Looking back on my life, I realize that I spent most of my childhood and adolescence fragmented and out of my body, often as though I was looking down from above. I don’t have many memories of my childhood, teens and early adult life, because I wasn’t “present” for much of it. It was safer for me not to be present, not to feel, as many of the events unfolded and occurred.
I now know that my situation was one of extreme and recurrent abuse and trauma. During times of abuse and torture, I simply went someplace else. I didn’t feel the physical, emotional or spiritual pain.
I needed to escape, rather than feel the abandonment, rejection, betrayal and even hatred directed at me. It wasn’t safe for me to feel. I couldn’t tell you what my feelings were then. Even looking back now, I’m not sure what I felt, if anything, at the time. Instead of feeling the loneliness, desperation and self-hatred I came to experience later in life, I was just numb. Later, as I grew up, I learned to escape my body and uncomfortable feelings with multiple addictions and self-abusive behaviors – food, sugar, sex, drugs; you name it, I probably did it or used it to escape my feelings.
Because I wasn’t present during much of the abuse, I didn’t remember it for a long, long time. I learned to suppress any vague memories and uncomfortable feelings through denial and addictive behavior. It wasn’t until I started therapy, went through an ugly divorce, got into the first of many 12-Step recovery programs and, finally, started dealing with my multiple addictions, that the memories began to surface, though only gradually, at first. Even so, I was in tremendous denial. I couldn’t believe that my family, particularly my father and mother, had been involved. After many soul-searching months and much therapy, I came to understand that my father, who I thought I adored and had placed on a pedestal, had sexually abused me; with my mother’s complicit knowledge and approval. I realized she had also been sexually abused by her father. She didn’t know anything different, I thought to myself. Later, when I finally confronted my parents, they denied everything. I was ostracized by them and the rest of my family. Somehow, I couldn’t understand how they could deny the truth, especially my mother.
I descended into a deep, suicidal depression, clinging to my therapist and several 12-Step programs I was in. Seemingly without hope, I prayed every night for God to take me, even as I experienced the horror of flashbacks and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). During these early years of recovery, I felt alone and isolated. I developed physical problems that didn’t make sense and were only later identified; one diagnosis was Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), a condition not well understood and a diagnosis viewed with distrust by many physicians. I learned about dissociative identity disorder (DID) and how it applied to me.
I wanted to give up many, many times, but somehow I held on. Even then, I now realize, God was taking care of me. Friends showed up unexpectedly, one with a teddy bear and, at times, I was very suicidal. At other times, friends would show up with food or a few soothing words, just to comfort me.
Somehow, I seemed to intuitively know that my salvation depended upon finding a spiritual path of healing. I started spiritual counseling to overcome my concept of an abusive God, which was based on what I learned as a child – that God hated me and would abandon me and I would end up on the streets homeless with no one to take care of me. I had so much rage toward this Higher Power. What kind of God is it, I thought, that allows such terrible abuse, that permitted the perpetrators to destroy my soul, my body and mind! It wasn’t until after many years of professional therapy, 12-Step recovery and spiritual counseling that, during a 10-day silent retreat, I realized God cannot stop free will, even if it’s the will to do evil, and that we all have free choice. I made my choice to recover!
I was on disability for several years as a result of the CFS, an auto-immune deficiency disorder. It interfered with my ability to interact with others, though I gradually improved. For much of that time, I was also severely depressed. Somehow, I managed to not give up, but instead, to find the strength and the willpower to overcome my fears, fight off the effects caused by the perpetrators in my early life and move forward.
After 10 long years of healing, I finally thought I was done and could start to live life. Boy, was I wrong! More memories of ritualistic abuse came up; with my mother, father, grandfather and other men. The realization that my mother, the woman I had come to regard as a victim herself, had joined in the abuse, was overwhelming. I wanted to die all over again – I just couldn’t believe this had happened! I experienced a new round of denial, until I had the sobering realization that this had indeed occurred, that my memories were real, and that I had more work to do.
I pressed on, at times seeing two separate therapists each week, along with my 12-Step meetings and spiritual retreats. The emotional and spiritual pain was more intense than I had ever experienced before. Now, however, I was strong enough to face my memories and feelings and to move forward. My trauma therapist treated me as an equal and a partner in this process, with love, with respect and with admiration for my healing and growth. This, as well as my deep faith in God, helped to keep me going.
Now, after many years of intense therapy, having been in eight different 12-Step programs and dealing with 12 different addictions as well as numerous behavior disorders, one day at a time, I am able to heal and give back. I am at peace within myself and love myself – I come from a place of love and see the love, which is God, in everyone. I have collaborated on this book to help others like me, have websites and am now in the process of making my vision – a sanctuary for women survivors of recurrent trauma – a reality.
I’m here to tell my story of love and forgiveness and to offer a ray of hope for those just beginning this process, as well as those well into the process of healing, but still searching for something more. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I have a sense of freedom, joy and spontaneity now that I have never experienced before in my life. I feel as though I am 24 and my life has just begun!