Bobbi’s Saga: Returning But Not Going Back

“I am able to tell my story. That is a huge accomplishment.”

-Bobbi

The Journey: Bobbi’s Saga

The word “saga” describes a narrative, telling the adventures of a hero or heroic achievement. The story of Bobbi’s life and her responses to the harrowing challenges she faced from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse beginning at the age of four years old shows her heroism and belief in her journey.

“I want to be at peace in a burning house.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane Psy.D. Clinical Traumatologist & Forensic Evaluator

“Live the life you want, not the life you live.”

Dr. Micheal Kane Psy.D. Clinical Traumatologist & Forensic Evaluator

My Dear Readers,

It has been six months since the last blog posting. The year 2017 in the work of clinical traumatology has proven be a very trying and difficult journey. As we begin this new year, I want to reintroduce Bobbi’s Saga, continuing her story as she walks her journey of self-discovery.

For those of you who are not familiar with Bobbi, she is my hero. A 60-year-old African-American woman with Deep South roots who was born and raised in Seattle, she sought psychotherapy six years ago to heal the pain she has endured as a survivor of sexual abuse endured in her childhood and preadolescence.

One may ask the following:

  • What is so important about reliving such a horrific story?
  • Why not just let it go? Or,
  • It’s history, so just move on….

Bobbi’s Saga is important. It is a story of horrors that must be told and therefore never forgotten. It is the story of survival of a four-year-old child and the self-sacrifice of a grown woman. It is a story of innocence lost and betrayal by adults who were trusted with the welfare of the weak and powerless. Finally, it is a story of courage, empowerment, and the search for self-discovery.

Bobbi’s hellish nightmare of sexual abuse ended when her mother put her out of her house and into the streets, where she spent the next six years in the state foster care system, seen as a “bad girl” by members of her community. Today, Bobbi is moving towards her silver years, which has included a 30-year plus marriage, three children and a successful career in the corporate world. Once rejected by her community, she is now the picture of success.

Behind closed doors, however, Bobbi remains not being understood by others, emotionally distant from her spouse and pampered, privileged children who do not understand what Bobbi has sacrificed to give them the life they have and insulate them from the abuses she suffered.

We continue with Bobbi’s Saga in her own words…

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The Lack of Understanding by Others

I had a session with Dr. Kane today. I feel we are talking about more uncovered things about my past. I told him about my family not understanding why I continue to want to attend therapy. My children wonder why I still go after 50 years of no therapy.

I have explained to my husband that I have had a lot of trauma I don’t think he understands. He sees me journaling and yet has never asked anything about it. All of this leaves me feeling alone, isolated, and questioning myself at times.

I question so many things. I feel unsure of myself. I am unsure of past feelings, behaviors, fears, shame, and guilt. My mother made me feel guilty and ashamed of the way I looked and the darkness of my skin.

When I told her what her husband had been doing to me, she kicked me out of the house, calling me a whore and saying that I would was going to be a prostitute. That hurt me terribly then and still does to this very day.

Dr. Kane and I talked about shame, guilt and hope today. I asked Dr. Kane what I should do when the shame, guilt and pain becomes heavy, almost unbearable. He suggested going to a place in the house or inside of my psychological self where I feel safe.

Although I do that, there are times when the weight of it all feels so heavy. It is like a cloak of darkness over my head. A cloak that the sun can’t penetrate; warmth can’t penetrate. Love and joy can’t get through. Guilt, shame and pain get caught under the cloak and can never leave.

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Shame: The Reflection in the Mirror

One of my greatest shames is the size of my breasts. I have always wanted my breasts reduced. I think about my abuse every time I look at my breasts. My stepfather used to purposely rub them; saying massaging them will make them grow bigger.

Why can’t I believe that he wasn’t the reason for my breast size? I now know the truth, but my body and heart don’t feel that way. For fifty years, I believed my breasts were growing because I was molested by my stepfather. It was painful when Dr. Kane told me the truth three years ago. I wonder what my life would have been like if I didn’t hold on to this lie every day.

I have been thinking a lot about the rapes. I keep thinking these were my fault. I have been scared since the first rape. I know a child or youth can’t fight off a man weighing 200 pounds. Why can’t I comprehend that?

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The Disconnect: Knowing & Feeling

There is this disconnect that is so wide, regarding what I know and what I feel. I am trying to tell myself over and over that it wasn’t my fault. No one ever told me that until Dr. Kane did.

My mother never told me that; instead she blamed me. The staff at the Youth Center never told me that it wasn’t my fault. The nurse I told didn’t tell me it wasn’t my fault. Even the people in my foster homes didn’t say that. Maybe that is why it’s so hard to believe.

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Self Sacrifice-Going Up In Flames

I have always wanted to please others. This has carried over into adulthood. Then Dr. Kane taught me about putting the self first. I had never heard that before. I didn’t think it was possible. Do others do that?

I didn’t even know how to say no, I said yes to everything, even if I didn’t want to do it. I went out of my way to do things that please others no matter how I felt. Why did I want to please others? Could it be because of the rapes?

I seem to be making progress. I now think of myself first. Now when I don’t want to do something I simply say no. It’s not even difficult to say no. This is after six years of therapy.

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Missing Hope & Replacing Hope with Fear

The preacher’s sermon was about hope today. There was a time in which I was missing hope. When I would have thoughts or flashbacks about the rapes, I would feel sad, defeated, and suicidal. I was totally overwhelmed and not knowing if I could continue to live with the guilt and shame.

The guilt and shame has lessened, but I am still bothered by it. I tell myself that I am safe and no one can hurt me, but I continue to feel the fear of the four year old that has had hope taken away from her.

I feel the fear of my two-year-old brother crying, locked in the bathroom. I feel the fear of the four-year-old whose panties are being roughly taken and little legs forced apart. I recall the fear of the threat of “I will come back and kill your mother and brother if you tell.”

Yes, my hope was replaced with fear, pain and guilt. I am afraid to sleep in the dark, being raped again and not finding out what I need and want in life before I die. Sometimes I am afraid of the flashbacks; they seem like it was yesterday. They cause physical reactions and transform me back to being four years old.

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Unrealistic Hopes

My mother died last year. Even though we didn’t have a good relationship, I hoped that would have changed. I had hoped that she would have apologized and accept responsibility for her actions towards me.

I had hoped to feel loved by her. I know that all of this is unrealistic but hoping for unrealistic things for me isn’t unusual. You always hope for what you don’t have.

It’s Christmas. I am hoping for a lighter year next year.

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Concluding Remarks -Dr. Kane

Bobbi’s writings represent an individual who, despite the horrific experiences of sexual assaults, physical violence, betrayal, abandonment and rejection by her family and community, continues along her journey of self-discovery.

Bobbi was victimized. She is no longer a victim. In traveling the journey of self-discovery, she is seeking to empower the psychological self. She is free now to… “Live the life you want, not the life you live.”

To my colleagues, fellow trauma specialists who sit through the many hours of listening to horrendous stories in order to heal and process the pain and suffering of those befallen, I thank you for your empathy, passion for the work we do and commitment to the healing. You are special people. Best wishes to you in the coming year.

Until the next time…Bobbi’s saga continues…

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Bobbi’s Saga: Believing In Life

“I have had lots of clouds, but I have had so many rainbows.”

– Maya Angelou, Poet & Writer

“I wonder what and where I would be if I had a normal childhood.”

-Bobbi

My Dear Readers,

This month, we continue with another installment of Bobbi’s Saga, the story of a woman walking her journey of healing from repeated sexual abuse that she endured as a child and pre-adolescent.

Bobbi’s story is one of shame, blame, guilt and a lifetime of suffering in silence.  In this month’s journal entry, she shares her continuing empowerment and journey of self-discovery with the hope that someone else can also take the steps of self-awareness, discovery, and empowerment.

I always start out a new journal with a life update.  I am now seeing Dr. Kane once a week after 6 years of therapy.  I have gone from having sessions three times a week and phone calls on opposite days of sessions to two days per week and phone calls on days without a session.  Then I went to two sessions per week and no phone calls.  Now I am at one session per week and no phone calls.

At today’s session, we discussed why I’ve continued my therapy for the last six years.  It is only now that I can be comfortable in discussing how I perceive myself and how others perceive me.  At that point, I didn’t think there could be a difference between when I started therapy and now.  I realize now that there may be a difference between what I see and feel and the way others see me.

There is so much that I don’t want others to see. The shame and guilt is gone, but that doesn’t mean that I feel comfortable revealing my history and sadness.  It still shocks me that I feel so much less pain.  I am surprised that the suicidal thoughts are gone.

Yet, the nightmares continue to be a major concern for me.  I recently had one where someone was robbing the house.  I was frantic and upset, and I woke up sobbing.  I then remembered to plant my feet on the floor, look around and see for sure where I am, then getting up, going to a different room and acknowledging the fact that I am safe and that no harm will come to me.

Although I hadn’t had any suicidal thoughts in a while, I continue to have intense flashbacks of these small, baby-like white panties in the corner.  They remind me of how young, small and vulnerable I was when I was raped.

The flashback also reminds me that my mother left me alone in the house at four years old while my rapist worked in the yard.  Talking about it now helps.  It used to overwhelm me for days at a time.  I would become intensely depressed, cry, and not be able to concentrate on anything else.  Now I am aware of it and although it bothers me, it does not overwhelm me. I am now having both the nightmares and flashbacks less often.

The only good thing that I can say about my mother is that because of her, I became a different type of parent.  I am happy the way the kids turned out.  I am not sure I would have been so careful with their lives if my own life had not been so terrible.  I want to make sure they know they are loved, that they are cherished, and that there is nothing they could do to make us (my husband and me) not love them.

I want them to understand that to me, there is no other important job than being a mom.  I feel that I’ve succeeded at that.  If I die tomorrow, I know that I was a good mom.

As we closed out this week’s session, we talked about the progress I’ve made in the last six years.  Whenever I thank him, Dr. Kane asks me: “Who gets credit for the work done in therapy?” I know that the answer is that I do—the patient always does—but I don’t feel that I deserve any credit.

I have always questioned and doubted what Dr. Kane tells me.  I thought I would never get better.  I didn’t know if I would live.  I never believed I would get to a place of harmony.  I hung on to every word Dr. Kane said, listening, processing, and being aware when there was a disconnect.  I started to feel his words, then believe them.  My only hope was to keep listening, processing, hoping and dreaming of getting to a better place.  I didn’t believe it would happen, and yet here I am today.

I want to add the word “believe” to the outside of this journal.  I want to believe more in myself, believe I can enjoy the rest of my life.  I want to believe that there will be time to enjoy life.

Concluding Words

Bobbi has traveled a long distance in empowering the psychological self and the journey of self-discovery.  In my concluding remarks, I would like to provide some context for clarity as this relates to her journal entries.

Bobbi grew up blaming herself for the condition she had been placed within.  She isolated herself from others, feeling that others had the ability to look in her eyes and see into her past.

Recalling Bobbi’s comments about comparing herself to her mother and excelling in the role of mom, Bobbi in the role of protector, intentionally sacrifices herself so that her children could lead lives free of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.   When she says that she is ready to die, she is not being suicidal—instead, she feels complete, accomplished, and prepared to die with the knowledge that unlike her mother, she was a loving and caring mother, and doted upon her children.

Bobbi has done well in her psychological work over the last six years.  She has accepted that although she bears no guilt, blame or responsibility for her sexual, physical and emotional abuses, she can learn to balance the traumatic experiences that were forced upon her.  To gain balance, she has had to accept that nightmares and flashbacks may always be a part of her life. However, with processing and relaxation techniques, these flashbacks and nightmares can lose the potential to overwhelm her and consequently drive her to suicidal thoughts.

While Bobbi is to be congratulated for her willingness to stay the course and continue to process this trauma, the work remains incomplete. One matter of concern is Bobbi’s desire to give the credit of her outstanding work to the therapist.   As Bobbi states in her own words about belief:

“I want to add the word “believe” to the outside of this journal.  I want to believe more in myself, believe I can enjoy the rest of my life.  Believe there will be time to enjoy life.”

This belief can only come once Bobbi takes ownership of the therapeutic work and its outcome.  It is and will continue to be the therapeutic goal that the patient can finally feel fully empowered within the psychological self.

Until the next time ….Bobbi’s saga continues…

Bobbi’s Saga: Justice, Forgiveness, and Balance

CAUTION: TRIGGER WARNING. Contains descriptions of sexual and physical abuse. Please read at your own discretion.

I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

-Langston Hughes (1902-1967), The Negro Speaks Of Rivers

My Dear Readers,

In January, we introduced Bobbi’s Saga as a true-life example of the journey towards healing from childhood sexual and physical assault.  We did this because it is important to us that the readership have some understanding of what a person who has been victimized like this may endure as she/he works towards recovery. Too often, victims of sexual assault live in the shadows and “suffer in silence.”

Bobbi (not her real name) does not consider herself to be a victim or survivor of sexual assault.  Instead, she views herself as being victimized and a striver after sexual assault.  The purpose of the wording is directly associated to Bobbi’s recovery. As part of her journey, Bobbi has worked on empowerment of her psychological self and in doing so, she no longer accepts or views herself with the survivor mentality. Instead, Bobbi seeks to reclaim what was stolen. One of the ways she is doing this is to provide excerpts from her daily journal and allow you, our readers, some insight into her recovery.

When we started Bobbi’s Saga, we committed to posting one entry of Bobbi’s journal on the first Monday of each month for a period of six months.  Now that we have reached the sixth posting, we have built an audience of over 1500 readers, and have received many positive responses.  We understand that this resonates with you, so we will continue sharing Bobbi’s experience and her journey of self-discovery. This month, Bobbi acknowledges the many years of carrying emotional pain along with shame, guilt, and denial of self.  Walk with her as she explores forgiveness.

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Journal Entry 1/23/14

I was thinking about what Dr. Kane said about the little girl in me.  I am mostly not aware of her, but I have felt her recently.  It feels like a small child who missed her childhood.

I just watched a movie called Woman, Thou Art Loosed.  It was about a woman on death row who looked back over her life.  Her stepfather talked to her about becoming mature the first time he met her. He married her mother and raped the little girl who was, at that time, 12 years old.  The mother didn’t believe, comfort or support the little girl.   The stepfather told the mother the little girl was “fast,” and not telling the truth.

I know that I could not have watched this movie one year ago.  There were so many things in this movie that reminded me of my own experiences.  The mother in the story who didn’t believe the daughter had been raped as a child herself. The 12 year old is told in so many words, “What does not kill you will make you stronger.  Get over it.”  The daughter eventually shoots and kills her rapist at the church’s altar.  This is how she ends up on death row.  The rapist is apologizing as she shoots him.

The emotions shown in this movie are so real: shame, guilt, loss of childhood and separation of the relationship between mother and daughter.   This is about a woman and an inner child that just wants to be loved. Forgiveness? Or is it the need to forgive the self?  They spoke about how life is never the same once you’ve been raped.  It is true; it takes a part of your soul away that can’t be replaced.

The movie brought tears to my eyes.  I have felt and worked on all of the emotions with Dr. Kane.  I don’t know why I watched the movie all the way to the end.  I think I was waiting to see the rapist being killed.

Killed, for all he stole from the little girl.  Killed, for all the years he had denied and lied about it. Even in death, his life was better than the little girl he raped.  But, he wasn’t killed by me. I will no longer focus on his life. The life I will focus on is my own.

It was a good day.

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Concluding Words

As we listen to Bobbi’s words, what can we learn from her experience?

It is feasible that Bobbi the adult has had difficulty in connecting with her inner child.  In viewing this movie, Bobbi has not only allowed her inner child to be heard, but more importantly, assured her that her experiences of sexual assault and the resulting feelings are validated. The movie mirrors Bobbi’s experience of being not supported and abandoned by her mother.  However, this is where the mirror falls away—the character in the movie gets something that Bobbi and her inner child never received: justice.

Instead, Bobbi finds herself contemplating forgiveness as a substitute for that justice.  Having been raised within the African-American church, Bobbi has been taught to forgive those who trespass against her, but she has now come to the realization that she can reject the teachings of the church.  She is able to determine that it is in her best interest not to focus on forgiving the rapist, but instead focus on seeking atonement for the psychological self for the four decades she carried the burden of this pain and suffering.

In rejecting the values of her church, Bobbi is able to empower the psychological self.  She acknowledges that she is no longer a “survivor” of the experience and rather is a “striver” of her recovery and therefore, is able to choose not only to let go of that experience but to decide the direction in which she will travel.

In Bobbi’s journey, the experience has not made her stronger.  Instead Bobbi has learned to balance the horrendous experiences she has suffered with the vision of who she wants to be within the psychological self.  In doing so, rather than looking for power or strength, she has achieved transformation.

In the movie, the daughter achieves justice by killing her rapist, but Bobbi is able to let go of the desire for his death or the need to forgive him because she has made this about SELF and not about HIM.

As Bobbi closes this saga of her journey of self-discovery, she acknowledges it was a good day.  In empowering the self, she is able to balance her experiences with who she wants to be and what she wants her future to be.  As she moves forward, she does so with optimism that there will be more good days to come.

 

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

Dr. Kane

Clinical Traumatologist

 

Bobbi’s Saga: Role Models

 

Larger societal groups such as family, community, and society have historically played a large part in reinforcing the concept of “role modeling” within individual people.  In reviewing numerous definitions of the term, I came upon several that suit this month’s installment of Bobbi’s Saga:

  • A person regarded by others, especially younger people, as a good example to follow.
  • A person who serves as a model in a specific behavioral or social role for another person to emulate.
  • Someone who another person admires and tries to imitate.

The first definition seems somewhat “canned,” and lends itself to excessive vanity. The second one would probably assist in earning the grade of “A” on an academic assignment.  The third sounds more “real” and thus will be the one we use this week.

Many people go through life consciously attaching to models stating, “I want to be just like him (her).”  However, role modeling can be, and usually is, an unconscious action derived from observing and following the behavior and actions of another.

Just as a role model can be defined as a person that others seek to emulate, a role model can also be someone who demonstrates behavior that others reject and avoid.

This month, Bobbi’s Journey of Self -Discovery continues as she takes conscious action to not be like her mother and as a result, her mother becomes her role model as to how not to treat or interact with her children.

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Role Models: My Mother, The Woman I Wanted Not To Be: Journal Entry 1/20/14

Sometimes, when I feel I need to be held and kissed, I wonder if it is because I wanted so much more affection as a child.  I don’t remember my mother telling me she loved me.

She could have told me I love you often.  I just don’t remember being nurtured and feeling like I was important or special.  Like no matter what I did in life, I was loved.  I wanted to have unconditional love.

I remember things Mother said like:

“I brought you into this world, I’ll take you out.”

“If you ever go to jail, don’t spend your dime calling me.”

“You are going to be a prostitute.”

She called me a whore.  It would be nice to have memories like being told you are special, important, smart, beautiful and wanted.  But that was not my life.

I used to tell my children I loved them from the time they were conceived.  I used to talk to them and tell them how much I loved them before they were born.  By the time they were born, I knew them.

There was nothing in life that would ever make me not love them.  I would tell them multiple times a day.  They understood and felt my love.  As a mom, making sure your children know how loved and cherished they are, is your most important job.

Now if anything happens to me I know they knew they are loved.  That makes me happy.  I felt I have done a good job.  I made sure they were loved the way I was not.

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Concluding Remarks-Dr. Kane

In this entry, the common theme is her commitment to her children knowing that they were valued and loved by her. It is in her repeated validation of them that she affirms her true and deep love for them.

The urge that drives Bobbi may be the fear of the life that she herself was forced to endure, which rose from the inability to attain the basic human need of unconditional love of the person who gave her life.  This urge may be viewed as the psychological self, working in advocacy for her children to provide the nurturing that she herself was denied.

In a way, Bobbi may be working in anticipation of her own death by her own hand.  It may be the intensity of her pain and suffering on this earth that drives her to suicidal ideation.  Yet, it is the love for her children that maintains her existence.

Not being shown love by her mother, Bobbi does not know how to live; she knows only how to exist.  As her love grows for her children, she continues her efforts to survive so her children can have the life that was denied to her.

In this writing, we can see Bobbi’s conscious decision to accept her mother as a role model in the lives of her children. Bobbi demonstrates not only the behavior she wants for her children and also, what she “wants not” to model for her children.

Bobbi’s love, unlike her mother’s, is given unconditionally.  She struggles valiantly to insure that her children, as they grow to adulthood, do not suffer the emptiness she herself has experienced during the four decades following her ejection from the home and placement in the state foster care system.

During the preceding four decades, Bobbi teeters between the states of existence and survival.  It is only following the attainment of adulthood for her children that Bobbi will become free to begin the next saga of her journey of self-discovery, driving and the empowerment that accompanies it.

This stage, the third of five, dwells within the transitional and experiential stages of the “Journey for Self Discovery,”  the stages of which are existence, surviving, driving, striving and thriving. This usually begins with the individual living in their fear, as opposed to living with their fear, and Bobbi’s journey is no different.  During this journey, however, Bobbi will learn to balance her fears so she can live with fear instead of in fear as she begins to acknowledge that these fears are a permanent fixture in her life.

Please continue to join us as we walk with Bobbi on her journey!

Bobbi’s Saga: The Body Remembers What The Mind Struggles To Forget

My Dear Readers,

The mind and body are in essence our reality. The mind is like clouds in the sky, with thoughts drifting in and out.  As we drift, we use our thoughts to escape the psychological and emotional pains of our experiences. We can play games with the mind, but there is no escape from the body, which remembers all. The body is like the oceans.  Its depths hold on to the pain and sorrow that make up the foundation of the journey of self-discovery.

Many people say that “time heals wounds,” but in reality, this is merely a trick that the mind plays on itself in its attempt to protect itself from that painful experience.

The truth is that time is meaningless when it comes to the process of emotional healing. It is not time that heals the emotional or psychological wound, but the therapeutic work one does to heal the wound.  Simply put, no therapeutic work, no healing.  Instead, one tucks the traumatic memory of the incident away only for it to surface at an inappropriate time. This is how I originally came into contact with Bobbi.

In time, the individual realizes, as Bobbi did, that the “brain dump” is just a strategy utilized by the mind to cover the pain, while the body continues to hold onto the trauma.

Dr. Micheal Kane

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Bobbi’s Saga continues…

Recently Bobbi saw her mother at the funeral of Gail, a friend of the family.  Gail was a friend who as a child, Bobbi could count on during those time prior to being placed in foster care. During those times when Bobbi was either physically beaten by her mother or forced to sleep on the porch, Gail and her parents had allowed Bobbi stay at their home.

Bobbi’s mother has never acknowledged that she received a letter Bobbi wrote to her detailing her sexual abuse history. As a result, knowing that her mother would attend Gail’s funeral ceremony, Bobbi came to session hours prior to the event. After the funeral, Bobbi wrote me this email:

Dear Dr. Kane:  

Thank you for the session this morning.  I went to Gail’s funeral.  I sat in the back.

 I found myself crying during the funeral.  I could feel the tears rolling down my face. Not only for Gail, but for the memories of playing with her as a child. I remembered her parents’ house as a place I felt safe.  I could go there when I was being mistreated at home, even at night. 

When I came into the church, I saw my mother sitting close to the front.  She turned, smiled and waved.  I waved back.  As the preacher talked about Gail’s life and the person she was and her kindness to others, I wondered if my mother thought about what he was saying.

It was a long funeral.  After the service, there was a repast downstairs in the church.  I didn’t go.  I didn’t want to give my mother an opportunity to hug and kiss me, acting like nothing was wrong and everything was perfect.

I thought about how I would handle the situation if she did approach me, and decided that if and when we do talk, I want her to make the first effort to speak to me.  I do not want to be the reason why she draws attention to herself.   I knew she would put on her best performance , since she had friends who would also attend the funeral.  

I was also tired.  My Saturday morning sessions with you are draining, and I don’t have the energy to process the feelings, think and feel my past and reflect on the possibilities of the future.  I usually give thought to my sessions for a long time afterwards.  Although I did not speak to my mother, I was holding on to intense feelings, which came out as a result of the funeral.

So, following your advice to release these feelings, I wrote a letter to my mother in my journal that I would like to have shared with her.  

 Dear Mother:

When I was twelve years old, you told me I was a prostitute and kicked me out of the house.  I was never a prostitute.  You never believed me.

You threw me out, forcing me into the foster care system.  First to a receiving home; then I went to a foster home. Then, another foster home, and another.

How did you think I felt?  I was thrown out like trash.  I felt abandoned and alone.  I had no one who cared about me. I was alone, sick and I wished for death.  I wanted to die.

I had no reason to live.  But I didn’t know how to die.  If I’d known how, I wouldn’t be here today.

You made me feel like dirt.  I missed my adolescence. I was being repeatedly raped and forced to keep my rapes secret.  When I went into foster care, you abandoned me.  I had little  clothing.  I had to purchase all of my personal items and clothing.

I was not like the other kids.   I was scared of everything.  I spent so many days crying.  My life was changed with no hope for the future.

You now deny the pain you caused me.  You also seem to forget the things that happened.  I question whether you ever loved me.

How could a person claim that they love someone and treat that person the way you treated me?  I remember all the things that happened to me. Mother, you hurt me.  You hurt me to my soul

I don’t ever remember being so sad.

Concluding Comments- Dr. Kane

Bobbi’s email is a clear indication that the emotional wounds created by the sexual abuse as well as the betrayal trauma dealt by her mother is still present to this very day, even though it occurred more than four decades ago.

Betrayal Trauma is defined as a violation of implicit and explicit trust.  Extensive betrayal is traumatic, and the closer the relationship, the greater the degree of betrayal and thus, the trauma that results from the psychological wound.

There is no greater betrayal that can happen to an individual than a mother betraying her child. Even through Bobbi was reeling from betrayal and the resulting trauma, her inner child continues to seek the love and acknowledgment from the mother figure that she was never given.

When it comes to the therapeutic work, there clearly is much to do here.  Among the many concerns, there are two that are the primary areas of focus:

  • Continue to clinically treat the inner child.
  • Assist the psychological self in continuing the process of self-empowerment by healing the traumatic damage and psychological wounds.

The objective here is to reinforce the psychological self and in doing reinforce trust in her actions taken based on her feelings.  It is clear that as we look at Bobbi’s responses, these areas have been severely impacted due to the betrayal by her mother, and this is what I shared with her in my response to her email.

Dear Bobbi,

Your mother did what we expected.  She may never acknowledge your abuse.  To do so, she would have to acknowledge her role in it and the reality of her parenting skills (or lack thereof.)  Instead, she chooses to maintain a life within the fantasy world that she lives in.

Understand the differences between you and your mother.  She has chosen to merely exist, where you have chosen to truly live.  She is just waiting out her time.  You are now empowered to live your life.  Therein lies the big difference: EXISTING & LIVING.

Best regards,

Dr. Kane

As Bobbi continues to do her therapeutic work, she will be able to accept that her mother’s inability or unwillingness to discuss her own failures is an example of “unhealthy narcissism,” and thereby unable to be available to fulfill the wishes of Bobbi’s “inner child.”  With time and therapeutic work, our hope is that Bobbi will recognize her own inner strength as well as her ability to fulfill the wishes, needs and desires of her own inner child.

I invite the readership to stay tuned for Bobbi’s ongoing journey, and to watch as she continues to work towards healing.

Dr. Micheal Kane

The Theft Of Choice: The Impact of Childhood Rape

“The body remembers what the mind struggles to forget.”

My Dear Readers,

In last week’s blog “Just World Trauma & The Loss of Individual Responsibility,” I wrote about the gang rape of an unconscious woman on a beach in Panama City, Florida.

Rape is an action that not only assaults the humanity and integrity of the victim, but impacts the consciousness of us all. The answer is simple—it doesn’t make sense to us. Rape, in and of itself, is a despicable, unexplainable and unjustifiable act.

We know what rape is– the sexual assault of another person—but what is the basis of the action of rape?  I have concluded that rape is an expression of male privilege.  Its foundation is rooted in the attributes of power, domination, and control.

Although we may be outraged about the act of rape, society has shown its lack of comfort in openly speaking about its impact.  For me, writing about Bobbi is the fulfillment of a commitment to those who have been victimized, those who are healing, and those who continue to suffer in silence.

We, in our own silence, may feel shame and/or hope that the victim goes away, recovers and moves on with her life. This is often not the case.  Life just does not simply move on for a rape victim.

The word “saga” typically refers to a narrative, telling the adventure of a hero or heroic achievement. This is one of the reasons we call this series The Journey of Self Discovery: Bobbi’s Saga.

The term “saga” clearly expresses and gives meaning to Bobbi’s life, which is consumed with responding to challenges beginning at the age of four years old.  In this writing of Bobbi’s journal, she shares with us the impact the violent sexual assaults she endured.

Bobbi ‘s saga continues:

 One of the things that I have never journaled about is a gift to myself I was robbed of by abuse.  Because of the rapes at 4 and 9-12, I never had the choice of choosing when to lose my virginity. I see stories of romantic situations on television, and the first sexual experience, if by choice, is usually joyful and provides a sweet start to the sexual experiences and expectations for that person.

I have had other females talk about their first experience.  For most people, it is a positive memory.  For me, the choice was taken away.  When I was finally ready for my first consensual sexual experience I was still anxious, frightened and reminded of my abuse.

It was the abuse that prevented me from enjoying it.  It was like I was seeing if I could withstand the encounter.  There was no joy, sexual arousal, or orgasm.  It was only the relief that I had made it through.

It was many years later that I was finally able to enjoy making love, and yet, flashbacks of the abuse would often interrupt and interfere with lovemaking.  It took a long time before I was able to understand why anyone would want to have sex.   Why would anyone want to do anything so stressful and painful?

Today was a tough session with Dr. Kane.  We discussed the theft of my virginity.  It was difficult for me to discuss and it was the first time we had discussed this.

I felt sad leaving the session.  I have that uncomfortable feeling of numbness now.  The feeling is similar to pain but not the same.  Dr. Kane encouraged me to think about this over the next couple of days.

I feel and think I will let this go.  It is something that I will never feel good about.  The theft of virginity is a greater theft than any bank robbery.  Money can be returned.  The gift of virginity, once stolen, can never be replaced.

The abuse has changed my sexual life forever.  The flashbacks have mostly gone away with lovemaking, but I still have difficulty enjoying it, and I just find that it’s not important to my life.

Stealing one’s virginity amounts to stealing sexual pleasure and excitement for the rest of a person’s life.  For the person who is robbed of her virginity, it is like you are robbed over and over again.  I hope the feelings of sadness fade away as this becomes more distant in my mind.

I have come to realize that there is a difference between sadness and depression.  Depression is an inability to construct a future.   Today, talking about the theft of my virginity, I felt very sad but not as depressed as I used to be.

Depression includes hopelessness, guilt, shame, pain and intense sadness that only vary slightly.  It never goes away.  There is an indescribable feeling inside like the sadness goes to my core.

Depression kept me from functioning, thinking and feeling anything except pain and sadness.

In my depression, I saw the world in shades of gray.  The clouds were always above me.  I was unable to see a future.  I didn’t care if I lived or died, and I thought about death often.

Sadness is a deep feeling of pain, but at least you know there will eventually be an end to the pain.  You can be sad and still laugh in the same day.  In sadness, you know there is a possibility of feeling better the next day.  The sadness can be linked to a certain event or incident.

Today has been an okay day.  I thought of my lack of childhood and the consequences of it.  Consequences that continue to influence my life.

Others have told me that depression goes away.  I have come to disagree with that belief.  In my work with Dr. Kane, I have come to believe that due to the trauma I have been through, depression may continue to be a concern. Still, I believe it is getting lighter.

As I understand more about my past, the pain becomes more distant and the depression becomes lighter.  I believe I will always have a level of depression.  I will learn to live with it. It will be my norm.  The norm for me is different than for other people.  My past makes it that way.  I have come to understand about the abuse.  I now understand that it wasn’t my fault or responsibility.

I didn’t ask for it.  I didn’t want it.  I couldn’t do anything to prevent it from happening.  The sick bastards that did this to me deserve all the responsibility, guilt and shame. I wish they had horns growing out of their heads so others would be warned of their presence.  I know that something will eventually happen to them.  No one can do bad things without it coming back around.

Now, however,  I want to get on with my life.  I want to become lighter and joyful.  I want my mental state to continue to improve.  I want to live!  This is so different from not caring if I lived and not wanting to live.

 

Concluding Remarks from Dr. Kane

We were in our first session when Bobbi sat quietly for a moment and then suddenly announced the following:

“When I was four years old, I was raped by the landlord.  For a period of three years from ages nine to twelve, my stepfather repeatedly raped me.”

Following those statements, Bobbi suddenly got up and left the room.  I recall sitting there hoping that she would return.

She called and returned to session two weeks later.  It was then that I learned that it was her belief that all she had to do was tell someone her story and the agony would be over.  The reality, as I explained to her, was that her “Journey of Self Discovery” had just begun.

Bobbi’s Journey of Self Discovery has now lasted five years. Bobbi has learned to distinguish depression from sadness.  Where in the past, she believed that she might have enticed her abusers, she now recognizes that the responsibility for these horrific acts lies with her abusers.

It’s not unusual for people to assume that given time, a victim will “forget” a horrific assault and that their lives will eventually go on unimpeded.  Many people assume that time heals wounds.

Neither assumption is true. The person who was victimized never forgets and it is the therapeutic work, not time by itself, which heals the emotional wound.

Bobbi understands that the gravity of her abuse can mean that depression may be an ongoing issue.  However, she has learned that instead of living in fear of depression, today she has learned to live with the fear and in doing so, learn how to bring balance and optimism into her life.

The term “saga” truly reflects the physical and psychological wounding of Bobbi as well as her Journey of Self Discovery as she reclaims the life that was once taken.

Is she a hero?   She is to me. I invite the readership to stay tune for her next entry.

Until the next time…Bobbi’s saga continues.