It’s New Moon today and I feel the glorious weight of it as I sit down to type. New Moons are good for vowing, for promising, for resetting, for telling stories around the fire. This isn’t going to be easy, but I feel prompted to share because, listen – I have come so far, and I want you to know *how far* because maybe, just maybe, you are where I was and wondering how the hell to get out.
Cosy up. I want to tell you…(pleased be gentle with yourself if you’re a survivor. You may find this triggering.)
I was born to shine, but before I could do that I had to be forged, shaped, made ready for the work ahead of me.
My childhood was full of violence. I was violated in all the ways a girl child could be violated. I witnessed violence between my parents, and later between my mother and her lovers. I was sexually abused (such a tame way of putting it but I don’t want to traumatize anyone with too many details) by one of those lovers for years. My mother seemed to despise me and called me horrible names. I wasn’t a well child and her response was to try to bully me into being one. I was also bullied in school, baffling to teachers (intelligent but meek and terrified and never awake enough to do the work), a wisp of a person. A shadow.
My mother remarried a man who didn’t beat her, but raged against her daughters on a regular basis. I was hit with a hairbrush, a wooden spoon, bare hands. I was in a constant state of terror and rebellion.
I left my family home when I was a teen to go and live with my alcoholic birth father. This did not go well, and by the time I was fifteen, I was bouncing from foster home to emergency shelter to the streets to a treatment center for troubled girls. During my stay in my last ‘situation’ I met a man (at a friend’s) who was much older than I, and it wasn’t long before we were ‘shacked up’. By 18 I was pregnant. By 21 the relationship was over and after struggling to raise my daughter on my own, I relinquished custody. There were agreements and promises made about how often I could see her, but he left the province and all promises were broken.
In the meantime, I met another man. And another. And in my love-seeking, I put my body on the rack of spousal abuse. I bore children out of a desperate need to have *someone* that belonged wholly to me, to love and be loved by. In some of these relationships, I was a sexual toy, and no more. In others, a punching bag. In others, the ultimate dress up doll. I experienced extreme poverty & lost my upper teeth to malnutrition. I was in and out of hospital for depression. I self-mutilated. I gave myself away to whomever wanted me without much thought about whether or not *I* wanted *them*.
Throughout all of this, I was spiritually seeking. I read books by Starhawk and Diane Stein. I studied tarot and goddess spirituality and Kabbalah and alternative spiritual systems. Many of the women who were writing about goddess spirituality also wrote about how they’d been victimized in childhood. This led me to understanding that what I experienced before I left home was *not my fault*. I did some therapy. I retrieved memories of the dissociation I experienced in childhood (between five and eight) and remembered how my awesome brain allowed me to cope. I remembered how I would ‘go away in my head’. I remembered how I was whisked off in my ‘imagination’ to a safe place where the essential core self that was me could wait out what was happening.
This safe place was an ‘imaginary’ willow grove. There was a cottage there, full of all the things I loved. Books and pencils and paper. Long white nightgowns with froths of lace at hem, neckline and wrist. A woman kept the place up when I wasn’t there, and I only knew her as Silver. Whenever I would ‘wake up’ there (and that is how it always felt), she would bathe me and dress me and look after me until ‘it’ was over.
Some would characterize this as nothing but a story a wounded child told herself while she was being raped or beaten, and that may very well be true, but I’ll tell you this for nothing: that trick of my brain in removing my awareness from what was happening to me and into safety saved my life. Something about remembering this and reclaiming that ‘inner temple’ accelerated my healing. I *wanted* to heal. I *knew* I was broken. I *longed* to be whole again.
I kept diaries and dreamed of someday writing my story. I started it a million times but it was nothing but ‘trauma vomit’. There was no happy ending to report. What kind of inspiration or succor could I possibly offer when all I could really offer was how I’d been brutalized and how I was still being brutalized.
Still, I hoped someday I’d be able to help women like me. I felt a calling, a desperation to redeem my experience by rising above it and maybe, just maybe, showing the way. I started to think maybe someday I’d figure it all out and find myself jumping, for once, from the frying pan into cool, clear water instead of the fire I kept finding myself in. If I survived.
I wasn’t sure I’d survive.
In all those years, I was trying to learn to parent. I was trying to be some kind of Mom. I loved my kids and I was devoted to their care, but I was not emotionally available to them, and I grew in that awareness. I started to look for books in the library about parenting; started watching Oprah and Dr. Phil for some kind of clue what to do with myself. Started going to sexual abuse survivor counseling. Contacted social services and got help with parenting. Went to therapy, stopped going, went, stopped going. Kept journaling. Started to heal.
In my 24th year, my sister took her own life. I’d love to tell you that this was a huge wake up call for me, but I can’t. I can tell you that it sent me spiraling into the depths of despair. I hated everyone. Her, my parents, myself. I hated the world that allowed little girls to be so wounded that they couldn’t live in it any longer. I became suicidal myself, but I had children and for a time, I had her children in my care.
I soldiered on.
My partner at the time had racked up $5000 worth of phone calls to a sex chat line. He frequented prostitues and shamed me for being too uninteresting to keep him faithful. I put up with this until the day he decided it was a good idea to put cat litter in my son’s mouth to teach him not to play in it.
I left the next day. Moved in with a girlfriend. Hooked up with someone I used to know. Got pregnant. Again.
We got married a month after our child was born, and separated a year after that. I lost my shit. Sent my older boys up North to stay with their paternal grandparents while I tried to get it together. Left the new little one in the care of her paternal grandparents. Took my youngest son with me (because he had no one *but* me) and we moved in with a girlfriend.
I met a guy.
And moved across country.
And ended up in a battered women’s shelter.
And met a guy.
And moved across continent.
And ended up moving back to Canada with my tail tucked between my legs.
Are you sensing a pattern here?
This brings us to 2003, and this story is to be continued.