Beating It Back


So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted.

I recently sent my memoir to the editor. It’s so nerve-wracking! I want feedback, yet I fear it, as well.

Of course, there is some shame attached. How dare you! My inner voices are crying. That is a secret!

While there are so many things that have led me to this point (and I hope you are looking forward to hearing the Whole Story) sharing that which shamed me was the hardest. It was also the most rewarding.

Back when this blog, and my book, were but a pipe dream, I had some pretty extreme fears. Telling meant leaving myself open for people to agree that I was a horrible person.

Remember the Donner party? They took the trek to California from Midwest. They had many delays and lost most of their cattle along the way. Finally, they were trapped in the snow in Nevada. To survive, they resorted to eating their dead.

I could not imagine how they could forgive themselves for breaking such a taboo. No matter how necessary. I believed the evil of the act would forever taint them. Not only could a person never forgive themselves, surely the world would never look at them with kindness again.

Remarkably, when I first hear of the Donner party, I instantly felt a kinship. I believed the things I had done were on the same level. Surely, if anyone knew I had voluntarily initiated sex acts with the adults, they would hate me. They would see me (as I saw myself) as equally depraved as They were.

How could I tell anyone? If I could not justify it to myself, surely anyone with a brain would feel the same.

Since that was, if not the first, then surely the greatest of the shameful memories I was hiding inside. I think it would be useful to explore how I learned to live with it. Or, rather, how I learned that, at 9, I really had no choice and no control.

The act of inviting sexual activity was a way to feel safe. It was a way to survive. I could not afford to know the truth. The truth that, no matter what I had done, They would have still abused me. They would still have raped me.

My father would still have taught me to perform sex acts, then given me to Them.

They were the group of 5 sick and evil adults my father left me with after he abducted me from my mother when I was 9. I spent half a year in their none too tender care. It was half a year that defined my life for most of the years that followed.

I certainly couldn’t blame my father. My mother frightened me. I was certain she would do something to me worse than death, something beyond all imagining, if I did too many wrong things. So, he was the parent I relied on.

No 9-year-old can survive without a parent. At least, that is what I steadfastly believed.

So, I had to identify with Them. The adults that starved, sexually abused, neglected, and generally tormented me. They were evil. The things they did were evil. So, my rationale went, I must be evil.

I pushed myself. Every ounce of hate and shame went into debasing me. I learned to take a nasty pleasure in putting me in harm’s way.

The first, and hardest, part of healing that shame was admitting it. First, in my journaling. Then, when I could marginally accept that Maybe it wasn’t a reflection on me, I shared it with my therapist.

Surprise! All she could do was feel deep sorrow for that little girl. She emphatically disagreed with my assessment. I did not eat human flesh. I was a child, searching for anything, anyway, to make sense of my world.

We talked about it. A lot. I had such a hard time letting go of the visual of the people who ate human flesh to survive. As with any shame, it stood up poorly to the light of day.

Finally, one hard won day, I realized that I no longer felt it to be true. I still wasn’t comfortable with what I had done. Even less comfortable of seeing myself as a victim, rather than a coconspirator.

I finally accepted the terror and hopelessness of that time. I finally recognized my father’s role.
It was a bitter realization. I longed to climb back into my old assumptions.

Instead, I reluctantly embraced that poor battered inner self. Slowly, I found compassion and, eventually, love for that little girl.

The process included doing visualizations of going back there and rescuing her. At first, that felt too hard. So, I imagined going back to warn her, prepare her, for the things to come.

Once I refused to hate her anymore, it became so much easier to let go of my fantasies of killing her (and, therefore, myself). Every horrible thing I had ever wished upon myself became easier to let go.

Without suicide or self-injuring, I was forced to find healthier coping mechanisms.

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