ellensagh

5. Back in the World

I noticed within days of working at Tamara’s House and setting up the administrative offices, that when someone gave to Tamara’s House, I felt cared for, I felt understood and felt believed.
The first week I was there I was at the University Hospital; speaking to psychiatrists and medical interns about what a survivor goes through. I told them when I was asked to speak I hesitated as I hadn’t had a lot to do with the mental health system; psychiatry but had had a lot to do with alternative resources in Saskatoon and the province. I spoke a little bit of my history; how the magnitude of the problem had stunned me and I spoke of phoning the Sexual Assault Centre, speaking with volunteers; had asked a medical doctor the difference between a counsellor; psychologist; psychiatrist; therapist, and social worker. I talked about their being a lot of losses but also about what I had found – a once a week counsellor; a self-help group; a domestic abuse group; a survivor therapy group at a non profit agency; that I kept finding people who would listen to me and I spoke of some of my experiences – the knife like vaginal pain; the rashes on my skin, muscles go into spasms, that I used massage therapy and when I had to go on welfare, I used physiotherapy but I didn’t want medication. I told them I believed then and still believe that when the long buried feelings are coming up; its because its safe; I can now deal with it and I want to get them out; that I had used an Alternative Support Group for Women from the Mental Health Clinic; that I was part of one of the best groups I had ever been in; a once a month therapy group of about 10 women; that we met on a Friday; had all afternoon, evening and all day Saturday and we could do anger work, grief work, rage work and support each other doing it. I spoke of using three – six month buddies that 2 women’s organizations set up for me for peer support. Meditation, deep relaxation, bioenergetics are all things I had learned with counsellors. Art, poetry, and songs had allowed the horror out; then creative energy is there for me to work and support my kids. I talked about how empowering it is to speak out and that I had had a lot of opportunities; through things like the Inter agency council of survivor services and Tamara’s House. I explained what Tamara’s House was, and the goals – a place to go when overwhelmed; a place to let the pain out; to do collages; to write out the fear; to have others support and validate what I am experiencing without labelling; how labelling is something that I don’t want and may people have tried; saying I had multiple personality or split personality; or I am bipolar; have dissociative identity disorder; or that I’m depressed and wouldn’t shock therapy help – that I don’t have a disorder; that I am healing from crimes. It is normal that I have the darkness; the down or as if I am little when a memory breaks through into my conscious awareness.
I told them how I had moved to a place where I knew I could have 24 hour support and that I moved back hoping Tamara’s House would be a reality; that I didn’t have a safe place or someone to listen when I was growing up; that I deserve it now.
COLLAGE: November 18, 1996
 How I see myself; still up for self-discovery; now; if I listen to my heart; I know I’ve changed. I don’t want to run everything; I want to be part of a team. I need a recipe for relaxation; new ways to get out what needs to be heard; so no more knotted muscles; my little girl who is so sad and doesn’t know what is going on is still grieving what was done to her; what happened will always be a part of me but if I get out the hurt; doesn’t have to be a hurting part of me. I am worthy; I have taken giant steps in healing and will continue to if I take good care of myself. I am strong. I am capable. I am responsible. I am competent. I am feminine. I am self reliant. I am independent but I love relationship and can see male friendship being part of my life soon; I have spirit and it will keep me balanced if I allow it to flow through.
First weeks of work – waking up constantly at night; go from euphoria to exhaustion. Riding on bus; read sad story in paper and am crying. Hard to get my housework done; meals made; be there for the kids. I made what was to depict a stained glass poster for the December Memorial Speak Out Art Show where our community honoured the 14 women who were violently shot in Montreal. My stained glass poster about my life was about 8 feet tall and 5 feet wide. It was made out of tissue paper; my 7 year old picture in the middle; black garbage bags all around with my collages, some poems and a song on it and it tells a story of 1991 not being conscious of previous violence in my life; 1992, remembering; 1993 – divorce, justice system; 1994, horror 1995, Pain; 1996; moving through it – hopefully. Now I realize it looked like a church window. It was to go up on the wall and in front of it, I was putting a music stand with my typed book in binders called Wanted: Someone to Understand. The newspaper was going to interview me because most artists submit anonomously and for 2 days before it, I was writing frantically in my journal.
Why do I speak out?
 First because I know it helps me to get the horror out; grief, pain, terror, the more I speak out, the less body pain, nightmares, sickness and the more I’ve been supported, the more I’ve been able to leave behind the feelings of shame, that it was my fault, something I did – it wasn’t. It was them; because they could; I learned early to do what I was told; to listen to authority and if they were older than me; to do what I was told. When my memories came back, I wanted someone to understand so bad and I couldn’t stand when people would say, you just have to forget about it; put it in the past; All I wanted was someone to listen, to respect me, to support me in whatever I needed to do to take care of myself.
I am honouring myself and my experiences. I want to understand what is happening inside me and right about then I had lots of fear about what I could say to a journalist; whether I was doing the right thing or whether I should mention Tamara’s House. I knew the priest was getting out of jail in next few days.
At work was lots of mail outs; planning an open house; we sent out 350 invitations; phone calls, meetings, found a co- facilitator and was sending faxes to Oiltown, Prairietown and another town in northern Saskatchewan regarding possible workshop sites. I chose those three as that’s where my family of origin was and figured if I was going to go out speaking in front of people, I’d better be able to do it in front of my family. At Tamara’s House, which wasn’t a house, it was like I was receptionist, secretary, administrator, public relations, and support worker.
I gave a talk to a law class about going through the justice system and the costs to society: police services and investigations, prosecution of sex offenders, incarcerations, victim services, compensation, high rates of sexual abuse among incarcerated women.
And then it was the SPEAK OUT ART SHOW DAY: Nearly freaked when I saw CBC cameras there and a woman going through my book. I taped it shut when I saw her looking at lawyer letters, diocesan letters, police statement. I never thought of anyone opening it. I saw editions of the paper laying on a table; the paper of my interview and when I walked over I saw the headline that said, “Survivor counsels other abuse victims” and I felt sick to my stomach. That is not what I do and I wondered what the board of directors of Tamara’s House would think. The article wasn’t bad but the headline was not correct. One line said, “each time I am heard and understood, positive changes in my life follow.” The last lines said “Now I have more days with light in them, and even sometimes a sense of peace.” When I went back to work the next day; still planning the workshops and open house, and scared of what feedback I would get, it didn’t feel that way. The board was very gracious about it when I explained that I hadn’t said what was in the headline and that was not my philosophy.
 Because of my picture and the article in the paper, a guy in my apartment building said, was that you in the paper? And the next day, two women from the National Parole Board came to Tamara’s House to see the resource centre; one asked if I was the person in regards to the priest. She had been handling my file; had sent the information re his statutory release to me in Oiltown but it had come back with no forwarding address.
She sent it to me again and basically it said his statutory release destination is BigCity; lasts for one year from Nov. 29, 1996 – Nov. 27, 1997; that he is required to abide by mandatory conditions all offenders must abide by as well as the following three: 1) follow psychological counselling as directed by clinician; 2) participate in sex offender programming; 3) must avoid certain persons, not to be alone with a child under 18 years of age, unless supervised by a responsible adult who is fully aware of his sexual deviancy – and the reason: given the nature of his offences, the additional conditions are reasonable and necessary for the management of risk and will assist him in dealing with his deviant offences and his re-integration into the community, while contributing to the protection of the public.
With all of the above, and Christmas happening, I became overwhelmed. Cried lots; feeling so alone; felt like I still needed family as didn’t belong anywhere; couldn’t find a faith – in life; in people, in a spirituality; in the good in the world; kept thinking about quitting job as felt way over my head; started crying on the bus when I read in the paper about the trial of a young Saskatoon native woman’s death; the judge saying, you have to remember she was a prostitute. Some things were coming clear: I’d hear the Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) advertisement:“ You’re a bloody idiot” and know – that is verbal abuse; and think – what negativity in the world; I’d lay in bed thinking I don’t know where I fit in the world; I don’t know what work is all about; if I believe in what I’m doing; is it time to leave it all behind me; how do I find a balance; whether I’m not taking good care of my kids; my house; buying groceries, making meals, as if I can’t do it anymore; big thing is whether there is a God; a Creator; woke up thinking we are all Jesus again and know that is what is not clicking here – it’s Christmas; what am I celebrating?
Christmas Day in Prairietown, walked around and put a poster about upcoming January Tamara’s House workshop on Supporting a Survivor – in people’s mailboxes; even the RCMP, the hospital; counsellor, the priest’s; the parish worker; and teachers and people I knew. My back would be in such grief; then I’d think about doing the workshop and be in fear; then I’d walk by my lawyer’s humungous house and be angry; then a few hours later would have a creative idea.
I had this idea to start a second hand store that would raise money for Tamara’s House; call it Guide to Survival Store; new and used; t shirts; survivor’s creative works; clothing because as we heal; who we are keeps changing; survivors could work there; bridge between churches and Tamara’s House; get volunteers; could make the resource centre sustainable.
I think of the past year; and would call it a year of struggle and pain; searching for spirituality.
On New Year’s Day of 1997 I went walking out of town by the river and the song came:
I will know what to do when the time is right
I will know what to do when the time is right
I will know what to do, I will know what to say
I can trust in myself these days.
It would repeat in my head like a children’s song. Out in the country; as I walked up to a huge eight foot high rock; another song; music and all was in my head:
Great spirit who is out on the water
Great spirit who made all this snow
Great spirit who is with me as I release this pain
And now it has somewhere to go
As I leaned upon the rock I love
It took the pain into the earth
It gave me the chance to breathe again
To find the songs inside my head
I need more days out in the woods
In fields where I can be all alone
I can find my connection on all the earth
And it helps me find my way home.
When I went back to work after Christmas, I was a little clearer. I knew the co-facilitator that had been hired and I were all organized to complete the three one day workshops on Jan 16, 22, and 23 but I would tell the board I could do no more than that; the grant applications, etc. I realized the material I had been putting together all through December was trauma material and that the term “atrocity work” was right. I had a dream, “man lying on the floor dead. Too much of one thing”. How true. Wrote in my journal. “I want it all; a house, a car, a relationship, shoes, panties; evenings out, fun, vacations, be able to plan ahead, benefits.”
Went out to the country again and another song:
Great spirit around and inside of me
Finding new ways to set myself free
Grandmother moon looks down upon me
As I try to accept what it’s like to be me
As I walk on the ice and the snow
Let go of the pain and find my way home.
The news broke that a hockey coach had been sexually abusing male hockey players and it was on the news, morning, noon and night. Woke up one morning and just fired up; angry and started writing: “ I am angry at men. Men have everything. Why did I buy the portfolio – briefcase that looks just like a man’s – because I want more; I want better; I deserve better – Why am I wearing clothes like a man? I learned to be like a man but underneath I am a woman; a passionate woman; my outfit says it all; black wool pants, grey wool blazer and a white blouse full of lace. Wonder how long I will keep these clothes; they have protected me; feeling like the work I am doing is cleaning up someone else’s mess; those were Dad’s messages; the church’s messages; society’s messages and now that men are being abused – everyone’s talking about it but they have women to thank – women have done the work; laid the ground work; put a society in place where men can be heard. Know I’m working thru spirituality, sexuality and survival. Survival is about – will I get hurt if I say what I know to be true – men hurt me – are still hurting me as they have the money; the power and the control in our society; in churches and in many homes. I am still hurting; shows in my smoking and throwing cigarettes on ground; not caring about earth; not liking the things I do; not feeling I am there for my kids; I am still held captive by old beliefs; old maxims that were forced on me; like I am trapped – I am still scared I am in the wrong or will do something wrong and be caught. Fear is a horrible way to live. Always feels like I should have known better or more than I do. I want to live without fear of what someone will do to me. I want the spontaneous, happy go lucky playful, fun part of me to not just be a little part. I want to be able to trust men; but it makes total sense that I can’t; they haven’t shown me in enough actions that I have a reason to; I am giving up the dutiful, submissive, pious, be there for others first woman role that I played for so many years of my life while I was seething inside. I know there is a way to build a new life for myself on the groundwork and foundation that I’ve worked on for the last four and a half years.
Did the first one day workshop – 25 had registered and 13 were on the waiting list. My sister was there and that was really helpful to me. We went from 9:30 to 4:00 in a small room of the local community college. I say small as when there were 28 chairs in a circle with no tables in the middle; and everyone was sitting and I had my binders required sitting on the chair next to me, there was no extra space in that room. We began with guidelines for confidentiality, asking that no one cross talked. We started the actual workshop with a circle check-in about who they were, how they were feeling and expectations they were bringing. From 10:00 – 10:45, it was onto the definition of child sexual abuse; after the break; the aftereffects, consequences and coping with child sexual abuse. I shared a bit of my personal experiences.
By after lunch, some of them looked like they had been hit by a truck. 1:00 –2:00 p.m., was on Stages of Healing and Ideas for Healing and from 2:00 – 2:45 we discussed Tamara’s House, Resources for Healing, and Alternatives to the Medical Model.
After the break,all participated in group work on what each could do and the community could do to support a survivor so it was a heavy day. We had another circle check in after lunch and a circle check out before we ended and every check-in there were lots of disclosures; weeping from participants; some disclosing publicly for the first time. Prairietown had recently had a teacher pedophile, who had been very involved in the catholic church, charged with abusing adolescent boys and the father of one of those boys was there; as well as teachers who had worked with that teacher; the priest from the local church so the heavy emotional disclosures made sense. No one left. All stayed for lunch together. They were all so grateful I had come out there and that I shared personal experience. I know I did an excellent job and that it was appreciated big time. The ten question evaluation forms they filled out were positive and showed that they got it; a clear understanding of the trauma of sexual abuse and that they can do something about it.
 I was exhausted; had a lot of body pain; felt like when I had gone to court; similar to when I had supported others through that; that I had been out there supporting others and giving hope to them but no one was there for me. Difference now is I am there for me and I’m never not going to put myself first again. The co-facilitator and I talked every day on the phone until we left the next week Tuesday. On Wednesday we gave the same workshop with 30 some people in a northern Saskatchewan town; drove that night in the darkness, blizzard like conditions at 30 below zero to Oiltown and gave the same workshop to 25 people in there the next day. Each one was as intense for the participants as the first one and as intense for us when we got home. We did whatever we could do debrief; my co-facilitator went to the symphony and said whole experience of the week prior and that night was a sacred moment for her; was like she was transported the night of the symphony and could leave all the pain go that she had taken on. I had lots of people listen to me. It really helped that one of my sister’s came to the one in Prairietown and another one to the one in Oiltown. Was wonderful to be able to talk out what had just happened.
Over the next month; I tried to rest but as always in my life; things kept happening. I gave a lot of two hour presentations around the community; to university medical students; to a Mennonite church committee; went with a survivor to her university class and when we got out of there she told me about her ritual abuse which put me into like a shock. She had spoke to her university class about violence in the family and most of what she talked about was how I grew up and what it was like in my marriage so made is so real. I had to go to legal aid to sign another form as I was still attempting to get child support for the kids. My Mom was on the verge of going into a diabetic coma – going in and out a lot –and had to be hospitalized. The accountant of Tamara’s House told the board of Directors there was only enough money left until March and if no more, drop in would have to close.
It was Feb. 11, 1997; a Sunday; woke up with my back muscles in painful spasms and needed to get groceries but was concerned I couldn’t carry them. Knew I had to go anyway. I was in so much pain; sitting in a restaurant writing and all felt so hard; when I could hardly get up and walk and knew there was hardly enough community support to keep Tamara’s House open. I read a quote somewhere, “Consciousness is the ability to see the whole of our lives in each moment,” and thought, who would want to.
 On Valentine’s Day, a woman who I hardly knew, who had attended Prairietown workshop sent me flowers, a card and a letter. It did something for me. I phoned a lawyer in Saskatoon who invited me in for an immediate appointment and before lunch that day, I signed an authorization for her to get my file regarding suing the priest and the archdiocese from the lawyer who I had retained in 1993. I put in writing that I want a lawyer who will file the civil suit and who will stay in touch with me on a monthly basis about how this case is progressing.
 Even though I was working, I was still down all the time; did lots of journaling; wrote out my whole life story in a journal as I thought no one would want to listen to me anymore; that people were sick of me. I was at a woman’s for coffee and she said, there must be something so unbearable; feelings so unbearable that I need to smoke and drink coffee; as soon as she said it; I was into deep crying. After that, I had a good week. All my soul searching regarding God – made me realize I used to believe I couldn’t leave the church or it would never change and now I believe I can leave the church or be part of the church; moment to moment.
I gave a talk in a church; that started by my saying, “it’s hard to talk about sexual abuse. I may cry. I’m okay with that. You can cry too. I’ve lost my notes about what I was going to say. That’s a good thing. All my life I was over responsible for everything so it feels good to be not irr -responsible but under responsible. I was wondering what it would be like going into a church and wondered if it would be inappropriate if I didn’t wear a dress. I grew up going to church every Sunday. I loved church – Sundays were hectic – I was the oldest girl; family of 10 kids; when I was in Grade 4 we got a piano; by Grade 6, I played the church organ and never stopped till I was 37. I went on to talk about abuse; and again I ended by saying speaking out doesn’t end the pain in a minute; there are incredible amounts of horror, of terror, of grief stored in my body; all of which wasn’t safe to feel when the abuse was happening and if I don’t get it out; I’ll be sick, in mind, body and spirit. I believe many of the addictions people have are ways to hold the pain inside; until someone can listen. I told them I didn’t want to be judged because I still smoke. The nightmares and panic attacks when it’s like I am little and as if the abuse is happening right now; that I don’t have a mental health problem. I am healing from crimes. I need someone to listen. When I see my brothers at a family thing; and for days I can hardly walk; I am in so much physical body pain; or I see or hear a priest and I have a knife like vaginal pain; I don’t need a Dr., I need someone to listen. When I hear a hymn or hear someone tell me if I would pray to God more and I can’t find the God I used to believe in; I need someone to listen to how it is for me. I let them know this is what I hear at Tamara’s House; women who want someone to listen to their experiences of horror; women and men now too who phone and say, ‘I never told anyone but ‘,or where can I go to release anger or the weekends are the hardest or the middle of the night because that’s when the abuse happened. Until everyone in our community, our churches, our homes knows how to support someone who is healing from sexual abuse, we need a Tamara’s House.
The new lawyer calls me on March 11, 1997 leaving message that she sent a letter to old lawyer on Feb 13, 1997 and when she didn’t respond, she has left 2 phone messages and now has sent one more letter, if no response in 10 days, she said that lawyer would need to answer to the law society and so would get back to me in ten days.
A few days later I asked a guy out for coffee – well I asked him if he ever did coffee. One of the four women from B.C. who had been abused by the same priest phoned me. She had been offered $17,000.00 by the church and all the women had had psychological assessments by psychologists the church had picked.
The guy I approached about meeting for coffee actually set a date for one and then my emotions went on roller coaster; fear, anger, feeling out of control, pretty scary. I went out in the country screaming; groin area really bad; tried meditating; got up and drew and it looked like a devil came out by a little girl; scared of the blackness coming back; scared I’d be hurt again.
 A woman of native ancestry began her social work practicum with me at Tamara’s House. I met the guy who was interested in doing coffee; at a coffee shop; was the first one there and was journal writing as I watched the door; knowing if he didn’t show up I’d be really disappointed; trying not to have any expectations and wrote: Lessons in frustration. He showed and it went okay.
 Went to Prairietown to give second workshop for the people on the waiting list. Wrote in my journal,“Loving my life; I’m tired, exhausted but everything is okay in my world; the workshop went well; can only do one a week; they’re pretty tough; people’s pain is pretty heavy.”
Next morning, driving to a donut shop to write, song in my head that I called:

Peaceful Feelings
Love is the rainbow
Love is the sun
Love is the answer
But not for everyone
So many are so hurting
Many have had no love
And then they hurt another
And all they do is run
Run from their hurting
It hurts to feel the pain
But feeling all my feelings
Gives me sunshine again
Love is the answer
Love is in the tears
It’s feeling all my feelings
Even my deepest fears.
The new lawyer phoned and said she received file from other lawyer; wanted to give me a copy of a new retainer agreement to study and would like me to come in the next day to meet with her and her partner. I did and when I met with them, they spoke of some correspondence from the diocese. I had no idea what they were talking about. They gave me a copy of a letter addressed to me in care of the first lawyer I had retained and it was dated September 22, 1995. It was from the bishop of the diocese that I wanted the statement of claim issued against. It was now March 1997. I had never seen it.
He was letting me know he was new to the diocese, finding out about things; wanted open and frank communication. He said he was aware Father Allinblack had acknowledged improper conduct by a guilty plea to criminal charges and was sentenced to a term in prison. He was informed by diocesan lawyers I wanted a monetary settlement, that the diocese was prepared to provide a final settlement and would like to hear from me directly as to concluding it. He said was acceptable to settle through my lawyer if that was what I wanted. He let me know diocesan lawyers informed him the diocese had no legal liability in my case and that had been communicated to my lawyer. He saw this as helping the healing process; the diocese recognizing financially my suffering and needs and that it might not work, I might choose to go the legal route and so was sent on a without prejudice basis.
I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that it was March 26, 1997 and I was seeing a September 22, 1995 letter for the first time. My head was full trying to sort out what to do or how to do anything; felt overwhelmed so signed the retainer agreement asking the new lawyers; both of them to conduct all negotiations required for the protection of my interest and agreed that the fee would be 15% of total settlement if claim settlement prior to a pre-trial settlement conference; 20% if settled at pre-trial conference or concluded at trial. If unsuccessful at obtaining any settlement or judgement, I would pay no remuneration at all. The agreement also spoke about them deducting from a settlement all fees and disbursements; that they are authorized to retain counsel and such experts in medicine, occupational therapy, accounting and economics or otherwise as needed and I could terminate agreement at any time, with entitlement to return of any documents and/or correspondence written or prepared on my behalf upon payment of all fees at the rate of $100.00 per hour and disbursements for services rendered on my behalf.
 I did sign the retainer agreement and gave them my unpublished book to read. Went home and couldn’t sleep; headache crashing on left side of brain; jaw aching; anger; and wondered if it was resentment; desire for revenge. Church comes to mind big time. Good Friday that year and my sister telling me about a play she went to with a Jesus being flogged and whipped; Judas being hung and I’m wondering if there was a Jesus. Went to a Unitarian church service and the leader had a huge cloth as a prop and spoke of how we need to take off the cloth of woundedness and we could go up to the front where the cloth prop was and take part of the cloth off whatever it was on. I did; went up remembering how my oldest brother did raise my self-esteem through recognition of my talents but more importantly, that the abuse did not kill my spirit.
Collage: March 31, 1997
Stored feelings from the past are emerging again. There is a scared girl inside me and a scared young adult who feels the darkness is monumental and yet there’s a sensual passionate adult that knows the light; who knows the darkness was a thing of the past and came to live in me when I was part of my family where I endured pain that was close to burning me up. It’s stored in my body and mind. Parenthood is a promise you make that you will always be there and I grew up that our home is the best home and I was little and all alone; as my family grew and grew; not only in kids but in people and things. I traded places and became the parent; managed my life and did things on my own to make my life better and different because I didn’t want what I had. It still feels like irreconcilable differences. I had no rights and yet I know I had all the rights I wanted because I want to say – nobody cared but I know they cared as much as they were able; on an adult level – mind – there is irreconcilable differences. The darkness used to come again and again but now my life is essential back to normal except for the occasional overwhelming feelings from too much mental work. Mostly I’m content and taking care of myself; I am now content inside me and able to look back at the past as somewhere that I came from and am able to appreciate the present because of it. I will always be joyful and spirited – young at heart. I have a mountain of spirituality, support and love to give to myself and others. I don’t have to think of myself as used. I can think of myself as having undergone extensive wounding. I am balancing out more and more all the time. I am wanting more than the bare essentials in life. The opportunity is here. I have renewed interest in living in life; in exploring, in sharing with friends and even male friends which feels new and exciting. To find the best for me, I will go deeper; I will go as deep as I have to ; be willing to risk thinking differently if I want to thrive. I love and know its in the small wonders; the moments of everyday that facing the darkness will transform it into light and union with myself and the universe will be mine.
In 1995 and 1996 I held parties to celebrate the steps I’d taken on this healing journey and this year decided to celebrate by myself. I went to theb ank on April 7; withdrew $120.00; went down to the fanciest and oldest hotel in Saskatoon and by noon, checked in to a room overlooking the river. I called it Celebrate Me Day. I told two of my sisters that I was going to do that and when I left the room for tea; came back to flower delivery. Stunning! The next morning I had a walk by the river and other than the garden bistro breakfast; lay in the sunshine all morning.
 Was seeing the guy but more so talking to him on the phone and my emotions were jumping all over. My body would go into muscle spasms when I was around him. I was seeing colours in my head when I thought about him. Came out in a song:
Searching
I’m searching for something that he can’t give me
I’m into extremes going up and down
I want to be held; be held forever
I want both feet planted on the ground
And if I keep my feet so planted
I can’t go soaring in the sky
Up in the clouds is it where I want to be
I can do anything if I try
Sleeping forever, silently screaming
Coming awake it’s happening at last
The feelings are jumping all over within me
One is here and then it changes so fast
Silently screaming and now not so silent
My body gives my answers to me
My dreams of love are shattered again
And confusion awaits and I can’t see
The root of it all why does it matter
Why is it all so important to me
Because I matter, matter to who, matter to you
And most of all I matter to me.
Questions I was asking myself: Is everything that comes out of our mouth about ourselves? Is there lots of people who have never had this emotional pain? Am I not normal and everyone else is? I want to believe I am normal.
On April 13, 1997, I went with another woman to Legend; to the Catholic Church there and facilitated the one day “Supporting A Survivor” workshop. The church set it up so that instead of 9:30 – 4:00; they asked Tamara’s House if we could do it on a Sunday 11:00 – 5:00 with half hour for dinner. The Friday before, I phoned to find out if they had enough registering as I had said maximum 25; and the woman who had taken over the organizing half way through said she thinks there were 35 registered. There were 46 when I got there.
I knew half. They had organized it so when Mass was out, people left the service and went downstairs for the workshop. It was another heavy one. This was one of the parishes where the priest who had abused me had been in charge. The woman who co-facilitated with me was a lesbian woman and the next day I wondered how that would have went over if she talked about being lesbian as another issue that was never talked about. My belief system was still crashing; wrote in my journal, “don’t know why people are gay; just are; maybe we’re all bisexual and don’t know it. I’m still trying to sort out light and darkness; seeing and thinking, understanding, wisdom and enlightenment.
I was writing that in my journal Monday morning in a coffee shop and there in the paper was the headline “Abuse victim sues priest” I didn’t know if it was about me; but it said a woman recently filed a claim against Allinblack; who had pleaded guilty three years before to sexually abusing 15 girls. It said the claim included the church which oversaw Allinblack and the parishes he served. By the time I got to the end of the article, I was pretty sure it was me they were talking about and that the claim said the diocese knew or should have known that I was vulnerable to sexual abuse by Allinblack because of his power and authority over me; and that I am seeking damages and compensation from the court. It let me know that the priest and the diocese have yet to file a statement of defence. 
 I had 24 telephone calls before 3:45 in the afternoon when I spoke to my new lawyer who said that she wasn’t aware that it would be in the paper. She did say she filed the statement of claim on April 4, 1997. The only thing I said was that they don’t have the right church listed where the abuse took place and she might want to check that out on the Statement of Claim and she said she’d send me a copy.
 One woman who had previously been through a court case and knew how I always said; when the emotion hit for me it was like being hit by a truck; left the following message: “It might feel like you have tread marks from being hit by a truck but they’re tiger stripes showing your strength.”
My emotions were just a jumping. When a woman who had much more education than I did; said I needed to educate myself ; that I shouldn’t cry so much or take everything so personally, I was so angry, I wrote the following: “You have educated yourself – well so have I; It’s like I’ve been in a university class 24 hours a day for 5 years ; learning about how I have been used and abused by men for 40 years and I don’t want to be used or abused again or told what to do. I learned to please men; do what they wanted; figure out what they were thinking so I could adapt my actions; my reactions my everything to suit them but they never got the real me; I did everything so I wouldn’t get hurt and I kept getting hurt; whatever I did was not good enough ; put down or I was hurt for their benefit. My feeling – my body – my mind – my spirit counted for nothing. I was invisible to them; not quite invisible – not quite – because I always wanted to matter – to be known – to be liked – to be okay and I would do lots of things to be noticed – big things and they kept getting bigger as I learned new ways to stop getting hurt because it never felt over – It never felt like I mattered.
 I take everything personally because it was personal. It hurt my person. My body is part of my person; my mind is part of me; my spirit was hurt. It really wasn’t personal because they would have done it to anyone; anyone they could control; anyone they could have power over; to do what they wanted; to get what they wanted to make themselves feel better. Feeling is the operative word here. They were coming out of their hurts, their wounds, their pain and used me to feel better. When I am hurt, I cry. It makes sense to me. I don’t want to be hurt anymore. I am scared I’ll be hurt. I have a lot to cry about. I learned to take care of myself by never feeling the pain; keeping all the fear inside; keeping all the anger inside so they’d never know they hurt me; I always put on a brave face and told myself it wasn’t me; it was them but the put downs; the violation of my body; the you don’t matter; you don’t count of all the men who had control over me and they were big men; the priest; my brothers; every guy I went out with; and I searched out big guys because I thought if they were big; they’d be safe; they’d protect me and I married a big guy and he said all the right words and he had good intentions maybe and I learned all the crap from the Catholic church; marriage is forever – the wife does everything for her husband and most of all I learned serve is my role in the world; can never say no; can never say no to someone who has more power than you; who has authority over you; who matters more than you.
 I always knew I mattered. I’ve been fighting all my life to matter, but until 5 years ago, I was fighting for every person more vulnerable than I to matter.; 5 years ago I chose myself – no – its’ less than 5 years ago; I chose my children; over put down and control. A few years later I chose myself.
To protect myself I didn’t show anyone I had terror, pain, rage, shame. The only place I glimpsed joy was in church on Sundays or when I was involved in music; they were rare glimpses but I kept going back searching for it again. People who cared saw it in my eyes. It was rarely safe to feel. Sometimes it was safe to feel in my husband’s arms when we were alone; in the dark of night. He never put me down when I was alone. He did it in front of others. When I was little, I was abused in the darkness. When I was married, I was hurt in the light. Since 92 I have found safe places to let out the terror, the rage and most of the shame. It wasn’t my shame. I’m beginning to believe it. I still have fear, anger, some pain, mostly grief but I still have the joy; only lots more of it. As I let out the horror, there is just more joy. I always wanted to change everyone and everything around me so I wouldn’t be hurt anymore. I know I can only change myself but I still struggle with it. Every time some new development happens, it’s like I have to revisit my whole life. I am searching for safety, where I can be me, all of me, who I am in the moment. I’m okay with who I am right now; where I’ve come from and no idea where I’m going and that’s okay. I have learned over the 5 years that 90% of my fear, my anger, shame guilt or whatever, is stored feelings from my past experiences. Usually the other 10% is valid, real feelings based on what is happening for me in the present moment. I can’t discount them even if it’s 1 % because I matter. I am important to me. I want to know myself and I want to be known. I don’t have patience because this was crap. I wanted it changed now. I didn’t want to be hurt anymore. Is that why I had glasses because I couldn’t stand what I saw? Did I have glasses before Allinblack abused me? because what I saw after in our house would have been enough for anyone to go blind – It doesn’t matter. I saw a lot of crap. I see it now. I don’t want to see it anymore. When I see it now, I want it stopped immediately. When I do it, I want someone who feels it or sees it, to gently ask my why and share what they experienced because of my action. When I believe in it or I wouldn’t be doing it; I want that belief shattered but shattered without a cutting edge or a death blow. I don’t want my past to be an excuse for my actions in the present. I am an adult and I am accountable for my feelings, beliefs and actions. Inflicted pain kills the spirit. I choose life. Every person I talk to, I learn something about myself. Right now I am feeling desperate to talk to someone – anyone who will listen and it’s wonderful that I can now talk to myself. It’s a gift I have given myself. When I can’t write and I’m all confused as darkness, pain, grief and sadness surface, I have used people to listen to me as I sorted it out. Sorting it out for me meant letting the pain surface, with the fear and anger usually upfront; get rid of it by letting it go through expressing it in hundreds of different ways but mostly with people until I can understand it. Many, many people were there for me. As I let go of the feelings, examined my beliefs, I changed my actions and people that didn’t let go; no longer felt comfortable with my truths. I found new ways and new people to be with. Actually, less people and more other beings like rocks and colours and music and now I have my dreams and my music from within.I still love people. I have enough wounds in me that I can still relate to their woundedness. I want others to have more than the glimpse of joy, that they must have had that they continue living. I want them to experience the peace and serenity that I had for one whole day. I want more than one day of peace. I know I will get it if I make it safe for me to feel. Some people say you can have it all. Can you? I want peace. Peace I think is a balance between the light now in me and the darkness still to be uncovered. Recognizing the imbalance and correcting it may be the juggling act of life. I hope not. I hope there is more to life than always balancing darkness. I want there to be more and more light. I want people in my life who give me support, validation and respect.

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