the sight of night,
watches over my breath
into dawn beyond my fear.
Part of her history;
how did Grace of Our Ghosts
live in the wetness
of her breath?
One of my favorite nighttime prayers, Compline, is a melodic, sweet caress that slows my breathing; helping my mind float as a rhythmic, lazy river; feeling safe enough to attempt sleep.
I remember really being introduced to the practice within a beautiful group I participated in called Education for Ministry, a small, four-year, mentored group about diving deep.
I can’t begin to place words to how this group of people shaped my life. A time when I was very needy, and frail; physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally.
A time when I was terrified of living and terrified of existence; terrified of night and terrified of dawn.
Abraded by nightmares, paralyzed by the Day.
A few short years before this, I had entered what would be a complete mind-f#$% of psychological treatment. And this journey took years to step off completely.
I didn’t know that April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Here it is, not April, but when is it not a good time to speak up. I feel compelled to speak, and yet felt strangely silently void of what to speak.
And then I saw her, again, and she, Sweet Compline, needed to speak. Asked me, please Connie, Tell My Story.
I will try my lovely.
This sweet girl, unmistakably eyes averted downward, and yet she is listening. She is aware, and she aches to be a part of. . .
She simply doesn’t know how, yet.
She sits. She runs to the bathroom and hides when she is scared. She shakes when confused. Cuts when hurting.
She wants out. Her wounds asks herself to be ugly. She tries in every way. At one point in her life, she purposefully wears, cat pee stained clothing, in order to smell ugly.
She didn’t want to hear one more time, “you smell so beautiful. I can smell you. You are mine.”
She, having been treated before, as though it were all in the past. She didn’t know how to speak. She didn’t know then how to say, “Please help me.”
She was sexually assaulted as a young girl, over and over.
She was sexually assaulted as a teenager, over and over.
She was sexually assaulted as a young adult, over and over.
She ran, moved 1800 miles, in an abusive relationship; warned by a third-party that this person was potentially dangerous. She didn’t care. This person showed her affection, and she wanted out, and she figured this was the only the way.
She was an adult and she made her choices. She loved this person. Don’t think for a minute she did not. and this person loved her in as much as this relationship knew how.
She was running, and she didn’t care. Anything had to be better than a place in which she knew she would not survive.
It sounds dramatic, and in truth, it is. And, it is the truth, and it is not pretty. It is not the white-washed words I have heard for so many years since:
“Trauma.” and this is where I jump.
For I live with a rare disease, and have survived cancer; and my physical symptoms were dismissed like so many others in the name of this word, trauma. Would a doctor be so quick to judge, and dismiss if they used the actual words. Could they say with the disdainful face as they do when they say things like:
“Your bladder retention is psychological because you experienced trauma.”
Does this sound the same to you?
“Your bladder retention is psychological because you were raped repeatedly.”
Since we know rape can tear your insides and cause actual physical damage, would a doctor be more apt to make a referral, run some actual tests, and rule out and/or find the physical damage first.
I had complained of pain in my abdomen for a few years. It got to the point of collapse in a Home Depot. It was a f$%^ing tumor. not my trauma.
I live with a debilitating disease. It is killing me slowly. Do I feel it had to get to this point? Do I feel some of the damage might have been prevented if a doctor had not kept saying the word “trauma”? I do, Truth, might not have made a difference. We can never actually know.
Was I needlessly humiliated over and over? Yes.
In 2015, one minute I have a doctor at our bedside telling my family to prepare for the worst and hope for the best as they talked about this disease Neuromyelitis Optica.
Next minute I have a different doctor come in, send my family out so we were alone. She sits by my bedside as sweet as she can be, and says, “now, I have been looking at your old records. . . .”
We are talking records almost 10 years old. A time I was in chaos in leaving my abusive situation; still under the care of a doctor who would later go to prison.
And she dismissed my strength, and the in between, and most importantly my present moment. She wanted to say all of that meant all of my present was psychological.
Some day I do wish to be able to invite this doctor to lunch, and say, “You were wrong to do what you did. Please do not ever do this to a patient ever again.”
Some day I will write like the wind, for now, to protect the hearts of those involved, to be able to feel safe, and experience the love and healing opportunities that the universe has provided. I choose not to write it all down.
But, this. Compline, and the introduction of safety, taken care of in a time when this girl was unable to take care of herself. In misguided attempts at health and well-living, in safety and the way toward sustenance.
She has this to say, I forgive you. and she forgives herself. Lovely girl, eyes bright; listening, soaking up a song of other-space and embryotic waters; holding it in her mind and taking it on our journey; until such time we, with help, stepped into physical safety, and in time, with that came mental, and emotional safety.
So, what am I talking about in non-poetic waxing terms?
What was this Compline moment?
In college I really fell apart. Looking back, it is not hard to know why. Up until that point I functioned in a very different world. College was the first time I had any distance from what I had always known. I only knew myself as a sexual play toy for others. I didn’t know I was a person.
There is more here but again, this is for a future time to write about.
But college, for those hours on campus, I was introduced to people who treated me in a different way, people who functioned differently. Let’s use words like respect, and dignity. not violence.
Psychologically, I had my coping skills, and when placed in a different environment, those coping skills fall apart. Therefore, my world became more and more dysfunctional; meaning, it disrupted my life more and more.
Think of absolute terror and confusion. Unawareness to it all in very intrusive ways.
Enter therapy. I entered therapy because a very true blue friend said, “you need help. I don’t know what but you need help.”
This person was an RA at the dorms and had consulted their boss, and so they had even had gone so far as to find out who might be the best fit as far as the therapist at the campus medical center.
And, I listened. I went. I did my song and dance. This person saw through it. The greater trouble I was in, the better I came to therapy (in my best outfits, makeup, etc,).
I began to find myself even more huddled in the corners, and hiding in closets, etc. I was adamant I had no problems. in particular, I was being confronted with questions about abuse experiences.
In September of 1994, I had entered a complete void of black, and I attempted to take my own life. It was a miracle I survived.
I did. I ended up in a psychiatric hospital. and so, a crazy-a$% journey begins.
What I have to say about this, is they did not ask about the present. My therapist on campus had told the hospital about her confident suspicions that I had experienced some severe abuse, in particular sexual abuse.
I continued to deny anything outwardly, and my actions were saying something else. Which is not the first time. (I learned as an adult that my aunt and uncle had wanted to become my guardian as a young child. My aunt stated to me when I asked a question of this, she said I didn’t say anything, but my actions said a lot).
As they say, things come out sideways even when you think you are silent.
I ended up in a long journey of treatment for severe PTSD and Dissociation. I was diagnosed with DID. and depression, eating disorder, anxiety disorder.
There is a time I spent more days inpatient and as a day patient at a hospital then I spent just living.
This is one of the things I moved 1800 miles away from. I do not believe every professional has ill intentions. The milieu of the day, was tragically misguided.
Do I believe the private hospitals had ill-intentions. Yes. In a short time, my million dollar insurance policy was gone, and so was my mind.
Setting that aside, this treatment was focused on the past. Not making sure you were safe in the present.
I was not. By day, going to a hospital where we role played, discussed, and therapy-ied through details of horrible experiences. As though it were not happening now.
But things were happening to me NOW!
Here is my part. I never spoke. I never said, “Please Help Me, Now. I am not safe.”
And, you can’t “heal” and do these therapies if it is still actually happening.
Sweet Compline, a part of a still on-going series called “Reflections of Sentient.” She is the listening, the eyes wide open to love, to all those experiences that were good, and safe.
She was quiet, and steadfast, and held her own as best she knew how.
For so many years we blamed ourselves. beat ourselves up for being so broken. We were defective. All the words so many of us can relate to calling ourselves.
Believing the lies. Being so confused over our own reality, and being in absolute despair when we heard “its psychological because you experienced trauma”. That again, what we thought was physical merely had to be tied to this experience of trauma. When it was physical. There was something physically wrong with my body.
Back so many years ago, its really the same thing isn’t it? There was something physically wrong, I was still in abuse.
I had no knowledge of how to say it. It was not safe.
and those private hospitals focused on money, good insurance.
Well meaning-ed therapists worked for these hospitals, but it was not safe.
And then after it all, after moving 1800 miles, and a few more years of chaos; Sweet Compline found safety and chose differently. She got physically safe, and asked for help.
Then came, placing everyone on a pedestal. not being able to hear from others about her own strength. not being able to hear others when they say thank you, Sweet Compline, for being willing to speak. Not being able to see what she had done. Her steps she walked because that would be vanity and narcissism.
Today, Sweet Compline,
can experience the light
that was hers all along.
Hidden by her for protection,
today needs no justification
to shine through her smiles,
and griefs, through her anger,
Living in the wetness of her breath.
paint much love, always,
Connie Karleta Sales
a.k.a. This Crooked Little Flower