Connecting

Image by Andrei Ceru

While I was at the writers’ conference, I avoided telling anyone about my grandfather’s death. I didn’t want them to treat me any differently than they usually would.

There were, however, a few people who were quick to see that something was wrong. One of them was a man I’d only met twice before and was still getting to know. He told me he could tell that I was sad because he was about to lose his wife of twenty-five years to cancer. Our grief connected us. We were both going through something painful that didn’t let us be entirely part of the jollity around us.

His strength, and his wife’s, were an inspiration to me to keep going no matter what. And having him there at the restaurants and bars, in the hotel lobby where people gathered after events, was strangely comforting. Just having someone know made a big difference. I didn’t feel so isolated.

Knowing about his pain also opened the door for compassion in me. I loved my grandfather, but I doubt that my grief even approaches the pain this man is feeling about what is rapidly approaching for himself, his wife, and their children.

I’m currently praying that his wife will recover miraculously from this attack on her life, and I’d really appreciate it if anyone who reads this could send a prayer, a good vibe, or a good thought for them. I don’t think it will make any difference that I haven’t told you their names (I don’t want to do that without asking permission, and can’t do that without opening myself up to more inquiry than I can stand right now).

Thank you!

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Away from Home

Image from Web Design Hot!

Let me begin this post by saying that I will NEVER drink coffee again. I have sworn it off. Anything with more caffeine than a cup of tea is not for me.

As I mentioned here, my grandfather recently passed away while I was thousands of miles away at a writing conference. To get home, I’d have had to dodge some pretty heavy obligations, talk to people about changing my flight, etc… My mom told me that I should just stay and stick it out. She advised that I keep myself distracted, so I did.

There were quite a few people that I’d met before at this conference, and they invited me to various activities that were taking place after the workshops and panels that took place every day. I actually had a lot of fun. These people were good company, and they drew me out of myself a lot.

The only trouble was that I get really tired when I’m around too many people for too long, and I wasn’t sleeping well due to a combination of grief, stress, and a strange bed in a strange place. It got to the point that I’d be sitting, listening to another writer talking at a panel and start to fall asleep. The last day, it was so bad that I had two cups of coffee. I know that doesn’t sound bad, but it’s two more cups than I would normally drink.

Up until lunch time, I didn’t feel too bad, jittery and tired, but not sleepy. I could live with that. But as I was looking for the next room I was scheduled to be in, I started feeling really dizzy and having trouble breathing. As my vision was narrowing down to a small point of light, I turned to the writer I was walking with, a friend from a couple of other conventions and retreats, and said “I think I’m going to black out.” I thought I was joking, figured it was just one of those tunnel vision moments that would resolve itself in a second, but it turns out I was right. I passed out right there in the middle of the hallway.

I guess I was only completely out for a handful of seconds. When I came to, all I could see was the light shining red through my my hair, which had fallen across my eyes. I brushed it away and saw someone with dark hair leaning over me. I knew it was one of my friends, but two of them had long dark hair, and it wasn’t until later that I was able to confirm which one of them it was. My mind was so scrambled that for a while, nothing was clear to me and none of the memories from right after I passed out are easy to access. This confusion is just one of the symptoms of caffeine poisoning, and I was suffering ten out of fifteen listed here.

The main thing I gathered is that a lot of people were worried about me. Someone fetched the nurse kept on staff and one of the other writers there who was a doctor left her workshop to come check on me. Several people missed the events they were going to attend to make sure that I was alright. My heart rate was dangerously high and very irregular, and I was overheating like crazy, so I had to lay on a couch and keep calm for a while before they would even let me stand up. Fortunately, though I did hit my head, I didn’t have a concussion, and I didn’t hurt my back.

I’ve never passed out before and I hope it never happens again.

So, does it seem a little far fetched that two cups of coffee would cause this? Turns out that some of the writers thought the coffee was too weak, so they took it upon themselves to make it about three times stronger on the last day. My poor caffeine-unaccustomed system was subjected to six cups of coffee worth of the stuff over the course of about two hours. Mystery solved.

The whole incident might be well behind me (about three days), but it’s still bothering me. I keep telling myself that it’s okay that I got all that attention, that I shouldn’t feel so mortified, that no one is mad at me or thinks any less of me because I passed out. But I still haven’t brought myself to talk about it to my family or anyone I know out here because I hate the idea of them knowing that I am not invincible. I feel bad that people missed things because of me, that someone else had to step up and run my workshop, and that I scared people. I know that  none of them mind (they all told me so). But I still feel guilty, like I did something wrong.

On the bright side, I got to see jut how much these long distance friends cared about me. I ‘m trying to hold on to the warm glow I get when I think about all the nice things they did to take care of me.

And as for my decision to stay away from coffee from now on, it comes partly from the fact that I kept tasting the stuff for the rest of the day and can’t stand the taste or smell now. I also suffered from a really high level of anxiety which I only found out later was most likely due to the coffee. I think I’d better stay away from the stuff.

Breaking the Silence

Image from Wikipedia

I don’t think there are any triggers in here, but read cautiously nonetheless.

There are a lot of reasons that talking about the abuse I suffered is very difficult for me. Actually, considering how little I’ve shared about it, “very difficult” is a pretty big understatement. “Nearly impossible” might be more accurate. This seems to be true for other survivors as well, from what I’ve seen on the few other blogs I visited before setting mine up (so I’d feel like I knew what I was doing).

The three deepest reasons that I never told anyone are these:

Fear

I was afraid that I would get in trouble if I told my parents that the neighbor boy was touching me inappropriately. I feared my parents’ wrath above all in life. Even the continued molestation seemed less scary than letting them find out about what was going on.

I was (and still am) afraid of telling people who know me because I don’t want to change the way they see me. I hate the idea of them picturing me as a little, abused child. I also don’t need people’s pity. Compassion is great, pity is bad. It would be nice to have people understand why I do some of the things I do, and why certain things REALLY freak me out, but I can live without pity.

I was afraid that people wouldn’t like me anymore. I had become a dirty person, defiled by what that boy did to me. What happened nearly every day was so disgusting to me, that I felt tainted by it. I was now a disgusting person. I couldn’t let anyone know what happened if I expected them to keep liking me. Paradoxically, I came to feel unlovable, and assumed that meant I was unloved so no one would care about what was happening to me and wouldn’t save me from what was happening.

Later, I was afraid that no one would believe me because I hadn’t said anything at the time. It didn’t help that I was a compulsive liar because of the emotional abuse from my parents.

Shame

I think that shame is closely tied up with fear. I was disgusted and ashamed by what was being done to me, so I was afraid that I was disgusting and shameful, and that if anyone found out, they would hate me. Even now that I’ve come to terms with the fact that there is nothing disgusting about me, I’m still afraid of what people would think if they knew about the times I was raped, or the sexual abuse that was inflicted on me for years.

I didn’t remember it happening

I’ve read that children under the age of seven have the ability to repress traumatic memories. I’m not sure if this is what I did (I was four when it started, and nine when it ended), or if enough time passed that the memories didn’t come up any more. I do remember a few instances when I was older of recalling something that had happened to me and being deeply horrified, but I “forgot” those memories too, so it seems likely that I repressed the painful incidents, and that once my brain had the knack for it, it just kept doing it even though I was older than the usual age for repression. This is just speculation, I know, but it’s nice to have logical explanations for why I don’t remember anything that happened after seven either, and why I don’t remember (even still) what exactly happened to me when I was twelve.

The first time I started to remember this stuff, not just in casual flashes like before, I was twelve, and I’m pretty sure it was triggered by being raped again (though I can’t remember the incident itself, there’s too much evidence to deny it happened). The timing was rotten. I had just learned about sex, what it meant to a husband and wife, and I couldn’t handle the idea of what had been done to me, and what I had lost. Within months, I no longer remembered any of it, but was so depressed and full of self loathing that I attempted to end my life.

The second time memories came back, I was seventeen (pretty sure I wasn’t raped again, but I can’t know for sure at this point). The results were pretty much the same. Again, the memories were buried. They didn’t come up again until I turned twenty-three. When they did, I didn’t think they could possibly be real. I thought that I was some kind of sick person to have fantasies of myself being raped as such a young child. I thought that it was probably physically impossible for a boy of that age to do what I remembered happening. I pretty much labeled myself as a psycho and tried to get on with life. I wasn’t about to tell anyone about what was happening in my head. I denied it to myself, and tried to repress the emotions that were being stirred up with the emerging memories.

There are other reasons, of course, that I’ve never said anything about this, but those are the main barriers that kept me from telling. Now the fear and shame dominate, especially the fear. I don’t want to confess and not be believed. I don’t want to be believed, and then have my confidant’s opinion of me and behavior toward me change. I think that’s part of why I can type it all out this way in my blog. No one I know in person will ever read it, and you, Dear Reader, are just getting to know me, from the ground up, so you have no opinion of me to change.

While the relative anonymity of the Internet means that I haven’t really overcome my inability to confide in someone about these painful things, I think it’s a splendid start, the first crack in the wall, if you will.

I know my experience is not unique. I know that there are lots of others out there who have held on to agonizing secrets, suffering in silence. I want to hear about why you didn’t tell what happened to you. Or, if you did tell, what were the results?

Please include trigger warnings if you post triggering material. I will do my best to make sure warnings are present where necessary, but it’ll be a huge help to me if you do as well. Thank you!

Coming up for Air

Hi! I’m Katie King. I am both excited and anxious as I set out on this blog. I’ve never actually talked to anyone about the childhood sexual abuse (CSA) that I lived through, though there are a few people in my life that know about the physical and emotional abuse, as well as neglect, that happened when I was little.

I have been coping with most of it on my own for nearly twenty years (or not coping, as the case may be). God has been there for me when I’ve let Him, but it took me a long time to realize that He wanted me and would heal me if I allowed Him to.

Now, I think it’s time to share my story, and the ways that I’ve learned to handle the pain and shame, and what God has taught me about compassion and my own self-worth. I’m still recovering memories of what happened to me, still learning, and still having bad days. I just hope that I can help someone else, even one person, come through this more easily than I have.

God bless,

Katie