The Footsteps of My Past…

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It’s been 3 years since my last confession…. (Well… since I’ve posted to my blog in actuality, as blogging seems to be my confessional of choice).   Since that time I have lost and regained about 30 pounds and found myself caught in what can sometimes be described as the mundane everyday hamster wheel of life; though I feel it is more accurate a scenario portrayed within the spinning thoughts of my own mind.  I have looked at various ways to reacquaint myself with the old ‘me’, and in full disclosure I admit that some of the old me is best left to the past, though we are all a work in progress.   But, I would love nothing more than to once again walk in the shoes of the carefree and expressive ‘me’ of long ago.

A number of years ago, when I sat down to write my first blog pages, I also wrote a healing short story about a painful memory from my past, which still remains sight unseen to others.  A memory that had once upon a time been selectively shared with family and close friends; a net which became wider and wider and slowly captured a larger audience as my inability to stay quiet became inevitable.  My hurt and silence was like a kettle of water on a low boil that would eventually whistle loud enough for others to hear, and, if unacknowledged, it would spill over and blow.  This written account of events was not publicly declared, as it was pages from my life that also caused grief and probably some embarrassment from a tight lipped and relatively private extended family tribe.  It’s a story of inappropriateness pushed on a young girl who did not have the adult capabilities to fend off her perpetrator.  Granted these unwanted sexual overtures from this heinous monster (which is a more than fair and very accurate description) were not as severe as perhaps some other poor child’s accounts may have been in similar circumstances, but they were in the very bold truth… a fact;  Traumatic, Terrifying and Criminal.  And I am not trying to trivialize what happened, (to you, or in my own mind) but there are instances of abuse that can be far more graphic and horrific in nature.  These memories I have though, unfortunately belong to me, and have repeatedly traumatized me throughout different stages of my life.  And, at various points over the decades the realness of them comes back to haunt me at odd and unexplained moments, even within the waking hours.  Engulfing me in fits of anxiety, rapid heart beat and the ever present memory of feeling trapped as I did as a young girl; hiding in a bedroom alone in the darkened night during visits to the farm, shielded by a thin chenille coverlet, with the flecks of dust floating against the faint light from under the door and praying to a god I wasn’t sure existed, as my aunt peacefully slept in the room next to mine, utterly and totally oblivious to the monster she lay with.  Vivid memories are heartbreakingly recalled as I stifled my cries and begged with my heart that the stench of his vulgar whiskey breath and rough calloused hands would no longer come within my reach, and despairingly I remember the struggle(s) to push him off of me and his deep menacing and evil laugh when I was finally successful enough to do so.

Over the course of the years I tried different approaches to deal with my anger, hurt and bewilderment that someone could in fact inflict such undeniable psychological trauma to a child who carried only joy and innocence.   But to such beasts, that must be the mass appeal; a gift that can be stolen from their prey.  As an adult, I sought counseling after full blown panic attacks and agoraphobia and thought I had beaten the burden I carried.  Later, again, years down the road I worked with a life coach, after noticing the various ways I was self-sabotaging aspects of my life.  She encouraged me to write a letter to the molester, which I did.  (I very deliberately refrain from the term ‘my’, as it represents the bonded connection which he sought through his abuse, but was never entitled to.)  It was not a letter of forgiveness, because it is unforgivable.  It was a letter forcing him to acknowledge what he did, and to transfer the burden and shame where it rightfully belonged.  And, in the act of writing, the realization became clear that there was no one to blame BUT him.  That my aunt was most likely also abused in some way shape or form, and that there was a naivety of that era, where trust in others was very easily misplaced; his opportunites to abuse being a testament to that.  Though I admit, such realizations offer no comfort on the dark days when my heart feels heavy.  The option I weighed was to send or not send the letter, though I don’t believe I was ever really reluctant to do so, and therefore I recall very deliberately posting it in the mail, and the act of ‘letting it go’ in the hope of finally finding closure.  To this day, if it was read aloud to him as he lay ailing in his nursing home, I will never know.  I don’t know if it was found among his belongings after he finally died, because no one dares speak of it.  I don’t know what it feels like to be blood related to a monster; to be embarrassed of a father or grandfather who could inflict such deliberate and calculated abuse upon someone.  And for this and many other reasons, I give thanks that my own family taught me what real love means.  I know him only as a non-biological uncle that had a pattern of abuse throughout his own life, who inflicted vile and wretched hurt unto others in a variety of menacing and cruel ways during his lifetime; which still does not allow me to offer pity upon him.  It is continuing hurt though, that still lingers at times…. that it cannot be openly spoken of freely.  That the reason for my hate and disdain of him are not fully acknowledged by those who know it, but do not speak of it.  The reasonable part of my brain, tries desperately to convince myself that silence is instilled to spare my feelings, but in actuality it does the reverse.  Silence is painful for me.  It is silence that breeds shame, and the spoken truth the key to its release.  If his memory and name, (which I can barely stomach to utter aloud, and seethes out between clenched teeth) “John Tatarin”, remains untarnished, and the pain he inflicted remains unspoken, it does not accurately reflect history.

I am thankful daily though, for the ears that listen when I need them to, for those who acknowledge the trauma it inflicted upon the child who felt scared and alone and unable to cope.  And from the memory I hold of the person who tried to protect me at the very beginning of the torment; my heart will forever be connected with theirs and full of gratitude and love which overflows from my soul.  In our own way, we must all learn the art of our own healing; how to continue to forge ahead with the memories and feelings from childhood, with the coping mechanisms we now have as adults.  And it’s a very fine balance; one that we must ‘train our brain’ to do.  We are no longer living in that moment in the past, but just remembering it;  though with the act of remembering we can inadvertently conjure up the feelings we had whilst of that  age, where time stands still.  Sometimes we lose our way, when we become enveloped in that feeling… but within ourselves we have the ability to find a way out of the hurt.  Through tragedy can come a deep understanding and protectiveness of others, which my soul carries – and it’s the side I often share with the world.   And, as I take this moment in time to once again heal my broken spirit, I look for ways I can reconnect with the joy I carry within, as I walk along my path ahead.

It is my hope that these written words do not cause hurt or angst to others, but that the sentiments shared find their way to help understand the healing process that can be associated with traumatic events; that PTSD can manifest itself at unexpected times, in unexpected ways and that support can vary between individuals.

This is only a small piece of the puzzle that makes me ‘me’… albeit the most challenging dimension, and my own story keeps unfolding, sometimes with different layers: hurt, grief, love, laughter, joy.  Thank you for walking with me a while, as I regained the courage to retrace the footsteps of my past…

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16 thoughts on “The Footsteps of My Past…

    • I cannot thank you enough actually….. as it was your gentle ‘nudge’, that encouraged me to start my ‘morning pages’, which made me reflect upon what was truly blocking me creatively and in other aspects of my life. And this is where it began, and where I hope it ends. I finally feel a sense of freedom in sharing this with the world to read should they wish to. And it is a reminder to me, should I become lost again, that I can find my way back. You have inspired me to reacquaint myself with the creative ‘me’ within, and I am forever grateful to you! xx ❤

  1. O how I admire your strength, and I applaud you for sharing your story. I think these words don’t hurt anyone, but rather give hope to others who have been afraid of letting their voices to be heard.
    I feel so blessed to have you as my friend, and when you go through those hard days (which I hope get less and less), but when you do you have my support. The very same way as you have supported me through my rough seas.
    Here is to the future, the beautiful future that it is.

    Hugs

    • Thank you so much for being part of my circle of friendship and support that has given me the strength to not only write, but to finally share the hurt that has been held in my heart for so long. It feels freeing to release the inner struggle and to let people know where it came from. Unfortunately, the abuse to one person has many victims… because the family he belonged to suffers silently as well. But letting go of the silence can help heal, and this is very much part of what I wanted to share. Thank you for your continued and unconditional support…..

  2. Beautifully presented, Sherri. I hope you can understand that our anger only hurts us, we must move on and accept that some people are terrible human beings.

    • Thank you so much for reaching out, as I know when I quickly shared my story with both you and Elaine you may have been somewhat surprised…. or maybe not… Unfortunately, it is a part of my past, and a part of my memories, but it was very important for me to share it. I have been writing for some time, but always felt I was hiding a part of myself…. but here it is, laid out for all to see, and it feels very liberating to do so. And yes… there are terrible people who do terrible things, and it is so unfortunate that there are so many victims affected from one person’s crime. And though my method of healing through writing, may not be everyone’s choice… it is what was necessary for me. Thank you for your support. I am ever so grateful to have so many people close to me that are able to help me through the hard days.

  3. I saw your post on Facebook earlier today, but waited till I could give this the full attention it deserves. First and foremost, you are a remarkable soul. My heart aches for the cruelty of those years, for the burden and fear you carried from that first day forward into now. You shared a snippet of this story over breakfast in Victoria, and I’ve often wondered how to reach out. I thought about sending a letter, then backed out. It’s so hard to know if you’re adding to someone’s burden instead of easing it. I realize now that I should have written that letter.

    Families often unwittingly enable the monsters out of fear, doubt, self-loathing or because of their own abuse. And in prior generations, brushing things under the carpet is what we did: Move on. Pretend it never happened. It wasn’t that bad. Get over it. Hurtful platitudes that minimize the magnitude of the abuse, and in some ways shift the blame to the victim.

    The brutal sexualization of a child is one of the most horrific things an adult can do. My heart aches for you. Keep writing your beautiful words, Sherri. Keep sharing your stories. You can’t change your past, but you can live a better future.

    Arms around you. Thanks for opening the window. I hope the light shines brighter from this day forward.

    • ((((Alys))))…. your words…. they always resonate with my soul. I can totally understand the debate on whether to reach out or not, but it wasn’t necessary, honestly; as sharing my story with you in person, was in fact part of my healing. I have selectively shared my story over the years.. but I didn’t speak of it until I was in my early 20’s, as it had remained a shameful secret, one that my parents did not even know about it. But, like the boiling kettle, I could no longer carry the burden of it alone or I would explode. And so, I have openly spoken about it, and any of my writing about it remained private until now. Even in this post, I am unable to share the vivid and graphic memories, because they are painful to address…. but I hope that people who read through it realize that it’s about finding my way through the pain, and tranferring the shame to the real perpetrator… and that sometimes, at unexpected moments, this thing we call PTSD will grab you at the oddest of times, and drawn you back to a place in time you wish in your heart you could change. So, with this piece, I am working on changing that, and reminding myself that by removing the barrier of silence, all of the victims of his abuse can start to heal. xoxo

  4. You are so incredibly brave for sharing your story. No one should have to go through the pain and hurt you are feeling. Here is a big hug for you and may you find peace within yourself.

    • (((Pat))) …. I cannot thank you enough for choosing to read my post with an open mind and open heart. I appreciate you allowing me the opportunity to bear my soul and hurt, and for offering such kind and compassionate words. It has been a roller coaster ride over the course of my lifetime, and the majority of the time I have been able to push past hurt and express my life with true joy, for I have been given the incredible gift to love and be loved. But, PTSD can come on suddenly and unexpectedly and at odd times, and can stay for a short or long while; one never knows. But by sharing this, I feel a sense of peace I hadn’t had before. xx

  5. First of all, I am sorry to learn of your experience which happened so long ago. It is indeed a burden no person needs to experience. As a counsellor to children, I understand your need to heal and move on. I have seen the hurt on children who have been sexually abused and the healing process is unending. I also understand how PTSD can come and go at any moment. I was physically abused by my father and a male teacher. Now 75 years later, I still experience the trauma of being beaten either with a strap or a hand. So what I am saying is that your decision to blog your feelings is the right decision. It is part of the healing process. I’m sending warm thoughts and hugs your way. If ever you need to talk, please consider me a listening ear.

    Jim 🙂

    • Wow. Ohhh… (((Jim))) ❤ … My heart reaches out to you, and I thank you for sharing this with me. Your supportive words are truly ones I needed to hear.

      I am so very very sorry to hear that you experienced such trauma in your life that brings back memories of experiences that should not have happened to you: that you were the victim of what was probably the abuser's own self-hate, and that you were used as their outlet for their own anger. Through the healing process, I have learned many things about myself, and about others: I know that there is only the abuser to blame, and that there are many victims in the wake of the abuse. From the the victim themselves, their family and loved ones, to the family of the abuser; there is a shadow of a web that is cast upon many. I have learned that we all have choices – the abuser had the choice to continue a pattern or to change it, and in the wake of my abuse, I have the choice to find the methods that will best help me heal my own brokenness, and that this is a part of mine. We all heal in different ways, and sometimes we are okay for a short while, sometimes a long while, but because memories linger, the process can take a lifetime… of this I am sure.

      Your kind and loving words of encouragement bring tears to my eyes… because it reaffirms my belief that those who offer such kind compassion and support are baring their true spirit, and it touches my heart to know that there is so much kindness surrounding me. Thank you for reaching out to me… ❤

  6. Dear brave little one, how could anyone recover from this? I see your generous heart and know that the monster could not take that from you no matter what. You are a beautiful writer Sher, if that can be recognized in such a horrific subject.
    It is unforgivable. I can barely remember this man and now all I see is darkness over his face. I think you’re probably right about your aunt, she no doubt was a victim too. I remember her more. I think of her as being so soft spoken and gentle and now I wonder if she was too scared to reach out. You’ve done all the right things to help you put this in a place where it can’t hurt you anymore, I hope with all my heart that you continue to find comfort through family and friends that love you dearly. Please know that you’re special and dear to so many, me included. I love you honey, xox K

    • ((((Boomdee)))) …. It is a horrific subject, but I hope that if someone else reads it, who has gone through something similar, they can find comfort in knowing that there is always a light, even on the darkest of days. That when PTSD suddenly appears we have to continue to work through it again, and again; sometimes in the same way, and sometimes in a new way, but always moving forward.

      There are so many people who suffer from the hand of an abuser, and although I have processed it over the decades, there are others who were inadvertently cast in the shadow of it, that may need to talk about it as well. (or not… as we all heal differently, and I respect that with my whole heart). But, what I have realized is that it is unfair to sit in the darkness alone; that it is okay to say the words aloud. It is not the words the victim uses or the sharing of the secret to un-silence their burden, but the repercussion of the abuser’s actions that cause the damage and hurt, and the blame can only lie with them.

      I am so truly and utterly blessed to love and be loved by many… and to find warmth in the words and support of others. Thank you for continuing to be a part of the circle of joy in my life. xx

  7. Wow! How difficult this must have been to actually write out!! You are brave! You are strong! You are wise!! An amazing reflection. Thanks for sharing. Take care my dear!!

    • Thank you so much for reaching out … sometimes finding the right words are difficult, especially as writing it relives the memories. Even going back to re-read some of it was hard, and challenging to know how much to share, but in the end, I did what I felt in my heart I needed to do. Thank you again… your kind and compassionate support mean so very much.

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