Bobbi’s Saga: The Trap Of Gratitude

“Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.”

-Chinese proverb

“If you refuse to look into the darkness of your past, your future will never become bright.”

-Anonymous

“My empowerment is not about him; it’s about me.

I am not blame nor is the shame mine to own.

It is simply my responsibility to make this life

About… Self. “

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist

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My Dear Readers,

We return to Bobbi’s Saga as she continues her journey of self-discovery and struggles with the concept of gratitude in the achievement of her work with her psychological self.

Bobbi in her own words…

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It is typical for Dr. Kane to conclude our therapy sessions with the question “Who gets the credit for your work”?  I always say, “We do.”  Expecting me to say “I do” is like asking me to call Dr. Kane by his first name, Micheal.  

I always think about that question for a while.  If I could have done this by myself, I would have.  If I could have reduced or lightened the guilt and shame, I would have.  There are so many things I have learned from Dr. Kane, like:

  • The flashbacks will never completely go away
  • I am not at fault or blame for the sexual assaults
  • The shame and guilt are not mine to bear.
  • Suicidal thoughts may come and go.

It is because of Dr. Kane that I have moved towards knowing that:

  • I should love myself
  • I should put myself first or consider what I want.
  • I have the right to say no. I used to believe I did not have that right.

I feel I will be able say “I do” to Dr. Kane’s question when my self-esteem and my self-image increase.  I have lived not believing that I had any worth at all!  When I am told positive things about myself, I have a hard time believing and accepting the compliments.  It is easier for me to believe positive things about other people.

How does a person believe positive things that are said to them?  Especially when they only heard bad things and feel bad about being abused?  The result is they feel like a bad person. 

Being told you are bad and feeling like you are a bad person makes it easy to believe and accept that I am a bad person.  I would like to feel like I get the credit.  I just don’t feel I have earned it or that I deserve it.

I have recently passed the one-year anniversary of my mother’s death.  I have been thinking about how mean she was to me. I have always wondered why I seem to forget some of the bad things she did to me.  She was a terrible mother.  As an adult, I tried so hard to please her, but it did no good.  As a child, I tried to be good and stay out of trouble.  It also did no good.

I am shocked as to how I have reacted to her death.  I always thought that when she died, I wouldn’t be affected.  I was wrong.  No matter what she has done to me, I have always wanted love from her.   I see this as another example of one of my unrealistic beliefs.

I want to thank Dr. Kane for his support, care, and guidance on this journey, keeping me alive, helping me feel safe enough to reveal my secrets to him.  He has helped me to believe that the flashbacks and pain will become lighter.  It is also because of him that I know and understand that I deserve to have a good life… a life filled with kindness and affection.

Today, I have an appointment with Dr. Kane.  Before I see him, I like to think about what I want to talk about.  There are times I focus on feelings of guilt and shame.  Sometimes I leave my session feeling lighter, other times I leave with the thoughts weighing heavily in my mind.  I hope the intense thoughts will calm down and be replaced by pleasant thoughts.

There are some weeks that I leave disturbed or think about the session all week long.  I think of how long I’ve had the problem, and what are the solutions if any, and what I can do to lessen the fear, pain, guilt and shame. There are times when my flashbacks take over and we process to where I remain balanced and achieve calmness in my external environment.

The sessions are always helpful and thought provoking.  Often, traumatic memories come up in the session.  I think that is because the session is a safe place.  It is the only safe place I have.  There is nowhere else I can express my pain, shame and guilt without being judged or have the fear of people viewing me as strange, weird, or troubled.

Mother’s Day is soon arriving.   Despite my siblings’ prodding, I have decided not to visit my mother’s gravesite.  Instead of honoring her, I will spend the time focusing on me and doing what I want for me.

Today is a good day.  I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

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Concluding Remarks-Dr. Kane

In Bobbi’s writing, she seeks to acknowledge the therapist for her successes in therapy.  Notice the ongoing struggle she “endures” with me as I continue to question who gets the credit for her work.

It would be normal to ask ourselves:

  • Why are Bobbi and the therapist struggling over “who gets credit for the work done” in therapy?
  • Why won’t Dr. Kane simply accept her appreciations and cease making gratitude an issue?
  • Why won’t Bobbi call Dr. Kane by his first name? Why won’t Dr. Kane encourage this?  Why not create less formality in the doctor-patient relationship?

I have often written that “why” questions provide responses that circle back to themselves, and as a result, they do not bring full understanding of the foundation of the issue being questioned.  A more useful method of inquiry would be focusing on the “what,” instead:

  • What is preventing Bobbi from accepting credit for her work in therapy? What internalized beliefs would Dr. Kane be reinforcing should he accept Bobbi’s gratitude?
  • What is the desired outcome of trauma informed treatment?

 

What is preventing Bobbi from accepting credit for her work in therapy? 

Bobbi is living in fear of the possibility of obtaining her objective of a normalized life, and that is preventing Bobbi from accepting credit for her work in therapy.   Bobbi has placed the psychological self in a psychological no man’s land that is left unoccupied due to her fear and uncertainty when it comes to claiming ownership of her life and her psychological self.

Currently, this is comfortable for Bobbi because she is in conflict.  Consciously, she seeks relief from the internalized hell of complex trauma.  Unconsciously, however, after many decades of living with complex trauma and its “secrets,” she lives in fear of the unknown life that she could have outside of the complex trauma that she has experienced.  In doing so, she has reinforced this well dug in position.

Bobbi has unconsciously created an insurmountable barrier for herself preventing the ability to take credit for her achievements in therapy by tying the goal to an inappropriate cultural norm of addressing me by my first name.  Notice that there is no internal or external pressure being exerted to do so.  However, by tying both together, she has attached a rule to her own development that she never wants to break, which is an artificial limit that she is putting on her own healing.

So what does she do?  She returns to therapy twice weekly where she is safe to explore the areas of complex trauma devastated by sexual assault, physical abuse, abandonment and isolation.  Consciously, she continues to heal where unconsciously, the psychological self continues to hold its position.

 

What internalized beliefs would Dr. Kane be reinforcing should he accept Bobbi’s gratitude?

Bobbi is an amazing woman.   She is the epitome of a woman who has survived horrendous abuse, and withstood abandonment and isolation enough to be able to educate herself, marry wisely, and successfully raise three children.  However, the illusion of amazement abruptly stops here—and what we see in therapy is a woman who has repeatedly sacrificed herself at the behest of her mother, siblings and children.

Historically, Bobbi has held firmly to the belief that she is unworthy.  Although she can give compliments, she is unable to receive compliments.  Specifically, Bobbi is willing to acknowledge the commitment and the work of the therapist, yet she is unwilling to accept the same words about her actions.  She maintains the well dug in position that she could not have obtained the current state of growth and healing of the traumatic wound without me.

Therefore, she seeks to “hand over” credit of her work and accomplishments in therapy to the therapist and not to herself.  It is my belief that psychotherapy is a journey of self-discovery.  The roles of the therapist is to be a guide and companion for the individual as they navigate key areas of their journey.  It is for the therapist to facilitate the process of therapy, to be available to assist in the interpretation of materials as such arises from the journey and in being present provide safety from an isolating journey.

Accepting credit for her work would fly in the face of Bobbi’s belief that she lacks the ability to walk alone, even though she already has.  This is simply another step towards achieving her objective of living a normative life following her successful work in healing the traumatic wound.

What are the desired outcomes of trauma informed treatment?

There are five desired outcomes:

  • Safety (physical and emotional safety)
  • Trustworthiness and Transparency (meaningful sharing of power and decision-making)
  • Choice (voice and agency)
  • Collaboration & Mutuality (partnership and leveling of power differences)
  • Empowerment

The desired outcomes are achievable when the S pathway can be made available to the individual seeking to heal the traumatic wound.   The S pathways consists of providing a safe secured space to search within and to speak; ending the silence and releasing what lies submerged below. The result is that Bobbi can sustain security in self and reinforce her self-esteem and self-conceptIt is during the process of self-discovery that the individual can learn advocacy for self, balance within the psychological self and calmness within the external world.

Bobbi continues to do well in healing her traumatic wounds.  She understands that the traumatic experiences are permanent etchings on the psychological self and may never fully go away, but that the objective is to learn how to normalize her life and be able to balance the weight of the traumatic experiences. Although she remains in conflict regarding her self-esteem, her belief that she is not worthy has lessened.

This is evidenced by her refusal to continue sacrificing herself, specifically in her refusal to visit her mother’s gravesite, choosing instead to spend time with the psychological self.  Furthermore, Bobbi is now willing to “share credit” of her therapy with the therapist instead of issuing outright credit to the therapist.

It will be the objective in therapy to continue to work within the S pathways to where she will one day move to full actualization by holding full credit and therefore move successfully from no man’s land to self-assurance in walking her journey of self-discovery.

Until the next journey…Bobbi’s saga continues…

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Bobbi’s Saga: When Loving Me More Means Letting You Go

 

Sometimes you don’t realize you’re actually drowning when you’re trying to be everyone else’s anchor.”-Anonymous

“At some point you have to realize that some people can stay in your heart but not in your life.”      –Anonymous

All my life, I have wanted a good relationship with my mother and never had it.  To keep trying and let her make me feel sad, angry and guilty regarding our relationship does not make sense.  I know I will wonder how she is doing but I can’t help her.”  -Bobbi

My Dear Readers,

We return this week to the voice of Bobbi, who is sharing her journey of healing from decades of memories of sexual, emotional and physical abuse suffered during her childhood and adolescence, with her mother often in denial about the abuse or actively punishing Bobbi for speaking about it.

Following six years of intensive outpatient therapy, she no longer considers herself a victim, although she acknowledges that she was victimized. She has survived the repeated emotional, physical abuses, and sexual assault, but she is no longer a survivor; instead, she is now a striver on the journey we know as life.

Bobbi, now in her early sixties, is providing care and assistance to her mother who continues to reside alone and is suffering from mid-stage cancer.  The mother, now in her eighties is receiving a combination of radiation and chemotherapy.  In the midst of assisting her mother, Bobbi is working to come to terms with her feelings, which are a mixture of conflict, confusion and contradiction.  It is through her therapeutic journey of self-discovery that she learns to balance these feelings and in doing so, she brings clarification to her suffering and ultimately compassion for her mother.

In this excerpt from her journal, Bobbi writes about her feelings following an incident after one of her mother’s medical treatments.

PLEASE NOTE: FOR AUTHENTICITY’S SAKE, THESE WRITINGS ARE GRAPHIC AND MAY CREATE DISTRESS FOR SOME READERS DURING AND FOLLOWING READING. PLEASE USE DISCRETION WHEN SHARING WITH THOSE OF YOUNG AGE OR LACKING EMOTIONAL MATURITY.


Part 1: The Incident

I just left my therapy session and wanted to write down my feelings.  I was advised that writing would help dissipate my anger.   I left the session less angry than when I came, but I am still angry.  In the treatment room, my mother leaned forward towards me; there was about a yard between us.  She twisted her neck, turned up her mouth, flinched her eyes and raised her voice at me. The look my mother gave me in the treatment room brought back memories of my childhood.

It brought back intense memories of when I was a kid.  I hated the way she treated me then and I hate it even more now.  When my mother gave me that look, it brought back sudden memories.  It was the same mean look she had when I was a child.  The only changes were the wrinkles and sunken face.

It brought back vivid memories of how she used to get inches from my face, bulging her eyes, twisting her mouth, screaming and telling me what I should do and how I should feel.  I remember how scared I felt and how much I hated her.  I had wished so much that she wasn’t so mean.  I couldn’t understand what I did was bad.   I tried so hard to be good and not get into trouble.

I was always afraid of what she would do next.  I was so scared that I truly believed she would kill me.  She used to always get down on her knees and in my face and say “I brought you into this world and I will take you out”.   She wanted us [the children] to be scared of her and it worked.  It brought back a rage in me that I didn’t know that I had. The rage I had in the treatment room was like the fear I had as a child.  The rage was so intense I had to leave the treatment room.

As a child I never had joy.  I had fear, pain, shame and guilt.  There wasn’t much good in my life.  I didn’t know how other kids lived.  I thought everyone had a mother like mine.  My mother never allowed me to visit other kids to come over to our house.   She never played with us.  She wanted us [my siblings] to play by ourselves.

When I was a kid I wasn’t allowed to have anger.  Now I have intense rage.  Rage that continues to build.  Rage that began when I saw her face.  Now I keep seeing her face and hearing her voice.  It is like a flashback happening over and over again.

Why?  Why am I so kind to people?  Why do I always want to do the right thing?  Why do I give a damn?  I want not to be angry.  I want that tight feeling inside my chest to go away.  I want the thoughts in my head to go away.  I want the flashbacks of how my mother looked when she was talking to me to stop.  I remember how much I hated my mother.  I hated her when I was young and when I left at 12 years old.

Part 2: The Next Day

Today, I feel sad and depressed.  I found myself frequently crying and hiding tears from public view.  I know that I did nothing wrong.  But I know that this was my last chance to make the relationship work.  I have tried all my life to make the relationship work.  Each time it failed.  I fear that my mother will not make it through this cancer.  This will mean that the last positive relationship I had with my mother ended when I was 4 years old. I hope the depressed mood goes away.  I feel my depression is getting worse.  Hopefully in the morning, I will wake up in the morning and feel better.

Part 3: A Few Days Later

This morning I woke up feeling not angry but very sad.  I kept crying every time I thought about my mother.  I have tried all my life to deal with my mother.  It always turns out the same way in her treating me badly.  I have decided that the relationship isn’t worth the pain she was creating in my life.  Coming to this decision my chest is less tight and I can now eat.  My sleep is now normal.  This is an unfamiliar feeling.

I have decided to stop participating in my mother’s medical care regarding cancer treatments.  I will not take her to her appointments anymore or make phone calls to her healthcare providers.  This makes me feel sad because the next time I see her she will be close to death or dead.  She has used up all of her chances to maintain our relationship.

All my life I have wanted a good relationship with my mother and never had it.  To keep trying and let her make me feel sad, angry and guilty regarding our relationship does not make sense.    I know I will wonder how she is doing but I can’t help her.  

I gave it a good try.

Discussion-Dr. Kane

In this entry, the common theme is the trifecta of emotions that Bobbi is experiencing as she attempts to come to terms regarding her unresolved feelings towards her mother.  This trifecta is conflict, confusion, and contradiction.   At the time of the original incident, Bobbi was involved in a confrontation with her mother while sitting in the treatment room of the healthcare provider.

The Conflict

Bobbi has spent her entire life seeking to resolve her feelings regarding her mother.  During the sixty years of her life, she has weathered the storms of the trifecta i.e. conflict, confusion, and contradiction, all which have severely weighed her down as she has embarked upon her own marriage and raising her own family.  As a four-year-old, Bobbi sacrificed her psychological self by keeping the secret of her sexual assault to protect her family.  Bobbi then went on to sacrifice her body as her mother’s husband repeatedly sexually assaulted her.  As a child, she kept the horrible secret for almost three years as she did not want to see her mother suffer emotionally for the actions of her husband, a man Bobbi’s mother trusted with the well-being of her children.

The Confrontation

The confrontation in the medical office resulted in Bobbi experiencing a flash that can best be described as an emotional response that occurred suddenly and was quick and intense.  This response developed into a series of flashbacks.  Flashbacks are sudden clear recurrent and abnormally vivid recollections of traumatic experiences.  As the situation unfolded when Bobbi’s mother gave her “that look”, it created a vivid memory that arose from that provocation as she experienced the incident.

The Confusion: Bobbi’s Mother’s Betrayal

It was only after being told by her stepfather of his intentions to “give her a baby” that she came forth and disclosed this horrendous truth to her mother.  Instead of receiving the protection, support and help she expected from her mother, she was viciously proclaimed a liar, threatened with blindness with a fork, beaten with a broom and ejected from her family home.  As she is ejected from the family home, it is her mother who, in seeking to maintain her “image” within the African-American church/community, spreads the story of being forced to eject her daughter because “she raised her hand towards me.”   As a result, the family honor is upheld, the sexual abuse remains the “family secret,” and Bobbi is sacrificed and tossed away into the state foster care system where she is shuffled between numerous families before aging out at eighteen.

Trapped in a mire of conflict, confusion and contradiction, Bobbi has spent the majority of her life believing that she is not is not worthy of love and protection, that she is responsible for the horrendous crimes committed against her, and consequently, that she deserved the outcomes that came with those crimes.  It is only following six years of intensive therapy that Bobbi is able to empower the psychological self and in doing so, sharpen her own awareness and understanding of parental failures as well as understanding why her acquaintances, family members, and the African-American church and community accepted what happened to her.  Yet, she continues to be trapped in a mire of conflict, confusion and contradiction as she seeks to achieve the love now as an adult that she never received as a child.

Rage

At the beginning of the journal entry, Bobbi wrote, “I was advised writing would help dissipate my anger.”   Actually, because of the intensity of the traumatic experience and the traumatic recall of her childhood interactions with her mother it brings with it, what Bobbi is really looking to achieve is the dissipation of her anger. Instead, she should be looking to process the incident, not to dissipate the anger.

Anger is a natural, and most of the time, healthy response to an incident that promises harm. However, it does not disappear before its time and before healing has occurred.  Healing can only come after we process the incidents that generate that anger.

The Triad

Where the Trifecta refers to negative experiences, the Triad serves as a healthy response seeking to bring balance to difficult situations.  The Triad is commitment, clarification, and compassion.  Although Bobbi is initially reluctant to heal and inclined to hold onto her rage, starting this process allows her to realistically review her childhood relationships and the role her mother played in stunting her development.  Bobbi wrote:

“As a child I never had joy.  I had fear, pain, shame and guilt.  There wasn’t much good in my life.  I didn’t know how other kids lived.  I thought everyone had a mother like mine.  My mother never allowed me to visit other kids to come over to our house.   She never played with us.  She wanted us {my siblings] to play by ourselves.”

Looking at her childhood, Bobbi begins questioning her commitment to others and what she wants for her psychological self.  She writes:

“Why am I so kind to people?  Why do I always want to do the right thing?  Why do I give a damn?  I want not to be angry.  I want that tight feeling inside my chest to go away.  I want the thoughts in my head to go away. “

As Bobbi begins to examine her commitments, she also reviews what she has done to create a healthy relationship with her mother.  She now finds herself moving towards the acceptance that despite her best efforts, she hasn’t been able to create that healthy relationship, and that she has done all that she can do in that respect.   Given this, Bobbi begins the process of “letting go” of her mother as she begins to accept both the impending death of her mother and the inability to establish a healthy relationship.  Bobbi states:

“I know that I did nothing wrong.  But I know that this was my last chance to make the relationship work.  I have tried all my life to make the relationship work.  Each time it failed.  I fear that my mother will not make it through this cancer.  This will mean we never had a positive relationship after I was four years old. “

Bobbi completes the objective of the triad, which is to bring balance to difficult situations by affirming compassion for the self as she measures the cost of continuing the relationship with her mother despite the pain it was creating in her life.  By developing that compassion for her self, Bobbi finds the desire to focus on her own self-care.  Bobbi writes:

“I have tried all my life to deal with my mother.  It always turns out the same way in her treating me badly.  I have decided that the relationship wasn’t worth the pain she was creating in my life.  Coming to this decision my chest is less tight and I can now eat.  My sleep is now normal.  This is an unfamiliar feeling.”

The Epiphany

Towards the end of the entry, Bobbi has a moment of sudden insight or intuitive understanding, also known as an epiphany.  Bobbi concludes her writing by realizing that despite her best intentions and actions, she will never achieve a healthy relationship with her mother.  As a result, she has decided to stop participating in her mother’s medical care, and thus, accepting the impending death of her mother, since she will not bear witness to the ongoing decline, and she will likely not see her mother again until that death has occurred.   In doing this, Bobbi has decided to respect her own life and come to the acceptance that her mother has wasted her chances of creating a healthy relationship.  Bobbi writes:

“I have decided to stop participating in my mother’s medical care regarding cancer treatments.  I will not take her to her appointments anymore or make phone calls to her healthcare providers.  This makes me feel sad because the next time I see her she will be close to death or dead.  She has used up all of her chances to maintain our relationship.”

Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

The trifecta of conflict, confusion, and contradiction has mired Bobbi for almost six decades of her life.  It is through working within the framework of the triad of commitment, clarification, and compassion that allows Bobbi the ability to release herself from the need to achieve her mother’s love and a healthy relationship.  As a child and as an adult, Bobbi sought from her mother that which she was incapable of providing: love and a healthy relationship.

We don’t know that much about the history of Bobbi’s mother.  Factors arising from journaling and therapy sessions conclude that the mother knew of the truthfulness of the sexual assaults by her husband and chose to sacrifice her daughter in order to maintain her marriage and image/standing within her extended family and local community.  Both Bobbi and her mother share several characteristics: they are both residents of a closed system that is isolating and non-sustaining and both have been psychologically impacted by complex trauma which resulted in permanent emotional scarring and long term psychological injury.   The difference is that Bobbi’s mother chose to betray, sacrifice, and abandon her daughter, where Bobbi chose to continue to provide compassion, care and resources to the person who had forsaken her.

It is through walking the therapeutic journey of self-discovery that Bobbi has empowered her psychological self to seek love from within and in doing so she is capable to create emotional distance between her mother and self.  It is possible that although Bobbi decided to cease assisting her mother in her cancer treatment, she will return to help out.  If she did this, it would not be a failure, backslide or error.  It would simply be another example of the compassion being exhibited by this extraordinary individual who, despite repeated incidents of poor treatment and abuse, returns to do what she feels is the right thing to do.   The positive note is that Bobbi, in the process of empowering herself, is loving herself more.

Join us her next month for the next installment of Bobbi’s Saga.

Dr. Kane, Clinical Traumatologist

 

A Victim No Longer: The Journey of Self Discovery

My Dear Readers,

Many in society turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the trauma and devastation left by sexual abuse.  Some believe that those victimized by sexual assault, domestic violence or emotional abuse at a younger age will in time “forget” or “get over” the physical and psychological abuses they have suffered.

In September 2012, a member of the Seattle WA African-American clergy community pleaded guilty to 22 charges of sexual molestation and rape of boys.  The local media reported that the minister admitted to sexually abusing 10 boys from 1997 through 2011.

One wonders what happened to those children and adolescents, who are now known as “The Invisibles.”

  • Have they faded into the darkness?
  • Is it possible that they sit alone, suffering in silence as they attempt to resist or respond to their feelings associated with the experiences?

It is possible that in the many years following the abuses and psychological trauma, they may continue to adhere to feelings of shame and guilt for what happened to them. As members of the larger society, we have a responsibility to ensure that those “suffering in silence” understand they have not been forgotten and to assist them by being beacons of empowerment and enlightenment.

In order to do so, I believe we must understand their experiences as they continue to progress on their journeys.  It is in that spirit that Loving Me More introduces a new series focusing on the therapeutic work of one such individual, Bobbi (not her real name).

This individual suffered horrendous sexual abuse, physical abuse, and exposure to domestic violence as a child. For the past five years, however, Bobbi has done remarkably well in the healing of her wounds through her therapeutic work, walking what we call her journey of self-discovery.

This series will begin with excerpts from Bobbi’s journal.  Bobbi has graciously consented to share her experience with us in the hope that her words will inform and bring awareness to the general public, as well as help others to become “travelers” in the Journey of Self Discovery.

Bobbi wants others to know that although she was victimized, today she has empowered herself, and is no longer a victim or simply a survivor of sexual abuse.  Instead of just “existing” in life, today, Bobbi thoroughly lives her life.  Now approaching the tender age of 60, Bobbi is striving; enjoying the challenges and actively looking forward to the exciting moments that life has to offer her.

Bobbi’s story begins……

“When I was 4 years old, I was raped by a family acquaintance.  The rapist threatened to kill my mother and my two-year old brother Billy (not his real name), so I kept the secret.

When I was 9, my stepfather Fred (not his real name) forced me into a horrible situation of repeated sexual abuse.  I would endure this horror for two and a half years.

When I began my menstrual cycle, my stepfather told me that he planned to impregnate me.  It was at this point that I summoned up the willpower to inform my mother as to the horror I was enduring.

In response, my mother beat and verbally abused me, and kicked me out of the house. At the age of twelve, I entered the state foster care system where I was moved around numerous times. I remained a ward of the state until my 18th birthday.

When she kicked me out, my mother told me that I was a whore and that I would never achieve anything in my life.  She was wrong.  I went on to have a successful marriage, a professional career and I have raised four beautiful, healthy children.

However, throughout my life, I have consistently viewed myself as damaged, broken and deserving of the abuses I had endured.  After 50 years of suffering and on the verge of  suicide, I made the decision to seek therapy.

For the last five years I have been on a   journey of self-discovery.  It has been a journey in which my therapist has served as my guide and companion. It was in therapy that I learned the steps associated with advocacy, balance and calmness.

It was in therapy that I learned that what happened to me was not my fault.  I learned that “letting go” of what happened to me wasn’t the same as “surrendering,” but was about empowerment for the psychological self—my psychological self.   I also learned that the guilt and shame was not mine to bear.

My name is Bobbi.  I am empowered.  I am no longer just a survivor. I am a striver, and this is my story.”

Commentary from Dr. Kane

At the beginning of therapy, Bobbi was adamant that she could never share the depths of her feelings with her mother.  That was five years ago. However, that changed in 2013 when she received a holiday greeting card from her mother, along with the gift of a blanket. Inside, the card read:

 “Dear Bobbi,

This is a special snuggle for you from your mom.  I am so sorry for what you had to go through as a child.  Had I known this, I would have done a lot of snuggling with you.

You are grown, but this snuggle blanket is sent to you with much love and when you don’t feel good or you feel sad, please know that my heart is snuggling in this blanket with you!

I love you,

Mom”

This message represents the first words in 48 years uttered by Bobbi’s mother regarding Bobbi’s horrendous experiences. Following several years and hundreds of hours in therapy sessions, sometimes 2-3 sessions per week, Bobbi has become empowered enough to be able to respond to her mother’s “Christmas card.”

The response from Bobbi is quite lengthy; I am providing the letter in its entirety. I do not have the moral right to erase, change or paraphrase words to suit timelines or the desires of the reader.  I will leave it to you as the reader to decide whether to read partly, in its entirety or disregard.

This response is indicative of the transformation of a little girl who suffered in silence to an adult traveler, focused on self-discovery who will no longer be silenced.

PLEASE TAKE HEED OF THE FOLLOWING NOTIFICATION:

       THIS WRITING IS WITHOUT CENSURE AND THEREFORE MAY CREATE DISTRESS FOR THE READERS DURING AND FOLLOWING REVIEW.  PLEASE USE DISCRETION IN SHARING WITH THOSE OF YOUNG AGE OR LACKING IN EMOTIONAL MATURITY.

       “Dear Mom,

Thank you for the letter. I was surprised to receive it. Your letter is the closest thing to an apology I have ever received. I would like to let you know how I felt as a child.

The landlord locked Billy in the bathroom. Billy screamed and cried until he was sobbing.  I could hear Billy screaming while the landlord took off my clothing.

He then pushed his penis at me.  He tried again and again and again to push it in rubbing my private parts hard and roughly with his penis over and over again.

He also used his hand and fingers forcefully. I was terrified and in pain.  I remember screaming.  I thought he was going to kill me.  I kicked and wiggled as much as I could but it didn’t stop him.  There was nothing I could do being a child against this monster.

He laid on me and forcefully kissed me. When I continued to scream he put his over my mouth and told me to shut up.  Hel told me no one could hear me or help me.  I remember the glaring black look in his eyes when he was on top of me.

I remember my private parts being sore and burning when I went to the bathroom afterwards.  When he got through he then told me he would come back to kill you and Billy if I told.

I loved you so much.  There was nothing I wouldn’t have done or endured for you. I know you asked me multiple times what happened.

By not telling you I thought I was protecting Billy and you.  I believed he would return and kill you.  When you asked me in front of him to tell what happened I could only think of what he had done and what he said he would do.  I was terrified.  Terrified not only for myself, but for you.    I would have done and endured anything for you.

I kept the secret because of my love for you and wanting to protect you.  The secret made me feel ashamed as a child.  I felt others could look at me and tell I was a bad person.  I felt that I was dirty and a bad person.  I never had friends.

I felt different from other children and alone. I cried easily.  I have now learned through therapy it wasn’t my fault. The responsibility of being left alone and what happened was not my fault.  The shame and guilt I felt for so many years was not mine to bear.

You left for work and left the landlord in the yard whereas being four years old with the responsibility of watching my two-year-old brother, I was too young to be left alone.

I know you were a single mother but there must have been another way besides leaving  me alone with the landlord in the yard.  The burden of carrying the secret of my abuse changed who I am.  It stole my self-esteem, joy and sense of who I was.

When I started being sexually abused by Fred at the age of 9 years old, I questioned if I deserved it.  He started by saying things to me.  Then he used his hands and then his penis.  He had the same dark glaring look in his eyes as the landlord when he was doing it.

In therapy I have learned that it was the look of power and control.  Power that the abuser yields over a child.  Control, because I felt I was a bad person.  How could two men sexually abuse me if I wasn’t a bad person or there wasn’t something wrong with me?

He convinced me at first that you knew and wanted me to do what he wanted me to do but not talk about it.  He then told me you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.  He convinced me that you would be unhappy if I did not do what he wanted.

I was a child and I believed what he said. I loved you so much.  Again, there was nothing I wouldn’t have done for you.

On the day when I told you Fred had repeatedly raped me, you began beating me.  I don’t remember why or what I was being beat for when I swung at you and missed.  I also told the people at the Youth Center.  I always felt that you should have known what was going on and protected me.  I was angry with him, but I was also angry with you.

In foster care, I felt abandoned and unloved. I knew our relationship would never be the same again.  I received no therapy.  Again, I was different from other kids my age.  I was severely depressed, cried all the time and wanted to die. I felt I had no one who cared if I lived or died.

I had no money to do the things other kids were doing.  My experiences were different. I had no joy. I made my own set of rules to survive by.

The foster care parents were doing it just for the money. I had $25.00 per month to buy clothing, personal items and meds that were not covered by welfare.  The feelings of abandonment, lack of love and caring were always with me.

I am now going to therapy.  I realize now that what happened to me wasn’t my fault. There was nothing wrong with me.  Young girls are often abused by more than one man.  Being abused by one man makes it more likely that it will happen again.

I have let go of the shame and guilt.  I have nothing to be ashamed of or guilty about. I know my abuse has changed who I am. It stole the joy of my life for forty plus years before I went to therapy.

I now look forward to living the rest of my life without guilt and shame.  There will always be pain, but it does not have to influence or control my life decisions and enjoyment of my family.

I don’t remember much of my childhood. I do remember some good things.  The bad things I remember far outweigh the good things.  I still have flashbacks of what happened to me in childhood.  I have learned to live with them.

I responded to your note because I wanted you to know the depths of my pain  and how it changed me.  I have tried to say what happened to me as gently as possible.  I wondered what I could have accomplished without such a traumatic childhood.

This letter is not intended to hurt you.  I have always loved you.

Bobbi (12/31/13)

Concluding Remarks from Dr. Kane

It is my hope that you, dear reader, will understand that victimization and psychological trauma experienced during childhood and/or adolescence continues to impact victims’ lives as adults.

Bobbi’s story began as one of repeated sexual assaults, victimization and survival.   Although victimized, she is no longer a victim.  In her therapy, she has learned to become an advocate for the psychological self, balance the burden she will carry for the rest of her life, and gain calmness for the years and the journeys which lies ahead.

In doing so, Bobbi is no longer a survivor, rather she has become a “striver,” setting the pace and direction of her life.  Bobbi’s story should not be viewed simply as one of strength and endurance; it is also a story of empowerment, growth and development.

Lastly, Bobbi’s intent that anyone who has similar experiences of psychological trauma, or victimization by sexual assault, domestic violence or emotional abuse, may gain encouragement from her story and will find the “want” to respond to the voice that lies within the “psychological self” and seek assistance.

Stop suffering in silence.  Have the willingness to strive and let go without feeling lost or giving up.  Although victimized, be a victim no longer.

“The psychological self will continue to advocate, seeking balance and calmness;    remembering the traumas, abuses and the   violence that the physical body fights to        withstand and the intellectual mind   struggles to forget.”

Dr. Micheal Kane

Until next time… Bobbi’s Saga, A Victim No Longer