rainbows in the sky

English: Felt Polski: Filc Magyar: Nemez

English: Felt Polski: Filc Magyar: Nemez (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My higher power orchestrated quite the “do-over” at a folk festival here this last weekend.

It was one of the most successful big crowd / high stimuli weekends in my life; and, it was also momentous and ground-breaking in the people from my past who showed up, and my interactions with them.

First of all, I have to acknowledge that I haven’t done so much socializing in 3 days in a very very long time. I don’t know what came over me. By the end of the 2nd of 3 days, my voice was hoarse from talking with so many friends. I felt so wonderfully at ease with whomever was standing in front of me, and that is something that has never happened to me. Throughout the weekend, I never felt estranged, isolated or humiliated, like I have so many times in the past; and I enjoyed having several different friends and groups to land with. Whenever I came to sit and take in a concert, there was always someone I knew to go and sit with. Walking the grounds, there were lots of smiles and hellos and chance meetings along the way.

This might sound normal to many people, but for me, it has not been. I can often end up feeling like the odd one out, and that everyone I know is witnessing me standing there like a square peg in a round hole, perhaps pitying me, perhaps avoiding me especially, perhaps both. It’s like in the movies, when the sound fades out, and all the surroundings go blurry, and suddenly, the whole world is definitely and extremely separate from me. The feeling that I have to hide what I am feeling — the pressure, the shame, the silent panic — is suffocating and horrible. The only thing I can do is disappear, leave immediately. I’ve had horrible times trying to stick it out, filled with awkwardly forced conversations. And so, this weekend was not another one of these experiences, though I was very worried it could be.

The headliner was an artist I had listened to at the time I was abused as a young girl. I had cried myself to sleep each night listening to this woman’s sad, beautiful iconic voice, and here she was, in my back yard. Also in my back yard, having returned to live here, is the teacher who abused me. (Full story here, and follow-up here) I had heard that he was returning, meanwhile continuing to process deeply and remember more of the feelings of what happened. New information has also been coming in, from various folks I run into — people I didn’t know when I was here, but who were involved with the school when my letter was written. I now know that there were two letters written: Mine, in 2005, and another one in 2008. It was the latter that had gotten (I’ll refer to him here as) ‘P’ to resign in the face of defacing dismissal / termination; not my letter.

There are supporters and non-supporters of ‘P’ here. As I have said before, I do not consider him to be a dangerous or evil man. Emotionally needy and unprofessional to a tragic and life-altering fault, and should not be teaching children (which he is currently not); but not in the same category of perverts, pedafiles, and molesters.

And so, on Friday afternoon at the festival, I was walking the main passage way to find my chair in the back row of the main stage area when I spotted him. I stood a few feet away from him, which also happened to be at my chair, having no intention of interacting with him; then spotted a friend and moved my chair to her immediately, not looking up, not looking around, keeping my head down, feeling relatively calm and grounded, but relieved to find a recovery friend I could tell.

But this was not high drama. Remarkably, I actually felt relatively calm and grounded. I think this is where my higher power was there to shelter me, and give me this strength of genuine connection with others. Having so many people I knew there, and feeling so comfortable around them kept me in a place of strength and empowerment, rather than the feeling of smallness and shame that goes with the dissociation and the disappearing act described above. It was fine that he was there; just because he was there did not mean that I would have to interact with him. I felt totally safe and supported to interact or not interact as much as felt right to me, and for the most part, it felt right not to interact at all.

At the same time, there was the question in me of how I would handle coming face to face with P — what I would say or not say, how to respect my own inner boundaries with grace and in a way that wasn’t going to gnaw at my psyche for days afterwards. I was a little bit nervous, and I didn’t know what I was going to do; but in the mean time, I didn’t let it distract me or stop me from enjoying the festival and friends.

The next morning, I came back earlier than I would have normally, for a workshop on vocal harmonies with one of my favourite bands. The room was packed. I scanned it for people I knew, and found a colleague I sing in the same choir with. We sat on a counter at the very back of the room. The energy in the room and between us was light and playful and joyous; the room was large and bright, the sun was shining, gearing itself up for another hot summer day on this beautiful farm, and a delicious breeze wafted through two sets of french doors on either side of the space.

The workshop started, but the people in the back couldn’t hear anything, so we were invited to move up and sit on the floor at the front. I decided to move. As I came around the counter at the back and headed down the isle between seats, someone grabbed my hand and held on to stop me from continuing forward. I turned around, and there he was, smiling, expecting a friendly and jovial greeting; expecting me to be happy to see him, as I would have been even a few years ago. I’m not sure what has changed in me, but I knew that I could not continue that warmth with him while honouring myself here.

In grade school with P, we sang for a hour at the start of each day, sitting on the floor in a circle; we sang around the camp fire on class camping trips, and always, I would sing the harmonies. It was my thing, and he told me how much he appreciated my talent. And now, after all these years, I have been singing again, doing my harmonies around fires and in my choir. And so here I was at this harmony workshop, and here we met.

A smile lingered on my face. I was glowing with the spirit of the weekend and the place, dressed to the hilt in summer folk fest fashion — halter top, bold shell necklace, flowy, hip-hugging pants. More radiant and sensual than I have dressed in years. Aglow. And here, in this moment, was our meeting.

I felt that the smile and a brief moment of acknowledgement were all I could give him, and so, I let the moment linger for as long as I could; and then, without a word, I let go of his hand, turned and walked away to go and sit on the floor in the front and sing.

This was the moment that should have happened so many years ago. If, instead of engaging in a secret together, we had connected in a healthy student-teacher way, and I had run off to play with my classmates …

Did anyone see us, holding hands and smiling strangely at each other, in the middle of the jam-packed room of people all shuffling to move to the front. Was the weight of this fleeting moment, and its richness, visible at all, or hidden from all others, just like it had been all along. Yes, I couldn’t linger here any longer. Time to connect “above board” with a quick hello, a nod to the past, and then move on.

I then found myself once again, not alone, sitting there on the floor, for the rest of the workshop, with a friend at my back and by my side. The friend at my side looked at me with tears in her eyes, and said, in the middle of her own process with her marriage, “I’m caught up in the emotions; I’m overwhelmed.” A tear rolled down her cheek, and I replied, “And here you are, showing up in this moment, in whatever state you are in. And you are safe.” I put my hand on her knee, and we stayed that way for a few minutes, and she let her tears fall. And there I was, feeling like a rock, aglow, in the midst of the fire, dancing.

I didn’t tell anyone what had happened that morning for the rest of the festival; I didn’t feel the need. It happened and I flowed out of it with little notice.

That night was the artist I mentioned above, from the time of the abuse. I noticed P sitting a few rows over, slightly in front of me. And there we were again, listening to this artist, singing the songs from my childhood, even some children’s fairytale songs. I came and went with ease, allowing myself to be seen. He knew I was there, and I knew he was there, and it didn’t matter. Our secret had ended, and this was the first time it showed. We did not engage in it. We let it go.

I could feel my higher self there, watching with wonder and awe; not oblivious in any way to the beacons of our past and the synergy that was present in what was happening.

Residual feelings are there, yes. The memory of how much it hurt when I missed the opportunity to connect with him, be around him, be in our secret place together. It was like oxygen to that young girl, and when it was gone, it felt like dying. I remember. Also is the codependent concern that I have hurt his feelings by avoiding him, changing my stance towards him so drastically and without warning. I want to protect him from that hurt. And that is the old pattern, working its way out of my system. I remember. I feel it. I feel the sadness and the burden of it.

Glory be.

In Love and Healing.


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the one thing

a friend of mine recently put words to something that I also think is quite prominent in me, and many members of both aca and coda.

he drew this picture for me, and spoke about the hole within. this big void of emptiness that we tend to fill with the first person, addiction or other obsession that walks by, and that when that one thing goes away, instead of having one hole within the hole, we are facing the entire empty hole again, because we allowed the one thing to fill the entire space in us.

that we have to practice filling the hole with many things, so that when one of them leaves, we are not back at rock bottom again.




eternal pajama party + dating sucks

i want to gather the club members from far and wide in a giant living room, for an eternal pajama party. an eternal retreat. just our presence and the fact that we can understand each other and how to be gentle with each other will heal us, and give us strength to venture out into the non-member world occasionally for an adventure now and then, or when necessary; but our home is there for us to come home to, where there is safety and healing in the physical presence of our numbers together. we can assure and remind each other daily that we are not ‘difficult’ people; whatever happened to us actually did happen, that we are loved, and that we are not alone.

i’m sick like a dog today — head like a bowling ball, throat like razors.

i feel injured inside, feeling the divide between “normal” people and Survivors (with a capital S). Survivors of … abuse, trauma, a combination of the two, or bpd’s, or any other mental illness or experience that has driven you to the ends of the earth and you have lived to tell about it.

a friend of mine i knew in school last year was also recently diagnosed with borderline personality disorder as well as avoidant personality disorder. i feel the ending of our closeness, where she is finding wellness in carrying on as always, and just making an extra effort to be nice to people, kind of living in spite of the diagnosis. she really does seem to be genuinely happy and things really do seem to be going wonderfully for her. knowing her, i could genuinely see some kind of cognitive or emotional dysfunction — her diagnosis wasn’t a surprise to me, — but her response is saddening to me, and of course one of the triggers i am dealing with on the inside today.

rationally, i think if she truly has a personality disorder, she will eventually have to deal with it head on, if things deteriorate, like boyfriend, job, new home, etc. but really, and as her friend, I hope she doesn’t. i hope she got enough identity from these diagnosis to understand herself in a way that she could work with and move on from in a positive and healthy way. there is a scale for all these pd’s, and aspects of all of them in us at various times in our lives. maybe some of us may just have to dip our toes in the pd waters to gain the validation we need. i also pray that if she has to fall, and give up the fight, that she survive the fall and finds the support she needs in the global family of Survivors.

i guess what i feel now is that she is not a family member, not a member of the club. she hasn’t surrendered, and maybe she never will. i have to move her to a more external ‘intimacy ring’ in my life, and i do this reluctantly, not from a judgemental place.

i feel this path in life, the path of being a member of the club (referencing Molly Wolf’s short story), isolates me in many ways — ways that only members of the club can ever possibly understand. i see that it may not be possible to have many friends, or fit in with society in the ways that non-members take for granted. this is daunting, and a planet full of sadness comes over me.

Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness

Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness (Photo credit: Gemma.E.Taylor)

last night, i was talking with someone i’ve been flirting with, once a week at a musical jam night, for the past couple of months. we haven’t had very many times to talk one on one with each other, and so far, our energies together have been whacky and playful in a fun way, which i have been drawn to. like many in my life, i have been able to be honest enough to admit that i live with a mental illness (or sometimes, i say that i deal with chronic fatigue, or anxiety, or chronic stress …). what i cannot bring myself to tell people is what the mental illness is called. i just feel that most people would misunderstand it so horribly if they ever looked it up on the internet that it would backfire on me, so i tell them everything i can without saying the name of “it.” the thing is, my story has been inconsistent. people feel that i am keeping something from them; that i don’t trust them, or that they can’t trust me to be truthful, or that if i’m keeping it from them, it must be really horrible and they should exercise extreme caution with me. fuck. i’m damned if i tell, and damned if i don’t.

i don’t want to keep people on the outside, and certainly if another person is considering getting closer to me, i do not want to keep them in the dark; but nor do i want to scare them away. so, already having established the mental illness thing, as well as the fact that i am living with my Mother; when he asked if i was working at the moment, i ventured as far as to tell him that i am applying for disability. innocently, he responded saying, “What’s your disability? You’ve always seemed perfectly fine to me.”

i crashed and burned from there. i tried to just go straight to the heart of the answer, once again avoiding the name of the diagnosis, telling him about the “exceptional range of confidence” (written about in my post ‘disability application process‘), which made about as much sense as any crazy person, eh. … yeah. yep. fuck.

dating sucks for the members of the club.

The image illustrates some theory of famous ps...

The image illustrates some theory of famous psychologist Melanie Klein, advanced by John Steiner (1979). The theory is about how Borderline Personality Disorder develops and how it interacts with other disorders. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

this disorder is so hidden at first. only now, almost a year after arriving here is the newness starting to wear off, the reality of what i live with starting to be felt — only by me of course. that phenomenon of people not being able to relate or attach to me is starting to happen again. the thing that i tried to think positively about all my life, hoping that i was just seeing the negative, and if i could just not listen to those thoughts, they would go away.

so here i am. it’s finally acknowledged in me and my therapeutic connections as real. now how the hell am i actually going to live with it in society. the earth is not solid beneath my feet today.

breathe. appreciate the moment. it is sunny outside. i am fed. i am warm. there are people in the world who truly know me and love me, even if there is no living room and we are not in our pajamas together, in the flesh.

unknown source

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the weight of shame

At times, the weight of the shame in my life is felt, when another layer of the onion is reached.

Last weekend, a person from my past attended an event I was part of creating.

I am not at a point in my recovery where I can speak of this in general terms, and yet this layer has been trying to shed itself in me for about a week. I’m not even sure how to write about it – it seems beyond words — so I will simply begin, and hope for the process of making it tangible.

I attended a private school through to grade 8, here in the place I am living. It has taken me until the last few months to begin identifying myself as a survivor of abuse there. I always knew, in my adult life, that something had happened that had affected my psyche deeply. It was the beginning of two decades of wanting to end my life, steadily for 10 years, infrequently for 10 years after that, and here I am today as a survivor of an attempt.

The thing that has kept me from acknowledging myself as a survivor is the subtlety of the abuse – nudity, nude massage, cuddling, and time spent alone with this male teacher on a daily basis over the course of my 12th summer, as well as over at his house, with his immediate and extended family. Kisses (pecs) on the lips, sleeping together in his tent on class camping trips … all this, but nothing ever overtly sexual, never once even a hint of an erection was known to me. Covertly, he was the first crush of my life. I was completely infatuated with this man, and waited by the phone for his call during those summer months. I would fantasize about him rescuing me, and making love to me. And in all of this, I became almost completely separated from my peers. I had no interest in them.

My Mother worked with the school on their board of directors, and as school secretary for several years. We were a part of the school’s very first class, which began in the idyllic setting of a family farm, where a group of parents had gotten together to build a school house, and hired a professionally trained teacher to teach their children in it. The philosophy of this particular education system practices having one teacher take a class all the way from grade 1 to grade 8. To my Mother, and the entire school, he was a dear friend and a devoted pioneering first staff member. As a single mother, my mom believed that he was filling in the role of Father in my life.

It ended when his common law partner at the time called my Mother, and informed her that he needed to be spending more time with his family. I imagine that the partner had probably thought long and hard about how to end the situation in a respectful and innocent way that would not rock anyone’s boat.

When school began again that year, my teacher tried to re-establish some healthy boundaries with me, his student; though the pecs on the lips and cuddling in the tent on class field trips continued. Despite these brief interludes, the transition from daily jogs to the river, skinny dipping and naked massage was experienced by me as abandonment. Each night, I cried myself to sleep to James Taylor’s You’ve Got a Friend, and the music of Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins. At 12, I now fantacized and longed for a way to kill myself. I’m coming to understand the emotional neglect I received in my home, born as a sensitive child to begin with (predisposition), and how this contributed to the situation and my response; this insight is part of my understanding of trauma as a subjective experience (see trusting perception + trauma is trauma).

When we moved to a larger city after that school year of grade 8, I did not reconnect with my peers, and continued feeling suicidal. I felt like I was in a deep black hole, looking up as I tried to climb out. The light was a spec in the miles of darkness between it and me.

For a short while, my teacher would visit occasionally for an afternoon walk.

A year or so later, I left the public school system and began home schooling. I also began seeing men in their 40’s, entering sexual relationships with them, all the while continuing to do well in school, never engaging in alcohol or drugs, lying to my Mom about my whereabouts, which was easy to work into the strong, intelligent, capable and independent persona I had unconsciously become trapped in.

My Mom worked as a house cleaner, and later a home care worker, caring for the elderly and physically disabled. She looks back on the money going out and the money coming in and has no idea how she put food on the table.

I continued to uphold the image to anyone but my peers of being smart and beautiful and talented with everything going for me; yet at home, and in my private life, I lived with immense isolation and depression.

Randomly and rather accidentally, I spoke about my relationship with the teacher to various school counselors and the like, and all of them proclaimed the wrong-ness of it.

After my first break down, I ended up at home again. I finished high school in an adult program and graduated as a class valedictorian, also winning a Governor General’s Bronze Academic Medal for Excellence for having the highest marks at my school.

This was also around the time I saw my first therapist, and decided to file a report to the police about what had happened. My Mother remained at arms length from the whole process. What I remember is her rolling her eyes; what I took from her at the time is that I was being a drama queen, dramatizing the whole thing, making a beautiful man into a criminal. I don’t remember any feelings of my own around this time, or this act. The weight of the shame in me, and the degree to which I was covering it up on a daily basis had not even begun to hit me. I still saw myself as the star student, full of promise, who could do anything she put her mind to, and presented myself as such to the outside, with great care and effort and unconscious vigilance. A police man visited me and recorded a full statement from me in his car. A couple of months later, I got a phone call from the Municipal Crown Council. An investigation had been conducted including several community interviews. Not enough evidence had been found to proceed with a hearing. No one had either known or backed up any of my story.

I remember reacting as if I had conducted some kind of scientific experiment. Hmm, I went, interesting. I didn’t even ask the lady on the phone for more information, like how many interviews had been conducted, or with whom, or what evidence if any had been gathered. She informed me of my option to appeal and the avenues I could take; I thanked her kindly and graciously, as if she were calling from some kind of college and telling me about my schooling options.

I and my Mom still thought of the teacher as a family friend. I wrote him the occasional Christmas card and sent photos now and again, and still thought of the school with fondness.

And so he contacted me in the wake of my report to the law, and we met to talk about it in person. I told him of feeling suicidal frequently for the past 10 years (at the time), my pattern of relationships with older men, and my continued disconnection from my peers. I never shed a tear while telling him this; again, it was like I was reporting. He cried, and told me he’d let himself get too close to me; and he promised he would never let anything like that ever happen again.

Ten years later, and after two more break downs in two more cities, I was living with my now ex-husband. It was one of the strongest times of my life, and still the only time in my adult life that I had managed to bond deeply with a small group of female friends. Somehow, as these things do, it came up, and I told him, and a few months later, he brought it up again, and said that he found it really disturbing that this teacher was still teaching. I had seen several more therapists that past decade, and two of them had said the same thing. Although it resonated with me also, I did not see what else could be done. I had felt that his apology was genuine, and that he had made an honest mistake. I did not feel he was ever a pervert, but someone with poor boundaries and unmet needs that had gotten the best of him. I am also not aware of any further incidents that have happened with any of his students.

And yet, there was still some action that was calling me; still something that felt unresolved about it. I decided to write the school a letter. I decided to tell them what had happened and ask them to watch over this instructor to make sure that nothing like what had happened with me ever happened again with any other of his students. I made it very clear in my letter that my intentions were not to press charges, destroy or even damage his career as a teacher in any way; that I simply wanted someone at the school to know what had happened and watch over the situation to make sure it didn’t happen again.

Unfortunately, the principal of the school, to whom I had addressed the letter, felt that he was legally obligated upon hearing of this event, to report it to the police; and somehow, there had been no record made available to him that this had already been done. So the teacher was put through the same investigation again. This time, I got a call from the police. The female officer attempted to sum it up by saying to me, “You just needed to get it off your chest, didn’t you.” And in the heat of the moment, I agreed with her, thanked her for calling and hung up the phone. Again, I do not remember feeling much at all, but the kind of niggling anxiety that has slowly been eating at my insides all my life – the kind I have become so accustomed to that I hardly notice it.

The person at the event last weekend was the mother of one of my class mates at the school. Her daughter and I were arc rivals in our class, competing with each other on all fronts of talent and personality. I cannot imagine that she would not have been one of the people interviewed by the police. I have not spoken to her since our graduation, and when I tried to friend her on Facebook several years ago, she simply did not respond.

If her mother knew anything about what had happened, she did well in not letting on. So she pretended she didn’t know, and I pretended I believed her, and we pretended to be genuine and caring towards one another. We pretended to honor our past acquaintance, as if it were nothing but happy. I met her grandchildren (of my former classmate), and her brother and sister in-law (the parents of my classmate’s husband). They said that my classmate and I should get together. I said to say hello to her.

Like is so often the case, I do not feel the truth of things sometimes until days after the fact, and so here I am.

What in the hell would her daughter and I ever say to each other?

Being back in the same town as the school, the thing that has bothered me is that no one I run into from the school seems to know anything about an incident reported to the police, or about the letter I wrote. I have used very subtle ways of finding this out. What has made this possible is that my Mother is friends with the woman who served as Chair of the school’s board, as well as the woman who was the head administrator there for a decade after my Mother and I moved away. These women get together occasionally for movie night, which I attended one evening, with some hesitation. At first I was pleasantly surprised that there did not seem to be any awkward reaction to me whatsoever. Then, I asked the former Chair if she knew anything about something that had happened with me and the school. She said, it was so long ago–what could possibly be the point of talking about it now? I said that if she knew the nature of what I was talking about, she wouldn’t have said that. She never asked to know more.

What bothers me now, is that I never did hear anything back from the school, in response to my letter. Not one word. Not, we’re deeply saddened to hear that this has happened at our school to one of our students by one of our teachers, and we appreciate you telling us about it, and here’s what we’re doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Just. Nothing. At all.

How many times can I be abandoned over this? Disqualified, invalidated? By how many people? No one gets it.

And the feeling of shame, of being stained irrevocably remains. And the implications of those feelings and the depth of them continue to be illuminated to me in layers with each passing year of my life.

Abuse is subjective, and it is a permanent scar.

Now, I am so ashamed to still be thinking about this, that I can barely even write about it here.

The shame almost literally suffocates me. I do, I feel a physical sensation of choking as I come in touch with it. And mixed in with it is despair and fear for the rest of my life – that is the snow ball that gets going, or that has been going in me unconsciously, and sabatauging absolutely everything all this time. The feeling that there is something horribly wrong with me. I have tried not to give it energy or attention, I have tried to think positively, see the positive, not focus on the negative, be kind to myself, love myself, be grateful, fake it ‘till I make it. And yet still, this is all there inside me, at my core.

I find it astonishing and baffling how deeply ingrained these patterns are in me; that even as intelligent and aware as I am, they can still undermine my life in permanent and irrevocable ways. The degree to which I am uncomfortable around people from my past is an indicator of how much healing is left to be done.

Twenty years later, still yet another whole new layer of truth is opening up — painful, scary, ugly truth. In these moments, when I see the dark side of how these experiences of neglect and abuse have affected me, and continue to affect my daily life, my ability to function in life, and most specifically, my inability to form lasting and meaningful friendships and professional relationships; in these moments, I do not feel for a second misplaced or at all fraudulent in applying for permanent disability as a person with internalized Borderline Personality Disorder. The fact that I am actually coming by it honestly turns the prospect of the rest of my life into something quite horrifying.

It is when I forget that all this exists, in between triggers, I wonder what all the fuss was about. I wonder what the hell I am doing calling myself disabled. This is the unstable sense of self that is the chronic condition. The split in my understanding of myself and my life and the impulsive and flawless automatic ability to cover it up, until I inevitably slip and my world crumbles. Until I forget again.

And so, I must be ready for the next layer of truth and action and healing. I feel like I cannot bear to have my life fall apart again. I am scared and vulnerable.

I move the slider on my progress bar to the left today. I am humbled.

Related Page:

(Though this link still works, I’ve greyed it out since I first posted this post because it has been identified by a reader as not being coherent with this post, and/or simply not a helpful resource on the topic of shame. See the comment below for more on this)

An intriguing chart of the relationship between guilt and shame at: (

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medical community begins to prove that abuse leads to early death

ACE Pyramid of the Whole Life Perspective

ACE Pyramid of the Whole Life Perspective

I was deeply struck by this episode of Ideas on CBC, particularly the last third of it, defining Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) and proposing they be included on medical intake forms and “Physical” examinations, based on considerable, conclusive research. The implications of this … imagine mental and physical health professionals working together with each other to provide integrated health care, acknowledging that mental, physical and spiritual well-being cannot exist or be treated in isolation of each other.

Listen to ‘All in the Family’ with Mary O’Connell and Dr. Vincent Felitti on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) Radio.