The Oppression of a Child

My baby cries tears and asks me why and I ask myself: how can I possibly explain injustice to her when I, myself, cannot understand? How can I comfort her when I cry and am in need of comfort? I feel so helpless. How do I explain injustice to my child and how can I comfort her?

My daycare assistance was terminated and will not be recovered ONLY because when I faxed in the papers for redetermination, I didn’t save the confirmation letter. I usually do. I didn’t. Don’t ask me why. It was Friday. I wanted to go home. The paper said it sent. I was not thinking. I did my part. The government failed me. A system set up supposedly to help people like me shifted my entire world. 

For redetermination, clients can make more money and their weekly copay will raise. However, initially, upon first applying, the person has to make incredibly little for their gross monthly income. Because they claimed they never got my paperwork, I had to reapply. Because I had to reapply and the library had given us huge raises to try to be fair, the unfair government decided between my part time job and my disability check (even the new, lower amount as it too had been cut because of the raises) I barely overqualified and was denied childcare benefits. 

The letter came in on my birthday. I went straight to my church and into my pastor’s office and began to sob helplessly. It was the start of a 5 day vacation that I had been looking forward to. Now it felt like hell and I thought for sure I would have to quit my job and that thought was too much for me to bear. I sobbed painful, angry, completely helpless tears. We prayed, I left, but the tears never stopped. 

I love my job. My coworkers are the only reason I am doing as well with my recovery as I am. I doubt I would have ever made it a year without cutting if it weren’t for them, let alone be closing in on my fourth year. I get judged so much for my invisible illness and social awkwardness everywhere. I don’t really know how to not speak my mind, but I never mean to be rude or hurtful (though I’m told my compliments are unique…I guess complimenting someone’s shiny arms or Waldo-like glasses aren’t normal compliments, but it’s what I observe; I am always observing). When I tell my coworkers I had my pastor anoint my rock that spoke to me that I carry around, they simply smile and joke my rock is more holy than they are. They don’t judge me. They don’t try to change me. They don’t try to make me blend in. Instead, they allow me to stand out. They support me. They celebrate my differences. When I’m scared and need to be reassured of my safety, they always do kindly. When I feel disconnected from reality and need help figuring out what’s real and what’s not, they help me. When I am at my limit and break down and sob, even my branch manager has been there for me reassuring me of my strength and ability. They might frustrate me sometimes and I know I can drive them nuts too, but I love them. They are my support.  They are my family. When I thought even for a few days I was going to lose that, I couldn’t cope. My invisible illness suddenly engulfed me and all I could do was sob. 

I prayed too. I prayed non stop. I prayed alone. I prayed with my pastor. I prayed at church. I prayed at the park. 

The day after I had gotten the letter, I was at my private place at the park and anger and frustration over the injustice overtook me and I began hurling rocks into the water. I chose big rocks that I had to thrust with all my might. Again and again. Until I was exhausted. I began to pace the water’s edge until I noticed a beautiful small pink flower that had somehow managed to push its way through the rocks and bloom despite all odds. I found this so beautiful so I decided to build an altar around it to celebrate its beauty. It was then one rock in particular spoke me to, the aforementioned and later anointed rock, and I knew it was meant for me to keep. I set it carefully aside and finished my altar with extreme care. 

When I finished, I stood beside it and prayed again with all my might. It was in that moment a large buck jumped from the river bank only a few yards in front of me, stopped, looked directly past my eyes straight into my soul knowingly, and then two more jumps disappeared on the other side. I cried over the beauty of the moment and over the instant wash of relief I felt. I knew somehow this would all be okay even though I didn’t know how. 

I told my friend and neighbor what happened. I choked on tears trying not to think about what I might lose. She was angry over the injustice. I simply felt defeated. She is a single mother to three beautiful children and has been through hell but like me is a fighter. I’m so blessed to have her as a friend and it was through this equally struggling person God used to answer my prayers. 

My friend is the assistant director at the daycare next to our complex. It’s a small, private daycare run by an angel familiar with the system and its injustice. My friend wanted so badly to help me and pleaded my case to the director and this incredible woman agreed take my daughter and only charge us a little over $15 more per week than what we were paying even though she’s taking a huge financial loss on us. Because of my friend and this angel, even though it seemed impossible, I don’t have to leave my job. My helpless tears turned to tears of humility and gratitude. I do not take lightly what they have done for me because I know so many people aren’t so fortunate. If I had quit, I would not have looked for another job. My spirit was crushed and I spent a month being degraded and humiliated by government workers and chastised and ignorantly advised by people who don’t understand the system or how hard and painful it is to work with and how contaminated it is with injustice. 

Injustice. 

So I don’t have to leave the people I love but my daughter still does. She has to leave her daycare that has been such a huge and important part of her life since I started working again three years ago. They coparented with me. They potty trained her. They taught her to talk and write. They fixed her hair when I sent her in with it a mess. They have been family and while I am so sad to lose them, my daughter is hurting worse. 

As an adult and parent, I am aware she will be okay. I know she’ll make new friends and the teachers will love her too. I get this. What I also get is my daughter is sad and hurting. What I don’t get and can’t explain is when she asks me why she has to leave. Thus my question: how do you explain injustice to a child? She may be crying because she has to leave daycare, but her tears are the same as my tears. They are the tears of oppression. 

Do not reason and rationalize this. I refuse to tell my child this is okay. I don’t comfort her by telling her it’s okay and that sometimes things happen but we move on. No. This is wrong. It is not fair. It is not just. It is not okay. What I do tell her is I will find a way to change this one day. My child is being taught the world is unjust but also that she can change it. I will continue to speak out and share my story and educate not for myself but because I am fortunate but so many more aren’t and no child should be forced to cry the tears of oppression and injustice. If you can’t justify something to a child, it’s not just, and if it’s not just, it needs changed. I’m not going to wait for someone else. You can help by listening and educating yourself. The system is wrong and unfair. Us poor people need help to change this. We don’t need drug tested or forced to work; we need compassion and understanding. We need our stories shared and our voices heard. We need our pain and anger validated. We need more people to fight with us and for us because so many more are fighting against us. Help us free our children from our oppression. 

The Least of Us

The Bible has good news for people like me; people who are sick, oppressed, poor, and/or persecuted; it says we have many blessings in Heaven and we will be first and our enemies last. And churches like mine, middle class and white, love to preach on this to humble the members and whatever else. Like this past Sunday, preachers tell inspiring stories of a “least of us” who were persecuted but rose above and was God to someone not the least in the face of adversity or persecution. People leave feeling humbled and try to act more like this person, one of the Least of us’s.

This week, however, when I left, I felt an instant disconnect from my church and my faith. Rarely in church is my struggle ever preached about because pastors preach to their audiences and in my church, an emotionally disabled, impoverished, single mother is just one member in an ocean of double parent, double income, college level functioning families. Once my pastor preached on the story of a woman giving her last two pennies and Jesus said she gave more than the rich people because she gave all she had but they had much money left. My pastor focused on the other people. In my poverty, I had asked later what about the woman? What about her suffering? My pastor humbly admitted they were focused on prepping the congregation for giving Sunday and hadn’t thought much but said it’s a much discussed topic why Jesus didn’t address her poverty. My focus, though, was on that woman. She was the one I could identify with in that story. I’ve been that woman. I am that woman. I’ve put change, the only change I had left to my name, in the offering plate in hopes of a miracle. But I’m not one of those people who the pastors lift up in their sermons like this past Sunday. That’s not the type of Least of Us I am. 

Whenever I’m struggling financially (pretty much always but now is particularly hard as I face my car getting repoed, utilities getting cut, and bills backing up all because my assistance got unexpectedly cut) I hear that voice in my heart remind me “blessed are the poor” and you know what? My response is not peaceful or loving or inspiring like the pastors always preach about. My response, like now, is so what? So what? Who fucking cares? Oh yes, I swear. And as I sat in my pastors office asking for help (which I later changed my mind about) I literally sobbed “I hate being poor.” I HATE it. Blessed are the poor? So what?

And my pastors talk about how kind these people are and giving but that’s not me either. I get angry and frustrated and I snap. When I spoke to someone from the government agency and he treated me like a waste of his time and humiliated me, I didn’t rise above. I didn’t stay calm. I didn’t act like someone who is blessed. Instead, as I hung up, I cussed him out and thought I hope that ass hole heard me. 

What blessing is it to be poor and oppressed? Okay, so I have the gift and blessing of being grateful for every single thing I have. I look at others who have so much and take it for granted or worse, complain about not having enough, and I’m dumbfounded. I want to shake them and wake them. How many people thank God for their beds and truly mean it? I am SO grateful for my bed. After sleeping on couches, in cars, and hard hospital beds for so long, I will never take my bed for granted. How many people cry with joy and gratitude when they somehow struggle and manage (usually at the expense of not paying something else) to have a fridge full of food? Yet the few times a year this happens, I do cry and a fridge full of food is one of my greatest joys. I will kneel and sob over the abundance and give thanks to God. Literally. 

Okay, but so what? So what? I HATE being poor. I want a fridge full ALL the time and usually I’m at my fridge crying over the lack of food. I acknowledge my time in poverty has blessed me but I’m so over it and I get angry and annoyed and snap sometimes at people who have so much and complain about having little. I don’t rise above. I’m not always empathetic. And I’m told my face often betrays my thoughts which I swear I am able to cuss with. 

Yeah because I cuss. A LOT. I’m poor, emotionally disabled, and oppressed but NOT perfect. I’m not a role model. If you want to be Christlike I’m a very broken example. I have moments of giving and rising above but so what? That can be said about anyone. We all have moments of Christlike perfection and moments opposite of bad days and sins. Why are the poor more blessed and why should I care?

I find myself asking myself a lot, too, does God know I’m sick? Does God know I’ve been abused and have permanent scars? Does God hold me to the same standards as someone whose mind hasn’t been injured? When I get into a flashback and lash out from an alternate reality, does God know I couldn’t control it and didn’t mean to? The Bible says blessed are the poor in spirit which my pastor said means people like me. People whose minds have been injured, their spirits hurt. Once again I’m blessed but once again, so what

I hate my PTSD and scars from self injury just a much as I hate being poor. Some people are inspired by me and see me as a blessing but I still struggle every day and will always fight wars in flashbacks no one else can travel to or see. Yes it’s a blessing to be able to bring hope and inspiration to someone so maybe that’s why the Bible says it’s a blessing but so what? All I did was sob yesterday after nightmares and flu like aches from a quick bug made me too weak to fight and find hope and light. Too physically compromised, all I could do was sob over my poverty, the exhaustion from my nightmares that woke me, and the memories of my past. 

What’s worse is sometimes I am humiliated, oppressed, judged, or condemned for my “poor spirit.” Many Christian believe people who commit suicide go to hell. Would God really condemn a sick and suffering person who lost their war? No. He couldn’t. Would he? Some Christians (probably many) would tell you my years spent cutting my skin was a time of great sin in my life. Doesn’t God know I was being abused and didn’t know how else to cope? Doesn’t He know I did the best I could to try to survive? And I did didn’t I? Yes. I did and He does and he’s turned my scars into blessings to bring hope to others suffering but so what?

The sermon I heard Sunday left me feeling so horrible and defective. Not because there was anything mean or offensive about it; there wasn’t; my pastor preached a beautiful and inspiring sermon. It just wasn’t preached to the least of us and the Least of Us that was mentioned rose above their hardships and succeeded in the face of their adversity which isn’t me. I felt like I was failing at being last in line which is a ridiculous sentiment. Like I am so poor in spirit I am failing at being poor in spirit. And I already feel like such an outsider in my own home, my church, and that gap seemed to expand into a chasm. I don’t fit in with my church members because of my poverty and I don’t fit in with the person in poverty in the sermon because I’m not strong enough to rise above my adversity. I’m not sure where I fit in at my church or if it’s even possible. 

My other pastor told me once their  pastor friend from a wealthy suburban church, even more well off than mine, admitted people in poverty wouldn’t feel comfortable in their congregation because of the social income gap and that was just how it was. My pastor expressed something could be done, but I keep questioning whether that pastor was right? I feel welcomed and loved at my church but I don’t feel understood or acknowledged. I’m expected to adhere to middle class social norms, not the other way around. Poverty and life growing up in the psych system has its own culture that I honestly love and am comfortable and familiar with. I don’t feel it’s sinful but is just so misunderstood but no one really takes the time to listen and learn. And sometimes my well meaning church makes me feel more oppressed ignoring this and not recognizing this. 

It’s times like these that I miss the psych hospitals the most. It’s the one place overflowing with the blessed least of us’s where I have felt truly united with all people. Where all cultures could unite because we had nothing but our brokenness. My pastor told me once when I told them this that church should be more like a psych hospital but it’s not. It’s nothing like that. I wish it was but I’m not sure it’s even possible. And I feel so oppressed. 

My pastor preached the last will be first and the first will be last, so it shouldn’t matter I’m in the back right now feeling oppressed because one day I’ll be first, though. Right? Come on. So what?

PTSD is a Bitch

I recently started blogging again after a break that came shortly after my sense of security was severely threatened and sent me into horrible flashbacks. I wrote about my life in poverty and a specific instance of me using government assistance and how difficult it can be. I wanted people to understand because I kept thinking “if people only knew.” 

Right now my mind is at war. I want to die with each horrible flashback wave that crashes me. I have PTSD from a very complex and expansive abusive past and recently another trigger has come and every time I close my eyes, I am brutally attacked and transported to a very traumatic time in my life. My tears that sometimes reach the surface do little to cleanse. I forget where I am each time the flashback comes. As I try my best to hold on and stay in the present moment, sitting up at times because the pain is physical as well and I feel nauseated as if I am literally being teleported through time and space and once again I find myself thinking “if people only knew”–no–“I wish people knew.”

Sometimes like now the pain is so unbearable, physically and mentally, that I can barely move or think and I have a moment of wishing for just five seconds, an infinitesimly small fraction of what I endure, everyone in the world could feel this horrible pain that I am feeling. This doesn’t come from malice or anger, but from desperation; I want people to know and understand. Describing my life in poverty was so much easier. Can I even begin to explain the horror of my mental illness? Of my lasting scars from my trauma?

I’ve been doing great lately with the exception of money stress. I wake up at 5:30 and do yoga for an hour every morning. People comment on how much muscle I’ve gained and it’s only been a little over a month. I also haven’t had any caffeine and after several years of a vegetarian lifestyle, made the plunge into full vegan and it works. I’m taking time for myself and loving myself and reconnecting with my inner selves. We are at peace. I’m reading so many books that have called to me from all sorts of religions and spiritual ideals. My awareness is ever expanding and the light within me growing. I’m in therapy again and being the best model for self care and spirituality. Unfortunately, to my dismay, flashbacks still come. 

I like simplicity and things that are easy to do and understand. By nature I am lazy. No shame. I’m like a sloth. I like the simple life. I like quick and easy fixes and questions with straightforward answers. It’s why I like math. 1+1 always equals two and anyone you ask will typically give you the same answer. Therefore you must understand there is something so powerful and strong that moves me against my nature to wake up early and practice yoga instead of sleeping in, to meditate and surrender instead of running my hamster wheel mind, to read book after book instead of browse mindlessly on social media, to read ingredient labels instead of eat whatever, to live like I do instead of the sloth I am. 

Self care for all is so important. Self care for those who suffer from trauma scars of PTSD is vital for survival. We are in combat and cannot fight if we are already weakened by poor diet, little rest (as I hypocritically write late instead of sleep knowing my alarm will go off at 5:30 so I can yoga), or other vulnerabilities. What or where is this war we are fighting? With all mental illness, in our minds. PTSD is unique though in that it is actually an injury. The trauma we suffered was so mentally horrific that it injured our minds. For me, it is very much physical as well as mental.

What does any of this tell you though? Most of this you probably already knew, but you do not know PTSD.

This time my trigger was a person; someone new started to attend my church. My subconscious has made a strong connection between this lady and one of my worst abusers. This lady at church is a complete stranger and has begun to use the nursery I work and help with. I smile and am friendly as I am with all people, but I can barely do it with her. For others its genuine and natural to act this way. I’m told I can befriend anyone. It’s true. However, I see this lady and my whole body tenses. I want to throw up. I start to enter fight mode and I want to attack her. I reassure my inner self we are safe and this lady is not my abuser. It’s enough to stay composed but I become agitated. I start to pick at the skin by my nail beds, or figit, break eye contact, lose my ability to consentrate; I start to disassociate. 

People can’t tell. My trained trauma counselor, Yoda (my nickname for her which she is unaware), could and when I disassociated during our last session and she caught it and brought me out, it was a very unsettling and vulnerable feeling. However most people can’t pick up on the subtlies of my dissociation. I begin to leave or completely teleport and no one can tell. 

At home it hits me harder. The flashbacks come. Nighttime they are worse as I lay down. Each time I close my eyes I am teleported. I am there. It’s not a memory; it’s time travel–that is if time travel was invented to torture. 

I jump from time to time, back and forth. I try to keep my eyes open. I blink fast. Not quick enough. I try to play music to make me cry and purge these painful memories and thoughts quicker. It doesn’t work. It’s background music for the ride. I am so sure I will throw up one of these times. I feel disoriented. I feel confused. I want someone. I want to talk to someone. I want someone to hold me. At the same time I want noone; I trust noone. I feel so vulnerable. I reassure my inner child and self we are safe. I mentally hug and hold onto her. Then I pray. I call to God despretly. This is why I’ve never been able to let go of God. In this moment, I need a god. I believe if anyone was going through this, in that moment even the most convicted non believer would cry out to God. Intense suffering has a way of making you a believer. 

Sunday night when this happened, I slipped from my flashbacks into a nightmare filled slumber. It was so bad at one point I heard a voice rather outside of me but much my own say, “Liz, Liz, wake up. You are dreaming. Wake up,” and I awoke heart pounding and out of breath. Wake up Liz. 

Flashbacks put me to sleep even when my eyes are open. I walk in a dream and can scarce tell the difference. The next day I smile and start to feel fine. Sometimes I forget I am a trauma survivor, but it never lasts long before a smell, a person, a word, a gesture, a song, a sound, a feeling will trigger a flashback and I’m there all over again. I start to feel normal and like I don’t need help until I am harshly reminded I can’t do this alone.

PTSD sucks. Being a survivor sucks. People admire my story and how much I survived but for me, I’m still fighting. I feel isolated and alone. How can I tell someone that lady reminds me of my abuser and have that mean anything? And if I did, no one would know what to say. “I’m sorry,” would more than likely be their unhelpful, but well intended response. 

Maybe I’m not saying it right. I just don’t know how else to say it. 

I was a victim of trauma. Now I survive and fight for recovery every single day. I fight to stay a survivor instead of relapsing and fall victim again. I am constantly teleported to horrific times in my life and no one ever knows even though I’m surrounded by people. I feel so isolated because of my trauma. I never know what could trigger me and I fight fear every single day. When I am triggered by multiple things close to each other, all I want to do is hide. 

I’m learning not to hide, though. I’m learning how to welcome these memories and release them instead of resist. Though I am a sloth, I climb mountains every day to seek understanding and enlightenment and peace. I work hard so that one day I can help others with my wisdom and knowledge. This is greater than my desire for an easy life and quick fix. 

If only people understood. PTSD is a bitch. 

My Impoverished Life

I’m here at the office for social security–standing–waiting to be seen. I’m number 459. They are on number 439. Finally, I think, only 20 more people ahead of me. Then I sigh. 20 more people. I’ve already been here 20 minutes. I’ve been standing for 20 minutes because this place is packed. I’m here, though, because they took $400 from my monthly disability check. $400! Friday, when my check went in, I couldn’t reach anyone because the lines were so busy and I had to work. Today when I called on my way to Job and Family Services (JFS) because of issues with my childcare (this gets better), I was told medical was no longer covered and they had to take out two months worth. “That doesn’t make sense,” I said frantic. “My medicade was just re approved.” The foreign operator gave me another number and told me to speak to them. I thanked him without emotion and dialed the other number. “I’m sorry,” an automated voice spoke, “but the person you are trying to reach is unavailable and the voicemailbox is full. Please try again later.” I began to cry–no sob–the rest of the way to JFS.

I didn’t wait too long in the blue painted room designated for childcare. Maybe only 10 minutes, record time. When I went up, I knew what to expect but I tried to hope for better. I explained I had faxed in my recertification papers and it was confirmed but my daughter’s daycare said my benefits expired Friday. Yesterday was labor day so everywhere was closed so herein was Tuesday. I took my daughter to daycare knowing I would have to pay out of pocket if I didn’t get re approved that day.

“There’s nothing in the system. Do you have proof you faxed it in?” I didn’t and admitted this dejected. It was stupid. I knew it was. I should have saved everything. This is how JFS works. This isn’t the first time. I have no excuse other than I thought it would be okay. It wasn’t okay. I had to reapply for benefits, am responsible for paying out of pocket for sending my daughter to daycare today, and have to wait up to two weeks to be re approved. Therefore for the next two weeks I need to find someone to watch my daughter so I can work. I fought my tears burning behind my eyes. Don’t cry here. There’s too many people. I thanked them without emotion and asked where I could find out about medical.

In another room down the hall, I was able to talk to someone immediately. She pulled up my account and confused said everything was approved and good until June 2018. Why then did my doctors office say they couldn’t find my insurance? And why did social security take out $400?? They said it ended June 2017. She printed me off a letter of proof and instead of calling back, I drove here–sobbing the whole way–and now here I am.

At least I have a seat now. Someone got up. I decided to blog again for the first time in months to distract myself from the $660 I owe on my car. The $78 I’m now responsible for daycare. The need for a sitter for free for the next two weeks. My gas and electric bills which are two months behind. My oil change light that’s on and past due. My gas tank that will not last to next paycheck. The two months of monthly offering I missed because money has been tight. My tags that need renewed for my car. “If people only knew,” I texted my friend also on government assistance, “then maybe they wouldn’t be so quick to judge us,” so I write.

I’m back in therapy. My pastor talked to this lady I’ve named Yoda (except everyone but her knows, but she’s so old and short and wise; you know, Yoda) who is retired but still sees clients sometimes. She agreed to see me for free since my insurance made it impossible to find a qualified trauma therapist to deal with a past like mine. This came a week after two back to back flashbacks less than a week apart one with my doctor and one with my other pastor, two very trusted allies, where I was so deep in the flashback, I didn’t know who they were and yelled at both. It’s what sparked me to start being very disaplined with my yoga again and take care of myself. I’ve been working on forgiving myself and meditating and I’ve been doing really well. I’m in such a better place mentally. Thank goodness because these financial burdens are crushing me. I try to stay calm and trust God is in control. What else can I do?

They’re serving number 441 now. 18 people left ahead of me. It’s 11:11. I read somewhere this was supposed to be a magical time. Nothing feels magical about this moment.

Last night the world felt right as I sat next to our fire bowl on my patio with my new good friend and neighbor and other good friend and neighbor and the first’s three children, the youngest of whom we joke is my 5 year olds boyfriend. They’re so cute together. They all roasted marshmallows and the adults talk. We are all on government housing. We all live in poverty. I’m one of the very few white people in the neighborhood but this is where I belong. We talk about places we can get free clothing. I tell them how much I love my church’s food pantry I use each month and vent about needing to reapply for food stamps. I was going to today but $400 is missing from my check and I need that money. We talk about my friend’s bother in jail who she loves and I hurt for her. He won’t get out for another 10 years. Her children will all be grown. My brother is deployed but at least he’ll be home soon and I can hug him. We talk about having to teach our babies to fight because fights happen in this community. While other parents are thinking about what clubs to put their children in, what vacations to plan, what college their children might go to, we sit and discuss finding clothes for them to wear, food for them to eat, and self defense knowledge so they can stay safe. We don’t want them to fight, but living in poverty, we’re always fighting for something.

442. I’ve been here an hour and still have 17 people ahead of me. I’m tired, physically and mentally. I’m hungry and wish I had applied for food stamps. I bought some groceries instead of paying for other things and I partly regret it. However I can’t wait to make beans and rice. It’s nothing fancy but I’m so hungry. I did eat today though. It’s just getting closer to lunch time.

Friday I took a photo shoot with my childhood best friend who was in town. She’s an amazing photographer. I asked her a while ago if she’d help me do a photo shoot showing my scars in a beautiful way. She was in town and asked if I wanted to. I was excited and we went to the park and shot strong yoga poses in revealing clothes. The collection I’ve titled, “Don’t be Afraid to Let Your Scars Show.”

My physical scars are healed, but the scars from my poverty are sometimes gaping wounds pouring blood that no one can see and so many, in ignorance and insensitivity, judge and belittle and condemn. I didn’t choose this, you know. I didn’t choose any of this. Sunday is Suicide Awareness Day. Suicide was the path I had chosen multiple times but survived miraculously every time. I must believe it was for a reason. Right now, I’m still not sure why. Right now I’m still not sure waiting here will result in anything. Right now I don’t know if I’m getting that $400 back or how I will pay any of my bills or who will watch my daughter. Right now I just know I am not going to be afraid to let my scars show because I believe if people only knew they would have more compassion and love. I believe if I have courage to, someone else might too. I believe I have suffered enough and I will not be afraid to speak out. I believe I create the universe around me so I will look at it with love instead of the fear that had been casting a shadow for so long. I believe the darkness helps us understand the light and if I share my darkness with love, light will shine.

443. 16 more to go…

**Update**

After 3 (yes 3) hours (and 21 minutes because I had the time I got my number on the slip) I was told there was nothing they could do about it on their end and I would need TO GO BACK TK WHERE I WAS and work it out with them. They had no control. So guess who sobbed once again and while making lunch once home and again after momentarily calming myself when calling work to say I needed off AGAIN so I could try to get this worked out. You know, though, it’s okay. Not on the outside, but inside. I fell to my knees sobbing after getting angry and throwing some stuff around my kitchen and prayed. In the past I’ve asked God to fix this, take away my poverty, give me more money. This afternoon I just had a sense maybe it’s not broken. Maybe God is fixing it. I’ve been on a spiritual journey this last month and I’m so sure of the path I am walking, so instead I prayed, “God I don’t understand and it hurts so badly but I won’t ask for money or for you to take this way. I trust You. All I am asking for is peace. Just please give me peace.” You know what? I’m not gonna lie y’all; I kind of feel at peace. I’m finishing lunch and going to go spend some time with the trees and then get my kiddo and keep going with love and light. The darkness helps us to understand the light when we walk in love. Namaste. 

**Another Update**

I spent 45 minutes holding for JFS and apparently I earn too much money between disability and a part time, entry level job to cover medical deductions. I disagree and so they are having a case manager call me which could take 48 hours. Huge shout out to my daughter’s daycare, who is letting me bring her and working with me throughout this mess. Also at least I don’t have to call off a second day. It doesn’t solve bills but it helps a LOT and I will keep focusing on the light and love in this darkness. The darkness helps us understand the light when we walk in love. I’m going to keep walking in this love. Namaste.

**The Final Update**

I got a call back 24 hours later by an incredibly rude and insensitive case worker who kept sighing and answering me very shortly and condensendingly. The short answer is I apparently make too much with my gross income from my part time entry level library job and full disability check for two people. When I tried to ask questions to understand (it’s what I do; I like understanding) he made me feel so stupid. He also made me embarrassed for how much I make. He kept saying how much I make grossly with the full disability check as if it was so much and I shouldn’t be upset. When I said I hadn’t gotten any notice and two months was taken out at once he brushed me off and said he didn’t do it and he was calling me back because I wanted to talk to a case worker. I am sobbing now again as I write just remembering how humiliated and embarrassed he made me feel. As horrible and counter to my nature it is, I hope he heard the cuss words I called him as I hung up. 

I have a real, diagnosed, government proved disability. Yes it is invisible. Yes my scars my hand made, but NONE of this was my choice. And right now I don’t ever want to get out of poverty because I NEVER want to become that and middle class seems to love to judge and cast stones at those in poverty because our scars are easier to see. Are our burdens not bad enough? To cast stones when we’re already at the bottom is the most socially acceptable inhumane act of cruelty that not enough people are angry about and fighting to change. I will fight it. I will use my voice and continue speak out until my last breath. You can humiliate me and judge me and rob me but you will never silence me. You cannot silence me. Namaste. 

~Elizabeth

Drunk (and I wrote a poem)

I feel deep sympathy for the homeless man

Asleep on the lawn of the library I work

The drug addict passed out

In the bathroom inside

The drunk slurring their words

As they try to seek our assistance

The scarred, sobbing woman

Cursing on our courtesy phone

People others judge and hate

Except me

I love them so much it hurts

Probably because as I lay here tonight

Choosing to drink alcohol

When I neglected to eat anything all day

Just to numb my pain

And not have to absorb the world around me

Or confront uncomfortable feelings

I don’t understand

I know I’m just as broken as them

God

Do you see us?

Do you care?

Show us.

Confessions from a Restless Night

I used to wake up covered in my own blood in horrific physical pain expanding my arms, legs, and sometimes my stomach or chest too. Over ten years. I became so detached from my body I would watch myself methodically make cut after cut, laceration after laceration, through layers of skin and sometimes fat too. Reaching the yellow, bubbly substance compressed underneath the elastic outter flesh became satisfying. It was as if I proved to myself I could hurt myself worse than my abusers outside of me.

I didn’t plan for any of this to happen. I didn’t ask to be abused, assaulted, raped, negelected, and abandoned. I didn’t plan to end up homeless, or drop out of high school and later college, to be a lesbian, a single mother, to live in poverty, starve from hunger, start to cut at 13 and try to escape through multiple suicide attempts which should have in fact killed me, be a victim of police brutality, have complex PTSD, be a person, artist and a visual thinker, who has no place in this world and end up here: a single mother struggling and permanently scarred inside and out. I didn’t plan any of this. As a child my dreams were to serve a God I believed in and help others. I wanted to use my art and writing and create and inspire. Yet somehow I ended up here.

I fucking hate being me sometimes. My beautiful 4 year old will sometimes say, “Mommy, I wish I was you.” I always respond with, “Baby, you were fearfully and wonderfully made and you are perfect as you and I love you,” but in my head I think, you don’t want to be me–hell I don’t want you to be me; I’m a fuck up.

And I don’t even do it on purpose. I think that’s what I get so angry and upset with myself for. I suck at words and so when I try to confide in someone, I spew so much mixed with the images and flashbacks in my head, but people only get half the picture and it’s an incomplete mess. I want to believe in my heart if I was ever able to get the full picture out that people wouldn’t suddenly start to treat me different when I confide in them something personal and hard and controversial. I want to believe they wouldn’t leave me and abandon me or suddenly act as if I’m infectious or dangerous. Feeling like someone thinks you’re dangerous because you fucked up what you were trying to say because you’re an artist and words are a struggle to communicate the deepest parts of your soul which are so vulnerable that you’ve kept locked away is the worst fucking feeling in the world. I can’t blame anyone but myself either. I know how bad what I said sounds. I know I fucked it up. I just can’t fix it. 

So I sit awake alone at night and sob to God. I beg Him to just take me home to heaven. Like a child, I beg “Please Daddy,” as I sit on the sink while my daughter sleeps and I sob. I think she’d be better off without me. I have no fucking clue what I’m doing. I don’t know how to be a parent. All I know how to do is make a mess of things and I can’t tolerate feeling this way still. I just want to go home. “Please Daddy, I’m out here knocking. Please let me in. I want to come home.”

Silence.

Where is God? How can I believe after all these years and all this pain? Besides people like me are people other Christians like to condemn. I’m gay. Before I accepted this I slept with multiple men and have a child and the guy has never been in the picture. I ruined my temple body after a decade of self injury and now tattoos that frankly I love. I have piercings and blue hair. I have smoked and tried drugs and used to get drunk and do whatever I could to be numb. I used to live a horror film in a living nightmare. 

Now I’m woke and I’m not sure which is worse.

Oh God. Please fix this mess I made.

Brave but Weak

You call me brave

You admire my strength

And call me an inspiration

All these things I so long wished for

And dreamed I’d one day be

I’ve fought for so long

And have plenty of scars to show for it

Never did I imagine

When the day came

And I stood in the light

How weak I would feel.

 

I Came Out Today

“So y’all, I’m gay. This is me coming out and being honest with myself. Please feel free to unfriend me if this bothers you.”

I came out on Facebook today. Yup, I’m gay. I’m overwhelmed by the overwhelming amount of support from my friends and family. It’s been a bit rocky with my pastors and I admit I am in a state of fear with them, but they have assured me of their support. I really want to believe this. If only my mind wasn’t so crazy. I’m still incredibly fearful of how being fully out will change my life. After singing a little over a week ago, I felt much freedom over my insecurities and becoming who I feel I really am (including the new blue hair I am rocking which feels 100% me). I am so blessed to have incredible coworkers (a few who are also out) and after marching in our amazing Pride parade with my incredible library where I work where our motto is “Open to All,” I realized I was tired of pretending. I’m so scared. I wish I could say how empowered coming out has made me feel like when I sang at church, but right now I can’t. Even though MANY people have shown me love, I am TERRIFIED. I am so scared I can’t eat and feel sick to my stomach. I’ll keep you posted. On a side note, I’ve created a kick ass, blue-haired, anxious, lesbian superhero called Super Blue who I will be putting into comic strips to help me sort my way through this coming out and being who I really am. Along with planning to continue sharing my poetry, I plan to start sharing Super Blue with you. The world needs a kick ass, blue-haired, anxious, lesbian superhero because who else can bring hope and light into this dark and broken world? It’s going to be me.

Thanks all. ❤

Edit Update:

Just wanted to share my status after less than 24 hours being up. I feel so blessed for these people. They are old friends, people from church, acquaintances, family, coworkers, and new friends. I’m so amazed this is the response!

Screenshot_2017-06-21-18-38-37_kindlephoto-59628476

Walking Through Fear

**sexual assault trigger warning**

I just started reading a new book, a memoir from a war child, Sandra Uwiringiyimana, titled “How Dare the Sun Rise.” It’s an incredible story of a refugee who survived a massacre and then became a refugee in the United States. I could never begin to possibly understand what she went through with the massacre and moving countries, but I just finished chapter 12 in where she was sexually assaulted when she was incredibly emotionally vulnerable by a trusted adult male. I want to quote the last two paragraphs.

When talking about the choice to speak out about her abuse instead of stay silent like her culture pressures, she says,”…It is not my responsibility to protect a predator. I’ve stayed silent for nearly a decade, never telling a soul. He had counted on that. He had counted on the silence of a child, confused and embarrassed by the actions of a trusted adult. But I do not need to protect him any longer. He did this. He is a sexual predator, a pedophile who attacked a little girl. If it causes problems in his family to hear it, then he should have thought about that before he tried to rape me. I am the victim. He is the predator. If people want to blame me for telling the truth, that’s their problem.

I have decided to tell this story because I have learned I do have a voice. I do not want to be a part of this culture of silence…So many girls around the world…suffer in silence after being sexually assaulted by someone they know. Most rapes happen at the hands of a relative or friend, not a stranger. I want girls to know that they have the power to speak out. They don’t have to stay quiet. No matter what culture or country you are from, there will always be pressure to remain silent, to never tell. But you don’t have to protect sexual predators. By speaking up, you are standing up for yourself. And you might be preventing it from happening again. Tell people what happened. They predators expect you to stay silent. You can prove them wrong.”

Those who know me know recently I have been struggling. I have asked for prayers and have been seen very sullen and crying a lot. I have been jumping into emotional flashbacks (click for more information on emotional flashbacks), and frequently questioning the safety of usually trustworthy people in my life, especially at my church, and fearing I’ve made them angry, or they inexplicably hate me. I haven’t been very open to most people, though, about the source of all of this, mostly out of fear. Fear that most people couldn’t possibly understand. The fear that only comes from trauma at the hands of a trusted adult. Fear from being sexually abused.

Several months ago I wrote a song on my guitar I titled, You Are Not Alone. I write music mostly for me. My guitar is one of my very few material possessions I don’t think I could live without. My art, music, and poetry aren’t just talents of mine. They are outlets. They are coping mechanisms. They are life and air to me. I could not survive without them. I could no breathe. I could not live. They are how I channel my pain and hurt and try to make sense of the chaos inside of my head. They are my friends. My journals growing up were my most trusted companions. Poetry was my voice. Art my life. Music my air. I never took art classes, or any music writing classes, and I hated English classes. I don’t want to be told my expression is wrong or needs to change. My art is not just art. It is me. It is my heart and my pain, and it’s my refuge. So when I wrote this song, I didn’t expect to do much with it expect share it with a few friends maybe, and I was happy with that. What I didn’t expect was to feel God call me to share this song at my church.

I was TERRIFIED. I questioned God. I prayed and played and kept expecting to be wrong. To feel a new calling. To have God come out and say, “Fooled ya!” (God does that right? Come on; I KNOW he has a sense of humor.) Where was my lamb? Surely this was just a test of faith to see if I’d go through, and at first, I was okay with it.

I invited my pastor friend (one of the people who my subconscious in my emotional flashbacks keeps pushing into the dangerous category despite numerously proving herself trustworthy) over for dinner like we sometimes do so I could play her this song and see what she thought. I told her I felt like I was supposed to play it at church, but I wasn’t sure when, and didn’t really think it was up to me to decide. I felt like God would let me know when it was the right time. She was ready to have me play it that following week, but I lost my voice because I got sick and it didn’t quite feel right, so I told her. That was several months ago.

Well last month there was a police shooting of a psychiatric patient in my city and it really tore me apart. I, myself, experienced police brutality during a psychiatric experience and the internal scars are still so painful. I felt moved to record my song and share it, and that’s what I did. That’s when my other pastor asked if I would share it at church. I, still entertaining God, said let me know when. A few more weeks passed and I was contacted and we set a date. Y’all, shit got real, REAL fast.

June 11th I am to play my song, and I have been almost constantly stuck in an emotional flashback. It is the reason I have been struggling so badly. It’s the reason why every little thing someone does gets hyper analyzed by me and people who I normally trust fill me with fear. The world around me feels terrifying. It takes VERY little to push me into flight, fight, freeze mode (which, for the record, part of my disorder involves getting stuck with using just one or two of these and an inability to access the third. My go to is freeze, and then flight). Things as little as someone not responding right away to a message or text, or a very minor conflict will have me fleeing or completely shutting down. All because of playing my song at church? All because of playing my song at church. This isn’t stage fright. This is fear. The fear that only comes from trauma at the hands of a trusted adult. Fear from being sexually abused.

This is my story. I am not going to protect my predator anymore. Some may be unhappy I am sharing this. I will do my best to protect identities, but I WILL NOT stay silent. I WILL NOT continue to be a victim. In my poem yesterday To My Abuser, I questioned, how do you let go of fear. In the time since, heavily considering this, my realization is, you can’t. You can’t let go of fear; you have to push through it. There is no way around it. You either avoid it or you face it. There is no letting go. Through is the only way.

***

I was first sexually assaulted by a boy a year older on my school bus when I was 12. It was the first few weeks of seventh grade in a new building, junior high, which consisted of seventh and eighth graders. The back of the bus had an unspoken law that only eighth graders sat back there. My best friend, though, was an eighth grader, so I sat back with her. I was a quiet and shy child. I got bullied a lot. I had glasses and was very sensitive. I was an easy target.

The particular day I was alone in the seat behind my friend. She started to distance herself from me because I was an uncool seventh grader. Eighth graders didn’t associate with underclassmen. She was also starting to get into boys where I was still into stuffed animals.

The vocal, clown sat in a seat opposite the aisle to mine. For whatever reason, one day he decided to torment me. He started by calling at me from his seat asking if I wanted to see his penis. I tried to ignore him, but he was persistent. Finally, I shot him a glare, but the turning of my head in his direction only fueled him as he laughed and loudly announced, “She looked! You do want to see it!” I turned to the window. My face was hot with embarrassment. Tears were already starting to burn behind my eyes.

“You so stupid,” my friend laughed next to the boy she sat with in the seat in front of mine. That was the only thing she said but she didn’t say any more as the boy climbed into seat. He pressed his body against mine.

“Get away from me,” I whimpered, as he pressed himself against me.

“Come on. Do you want to touch it?” His tone no longer playful, but lustful and hungry. Malicious.

“Stop,” it was barely audible. A plea. The tears were pounding. God, save me.

He laughed, but there was no humor. “Come on,” he grabbed his hand between my legs. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t escape. I twisted my legs tightly together, but he was forceful. I pleaded, but my weakness seemed to entice him like the smells of a gourmet meal to a ravenous predator. I was his prey.

With one last condescending snort, as the bus neared school, he climbed back into his seat. I never sat in the back of the school bus again.

I couldn’t process what happened. I took my anger out on my friend. This boy was her friend. She was right in front of me. Why didn’t she stop him? Why didn’t she protect me. I yelled at her on the computer that night. I told her I hated her. I blamed her. I never spoke to her again, and I didn’t tell anyone else. I couldn’t tell my mom. She yells and get very angry when emotions are high. I didn’t want that. I wanted to feel safe, not more exploited, so I stayed silent.

I have always been very involved in church. It was my safe place. My best friends were there. I loved being there. My grandpa was a Lutheran pastor, and I idolized him and from a very young age, as early as I can remember, I felt a calling to God and to serve God. I knew I had a purpose. I prayed a lot. I sought to know him better. I was going to be a pastor or a youth director when I grew up.

My youth director at that time (12-13, almost 14), was, and is, a wonderful man. He was one of the most influential people on my faith growing up. He was safe. He was caring. He never asked questions, but if I needed out of the house, he would come and get me, and usually one or more of my friends, and take us for ice cream, or just to drive. Anytime I’d get in a fight with one of my friends (all the time because, um, I was a tween girl), he’d make us recite that Matthew verse that asks, “How many times do I forgive my brother,” and the answer, my youth director would remind us, meant infinity. He taught us about forgiveness and trusting God’s voice inside of you with stories we’d tease him for repeating, but that I can still remember. My own father was detached in his own addiction and emotionally unavailable to me and not very present. My mom, due to her upbringing, shut down emotions and responded in anger to emotionally uncomfortable situations, which for an anxious, sensitive child, feels very dangerous. My youth director wasn’t like that. He was safe. He protected me. Because I would call him every day like clockwork after school, if for some reason I didn’t, he’d call the house to check in on me. He was the biggest support system. Therefore when my church eliminated his position with the hiring of a new pastor and he took a job a state away, my whole world crumbled.

I couldn’t understand it. I couldn’t process it. I had no one to help me. He just up and moved. The pain was beyond comprehensible and I couldn’t bear, so at 13, I decided to kill myself. I was alone in my bedroom with a pocket knife to my wrist, and I prayed to God asking him to let me into his kingdom and apologizing. However, in that moment, flashes of what I wanted from life, to help others by serving God, came before me. I decided I wanted to live, but I still needed an escape. That was the day I made my first cut on my skin which, unbeknownst to me, was the start of an eleven year battle with the fiercest demon I have ever fought and only through God’s grace and mercy overcame.

I was lost. I got in a lot of trouble when it was found out I was cutting my skin. Anger is how things are dealt with at my house. I didn’t stop, though; I hid. I started to hide my cutting and my pain. I was emotionally lost and wandering. However, I still found comfort at church and began to sing in the contemporary choir which was very newly formed and fell in love. It was then, around 14 years old, I started to write poetry and dream of writing songs. I fell in love with singing and praising God this way. I even started to take voice lessons from the leader. I was her very first student.

This woman was engaged at the time to a charismatic man we’ll call Dave. Dave was funny and nice, and people seemed to like him. My old youth director, who I was still grieving, was also funny, so naturally, I liked and trusted Dave. Why wouldn’t I? I was jealous that he seemed to like my best friend who also sang in the choir with me more. She would tell me he promised to buy her a car, and being a self centered teenager, that sounded pretty awesome. It didn’t seem weird at all. Eventually, Dave started to pay attention to me too. It was fun. We’d all laugh together and hang out at practices because he worked sound system, and it was great. To me, Dave was every bit as safe as my youth director. He started to fill the void I had at losing my support.

Dave started to make comments that confused me a bit. I remember in particular, one day after practice, I was outside the church with just him and he asked me if I liked older men. He was smiling, and so I laughed, and said, “You’re not old. How old are you?” I thought he was just playing around. He told me he was 28, not that it mattered at all because I saw him as a father figure, but that was a lie by ten years. This man was indeed old enough to be my father, being more than 20 years older than me.

My gut started to tug around him. Something felt off, but I couldn’t understand it, so I stayed quiet. My friend told me how he’d buy her hundreds of dollars worth of clothes and she’d hide them from her mom so she wouldn’t know. My mom would kill me if he did that for me. She did not value privacy and would find them and taking gifts from others was strictly forbidden and punishable. I was a little jealous of all the nice stuff she got, but knew I couldn’t have it. That part didn’t really seem wrong.

However, then one day after practice, I went to lunch with this couple, the leader, I’ll now call Kimberly, and her fiance, and Dave wanted to sit next to me. It was a hot summer, and per the still trends, teenage style clothing is very little. I wore a low cut tank top (mind you even after having a child, I can wear children’s bras), and short shorts. I’m tall and lanky so shorts always look shorter on me. Later, because of what I wore would be used against me as proof I asked for all of this to happen.

During lunch, I was confused when Kimberly grunted under her breath at Dave to stop. I looked back and forth between the two confused. I don’t remember what we were doing before, but whatever Dave had done, Kimberly seemed to notice and Dave understood. In his charming way, he grinned and asked, “What?” Then he made his actions very clear as he leaned over and peered down my shirt.

I sat there, uncomfortable, and tried to match his smile, but Kimberly wasn’t smiling as she kicked him from under the table and louder and more firmly said, “Stop!”

The rest of the day and experience passed, but my gut feeling grew enormously. Still, I cautiously ignored it. Dave was just kidding. He was just playing. He wouldn’t hurt me. He was a member of church, like my youth director. He was old enough to be my dad. He cared about me like my youth director cared about me. He would keep me safe unlike my own father. Besides, he was engaged to Kimberly and he had two young daughters. He wouldn’t hurt me.

However, that summer after finishing eighth grade, a year after I began cutting my skin and still doing it as I had been bullied so badly I had engaged in my first suicide attempt and been in my first psychiatric hospital, my friendships with my church friends having fallen apart without my youth director there to help us through our arguments, receiving very little nurturing at home from emotionally unavailable parents, emotionally vulnerable, two years after my sexual assault on my school bus, Dave called me to invite me to go water skiing with him and some people from church. I couldn’t place it because even though I really wanted to try water skiing for the first time, something felt off. Kimberly wasn’t going to be there, and neither was my best friend. However, he assured me someone else from church, a trusted adult, would be. He was very persistent, and pouted at my hesitation. I had him assure me this other adult would be there before asking my mom and getting permission to go.

What happened next, I will probably never know how much of it was premeditated and how much was just really horrible, unfortunate circumstances. It turned out he had intentionally lied about this adult being there. He said something last minute came up, but she told me later, she told him from the start she couldn’t go. He had at least asked her, but I don’t know what that’s worth. So when we got to the boat it was just me, Dave, and the person he introduced as his dad. I assume it was, but because of all the lies he told me in his manipulation, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if that had been a lie too.

I was dressed for water skiing. I was dressed to swim and get wet. I wore the clothes appropriate for an activity with friend. I wore a tankini and a skirt over top of my bathing suit bottoms. This is what I would have worn if I was going to the lake with my best friend before my youth director left and her parents like I used to. This outfit was appropriate and made sense. The fact that my clothing choices would later be thrown into my face was unfair and cruel.

This is the part I’m not sure how much was planned or just really horrible fucking luck on my part, but the boat wouldn’t start. I saw it. The engine wouldn’t turn over. They both seemed genuinely upset and surprised by this. They decided to try to fix it by driving to a parts store. I was squeezed between the two of them in a pickup truck. They drank beer, which growing up in a very strict family, this rule breaking made me very anxious. My anxiety had already started to climb prior, so I was holding back from complete panic.

Dave and I looked at motorcycles in the parts store which I guess sold both while Dave’s father talked to a worker. He came back and announced the boat couldn’t be fixed and apologized. I was a little disappointed because I had gotten my hopes up a bit, liking to boat, but it was what it was.

Dave played the next very smoothly. He didn’t want to take me home right away, using my disappointment at not getting to boat to manipulate me. He wanted to take me to the mall to buy me stuff like I heard he did for my friend. Knowing, as I said, I would get in a lot of trouble, I tried to decline. He was persistent, so instead I suggested we go get my bellybutton pierced. My mom would be beyond pissed if she had found out, but it would be easier for me to hide than clothes. Finally, he agreed and we found a place, but because we didn’t have idea, even though the worked said he believed we were father and daughter, they refused us. Dave did try. At this second disappointment, he finally convinced me to go to a mall.

He wanted to hold hands. I thought this was a bit weird, but as I said, my own father was not a role model in my life, and even though my youth director never did it, I couldn’t figure out why it didn’t feel right, so I agreed. It was just holding hands, right? Little children and fathers do that. I couldn’t understand why this seemed so wrong.

Dave paraded me into a couple stores and picked out outfits for me to try on and had me come out and model them for him. I was his little doll. I was just his toy. I did. I listened. He doted on me, and part of me liked the attention. I was bullied so badly at school and even at home. I didn’t feel I was beautiful. Being told I was felt good. That is not wrong. I was so insecure and deprived of attention and nurturing, that I couldn’t see I was being fed poison. I was ravenous for love, and trusted very easily. I was fifteen, but very much a child being very sheltered and naive.

I didn’t want Dave to buy me those clothes. I knew I would get in trouble. I couldn’t tell him no. I tried. I tried to refuse, but he told me to lie and hide, and he had a rebuttal for every argument I posed. I couldn’t refuse. I tried. I tried.

He wanted to then take me to dinner. He choose a very dark restaurant. He sat opposite to me. The whole time, his hands and legs caressed my inner thigh as his hands held onto mine. I began to completely freeze into disassociation.  I can still talk while disassociated, but it’s as if my soul detaches from my body. My soul left my body. Sometimes it’s the only way to go through traumatic events.

He also asked me questions that I didn’t want to answer, but my body could no longer fight. I wanted out of there, but there was no where to run. He asked me my bra size and other really inappropriate questions. His words felt just as violating as his hands.

Then, on the way to the car, he wanted to carry me piggy back. I tried to say no and refuse. I was a fifteen year old, emotionally vulnerable, insecure young girl. He was an adult male, old enough to be my father, the fiance to someone I trusted, a member of my church, trusted male. He shouldn’t have hurt me. I should have been able to trust him. Any arguments people used against me to blame me are wrong, inappropriate, and just as abusive as what Dave did to me. was the victim, and I was NOT a liar.

I couldn’t refuse him and he knew that an exploited me. His hands assaulted me from under my skirt. I felt so violated and confused. I felt disgusting. I felt dirty. The clothes were discovered immediately and as expected I was in enormous amounts of trouble and had to pay for the $200 worth of clothes. I was violated and then had to physically pay for my violation. I wrote an email to a trusted teacher from the previous year explaining what happened. I couldn’t make sense of it. She wrote back and told me that was very wrong and I needed to tell someone. Therefore, feeling like I needed proof I was right, I printed the email I wrote and the email she responded with so I had proof it was wrong.

I showed someone at church who also sang in the band after a band practice. No one else saw it there, but they heard me talk about needing to show this person an email and that it was an emergency. Later I was accused of “parading the email.”

No one ever talked to me about my body or what to do in this type of situation. I did the best I could. The adults SHOULD HAVE been the ones protecting me and doing this. It NEVER should have been my responsibility.

I stuck the email with my stuff when I got home. My mom, who as I said, did not value privacy, found the email. I didn’t know until she came home, livid, from a meeting with my pastor, my dad, Dave, and Kimberly. She came in yelling at me I was to never go close to this man again and who knows what else. My body disconnected so quickly to spare my mom’s misdirected anger.

Dave wasn’t kicked out. There was not enough proof anything had happened. I was accused of being a liar and an attention singer. Voice lessons with Kimberly immediately ceased. I tried to email her apologizing for telling, and in her anger and hurt, she wrote back a horrible and abusive reply. It was easier to blame me and think I truly did make it all up for attention than to accept this man she also loved and trusted was a pedophile. Dave still ran sound system, so I stopped singing at church.

Dave was later kicked out when he was caught kissing my best friend in the churches kitchen. Rumors were started. I was blamed. I didn’t want to go to church, but my mom forced me, saying people didn’t care about me and weren’t looking at me and that the world did not revolve around me. It was SO painful to be at church and I was forced against my will to be there. Many adults believed Kimberly’s version and stopped talking to me. My one safe place suddenly turned into hell. A place that preaches love, and how to get into Heaven was so full of evil.

NOT ONE PERSON from church validated my pain and told me what Dave did was wrong. NOT ONE PERSON told me my body was mine and I was allowed and had power to tell someone no if they were touching me inappropriately. I was blamed. I was called a liar. I was told not to talk about it because it called into attention the actions by the leaders.

My friend, when questioned, because of this and her own fear, lied. I asked her years later and she said he had pressured her into having sex with him. She had the proof I needed, but was too scared to speak out. I don’t blame her. Eventually I lost my voice too.

And sometimes I can’t help but wonder, what would have happened if the adults at church had handled it differently? What if they had talked to me about what happened? What if they validated my pain? What if they empowered me to tell guys no? When my exboyfriend two years later lied to me and got me alone in an abandoned parking lot and raped me, would it have been different? Could I really have been a virgin at marriage to a man who respected me like I had dreamed of before? When this boy did rape me and the police were called, the officer looked at me sympathetically and said, “I’m sorry. I can see you didn’t want this, but I don’t have enough proof to do anything.” I needed proof that I had been sexually abused. At least this officer believed me unlike my church family, but what good was it? Most people even with my rape didn’t believe me or downplayed it saying I was just “taken advantage” of. I didn’t want sex. This boy knew this. He got me into a position I couldn’t escape and I lost my virginity. That was rape. DON’T try to assuage your guilt by downplaying my trauma. I won’t let it happen anymore because after that, the next times I was raped and assaulted, I stopped telling. I knew I wouldn’t be able to prove it. And by the last time, one of the two guys who could be my child’s father, raped me when I was high, I didn’t even care. I couldn’t let myself care. Too many men had been in me. I was defeated and silenced. I was broke.

I live in much fear. I am so scared of people, especially the people of my church and all men and police officers. It does not feel good to have a guy call me pretty. It does not feel good to be touched. It’s TERRIFYING. I might have disconnected from my body, but my body still went through HELL and remembers what I can’t always. It sends danger signals to my body ALL the time. It’s horrible. It makes me feel so vulnerable and I begin to cry and I can’t always say why.

Singing at church has triggered HORRIBLE flashbacks and nightmares. I began to think I couldn’t do this even though I felt so sure this was God’s will. I still go to this church. There was a several year gap I didn’t, but it’s my home and God didn’t hurt me, people did–very broken people. I’m broken too.

No one would blame me if I didn’t sing. The last time I sang, Dave was up in the sound system. I can see him. I can feel him. I can feel all of those guys and still feel like a victim and a terrified, invalidated child. So why am I?

I am because the only way to move on is through this fear. I REFUSE to stay Dave’s victim. I have to do this. I am so scared I might literally pass out. If you are present, I am sure I will be shaking, a very annoying, uncontrollable symptom of my anxiety. I’m scared I’ll forget the words even though I wrote them. I’m scared people will laugh at me or talk about me behind my back or spread rumors like they did all those years ago. I’m scared I’ll be up there and people will be judging me for what I’m wearing or how I sound. I am scared I’ll freeze and flee and look stupid. I’m scared I’ll start to sob. I’m scared I’ll freeze and do nothing. I’m scared. I am filled with fear. The fear that only comes from trauma at the hands of a trusted adult. Fear from being sexually abused.

But, despite all of my abuse, I kept my faith because God shows himself to me all the time in the kindness of strangers and in the faces of new, wonderful friends. My pastors, both, including the one who was there at the time of the abuse, are two of my biggest supports and people I trust and love very much. I sometimes need reassured of their safety in an emotional flashback, but when I’m not in it, I know they would never hurt me. I have wonderful friends at church who I believe would not talk about me or abandon me or put up with others hurting me even behind my back. I have support at work from wonderful people who have been allowing me to cry and take time off even though they don’t understand. I am not alone as I take back my life.

I am doing this because the only way to no longer become a victim is to become a survivor, and the only path there is through this fear. I want to get through so I can show others it’s possible no matter how hard. I have to believe with God all things are possible because without him, this is impossible. I’m going on faith.

This was long. If you really read this all, I sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart. I promise I will make it through and I will keep using my voice to help others. I will make it through for you and because of you.

Thank you.