“One time I called Sarah about 10:30 p.m. and her oldest son answered the phone. I quickly asked if Sarah was asleep and if she was, NOT to wake her. He told me that she was, in fact, sleeping.
“The next day he asked his mom why I sometimes called or came over so late at night. This son was a challenge for Sarah because he was somewhat rebellious, sporting long hair and a black leather jacket. Sarah proceeded to tell him a little about my life. Without hesitation, he responded tenderly, ‘Oh, mom. I wish I would have woke you!’
“While Sarah's family was renting a tiny two bedroom home, Rick received his first kidney transplant. I came over a couple of days after the event. Sarah and I were standing in the kitchen when she looked around, waved her hand around the room at all the food that members of our church had brought to her family, and sweetly said to me, ‘Look at all the food and things people are doing for our family. And I look at you. Your problems and troubles are SO much worse than any of ours and yet who is watching out for you and taking care of you?’
“Having a true disciple of Christ, like Sarah, in my life was necessary in helping me overcome one of the biggest challenges I faced: I felt unlovable. It was an abyss so deep and far-reaching that it literally affected every other aspect of living. I had been through profound experiences and purposeful brainwashing that told me I would never be loved.” (My Tears Fall Inside, page 130)
How incredible that Sarah, with all her serious family problems, could look at my situation and be able to put her own troubles into perspective recognizing that the pain I felt was deeper than hers. Although “counting your blessings” sounds like a trite phrase, sometimes when we feel the depths of another person’s pain, it changes our perception of our own troubles and we can cope with our own struggles a little better.
“It was during this crucial and unbelievably difficult phase of her life that Sarah willingly and cheerfully supported me in my difficulties. One night, I went to her home to talk. I was aware of her situation and her need to arise early the next morning to do her difficult construction work. I thought to myself, ‘I am NOT going to keep her up late,’ and after about a half hour, I stood up to leave.
“But Sarah did not stand. She continued to sit on the couch to talk to me. In fact, she continued the conversation for another hour before I finally said, ‘Sarah, I was determined not to let you stay up late with me. I was going to leave.’
“She replied: ‘I know. That's why I stayed seated because I could tell that you were not okay. I was not going to stand up and let you leave in the vulnerable state you were in because I knew you were not all right.’”
“I was dumbfounded by the love of this woman. It wasn't until 1:00 or 1:30 in the morning that I finally was able to leave. We both knew that she had to be up very early but as I left she said, ‘Shawna, if you wake up in the next hour and need to talk, call me. If you wake up any time and need me, call me.’ Incredibly, she really meant it!
“I cannot tell you how important it was for me, a person who felt like no one could love me, to have someone sacrifice so much for me. I didn't know where to put it! I was in so much pain; I didn't have a place to put this profound and genuine love. It touched me so deeply, but I couldn't fathom that people could love me that much. There was so much pain, and I seemed to have found places to put that pain (distributed amidst my various parts) but when it came to such incredible love, I had difficulty finding a corresponding place for it. Where were the parts of me split off and dedicated to accepting and feeling overwhelming love? There were none.” (My Tears Fall Inside, pages 129-130)
Sometimes people are in so much pain that they have an inability to accept or trust that someone can actually love them. Such was the case for me at that time. When someone is in that belief state, only time and consistent unconditional love will eventually altar that conviction, but it can change. I now know that people can love me and I can accept that love—thanks to the enduring love of my wonderful friends.
“When such disturbing memories started coming out during my therapy sessions, it became more apparent to me why I would need an entire team of supporters on the outside to deal with the "team" of tortured personalities inside. Despite the fact that Sarah had her own ‘crosses to bear,’ she was willing to be on my team.
“Sarah and her husband, Rick, had seven children. If that wasn't enough to keep her busy and engaged in her own life, Rick had nearly died as a result of a ruptured appendix which destroyed his kidneys, so he was also chronically ill with kidney failure and required to undergo dialysis treatments. Their home was across the street from Dixie's until, unfortunately, they lost it due to financial difficulties brought on by his illness. Both were only a few houses away from mine on the same street.
“Sarah's husband had been a general engineering contractor and his illness prevented him from doing his work to keep the business afloat. Consequently, it fell on Sarah to do the manual labor that had been his responsibility prior to his illness. She became the crew foreman and had to spend long hours each day in heavy, physical labor including, among other things, pouring concrete. Exhausted, she would come home late to deal with her seven teenaged children and sick husband in a tiny two-bedroom home that was their landing place following the loss of their family residence. She had to be up at 5:30 a.m. each morning to start her day.” (My Tears Fall Inside, pages 128-129)
Anyone would think that Sarah had way too much on her plate to have time or desire left to reach out to someone else. Surely it was extremely inconvenient. Never-the-less, Sarah had a sincere love for me and was not only willing but wanted to help me and she was prepared to sacrifice of herself and her time in order to support me. Her Christian example is remarkable.
I once heard someone say, “Service is not true service unless it is inconvenient.” I am eternally indebted to those who reached out to me despite all of the inconvenience, and showed Christian love and compassion to the many “personality parts” within me. What a wonderful world it would be if each of us reached out to others in a similar manner.
“Because this particular memory, if it was a memory, involved another person, I realized there was the possibility of corroboration. But not wanting to taint mine or my sister's thoughts on the matter, I didn't want to speak to her directly. In fact, for the entire time I was in therapy, I rarely spoke to my sister because I was afraid of mistakenly implanting ‘false memories’ that shouldn't have been there. In addition, while I was going through therapy, I was very careful to avoid reading about or exposing myself to anything having to do with ritual abuse. It wasn't necessarily because I was trying to prove anything to anyone; it was simply that I didn't feel I could afford to have anyone else's thoughts in my head at the time. I felt crazy enough as it was.
“With regards to this memory of hanging, however, I felt I needed some corroboration because I was beginning to believe I was quite insane. Rather than speak to her directly, I called her husband and asked if he could simply ask his wife if she had had any memories of me being hung. He said he would ask her.
“My sister called me back to say:
“Yes, I did have a memory like that. In fact, my memory is that I saw you hanging and I had a knife at my throat. I had tried to run away and they caught me. They brought me back and made you hang as my punishment for having run away. I thought I had made this memory up because you are still alive."
“Until this discussion with my sister, I had never considered the possibility that we had both been threatened and coerced by the cult members using our relationship with each other to ensure cooperation.” (My Tears Fall Inside, pages 127-128)
I was very upset by the confirmation of this memory through my sister. It would have been so much easier to believe that I was just crazy than to have the memory substantiated. My sister and I were going to different therapists in different counties at this time. There was no possible way that these ideas were put into our heads by our therapists. Also, the fact that we saw the same event from different aspects was an additional proof of their reality.
If you are struggling to heal consider some of the many avenues of healing. I just discovered a new website, www.healthhealing andwholeness.com. Perhaps this will give you a direction that might help you.
“Because the sources of my pain ranged from a troubled marriage to childhood sexual abuse to violent ritual abuse, I was ‘fortunate’ to have a spectrum of experiences that I could share with people without getting into the deepest of the deep or the darkest of the dark. It wasn't unusual for me to have very serious, in-depth discussions with some people and still only scratch the surface of my experiences. Certain parts of me also knew they couldn't come out in open discussion unless there was an emotionally safe environment. They knew that it took a very high trust level in order to emerge and be heard, so they mostly stayed hidden inside.
“For this reason it took a long time to open up to Sarah. When I finally started to let Sarah into my world, it was at a time when I was uncovering memories that were particularly painful and wrenching. In one therapy session, I remembered some very violent and sadistic activities in which I had been forced to participate. I recalled having cloth put around my neck, then a rope on top of the cloth (apparently to prevent leaving a rope mark). I was then hung by my neck until I passed out.
“Included in the same memory, I saw my older sister being held at knifepoint. I was told that I needed to cooperate and participate in something horrible or they would kill my sister. After discovering these memories I thought I was completely insane. I could not imagine that anyone would hang a child by the neck, so I thought of these memories as somehow the product of a crazy mind - mine!” (My Tears Fall Inside, page 126-127)
Sometimes we can “know” people for many years without really knowing them. They do not let us into their real world. Since that was the way I handled nearly every relationship for most of my life, I had done the same thing with Sarah. Until this time, she had no idea of what I was actually going through, even though she had known me for a very long time.
How can we develop trusting relationships with others so they can feel safe enough to open up to us and we can be a loving support to them?
“Sarah was someone I had known for many years. My initial impressions of her were that she was ‘too nice.’ For some reason, I had difficulty accepting that her niceness was genuine. Sometimes Christians are only Christians on the outside and their discipleship doesn't go very deep. To me, a true disciple of Christ is someone who is kind and does acts of kindness even when it isn't convenient, or even when it seems to be against their own best interests.
“When people gather at church, for instance, there is the possibility that they are putting on a front in order to appear perfect. But will they help you do something difficult like moving to a new house, or will they help you do some very unpleasant task like cleaning up a flooded basement? I had no specific reason to think Sarah was a superficial disciple, but I was cautious with her because of how nice she seemed. Little did I understand the depth of this woman's discipleship and the affect it would have on me.
“I started to recognize Sarah's true nature. On one occasion my whole family was ill (all seven of us). Sarah took it upon herself to fix a complete meal and bring it, along with videos, to feed and entertain my children. I gradually began to realize that she was actually who she seemed to be, and that she was consistently a true follower of Christ. As my understanding of her goodness increased, I eventually told her some things about my abuse.
“It was during the time I was involved in opening up to Dixie, Audrey, and Louise that I had started to ‘test the waters’ with Sarah as well. I had several late night phone conversations with her, but even with all of that contact, I somehow continued to withhold some of the most horrible memories and feelings from her.” (My Tears Fall Inside, pages 125-126)
Since my abuse had been so severe, and because of my relationship with Louise, I had learned that not everyone could handle hearing about the terrible things that had happened to me. This was an important lesson for me to learn, but as a result it was very difficult for me to figure out who I could trust enough to really open up to and who I couldn’t or shouldn’t and since child parts of me were very dominant at that time it was a complicated problem.
“After this experience, Louise would call me occasionally and let me know she loved me, but I didn't know which category or "box" to put her in. I knew she wasn't able to hear the horrible things that my parts were saying about the abuse I had experienced. She was very nice but I always felt I was on shaky ground with her, especially when I realized that Sherry had connected so strongly with her. I simply couldn't afford to rely on her again.
“At one point she called me and I had to let her off the hook. ‘Louise,’ I said. ‘I have decided that I won't make anyone be any more involved in my life than they want to be.’”
“On an unconscious level, I had already posted a ‘Help wanted’ sign for a new supportive friend. Had it been possible to see this ‘sign’ in my mind, it might have read something like this:
“Help Wanted! Immediate need for super supportive friend to connect with various personalities within a middle-aged woman. Must have excellent skills in love and nurturing. Must be willing to drop everything on a moment's notice to take my phone call or to offer hugs and support. Must be available day or night, despite everything else going on in life, and must commit to several hours each week to listen to accounts of horrible abuse. Must be willing to work for no financial reward, only for my deep gratitude and friendship. Prefer that you live within a few blocks of me.”
“Believe it or not, someone actually answered my unconscious ‘ad.’" (My Tears Fall Inside, page 124)
Many people are posting a “Help Wanted” sign on the inside but they do not have the courage or trust in others necessary to allow someone on the outside to know how they feel. Just as my friends felt the influence of God guiding them to reach out to me, we too, can feel His inspiration directing us to emotionally connect to those he wants us to help. I will be forever grateful for all those who listened to the promptings they received to become an intimate part of my life. Who has answered your “Help Wanted” sign?
“There may have been signs of healing for my entire "system," but to Sherry the loss of Louise's constant attention was a definite step backward. It didn't matter that there might be some light at the end of my healing tunnel, for Sherry the damage had been done. For the two years following the Louise experience, Sherry hardly ever spoke. In fact, she rarely told anyone who she was ever again. Clearly, she felt betrayed and lost.
“The final blow came one day when I went to give Louise a copy of my therapy tape. I had been giving Louise these tapes of my therapy sessions so that she could understand me better. On a cold February day, I took the tape to her house. She let me know that she had not been listening to them. She then told me that she had seen a TV show that was critical of claims made by victims of ritual abuse. She now wondered what my mind was capable of making up. It felt to the parts that she quit believing in me, even though it was possible she was just thinking out loud.
“I was completely devastated by this discussion. I went to Dixie's house, only to find that she was quite ill. I really shouldn't have been there but I was so desperate I wasn't able to think clearly enough to make a different choice. True to form, Dixie was so kind and she reinforced that Louise was not knowledgeable about what was happening in therapy. She told me that Louise really did care about me, and suggested that I consider the possibility that maybe Louise just couldn't handle all of this.
“I went from Dixie's house to the hills where I laid on the ground, curled up in a ball, and sobbed and sobbed. When I couldn't sob anymore, I went to Audrey's house where I told her a short, two minute version of these recent events and she said, "Louise called me." I was shocked! Louise had never called any of my friends before to compare notes. She called worried that she had totally destroyed me.” (My Tears Fall Inside, pages 123-124)
Louise really did care for me and although she was wonderful and supportive to many people, she could not handle my memories and was therefore unable to give the support that I needed.
Many times our challenges are overwhelming and we cannot cope with them alone. In my case, the memories, nightmares, and flashbacks were so horrific, that I was literally going through a very real personal holocaust. Thankfully, God had sent others who He made strong enough to handle my pain.
Who has blessed your life, when things got too much for you?
“Louise was the one person with whom Sherry readily responded. The fact that there was a growing separation from Louise was a difficult and very painful challenge for Sherry and other child parts because they had come to think of Louise's love as a constant in life. Several of these parts became confused by Louise's actions and wrote:
WHAT IS LOVE?
(By Sherry, Little One, Rebeckah, Angel, Deb, etc. - 1993)
I’m still sad,
One more time.
I’m all mixed up
And I can’t figure out how to fix it.
The problem is all about love.
I’m mixed up about what it is.
How can I know
When it is safe,
Or when it is scary?
I know about one kind of love.
I know about Jesus’ love.
His love is always safe.
His love is always close.
His love is always there.
His love is always soft.
His love is always warm.
His love is always waiting
Just for me.
His love is all the way full.
But I don’t understand,
Not one bit,
About other kinds of love.
If it doesn’t feel like His love,
Then it’s always very scary to me.
Am I just stupid
Cuz I don’t understand
Different kinds of love?
I want to be smart.
I want to understand but I don’t.
To me it seems like there is only love
Or else there is hate.
I know about hate, too.
I don’t know about stuff in between.
When I get fixed
Will I know about love then--
Even all kinds of love?
I hope I’m not too wrecked
To get fixed some day.
I think I am just stupid,
'cuz I should know better
than to love people,
or to think
they could ever love me!
I’m scared to let you know
how little I really am inside.
I’m scared if you know
how much I love you,
then you’ll want to run away, too.
I’m also mixed up
cuz I don’t know
how to love people
just a little bit.
When I love, I love all the way close.
How can I learn
about different kinds of love?
I don’t trust people love.
It’s still too new to me,
so I just don’t understand.
“It is interesting to note how the trauma of feeling betrayed and "tricked" was handled. I didn't split off another part to deal with this new trauma. Quite the opposite, I was able to draw from the strength of several inner parts in order to process the pain. Several parts collaborated to write and to respond to the trauma. Only as my parts could learn to combine their strengths would I be healed from the fragmented world I was living in. And here was proof that healing was beginning to take shape. Even in the midst of this devastating loss of a relationship, there were signs of healing. They were signs that I missed at the time, but they were present nonetheless.” (My Tears Fall Inside, pages 120-122)
(From the Children - 1992) I’m sad. Is that because people hurt me? When people hurt you really really really bad, then you get wrecked. I guess it’s real hard to love wrecked people. . . We’ve been trapped inside for years and years and years and we can’t heal, trapped inside. Now we are here all the time, and we are still just seven and we don’t know how to be grown up. Sometimes we try to pretend but it feels funny and we know it’s only pretend. I’m sad and lonely and little and scared, but my body is too big and so you think I’m big, too. But I’m just not. We want to get better but if we stay locked up, it won’t work. I wish my body was little again so it wouldn’t be so hard for you. but it’s not it’s big. But all those bad things just barely happened to us. They don’t seem far away and long ago. And so I’m scared and hurting and sad and lonely And I’m that way all the time inside-- even when we pretend to be a grown-up. We are always here watching afraid hurting But we hide away because we think you might not like us little, so we pretend. I’m so sad and scared and lonely and little. Please take care of me.
Although I had tortured child parts within that were extremely needy, all children—even healthy children—need love, attention and time. Sometimes people forget that little children have very real needs. They need to be held and talked with and listened to. They need our kindness and tenderness. The need to know that they matter to us and that we want to spend time with them. Whenever you are around a little child, let them know that they matter to you.