This entry comes courtesy of Blair Robertson. We talked at great length after she sent this to me, and I can assure you, even though it may appear at times that she is making light of some things, she is not. – Amanda
As I was bathing today, a Zen koan came into my head. (A koan is a story in the Zen tradition that is something like an Aesop’s fable. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.) It goes like this: A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her. The senior monk carried this woman on his shoulder, forded the river and let her down on the other bank. The junior monk was very upset, but said nothing.
They both were walking and senior monk noticed that his junior was suddenly silent and inquired “Is something the matter, you seem very upset?”
The junior monk replied, “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”
The senior monk replied, “I left the woman a long time ago at the bank, however, you seem to be carrying her still.”
It got me thinking about the survivors of rape and sexual abuse I know, and know through Facebook. I find myself distressed by the self-destructive behaviors I find to be so common. I’m the mother of a survivor, and the pain I feel tells me that I can’t begin to imagine the pain felt by actual survivors. But I get very disturbed, confused, devastated, by the harmful behaviors I see and hear exhibited by survivors–soon afterwards, and years afterwards. Some, but not all, include cutting, drugs, suicide attempts, anorexia, bulimia, gaining massive amounts of weight. Nightmares, I understand. The rest, I acknowledge. I think this may be the most painful, terrifying, identity-stealing experience a woman, girl, boy or man can go through, destroying sense of self and self-esteem, leaving feelings of terror, shame, and guilt for survivors to deal with for long times to come. Victims are often blamed, not believed by families, friends, the legal system. Friends turn away. Nobody, NOBODY understands. The reality of what has happened can’t be escaped, even in sleep, because of the nightmares, and the nightmares aren’t relieved upon waking.
How is it possible to get through to the other side? What is the new normal, and when will it ever feel the least bit like normal? Again, as the mother of a survivor, I don’t know those answers yet. I do, however, want to share some of the teaching that has gotten me through a lot of things, and will likely be what gets me through this. I had the supreme honor, several years ago, of happening upon a therapist in the wake of my separation and the downfall of my marriage. Bob, it seems, was a Zen master. Not Zen Buddhism, but Zen. Bob believed in nothing, no religion, no God, and he was the most gloriously happy man I have ever met in my life. He felt that whatever spark of the divine there was was within us. And he tapped into his, every minute of every day. I would take my problems to him, he would listen for a while, then he’d break out his huge smile, throw up his hands, and exclaim, “WHO CARES”? “All of that is in the past. And you can’t drive anywhere new if you spend all of your time looking in the rear-view mirror!” He would encourage me to sit in the present moment. And as for my problems, he would ask, “Have you done everything you can, up to this moment? Is there anything else you can do? Then, in this moment, let it go.” Believe me, that didn’t come easily for me, a born worrier and fretter, and it hadn’t come particularly easy to him. He had spent years in meditation with the masters before him, practicing being here, in the present moment. But as we talked, the problems I came in with would melt away, and I’d leave feeling better, although I’d have been hard pressed to tell anybody what we actually did talk about. It often felt like spiraling into the light.
Unfortunately, I lost Bob. He fell to his kitchen floor one morning with a stroke, and never awakened. And there will never be another therapist who can replace him for me. But when I need him, I can see him in my mind’s eye, sitting in lotus position in his big chair, looking something like a hobbit, throwing his hands up, crying, “WHO CARES?”
Okay, okay, keep reading. I’m NOT saying I don’t care what happened to you. I’m not saying you shouldn’t care. I started this with the overwhelming horror of sexual abuse, and the same goes for domestic abuse. I am saying, that it’s done (hopefully); it’s in the past. If it’s not, get help and GET OUT. But if it’s over, you are already on the other side of the river. Don’t keep carrying the weight. Easier said than done, I know, but cutting, suicide attempts, eating disorders, etc., how is that punishing your rapist/abuser? Who is continuing to suffer? Certainly not that monster. How are you benefiting from continuing to hurt yourself? I would encourage us all, in whatever way possible, to be kind to ourselves. Find somebody else who’s been there, who really does understand. You’ve all done that, in some way, by being here and reading these blog entries. Find a therapist who knows how to deal with these issues, if you can. Bob meditated, and tried to talk me into it. So far, I have not accomplished that. My mind is just too damn busy all the time to just sit in the present. But we could all give it five minutes a day, just to sit and watch where our thoughts go. They say it gets easier. Reach out, in the hard times. Even on Facebook, there are always people up. The folks in Australia and New Zealand are up and about when it’s the middle of the night here in the States. It’s hard as hell to ask for help; I know. But being alone is probably not the best thing for the bad times. If you’re able, find a support group, or volunteer at a rape advocacy center, or a domestic violence shelter. You have a lot to give.
Depression is a hard companion. If you can take antidepressants, they will help. I strike bargains with my depression. I tell it it can have, say, 4 or 5 hours, and I’ll just curl up and cry or be sad. But then, it’s my turn. Get up and MOVE. Even a few steps, a couple of dance moves, gets the seratonin going in your brain, and fights the darkness. Sit out in the sun for 15 minutes. Take a bubble bath. Go for some of your comfort food, or have a glass of wine. Light a candle. You deserve those things, not to punish yourself more. You deserve to reach for what life can bring to you that is good. You will never forget, but scars feel better than picked-at scabs.
If you need help locating your local resources (either to escape abuse, or to cope with what has happened in the past), please contact me either here, on Facebook at Hit Me No More, or by email at email@example.com – Amanda