“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.
“We spent more than four hours talking and driving. At some point we simply parked the car in a parking lot. She put her arm around me and reassured me saying, ‘Shawna, you have never, never been a burden. In fact, you are always a delight to talk to.’”
“Still doubting, I asked, ‘But do you think Dixie is feeling too much burden?’ With an earnest look on her face, she said,
"‘When I talk to Dixie, she is absolutely delighted by your child parts, Shawna. She loves their innocence, their purity, even their sadness. It is always a delight to talk to you because you never demand time. You need time but you never demand time because you are so afraid of rejection. It is a joy for us to try to meet those needs because these are terrified little children, not some person who is being demanding.’”
“By the time we were through, we were laughing and joking. After the episode with Louise, my separation from her was gradual but tangible. I decided it was an unhealthy relationship and as hard as it was for me, I started pulling away. The parts' great need for Louise to understand them was a great impetus for my writing, and I wrote a long, sad piece to her that I never sent. Of course, when the child parts wrote, they had no comprehension of the adult perspective that came much later. They only knew of their pain and sadness.” (My Tears Fall Inside, pages 115)
It took a long time for child parts to “get over” my decision to pull away from Louise, but it was an important step in my healing. Though Louise had no intention of causing me problems, the relationship just did not work. When relationships don’t “work,” there are many things we can do to heal from our hurts. Sometimes we can write a letter to the person—that we do not send—in order to express all of our feelings. In my case, child parts wrote a long poem. I will include just a segment of that poem in my next blog.
What are some of the ways you have used to resolve relationship issues?
“After coming down from my refuge in the mountains, I started to think about Audrey and Dixie. They had never acted like I was a burden to them - not even close. . .
“I stopped by Audrey's house that evening without calling first. Audrey was a busy, involved mother with many children. Fortunately her husband was extremely supportive. . .
“That evening, Audrey's household was full of lively children. Seeing that I was troubled, she looked around at her family and realized it would be impossible to have a heart-to-heart discussion with me there, so she suggested an alternative.
"‘Shawna, let's go for a ride.’"
“When we were in the car, I told her everything that had happened with Louise, after which I drilled her with the questions that were pressing on me:
“‘Audrey, am I too much trouble for you? Do you wish I didn't come over so much? Is this too much burden for you? I am so worried that I have become such a burden and you are too nice to tell me to go away.’
“. . . With her hands on the steering wheel, Audrey turned to me and said, ‘Shawna, Dixie and I talk several times a week about you.’
“I knew they had spoken to each other. . . As a general rule, Dixie dealt with my child parts and Audrey spoke to my adult parts. It dawned on me that to get a whole picture of what was happening with me, they would need to speak to each other. . .
“Audrey went on to say: ‘Yes, Shawna. We really want what's best for you and we love you. We have never felt burdened by knowing you and being part of your life.’
“She paused for a moment as she turned a corner onto another street. Glancing across at me she continued, ‘In fact, Shawna, we believe you've kept quiet long enough and should talk as much as you need to.’” (My Tears Fall Inside, pages 113-115)
Audrey and Dixie both knew that the road to healing involved talking about all of the things that troubled and traumatized the different parts. They also realized that until those parts were able to talk and talk and cry, they would remain in their unhealed state. However, Audrey and Dixie had also learned that the parts would only talk if they felt loved and safe.
Just as it was true for my inside parts, it is also true for others. What a blessing we can be in the lives of others, if we can create a safe place for family and friends to be able to express the things that bother and upset them. Sometimes it takes lots of time, but eventually our loved ones will be able to talk through and work out their inside turmoil and their burdens will become lighter.
“However, when Louise had commitments and responsibilities that required her time, or when she simply couldn't always offer the intense emotional support she felt I needed, I would become unreasonably discouraged. One day, I called her and she said she had a really big favor to ask.
“She said: ‘Please don't use me for the next two weeks. My heart just isn't in it and I'm just not doing the job for you that I need to, but I really need to get my son ready for his two-year assignment over-seas.’
“She went on to suggest that I could perhaps rely more heavily on Audrey and Dixie, but that she hated to ‘dump’ it all on those two. She talked about the possibility that, because I had been working on healing for over a year, perhaps there could be days when I wouldn't even need to call any of them. . .
“I was devastated but I knew that she needed to be honest with me so that she wouldn't resent me. Despite my hurt, a part of me knew that I would rather have her tell me how she was feeling than hold it in and resent me more and more. Other parts of me weren't so philosophical about this turn of events.
“I ran to the hills where I spent a few minutes crying, but then I went totally numb and wondered if I should completely withdraw from people again. I wondered if the world would be better off without me. I then started to wonder about my other ‘friends’ and how soon they might abandon me. All my brainwashing kicked into high gear.” (My Tears Fall Inside, pages 112-113)
The intense brainwashing I underwent as a child made it impossible for me to see situations as a healthy adult would perceive them. Instead, I was re-traumatized by what felt like rejection and the child parts reaction was to completely withdraw trying to avoid the same negative response which they were certain would come from every other source. Thankfully, God helped others to reach out and reassure me that I could matter and be loved once again.
There are so many people in pain and regardless of the source, their pain is valid. They also need reassurance that they matter and are loved. May we be sensitive to those around us and lighten their burdens with our kindness.