Blood In The Water – The Bigger The Injury, The Better The Healing

The guy in this photo has been stuffed and all his top teeth removed.  Which is how I think sharks should be.  But this post isn’t really about them, it’s about blood in the water.  It draws sharks but they aren’t the only predators that find victims.  Human predators do too.  Blood in the water also refers to children – and the adults they become – who have been sexually abused.  They carry a kind of stain, a mark, which has a feel to it.  Just as sharks get attracted to the blood, so predators get drawn to that stain.  It’s often not visible to people who haven’t been abused.

A victim can carry it around for years in adulthood – sometimes even their whole life – without being aware of it, and never realize that all the people in their world are predators.   It doesn’t just draw predators, though, it also makes the victim a target for bullies at many levels. One member of a family can have been abused and have the stain, and the rest of the family can never have known.  But they treat that member differently.  They can gang up on and make him/her the scapegoat.  Without realizing it.

It seems like a harsh life experience to have to go through; first being abused then being rejected and bullied and abused some more until you learn about the stain you carry.  And it is harsh.  Big wounds need a lot of healing, and life can be pretty much interrupted while that’s happening.  Plus the people you don’t want in your world – predators – are drawn to you and the ones you do want turn away, because it’s scary dealing with somebody who’s been victimized and hasn’t found their power yet.

But here’s the thing.  When it’s that brutal and challenging and you feel like you’re in the wilderness and you’ve got nothing, your craving for true unconditional love is raw and fierce. So you go in search of real high quality love and you don’t settle until you find somebody who wants to give it.  It’s about being allowed to speak and express; being heard and appreciated.  Having all my questions answered intelligently.  Never being dismissed, never  judged.

Being taught how to listen to and express emotions safely all the time, how to set boundaries.  Always being taken seriously, being celebrated, applauded, congratulated.  Being enjoyed,  remembered, defended, getting sane teaching about how life and people work.  Learning the different parts of my own mind, and how they operate.   The experience of that kind of quality input really does something to your self esteem and entitlement, let me tell you.

I tried changing my self esteem and lousy entitlement with just getting my head around the theory, but all I did was get clever.  My thinking brain didn’t enable me in any real way.  My heart did, through that very consistent experience of love over more than ten years.  It created a solid knowledge of my value and rights which I can act on, and which nobody can take from me.  You can know it intellectually but still not be able to stop people trampling all over you.  Know it in your heart and your life changes.

Blood in the water.   With a big injury the healing always takes you way, way beyond where you were when you were injured.  I’ve heard it said love your enemy because they bring you your greatest opportunity.   I never want to hear it while I’m wrestling with a challenge, but once I’m through it I can see, it’s true.  I have more knowledge and understanding of myself and people and life now than I could ever have had if I hadn’t been abused.  Weird, huh.

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The Loss of Innocence and Finding My Way Back Home

Oprah’s interview of Tyler Perry was flighted here yesterday, the day after, in therapy, I opened the door into facing the loss of my innocence as a little girl, and what it did to me.  I was talking about how things were clear for me at one point in my life but they’ve become so muddied, I’ve become so confused right deep down in the core of me, and I have to fight so hard for clarity.

It seemed there was a time when I had clear vision.  The image came up of me standing in a field; the sky was blue and I could see forever.  There was nobody around, not one other person in the whole world.  Then there was another part of me running in the dark, stumbling, terrified.  Pursued.  I can’t see my way.  My vision doesn’t work.

When did it become dark?  I didn’t know.  I sat, scrolling through my memory, scanning for that moment.  I started to get a sensation in my mouth which I remember having in my early teens, although I can’t remember when it started.  It would happen when I was going to sleep.  My tongue would start to feel as though it was swelling and it would just get bigger and bigger.  In my mind I could see a white kind of picket fence, quite high and something spilling over it, overwhelming me.  Disgusting.

If I opened my eyes and forced myself awake, the horror would fade.  But as soon as I succumbed to the desire to sleep it would start again.  I had it for years.  Eventually it faded, but I started having nocturnal epilepsy.

That sensation started happening in therapy yesterday, but I still couldn’t find that time when my vision became unclear and things got dark.  All I knew was that it had something to do with sex.  My therapist said it sounded like the loss of innocence. Time stopped for me for a while.

When you get abused in childhood you’re never the same again.  Life gets very confusing.  Nothing is safe.  It’s dark inside your world. There’s no place to go, no person to turn to.  Yesterday Tyler Perry talked about how he would find this park in his head where kids were playing, happy and safe, loved.  He would go there when his father abused him.

I realized, the image I had of that place where my vision is clear isn’t before I lost my innocence, it’s the place I went to after I lost it, like Tyler’s park.  Trying to describe what it was like for him as a child, Tyler said: something in you dies.   I think it’s rather that the spirit of the innocent child goes into a place you can’t reach.

When you dissociate, you move into your teens and early adulthood absolutely lost.  Acting out, taking drugs, stealing, being promiscuous.  Lashing out at society or people or yourself.  Hell-bent on destruction, seeking a way to escape the pain of acknowledging that your innocence is lost and your spirit is in a coma.

But miraculously it calls out to you constantly, and slowly you start to hear.  You begin to find your way back to it, because it’s the core of who you are.  It’s a rough journey and a long one.  Trying to make sense of the confusion, learning how and who to trust, how to forgive yourself, how to rebuild the foundation of your life and develop a core capacity to self-protect so that it never happens again.

When Oprah asked Tyler what he would say now to the innocent child that he was, his reply was that he’d do the best he could with his life to honor the child and what he went through.   I say to the child in me.  I hear you, it’s safe to come out of hiding.  You didn’t got through that for nothing.  I’ll never let myself be abused again.  Like Tyler, I’ll spend the rest of my life doing the best I can with what I’ve got, embracing life in a safe way. I honor the dreams you had and I’ll do what I can to make them a reality.