe and secure attachments to other people who help the sufferer process the trauma – as well as STAY SAFE – make the biggest possible difference in the quality of long term recovery from trauma.  This fact is a MILLION TIMES more important for young children!!!

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Further information about the work of the authors of the sexual abuse research study, Dr. Penelope Trickett and Dr. Frank Putnam can be found by Google searching these terms:  ‘trickett putman sexual abuse’

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Another important article to take a look at:

The Impact of Maltreatment on the Developing Child

By Dr. Dana M. Hagel

Recent neuroimaging studies demonstrate that neuroanatomy is significantly altered among individuals who have experienced childhood maltreatment and abuse-related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.”

“The psychological trauma of maltreatment triggers the complex neurochemical and hormonal systems involved in the stress response and in emotional regulation.  When child experiences an abusive insult, in their glucocorticoid [our body’s own steroid system], noradrenergic, and vasopressin-oxytocin systems are activated; this highly adaptive response allows for survival in a dangerous environment.  Chronic activation, however, may result in permanent changes in brain chemistry, structure, and function.  [I believe it is also vitally important that we realize these changes happen in our entire body, not just in our brain — including our nervous system and our immune system!] Over time, maltreated children are at risk for the development of an exaggerated response to relatively minor stress.  Compounding this insult, maltreated children are forced to respond to environmental threats (family violence), rather than engaging in activities necessary for the development of complex emotional, behavioral, and cognitive functioning.”  [bold type is mine]

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This is exactly what I have been thinking about as I begin now to write my response to the 6th question my daughter has given me for our book.  It wasn’t ONLY that my mother terrified and assaulted me for 18 years that hurt me.  It wasn’t ONLY the additional isolating confinements of long duration she forced me to bear.  All of these things were combined with the fact that I could not interact with the world in anything like a normal way – so that I was at the SAME TIME deprived of all the OTHER developmentally-necessary activities that SHOULD have been happening for me.

Abuse in dangerous early environments creates a DOUBLE WHAMMY this way!!  I do not believe the harm to we early abuse survivors can ever be adequately measured!  But these kinds of research efforts mentioned in this post HELP because they let survivors and ‘the public’ know that what early abuse is and what it does MATTERS!!!  OH, do we survivors KNOW THIS!!!!!!

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Infant and child abuse survivors very often suffer from alterations in their physiological development because of the extreme stress caused them by the people who were supposed to take care of them.  Trauma and abuse change brain development — a fact that makes it all the more important for survivors to begin to understand ways that we can assist our brain to work better in spite of the changes that may have happened to us.

I stumbled upon this website on the brain today – LOTS of great and easy to understand information, fun exercises and thought provoking insights about the 3-pound miracle inside our skull.  Check this out!!

For example:

Try to include one or more of your senses in an everyday task:4
Get dressed with your eyes closed
Wash your hair with your eyes closed
Share a meal and use only visual cues to communicate. No talking.

Combine two senses:
Listen to music and smell flowers
Listen to the rain and tap your fingers
Watch clouds and play with modeling clay at the same time

topics

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First few drops of summer rain yesterday – all is hopeful.  When the hard rains come pollen will bite the dust.  Meanwhile, bees and ants are busy, corn cobs growing.  One week of afternoon rains and all my plants will quadruple their size.

I sure miss all my adobe construction work.  Too hot right now, but ran out of dirt, anyway.  So sad……

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Bee food

Wants to be a squash when it grows up

The big gal with jalapenos to the left, compost bins, tomatoes

Uncurling its petals, fun to watch, big bee says 'fun to eat'

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 This picture from a slide I just discovered last Thursday is connected to the two abuse memories from my childhood (age 5 1/2) written about in the posts with links below this picture.  Now that I can see the picture bigger than its original one inch size, I can see two Easter baskets against the wall.  I believe one of them was mine.  I have no idea who the second one could have been for – there were only four children in the family at this time.

I can also see that my siblings don’t look particularly sad in this picture.  Nor should they have.  We were all pure, beautiful and innocent children being mothered by an insane Borderline sadistic terrorist.  How they felt having witnessed the hours of terrible abuse of me from the night before — that I was shocked to realize was still going on even the next morning, Easter Sunday while my siblings were posing in this picture — I cannot ever know.

I can never speak for how my siblings experienced the nearly continual rages my mother had toward me — and her abuse of me.  I am in the process of writing my own story — and that story is NOT my siblings’ story any more than it is my mother’s or my father’s.  It seems very strange to me that I should encounter this picture just after writing the two abuse memories that are sandwiched around the time this picture was taken — within hours.

My daughter has just forwarded to me Question #6 of the eventual 19 questions that I am answering as I tell my story.  I am now in my four day ‘waiting’ period of preparing myself to respond in writing to Question #6.  Therefore I will offer nothing more about this picture now.  I will need to decide if I am going to back up and write about this picture within the body of Question #5 which I have already finished, or if I am going to start my response to #6 with this picture.

All I can say right now is that this depicted ‘situation’ was so common during my childhood that it WAS my and my siblings’ reality.  Linda was simply missing from most of the ongoing life of my family as I was being ‘punished’ in bed, in a corner — having been beaten — with all the other etc.  that accompanied my mother’s madness about me.

Easter 1957 - My Easter basket must be on the counter by the wall -- My siblings are here, I am being 'punished' probably banished in bed for 'The Fox Incident' from the night before. Mother wrote on this slide's casing 'Easter 1957 (children)' -- NOT ME? There is nothing I can wish more at this moment than 'Someone should have RESCUED me from her - forever!'

(The Fox memory) – +WRITING A BOOK? MY STORIES? WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?

(This picture belongs between these two memories – related to last night’s post) – +ME: THE INVISIBLE CHILD MISSING

(The Bubble Gum memory) – +AN EXAMPLE: ABUSE MEMORY AND FINDING OUR OWN GOODNESS

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Child Rights at the Human Rights Council

Latest developments

Complaints Mechanism

The Council adopted the final draft Optional Protocol on a communications procedure for children’s rights violations. The new protocol will enable the Committee on the Rights of the Child to examine communications from children and their representatives alleging violations of their rights.

For further information on the adoption, together with NGOs’ response and what it means for children’s rights:


Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

In a groundbreaking achievement for upholding the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the United Nations Human Rights Council (the Council) passed a resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. (L9/rev1).

It is the first UN resolution ever to bring specific focus to human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and affirms the universality of human rights, as well as drawing on concerns about acts of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) said the commitment of the Human Rights Council sends an important signal of support to human rights defenders working on these issues, and recognises the legitimacy of their work.

What next?

A study, to be completed by December 2011, will both document discriminatory laws, practises and acts of violence against individuals all over the world based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, and assess how international human rights law could be used to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation gender identity.

Based on the study, a panel discussion will take place during the 19th session of the Council.


Business and Human Rights

On 16 June, the Council endorsed a new set of Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights designed to provide – for the first time – a global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity.

NGO criticism

The Guiding Principles were criticised by many NGOs, with Arvind Ganesan, business and human rights director at Human Rights Watch, saying: “In effect, the council endorsed the status quo: a world where companies are encouraged, but not obliged, to respect human rights. Guidance isn’t enough – we need a mechanism to scrutinize how companies and governments apply these principles.”

CRIN also criticised the Guiding Principles, lamenting the absence of children’s rights. “We cannot see how the adopted Principles are consonant with the ‘special attention’ envisioned for children in the Special Representative’s mandate”, CRIN stated.

“Given this failure, we now call on those responsible for monitoring and implementing the Principles to revisit the issue of business and children’s rights and ensure that the newly adopted Principles in practice genuinely respect children’s rights, fully address children’s unique vulnerability, and provide thorough and thoughtful direction on the subject of business and children’s rights to States and business enterprises alike.”

What next?

A Working Group will be established, consisting of five independent experts with a balanced geographical representation. The experts, who will take on the role for a period of three years, will be appointed at the 18th session of the Human Rights Council in September.

READ MORE HERE

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I started sorting through the collection of family slides from my childhood today so I can begin to scan, organize, and repair them.  My youngest brother had them in safekeeping in Alaska, but I am the one of the six siblings in my family with the time and motivation to tackle this task of restoration.  I mention all of this now because one of the slides I happened to pick out of the disorderly piles today needs to be put right in between two of my 5 1/2-year-old memories I just wrote about in response to Question #5 for the book my daughter and I are writing.  (I will have to wait for a new computer to ‘appear’ for me to work with down the road before I can make much progress, this one being too old and prone to crashes) See:  +AN EXAMPLE: ABUSE MEMORY AND FINDING OUR OWN GOODNESS

I found a slide of Easter morning 1957 that happened the day after ‘The Fox’ memory.  When I wrote about what followed on that day in ‘The Bubble Gum’ memory I had no idea even with what I thought MIGHT have happened following the one abuse incident immediately prior to the next one on the next day that on this day my mother was so extra mean to me.  What this picture shows clearly is three children, not four, standing all dressed up in their Easter finery each holding an Easter basket.  Who is missing?  ME!

No happy Linda there all dressed up for Easter morning standing there with her brother and two sisters with her Easter basket!  Where was I?  Evidently IN BED being ‘punished’ for what happened the day of my fox memory.  That means that by the time the family left for their ‘holiday picnic in the park’ I was still being ‘punished’, and no doubt only brought along to the park because I couldn’t be left home alone.

I must have been sadder than I even began to imagine on that Easter morning, and yet my GREAT RESILIENCY as a terribly battered young child still allowed me to even HAVE the experience that I wrote about in ‘The Bubble Gum’ memory.  In spite of my mother’s beatings and screaming and banishment to my bed, in spite of her depriving me from being a part of the morning Easter supposed happiness with my siblings, I STILL managed to invent a game to play with my friend, Debby, at the park.  I still managed to think of her and to make my own decision to share my gum with her that day.  I still noticed the beauty of the grass.

My ‘baby’ sister who is four years younger than me has been visiting me this week from Seattle.  Being with her has given me a small glimmer of what my siblings experience as witnesses to the abuse that was done to me.  How did they feel as children ages almost 7, 3 and 1?  THEY look so sad!  How could they NOT be sad?  All dressed up like Mother’s puppets, propped in front of the decorated Easter table, lily and all — not smiling, not joyful.

Oh, wait — as I look again at this slide I see in the background a single lone Easter basket sitting on the counter:  Mine.

In my mother’s so-terribly-sick world I was alone, banished and concealed in my room ‘getting what Linda deserved’ for ‘lying’ about what ‘The Fox’ memory describes.  (Written in this post:  +WRITING A BOOK? MY STORIES? WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?)

At some point when I get this slide scanned in I will post it.  I will need to add my reaction to all of this to the response to Question #5 — or see what my daughter sends me in the next day or so for the next question.   Maybe this new ‘discovery’ will be a transition between #5 and #6.

My sister is willing to help this book writing process along in any way that she can, just as my daughter is doing.  Often I want to walk away from the whole project!  What my mother did to me defies understanding — how can any reader understand no matter how well I put my story together if I can’t understand it myself?

I can’t worry about that right now.  I just have to ‘answer the question’ one at a time as my daughter sends them to me — but finding this slide/picture today was a shock — and in some ways its existence is a gift:  “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  I have more information now than I did before — even if that information is ugly — it is the truth.

This isn’t the only picture I found today that is missing invisible me, either.  Nobody brought the camera into the corner to take a picture of me, or into my bedroom to snap a shot of me, either.  Many of the pictures of me in my childhood are just of a child missing — me just GONE from the ongoing life of the rest of my family while ‘evil, bad-child’ Linda was off being ‘punished’ somewhere else.

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I am going to share an example of my search to find my own goodness in this memory I have worked on for the book.  First I will share my mother’s words as I found them in her 1957 diary that refers to two memories I have always retained from when I was 5 1/2 years old.  The first ‘movie related’ memory I shared in a recent post about ‘The Fox’.  The other memory evidently was created on the very next day.

As I write for the book, and as I work with myself, with my OWN memories (still in rough draft format) from my abusive infant-childhood I am realizing how clearly both the good of ME was included right along with the BAD of what was done to me.  I want the good — it is me and it is MINE.  (Do other severe early trauma survivors have memories that clearly contain their own good right along with the bad?)

Mother wrote:

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Sunday, April 21, 1957

We kept Linda home – only the 2nd time in her life for lying [coming home] from a movie we attended tonite. – “Westward Ho, The Wagon”.  I must find some effective punishment.  She accepts punishment so easily that it’s hard for it to be effective.  I told her we were going to the park tomorrow for a Holiday picnic and we would take her little friend Debby.  I hope it will be the beginning of a new week and start for Linda.  I read the children the story of Lincoln and Washington and emphasized – telling the truth and their good virtues.  She listens so carefully but goes on her own way.  Well, we’ll see!

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Monday, April 22, 1957

OH NO!  AGAIN!

Can she help it – Yes, she just doesn’t want to badly enough.

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Tuesday, April 23, 1957

Bubble Gum Episode

One lie leads to another – and that leads to another.  How can she be so crafty?

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Wednesday, April 24, 1957

– 1.  Always be honest

– 2.  Be careful to keep your promises

– 3.  Always do your best.

These are the 3 rules by which I live my life and hope to train our children to live theirs.  Today I am so unhappy.  I feel I have failed completely with Linda.  She lies no matter how I try to teach her that honesty is the best policy and pays.  I truly am broken-hearted by the lies and deceitfulness.

She started at least 3 years ago – as soon as she could talk.  She will accept no criticism no matter how sweetly and tactfully put.  As a little girl if asked nicely to do something she would give you a ‘dirty look’ and bang her feet going down the hall – why?  She can be sweet and nice IF nothing crosses her.

For the first time in her life she has been whipped soundly.

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Thursday, April 25, 1957

Linda

Perhaps it’s the one thing that has been needed.  I always thought love and kindness was the only way but she has only taken advantage of that.

I gave her a room to herself and moved Cindy in with the baby.  I will try rewarding her and praising her for her good points and see if I can’t do away with little criticisms such as “pick up your room, play nicely” – because if she has her own room it will be easier for her to keep it picked up and her play won’t matter so much!  I must conquer this lying.  It has gone on much too long now and she’s getting too old.

She knows better and has a marvelous memory for the things she wants to remember!

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What I wrote:

I must have awoken the morning after the movie with swollen eyes, puffy and red-rimmed from my tears the night before.  I must have had red marks if not bruises on my body, but I don’t remember those.  I do remember the dress I wore that day.  Light weight red, blue, green, gold and white Scotch plaid with buttons down the back, gathered at the waist, Peter Pan collar and two pockets on the front edged with narrow white lace.  Before we left the house this morning Mother handed each one of us a wrapped piece of Double Bubble gum.  I didn’t eat mine right then.  I pulled out the edge of my right dress pocket as I carefully slid my piece of gum inside to save it for later.

I can vaguely remember all of us packed into the car just as it backed out of the driveway in a turn, straightening out to head off into the neighborhood to pick up my friend, evidently named Debby.

I have always remembered the lush, dark green, evenly mowed damp carpet of grass my feet ran across.  I remember playing the game Debby and I invented that day, and we had so much fun.  There was a dip that ran a length of the park, a sort of little valley with a giant tree standing right at its center at the bottom.  I remember running up my side of the gentle hill, turning around and watching Debby do the same thing on her side.  “Ready, set go!”  We shouted together as we raced to the tree.

When we reached it we each had to run around to the opposite side of the tree as fast as we could, and whoever sat down first with their back against the tree was the winner.  Over and over again we raced up and down the hill. I remember when we decided not to play any more because we were tired.  So we each just sat there on our own side of the tree and rested for awhile.

I remember the dampness of the grass we sat on between hard gnarled tree roots that swelled out of the ground.  I can feel the rough surface of the bark poking against my thin back.  I can feel the softness under my palms as I placed both of my hands on the grass beside me and gently pushed down.  I spread apart my fingers and closed them again, trapping little lines of grass between each one.  As I lifted my hands I could see the imprints my hands left behind..  I remember sitting there.  I remember what I was doing, what I was thinking, and what I did next.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out my piece of bubble gum.  I unwrapped it, lifted it to my nose and deeply smelled its rosy sweetness.  Holding the gum in my left hand I unfolded the cartoon paper inside with the tips of my fingers so I could look at its bright pictures.  I squashed the wrappers up and put them back in my pocket and ran my finger down the little grove between the two halves of my one piece of gum.

I thought about my friend sitting behind me with her back to the tree.  I liked it that she was there.  I liked it that we had played the running sitting game together.  I felt happy and warm inside.  I also knew that while I couldn’t see her she couldn’t see me, either.  I knew she would never know if I popped the whole piece of my gum into my mouth and ate it by myself.  I can still remember all of this.  I have always remembered all of this clearly.  I have always remembered that I decided to do next.  My pink gum was warm and a little bit soft so it wasn’t hard to break it down the middle on its sharing line.  Then I reached my arm around the tree behind me and called to Debby, “Here.  Want a piece of gum?”

I don’t remember a picnic.  I don’t remember the ride home from the park.  What I remember next is out kitchen.  I can see it clearly.  Inside the front door there was a door into the kitchen on the right. On the left were doors that were open because my mother had just finished washing a load of clothes there and dried them.  I was sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the open turquoise drier oh so carefully rolling up the family’s warm socks.

I picked each sock, laid it along my leg above my knee and smoothed it out in a straight line.  Then I found another one just like it, smoothed that one out too, and then rolled rolled rolled up the socks together.  When that was done I carefully folded over the top edges so the sock looked like a perfect little ball and then I added gently on top of the right pile I had made in order for everyone in the family.  Big dark socks were Daddy’s all the way down to Sharon’s cutest little socks.  I worked hard on my job with the socks.  I knew Mommy would be happy with me if I did everything right.  I liked it when she wasn’t mad at me.

Next to the closet that held the washer and drier was a little countertop next to the turquoise stove.  Mommy was cooking supper.  She walked back and forth between the stove and the sink in front of a big window as I worked at my job.  On the counter to her left under the cupboards were metal (silver spun aluminum) canisters, each one in line by how big it was.  I heard the little scratchy sound of my mother scooting one of these canisters away from the wall.  I heard the sound of her lifting open its lid.

Right here I heard her scream.  Right here I have a small warm sock bunched in my left hand.  Right here I turned to look over my right shoulder, and there she was in full bound toward me with her arms reaching – and WHAP!  She hit me so hard across my right cheek I tipped over to my left and all my piles of socks broke as I fell into them.  (And, no, I can’t write this without these immediate tears.  They stream down my face.  I tell myself to breathe, breathe.  My tears burn my eyes as if they are made of acid.)

She grabbed my hair in a fist with her left hand and yanked me up with my feet off the floor, socks scattering everywhere.  Screaming and slapping and pounding, “What have you done with my bubble gum, Linda?  I know that you stole it!  I saw you at the park sitting by that tree.  I watched you give Debby a piece of gum!  I saw you!  What have you done with the rest of my gum?  Where is it?  What did you do with it!  You THIEF!”

I didn’t know where her gum was.  I didn’t even know what she was talking about!  I didn’t know what she was mad about!  I tried to tell her.  I tried to tell Mommy I didn’t do it.  I didn’t take her gum!  I wanted to tell her how I decided to share my gum with Debby, but she wouldn’t let me.  She just got madder.  “YOU LIAR!!  I’ll TEACH YOU NOT TO LIE TO ME!”

I wasn’t lying!  She didn’t listen.  She didn’t believe me.  She hit me harder and harder and harder as she dragged me out of the kitchen past the living room toward the hallway that went down to the room I shared with my sisters.  I saw Daddy.  I saw him standing in the living room.  He didn’t really move.  It just looked like he did because I was being dragged and shoved and beaten past him.  Daddy stood there.  He disappeared because I was being pulled now down the hallway.

“Get me that gum RIGHT NOW!  Where did you put it?  Where did you hide it – you are a BAD GIRL!  A BAD GIRL!  You are the WORST GIRL A MOTHER EVER HAD!”

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I know a full-blown beating followed, always the kind where she first yanked down my panties and screamed at me to “Bend Over” but she still beat me everywhere on my body, anyway.  I don’t remember that beating.  But I remember a lot of what came after that.  I was forced to go to bed.  I was forced to stay there.  In her diary piece Mildred says she “I gave her a room to herself and moved Cindy in with the baby.”  That just means she wanted to make me be ALONE – all alone – in solitary isolation not even with my sister in the room, or coming into the room with her little 3 ½ year old footsteps, tiptoeing into the room, having been told NOT to talk to her SISTER!

No more little whispers to me in the darkness.  Alone in the room, a big room, with me in my single bed against the far corner of the room when you came in the door.  Beside the window.  Beside the long window with the two curtain rods on it, with the pink (eyelet) curtains with the little flowers cut out, with the lace on the edges, the little one across the top and lower down the bigger one.  Closed, curtains closed, always closed, for days and days and days.  The room was dim in the day and dark at night.

The memory I have of the days that followed seems to cover a period of three weeks.  I don’t know why I think three weeks.  Maybe I knew from the pattern of my father being home on weekends and then not home during those days and then home again on those days until three weeks passed.

I remember the pink chenille bedspread on my bed.  I remember the dark wooden table next to my bed that used to be in the living room next to the couch.  I remember my stack of nickels I kept there on its lower shelf.  Mommy had given me a nickel every time I had done a good job dusting the living room.  I was very proud of those nickels.  Because I was very bored and I didn’t have anything to do I played with those nickels.  I pretended they were people and cars and animals.  I made roads and valleys in my bedspread until one day she stormed into my room ‘to check on Linda’ and found me playing my game.

“You HORRID GIRL!  You are in here playing after what you have done?  You don’t even feel sorry!  You’re not even crying!  I will give you something to cry about!”  And off she went again with another beating.  I was very sad that she took all nickels away.  I would lay in my bed and stare at the empty spot where the perfect stack of shiny nickels used to be.  (I think those nickels were proof to me that Mommy loved me.  They were my hope.)

The pattern of those days:  I listened.  I had no choice but to listen.  I heard my family doing things, things, more things.  They talked and laughed, the children played.  They played without me.  I remember my mother coming into my room at different times, night or day whenever she wanted to.  If I wasn’t crying again she would repeat, “You aren’t even guilty for what you have done!  You aren’t even ashamed of yourself!”

If I wasn’t crying she would ‘give me something to cry about’ again.  If she came in and I WAS crying, she would start in again only this time with, “You are in here CRYING?  You are in here feeling sorry for yourself?  What do you have to cry about?  I’m the one that should be crying, having YOU for a daughter!”  And off she’d go again, yanking me to a sitting position by my hair, slapping my face, beating me.

I remember her coming through the door at supper times carrying a bowl of saltine crackers all broken to bits and soggy in milk held out in front of her.  “This was good enough for me when I was a naughty child.  This is what my mother gave me and it’s all you are going to get until…….”

The driveway ran by the corner of the house by the wall where my bed was, and one day as I lay in bed in my pajamas with my head upon my tear stained pillow always wet from crying, my father was washing the car there with the car radio playing.   When the song “Cindy oh Cindy,” (1956 by Tony Brent) started playing Daddy turned up the volume and called Mommy.  She excitedly called the whole family – except of course for me – outside to dance and sing around my father and the car to this song just ‘about’ their beloved daughter, Cindy.

I joined the Navy to see the world but nowhere could I find

A girl as sweet as Cindy, the girl I left behind

I’ve sailed the wide world over

Can’t get her out of my mind

Cindy oh Cindy, Cindy don’t let me down

Write me a letter soon

And I’ll be homeward bound.

How did I feel while this was happening?  I could I have felt?  Hungry, hurting, tormented and tortured and under continual threat day and night of my mother’s random returnings, terrified even when I needed to go to the bathroom and didn’t dare, I am not sure that the family’s joyful romping had much meaning to me at all – except that I have always remembered this.  Was, as the saying goes, ‘insult added to injury’?  Did I have any room left in my thin little 5 ½ year old body for any more sadness than I already felt?

Yet for all the ongoing family living that went on while I was held prisoner alone in my bed for these weeks there is only one more clear memory of that time I have never lost.  Again, the memory is tied to the joyful sound of my siblings at play together without me.  I could hear their wild loud squeals of glee, their laughter and giggling matched by the sound of great splashes of water as they jumped in and out of the wading pool that was placed on the front lawn right outside my double tiered pink curtained window.

Yet again this memory is not about envy or jealousy or anger or even of wishful childhood desire to be outside playing with my brother and two sisters.  Though I might have experienced these things, I don’t remember them.  What I do remember is something that struck me as being pure beauty itself, something so rare I had never seen it before, something I felt simply appeared magically out of nowhere as it came just for me.

Looking back I of course know now what I didn’t know then.  The sunlight reflecting upon the ever-changing surface of the pool’s water reflected up on the ceiling of my room close to the pink eyelet curtains.  There was just enough space between the upper valance and the lower curtains for this image to enter my grimmest of dark, dark worlds and light up my life.  If I had witnessed the arrival of an angel I couldn’t have felt more at peace.  I couldn’t have felt happier.  I could not have felt more joy.  I could not have felt more delight.

By this time in my concealment I had completely given up even moving in my bed at all.  I could listen and listen for my mother’s steps coming down the hallway toward me, but I never knew what she was going to say or do.  I didn’t know to cry when I wasn’t crying.  I didn’t know how to stop crying when I was crying.  So I posed myself on my bed flat on my back with my arms stretched straight along my sides and stayed there.  When the light came shimmering and glowing and dancing in a great gleaming circle on my ceiling, I watched it.  I didn’t take my eyes off of it.  I watched that light as if my life depended on it.  Maybe it did.

Many many many days after this hell began, it suddenly ended.  My mother sent my brother into my room to tell me, “Mommy says you can get up now.”  If Johnny hadn’t added his own words, I would never have known the truth about how this all actually ended.  He told me, “Mommy found the pack of bubble gum in the top drawer of her dresser.  It was under something.”

My mother never put the rest of her package of Double Bubble gum in that cookie canister on the kitchen counter in the first place.  NEVER did she apologize to me in any way.  No word was ever said about this ‘event’ again, but I believe the core of the “You are a liar” part of this was directly attached within my mother’s inner Borderline mind to me in my ‘evil matrix’ anyway.

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Every single thing about my life with my parents was a tragedy.  That seems like such a small and insignificant word to describe acts against a child so horrible they are almost beyond belief.  As I look at the Greek origins of this word I see the connection to ‘sing for the goat’, in other words in my mind, ‘to sing the song of the sacrificial scapegoat’.

Could my family’s life only go on because I was sacrificed?  AS I was sacrificed?  Did whatever existed of any outer Borderline stability my mother had – with which she raised her other children and did her ‘wife thing’ with her husband – ONLY exist because of what she did to me?  According to my own matrix pyramid conception of the structure of my mother’s inner and outer Borderline realities, my answer is YES.

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That was ME remembering my friend, our game, our fun, the beauty of the grass, my decision to share — that was ME remembering the beauty of the circle of swirling light on my ceiling.  That was me rolling up those socks, trying to do my job perfectly, wishing so much to please my mother.  That was me remembering my own truth.  That was me who tried to tell my mother.  That was me surviving.  That was me — for whatever reasons — who did not feel anger, jealousy, envy.  The rest was what was DONE to me — and it had NOTHING to do with me AT ALL!!!  Nothing.  Those things belonged to my parents’ story, not to mine!

And this is me that has always remembered this memory of wholeness – keeping associated both the good and the bad so that I could return now 54 years later to see what this means to me.  At the same time I read my mother’s (as I have posted in recently) 9-year-old ‘Mischievous Bear’ story and see at the end of that story how her brain was processing the ‘all good’ dissociated from the ‘all bad’.  Here is where her brain broke – and mine did not – and I believe the ‘place’ of my wholeness and of her breaking was smack in the amygdala region of each of our brains.

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+HEALING FROM ABUSE: FINDING MY OWN GOODNESS AND STICK TO THAT

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No child on earth begins their life saying, “Gee, I hope the most important months and years of my life are absolutely horrible!  I want to spend my lifetime trying to heal from horrible things the people who were supposed to love me, cherish me, keep me safe and protect me from all harm did to hurt me when I was so small and vulnerable, so dependent, so young that I couldn’t understand words let alone the intent of harmful actions.  I want to spend my entire lifetime trying to fit into a world where there are lots and lots of people who never had these things done to them, with people who will never understand what my life is like from the INSIDE.  I want to get all kinds of diseases later on that are directly connected to how much stress my little growing body and brain experienced in my earliest life.  I want people to blame and shame me all of my life because I can’t quite seem to ‘get it together’ and ‘forget the past’ and ‘move on’.  I want to have trouble with all my relationships.  I want to be scared and angry and immobilized and confused inside for reasons I don’t understand.  And of all things in the end I want to find a way to be a good person so I never hurt anyone else the way the big people in my infancy and childhood so terribly hurt me.”

Nope.  We didn’t start our life this way.  But here we are, those of us who lived through hell when we were young, locked into a life that doesn’t ever seem like it totally belongs to us.  Here we are with memories that nobody should have to remember, let alone try to understand.  Here we are with a body and a brain that was so changed by the stress of the traumas we endured as we built our body and brain in the first place that we will never be able to process ANY information in exactly the same way as people who did not experience what we did can.

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I am thinking today about all the information I process while I am sleeping at night that I don’t understand when I wake up – mostly because I hardly EVER remember a dream any more.  I wake up knowing that all night long I have been grappling and wrestling with some aspect of my healing.

This is really OK.  Humans are SUPPOSED to spend their sleeping hours processing experiences from life so that we can integrate those experiences within our self so that we can use what we learn to life a better life in the future.  The changes that our ‘night work’ creates inside of us DO affect us – and I am willing to bet everything we process and learn in our sleep improves our well-being.  My gripe is that as severe early trauma survivors what we will ALWAYS be processing NOW is connected to the overwhelming traumas we experienced usually a long, long time ago.  There is simply WAY TOO MUCH INFORMATION still within us from the traumas we suffered through and survived.

So much of what healing seems to entail is just this:  We have to LET it happen.  We have to trust that our body including our brain is ALWAYS involved in healing work.  True, for early trauma survivors this healing work takes a CHUNK of our lifetime as we are living it NOW and as we hope to live it in the future – away from us.  There is only so much information a person can process!!

So how do we set our healing priorities?  I am willing to bet that if we have our heart set on healing much of what we actually do to heal stays outside our range of conscious awareness – or we wouldn’t have enough conscious awareness space left inside of us to greet each newborn day – let alone to live it and live it well.

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When I opened my eyes at 6 am this morning it seemed like whatever I was ‘working on’ last night as I slept crystallized itself immediately in a metaphor based on what I actually SAW.  There was the globe of the brilliant rising desert summer sun shining directly into my newly-opened eyes between the slats of the Venetian blind that covers the east window of my bedroom.

“NOT TOO PLEASANT!”  I thought to myself.  “Too much light!  I can’t deal with that bright a light as soon as I open my eyes!”

Because of what I must have been ‘working through’ and ‘working on’ in my sleep last night I immediately connected this experience with my work to understand how trauma has affected me in my life.  So the next thoughts I had were these:

“OK.  I can’t change where the sun is in the sky.  I can’t change where the window is in my room.  True, I could jump up and rearrange the furniture in the room.  I could get out of bed with my eyes shut to keep the brilliant light out.  But how about I just move my head – just a tiny bit in one direction or the other – and then open my eyes?”

Voila!  It worked!  I opened my eyes and stretched in far more leisure and comfort – without trying to change the whole world.  At the same time I thought, “Yes.  This IS how I work to deal with the overwhelming 18 years of trauma that built the body I live in from my birth.  I DECIDE HOW MUCH I WANT TO DEAL WITH AND HOW I WANT TO DEAL WITH IT.  I control ‘the direction of my thoughts’ and the impact of my emotions as much as I possibly can.  I make these choices today the best that I can – and this is my healing work.”

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The other bunch of trauma processing I was working on while I slept last night had to do, I know, even though I can’t remember the specifics but I know the thoughts I have this morning as a result of this work, has to do with survivors’ relationship with their abusers.

I am thinking ‘relationship’ being like the relationship I had this morning with the sun, with my window, with my blinds, with my room, my bed, my head, my eyes  — and with my power to CHOOSE how I as an individual being with life in me could adjust myself in relationship to all of life around me.

I refuse to villainize my abuse perpetrators.  As I work on my book I realize that just about every memory I retained from my childhood is a memory that is a WHOLE memory:  Both the good of who I was as a child and the good I felt and did is contained in each of these memories RIGHT ALONG WITH the abuse that ALSO happened at the same time.

I have evidently been on this path of keeping good and bad balanced with each other all of my life – instinctively.  I am coming to see that it is exactly because something happened to my mother very early in her life that made her brain SEPARATE the good and the bad in her life that led directly to what she did to me.  The 18 years of HORROR and abuse she perpetrated against me came directly from this fact:  Her brain did not remember herself in the middle of her early traumas as the good in HER was there exactly as the BAD was there in the people who harmed her.

But the other thought that was introduced to me yesterday has to do with how I have no memory of sexual abuse – and hence do not research it, think about it directly, understand it, or write about it.

This morning I think this is true to a large extent because I have TOO MUCH TRAUMA of my own to work my way through.  I simply don’t have room in my being to put something else on my proverbial plate.

At the same time I have to wonder about how our trauma healing journey is alike – or is it completely different?  I can only begin to understand something if I can imagine it – and I will NOT allow myself to add more to my trauma plate by trying to imagine what any kind of sexual abuse is like – or about.

But I do wonder about villainizing perpetrators – no matter who they are or what they did.  To me, that’s like my experience with the sunlight this morning.  I want to orient myself differently – as I honor the same life-processing I was doing from as far back as I remember.  I remembered the good and the bad TOGETHER (unlike how my mother remembered).

The great benefit I see to this ‘method’ I adopted from the time I was very tiny is that I can find ways to KEEP my own good in my own memories and let the BAD of what happened in those memories simply slide out of sight.  It was never mine.  There is nothing I can do to change who my perpetrators were or how they acted any more than I can move the sun.

I can change my perspective – inside of my own self – continually looking for my own comfort level as my guidance system for continued healing.  Anger is not comfortable to me.  Neither is ‘blame’ or ‘shame on them’ or hate or revenge.  I just want to find my own goodness and the goodness that was inside of me and in MY life – that had nothing to do with my parents or anyone else —  and stick with that!

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+EACH LIFE STORY IS PERFECT, NO MATTER WHAT

+AN EXAMPLE: ABUSE MEMORY AND FINDING OUR OWN GOODNESS

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When it comes to telling our story of the early years of our life whatever we come up with will be perfect.  For all the billions of people on this planet, every one of us has a unique life history.

I rarely remember my dreams any more, but earlier in the week I woke with a clear picture of something I had experienced in my sleep.  There was a huge field, mowed grass, scratchy not like a manicured lawn.  There were shallow dips and trenches in the ground and everywhere there were colored crystals.

Some were golden and shaped like half-inch beads.  Some were amethyst and shaped like larger tear drops.  Some were royal blue, some a light powder blue, along with all shades of turquoise, amber and red.  Some were prisms, some oblong.  There were lots of people walking around the edges of the field, but when these multifaceted ‘gems’ appeared the people went after them.

I stood back and watched until everyone satisfied themselves with their own personal collection of beauty they scampered around the field to collect.  When everyone had gone I entered the field and began to pick up my own choice of ‘stones’.  I filled my pockets.  I took off my cap and filled it.  Holding my collection in one hand I lifted the edge of the T-shirt I was wearing to make a little basket I could fill with more.

I woke up remembering the feel of all these various shaped objects in my fingers as I had carefully gathered them in this field, and I knew each one of them represented a story of my life just as the other ones did for other people.

These objects were not diamonds.  I knew they were humbler, made somehow from glass.  It didn’t matter to me, or to anyone else that these stories were small, each one different, each one colored with a different emotion and filled with a different tale.  None of these were grand or spectacular ‘stones’, but when I woke up I knew that the story that each one contained was specific to the person who picked each one up, as individual as were the fingers that gathered them and carried them away.

There were plenty of these pure colored objects left in the grasses on that field.  I knew they belonged to other people who would come along in the future to pick up their share.  There seemed to be no end to them.  No matter how many had been gathered there were plenty more.  I could see them glistening and sparkling in the sunlight.

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There is no writer or a teller of spoken stories who has not plied their trade with words.  Words, those gems in the fields of human understanding belong to no one.  Yes, they are gathered together in patterns, but the words themselves don’t actually leave us once someone else has plucked them from the invisible fields of the mind.  It strikes me what a miracle that is, and how different our existence would be in a different reality, in one where once a word was chosen it then belonged only to the first person who found it.

So is there such a thing as ‘the perfect story’?  That would mean to me that this perfect story could be written in ‘the perfect way’ — and no other.  Yet because there has never been such a being as the perfect human, how could a perfect story ever be told?  If humanity were to suddenly decide to only keep the perfect stories and to throw all the other stories away, what story would be left?

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I can’t find a way to think about ‘my story’ or about anyone else’s story without at the same time thinking about the person-people who hear or read the story.  All the words that pass through another person’s mind in response to a story matter to me as much as the original story does, only I have no idea what those invisible responses really are.

THOSE invisible words, those ‘response’ words, simply exist for me within the realm of what I call ‘the mystery of creation’.  While they don’t belong to any actual story of mine I might tell or write, they are connected to the story.  Those response words come from connection between one’s story and somebody else’s and happen, as far as I know, only among the living.

Therefore story, to me, is a human part of being alive.  The field in my dream I watched other people mine for orbs and spheres and tear drops of faceted colored crystal glass, the field I mined myself for my portion and share, is the field of story:  Story lived, story remembered, story told, story shared.

Somehow I know that every one of these stories is perfect.

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I am for some reason reminded right now of these words I found in this book written by a neuroscientist:  A User’s Guide to the Brain: Perception, Attention, and the Four Theaters of the Brain by John J. Ratey (Jan 8, 2002)

Consequently, I have decided that I will have to replace much of the technical language about the brain with a language more akin to what the brain itself uses.  Throughout this book I will be making constant use of metaphors and analogies….  Although metaphor and analogy are unconventional in scientific circles, I am firmly convinced that a more nonlinear kind of thought will eventually supplant much of the logical reasoning we use today.  Chris Langton, one of the primary researchers in the field of complexity theory, has speculated that in the future science will become more poetic.  Our troubled world, too, is becoming too complex for logical argumentation, and may have to change its thinking:  real trust, when emotions are running high, is based on analogy, not calculation.” (page 5)

At the same time I am thinking about yet another article I found this week in a magazine I pulled out of my friend’s trash:  The secret life of metaphor:  How metaphorical language inspires emotional insight and psychological change by James Geary, published in Ode magazine, Spring 2011 in which  Geary states —

Metaphor lives a secret life all around us.  We utter about one metaphor for every 10 to 25 words, or about six metaphors a minute.”

And then I think about these words:

“When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love.” [from Paris Talks: Addresses Given by ‘Abdu’l-Baha in Paris in 1911-1912 (London: Bahai’i Publishing Trust, 1995), p. 2]

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In my own way, with my own words, I am reflecting upon the story of my severely abusive infancy and childhood that I am in the process of writing for the book my daughter and I are ‘making’.  I often wonder why I do not feel anger about what was done to me.  It seems that ever since my earliest years I have always chosen ‘peace’ and ‘love’ rather than ‘war’ and ‘hatred’.  I find that I must not have any intention of changing my choices now.

At the same time I write I continually encounter the words of my abuser, my Borderline mother both as I remember them and as I have found them in her own writings.  While most of what my mother said to me and about me as well as what she did to me I can call EVIL, I do not look at ‘the story’ of her life as it included me as being evil.

It seems that as I lived within her Borderline world I had my own lines that were different from hers, and it is my own lines that I did not cross.  It is from within my own lines that define me that I tell my side of the story — my story.

My story is extremely complex because my mother’s story was extremely complex.  My mother became lost in a universe of metaphor very early in her childhood.  She ‘made those metaphors real’ — and as she did so she captured me within them — and certainly not in anything like a good way!

Yet in my thinking this does not make the story of my mother’s (or my father’s) life any less perfect than the story of my life is.  Our stories were very different, but each of them was a story of LIFE itself as that life played itself out.  Life itself is sacred to me.  Life itself is perfect because it is the great gift given by the One Who Creates all.

There must be a very fine line for me here, a line infinitesimally finer than a hair.  This is the line that ultimately divides life as we know it from death as we imagine it but it is not the line that divides a imperfect life story from a perfect one.

I was forced to spend the first 18 years of my life ‘hearing’ my parents’ life story as they lived it.  But because their life stories belonged to them and my story belongs to me, I know that how they responded to me, to my story as I lived it, had no more to do with me than how I responded then and how I respond now to theirs.  My response is a part of my story.

I choose to move forward in my life story leaving my parents’ stories in a state of perfection with them.  I am free to ‘name’ what they did to me as evil because it was evil.  It was criminal.  This ‘naming’ is itself a part of my story, but I am very clear that this ‘naming’ is my response and has nothing to do with my parents.

I do not join with them in their state of war.  I do not join with them in their state of hatred.  I am free to oppose those states in any way I can think of, and telling my own story in written words is part of how I am doing that.

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SCARS THAT WON’T HEAL: THE NEUROBIOLOGY OF CHILD ABUSE

“Because childhood abuse occurs during the critical formative time when the brain is being physically sculpted by experience, the impact of severe stress can leave an indelible imprint on its structure and function. Such abuse, it seems, induces a cascade of molecular and neurobiological effects that irreversibly alter neural development.”

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+WRITING A BOOK? MY STORIES? WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?

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Someone in the family sent this to me today – a website to make you giggle!

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