Book Excerpt: “SELF TALK - My Continuing Efforts to Survive Childhood Sexual Grooming and Assault.” I’m Linda Kay Gifford, CSA Survivor, author of “SELF TALK - My continuing efforts to survive childhood sexual grooming and assault” and the SELF TALK CSA c-PTSD Workshops: “Surviving in SPADES - Six Steps from Trigger to Happy!”, and I am telling my story. Finally.
THE FIRST SEVEN CHAPTERS
Well, here goes. (Deep Breath)
To avoid endlessly revising, rather than finalizing my manuscript, and at the advise of my publisher/publicist, I’m releasing excerpts of it as I finish them. They’ll be available at SWEETSurvivor.com, now supported by my Earth2PointOh.com Eco-Friendly and Fair Shopping Group.
As I was fighting my way through the usual mental garbage that I've never been able to permanently get off of the loop in my brain, I realized that it's the self talk that still binds me to my experience.
So I'll start there…
“So now, I have made the unpopular decision to remember.”
SELF TALK - Chapter I
stupid filthy little girl
You’re a little piece of shit.
No one will ever love you.
Filthy Filthy Filthy little girl
What the hell is wrong with you
You’re a stupid little girl.
You’re just a stupid little girl.
stupid little girl… filthy stupid little piece of shit filthy girl
I hate you I hate you I HATE you
Make it stop make it stop make it STOP
God, I HATE you
I HATE YOU God
Get your shit together
GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER
Get your shit together
I slap my face.
I slap it again; harder.
The sting brings me around.
One day, you can kill him.
One day you can kill him.
and I get dressed
and I go out of my room
and I function in the world like any “normal” adult, more or less.
Today I’m lucky. That was a pretty light self-loathing session, as my self-admonishment sessions go, at least…
I didn’t end up huddled on the floor of the bathroom like I sometimes still do, rocking my twelve year old self back out of 1976 with a verbal technique I learned in therapy.
My partner was visibly frightened, finding me doing this the first time. I suppose the image of the grown woman you care about shouting “My name is LINda… It’s 2001 - 06 - 19… that is a FUCKing DOORknob… I am FUCKing 36 - 41 - 54 years old… I am NOT a piece of fucking shit… YOU are a piece of fucking shit… it’s not MY fucking shame… it’s YOUR fucking shame!”, could be a little disconcerting.
I carry my bag of bones everywhere… Hell; I drag the whole damned closet around with me; a monster on my back that society is all too happy to feed for me, should I ever forget. But I never forget. How can I ever forget? Please tell me, because I’ve spent a lifetime trying.
So now, I have made the unpopular decision to remember.
“But, to be clear, there are times my fantasies take me to dark places. Dark, deserved places.”
SELF TALK - Chapter II
dark deserved places
My biggest day to day, year after year, consistent stressor, is just the act of walking into a room. Any room. That may seem simple enough to most, but to a survivor of any kind of routine degradation, it can be the hardest part of any event, the provocateur of extreme anxiety and panic, and the reason we often back out of social events we agreed to attend.
That people can see there is something wrong with me is my constant fear; the sense that I broadcast fucked up karma like a neon sign; the feeling that there’s a noxious gas that surrounds my whole substantive being all the time, lighting up like a toxic warning beacon when forced to stand alone under scrutiny. "Get near this one and you'll likely be broken on the unseen, jagged rocks."
Abuse survivors seldom like to stand out in a crowd.
That I am inherently flawed now is ridiculous. I know it is. I can reason that it is. I can write papers citing experts and statistics and make reasoned arguments that I am, certainly, the “victim”.
But that bears me little to no comfort.
And for the record, I seriously hate that word. “Victim”.
“Survivor” sucks, too. I haven’t fully survived, yet. There isn’t a Survivor Graduation. I suppose dying a natural death outside of prison will be proof that I have finally survived.
I have survived if I don’t duck tape someone to a chair, cut off their dick, and put it in their mouth today.
Okay, that was Lagartha on “Vikings” who did that; and it was a rope and a tree, but you get the drift... I have made the fantasy my own ever since. I suppose I have the common sense and self control to choose to not spend my life in prison.
But, to be clear, there are times my fantasies take me to dark places. Dark, deserved places.
“I was given no chance to explore love and intimacy; to choose to share my body with a chosen one; to have a choice the first time I let another human enter my body; to find comfort and joy in sexual intimacy.”
SELF TALK - Chapter III
forgiveness is overrated
Is my anger showing? So you want to tell me that healing starts with forgiveness? That I have to “let it go” to be whole? To realize that Jesus - Allah - Buddha - freakin’ strangers I don’t know - love me?
I mean, thanks for caring and for your advice, but...
[I’m fifteen, dick in throat; choking; strangling; he doesn’t notice or care that I can’t breathe; I pray for him to just get off or fuck me. Anything to not suffocate before he’s done.]
HELL, FUCKING NO!
Forgiveness is NOT in my cards. Not while nobody is holding him accountable.
Forgiveness is overrated.
Forgiveness is why the abusers don’t do significant, if any, jail time.
- Forgiveness is why busdrivers can rape a 14 year old girl and go free with just a warning to stay away from underage girls; the judge reasoning that, “He only raped ONE victim, afterall.”
- Forgiveness lets you kill a girl’s parents and lock her in a cage, starve and rape her for months, yet get no jail time because you are “mentally ill”.
- Forgiveness allows a preacher who rapes their own child repeatedly for years to get no jail time because, “He’s done so much other good in the community.”
Society is giving us sexual assault Survivors little incentive to heal. The atrocities committed against our bodies were burned into our self images and, everywhere we look, the courts are turning a blind eye to the justice we deserve.
In a first world country, it is shocking to see hordes of men AND women, flock to punish victims with unwanted pregnancies while letting their rapists off with a, “Boys will be boys, and we wouldn’t want to ruin their lives, afterall!” mentality. There are places in the world we’re daughters are traded for cows, and raped daughters are sold to their rapists, because their father’s consider them a “ruined” commodity now.
Well, guess what? Though my life is, inarguably, full of love and joy, my successes do not, in any way, compensate for the part of my potential self that was “ruined”... changed forever; taken from me.
I was given no chance to explore love and intimacy; to choose to share my body with a chosen one; to have a choice the first time I let another human enter my body; to find comfort and joy in sexual intimacy.
Before therapy, it was always a test in which I examined and rated my own performance; the times I didn’t just “go away”, at least. To be honest, I don’t remember most of my sexual experiences until recently, outside of my childhood trauma. I’’d never experienced relaxed, take it for granted, my partner really loves me, sex... just the hope that maybe I measured up tonight. Maybe they won’t notice I’m no good at this. Maybe they can’t tell I’m “ruined”.
[I fear suffocating, the words, “You’re so good! God, you’re so good. You’re such a filthy little slut. You’re so good...” carried on the stench of beer and cocaine sweat; bouncing in my brain in rhythm to his merciless pounding of any part of me he cares to use for his perversion. I just pray he’ll get off before he wants to fuck me in the ass.]
A deeply instilled disgust with myself, the surety that I will never fulfill anybody, just chatters along incessantly in my lifelong struggle to perform; to fulfill; to trust; to try to find someone who could actually love me, “anyway”.
Me, Linda Kay Gifford,
“She will perfect her tolerance, like children do, and her shame will grow and she will never, EVER, tell anyone how filthy she has become.”
SELF TALK - Chapter IV
Little Girl and Rage
[“Little Girl, you’re just a duck in a row.
Wrap her up, she’s ready now. Tear away her bow. And I can’t stop the voice in my head that says, she might be better off dead.” *Lyrics from “Little Girl”, song on the album, “A Bed For My Boots”, available @ SWEETSurvivor.com]
I have to keep pulling myself back out of time when the memories take over. When they do, I change… like, seriously change. I become “Little Girl” or “Rage”.
They are the two who handle the tough stuff for me.
Rage is a young teen, older than Little Girl. He thinks she is pathetic.
Yes, Rage is a boy.
Boys had power.
Rage has power.
In the past, Rage only took over and handled things when Little Girl was crying hysterically. Rage has stopped Little Girl from killing herself more than once.
He has intervened countless times, if she’s honest.
He reminds her that she will grow up and she can kill him someday.
Not kill Rage, kill HIM.
Little Girl doesn’t like to say his name.
[“Roll it down, roll it up. Drink the coffee. Toss the cup.
Push it back. Pull it up. Try to swallow. Don’t throw up.”]
When I am triggered, and the triggers are everywhere, Little Girl takes over.
All the bad things happen to Little Girl.
When Little Girl is being violated, even Rage abandons her.
[“Grape juice and gin. Kiddie cocktails again. Watch the pretty little doll’s head spin.
Perverted lies; he blamed her eyes, and took her through her strangled cries, and now…
she can’t stop the voice in her head that says,
‘I might be better off dead.’”]
Afterwards, Little Girl hides in the bathroom and cries. It happened when she was an adolescent, following every sexual situation she felt disgusted at having participated in, and it still happens sometimes.
Little Girl hides and cries hysterically when something triggers her. She crouches in the corner, rocking back and forth, crying hysterically, chanting debasing phrases to herself, over and over again.
She crouches in the darkness, always with the door slightly open. To this day I keep the bathroom door slightly open at home and in hotel rooms, where there is little risk of exposure. I hate feeling trapped. I know my exits. I stay in front of or on the edge of the crowd.
On and on it goes; like a ball in a racquetball court,
images, sounds, smells - they bounce off of the walls of her mind from every angle, coming too fast to keep up with, so she splits inside…
she morphs into someone who can handle it and ducks out of consciousness.
And, finally, Rage takes his opening.
Rage shouts, “Enough!”
Literally… he shouts, ”Enough! Enough! Enough!"
Over and over again, he demands she pull herself together. (Repetition is a tool my mind seems to use to either escape deadly thoughts, or to run them into the end zone.)
Rage literally takes over and bellows in soul-tormented anguish, promising Little Girl that she must survive to one day be able inflict painful, degrading humiliation beyond humiliation upon HIM.
Not the best message perhaps, but it’s the one Rage tells her.
Rage never speaks in the first person.
He always says, “You”.
Rage temporarily separates Little Girl’s mental anguish from her body’s with the promise… “One day you can kill him.”
That’s when the slapping comes in useful… anything to pull out of the mental ricochet before it runs her over. She feels her soul burning, and she is on her own to survive the disgusting things she knows she will do again.
Rage promises vengeance, if she will just stop crying; if she stops crying and she takes it. Whatever HE has in store for her,
she takes it.
She will perfect her tolerance, like children do, and her shame will grow, and she will never, EVER, tell anyone how filthy she has become.
[“Little Girl; in the light, feeling small.
Give her another Gold Star. Hang it on her heavy wall.”]
Do your homework.
Be a cheerleader - candy striper - senior scout - tumbling team member - in the honor society - first seat flutist - state German award recipient, all state choir winner -
Win the god-damned “Best of All Categories”award at an eight-school speech meet for the prose reading of Robert Frost's,
“Death of a Child”...
WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME, FOR GOD’S SAKE?!
What else can I do to be acceptable?
Be a golden child.
Make up for it all.
Don’t kill myself today.
It’s never enough.
“I realized what Little Girl has done for me all these years, and I embraced her, inviting her to live within me; to be loved by me, like a little girl should be.”
SELF TALK - Chapter V
embrace your inner child
I perfected the boundaries of each of my selves. Every violation of my body and mind required that I submit the most helpless of my selves to the degradation, humiliation, and pain.
Little Girl submitted unquestioningly to the daily demands of a perverted “adult”. She never felt she had a choice. Rage could not tolerate it. Little Girl was used to it.
But Little Girl got stronger over time and, with the help of a good therapist, we joined forces. We are still separate persons, and run separate inner dialogues in the same brain. But the day we finally met, eighteen years after I escaped my assailant, we recognized each other and realized that we were on the same side.
That is the day I knew I would survive, for real. I realized what Little Girl has done for me all these years, and I embraced her, inviting her to live within me; to be loved by me, like a little girl should be. She finally understood that I was truly on her side and her feelings would never be dismissed again.
Now we are a tag team. We embrace each other’s pain and we feel each other’s triumphs. Little Girl is a conscious part of me.
Embrace your inner child, whatever you find it to be.
But Rage, though with me for a long time, is just now revealing himself to me. I just officially met Rage last week.
“Being an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse in today's society is like carrying a child through a minefield every day.”
SELF TALK - Chapter VI
I blacked out a couple of months ago. Little Girl shut me out. We've been integrated for nearly twenty years, and she shut me out again, taking the pain alone.
I'm told I curled up in a chair on the patio and cried for over two hours before going to bed. I have no memory of it. This kind of disassociation just can't be happening in my grown-up life. I guess society's utter lack of a multilateral attitude deeming child sexual assault to even be a problem, much less a devastating reality for so many of us, is triggering my inner selves to action.
We can’t, as a society, even bring ourselves to call it “sexual assault”. Everywhere you look - everywhere you read - even fellow Survivors have been taught that it is sexual “abuse”. I had a dock shoved in my mouth for years, then was raped, and raped, and raped for a few more…
I call that assault.
I was assaulted.
CALL IT SEXUAL ASSAULT!
I must be careful to control the consequences of thoroughly examining and re-living my experience. As I said in "forgiveness is overrated", my thoughts have not exactly been peaceful towards abusers.
I thought writing these thoughts and memories would "cure" me; stave off another regressive episode. But I'm finding that writing my experiences, past and present, while liberating, is also exceedingly anxiety provoking and upsetting.
I seem to have prodded Rage into action. I'm almost afraid to admit this, but that train done left the station, at this point, because blacking out again, all these years later, was both truly frightening and revealing.
I knew that Little Girl's self-deprecating rants always end with anger. Ever since I became conscious of Little Girl in my thirties, I've been aware when she takes control. I've learned to talk her down without ending up waking up on the bathroom floor or outside somewhere, often in the woods or a field nearby - even on the steps of a locked church in Atlanta once, while traveling - I just assumed Little Girl went somewhere peaceful and alone to sleep off the intense migraines that always follow her tears.
What I didn't realize until this episode, was that my anger has a life of it's own; a life I am learning to harness; a life I am calling Rage.
I woke that morning with a sore throat, bruised arm, and a sprained wrist. As I made the bed, I had a memory flash: I remembered an intense feeling of anger and, as if through tunnel vision, I saw myself bashing my arms down on the closet door; the dresser; my, then, partner, just reading in bed…
I remember primordial screaming, then... nothing. That was it. I racked my brain, trying to remember something, but I could only grab that much.
I text my partner at work, told of my brief, but shocking memory, and asked, had I dreamed it, or was it real? To my dismay, I was assured that it was entirely real. I was told that it was obvious I “wasn't in there” as soon as I walked into the room.
Though my memory flash of the incident is brief, I consciously connected with Rage and I continue to hold onto him with all my might. I am pulling him to me through that tunnel...
I can FEEL him now.
I am trying to incorporate him into my daily life.
I am turning his powers outward, away from myself.
I am learning to use Rage to effect change.
I think Rage can join us consciously now.
I think he’d better.
I've worked too hard convincing Little Girl that I've got her back to let anything happen to her again. The only way I know to protect her is to change society so she isn't constantly triggered.
I honor her feelings now. I have learned to purposefully let her take over; to listen to her and, sometimes, to ride her presence in my mind out like a wave of emotion breaking over my adulthood, then I get back to whatever business is at hand with little visible upset. Only those closest to me would notice the change.
To be fair, we still rock and cry in the bathroom occasionally, but we do it together now.
Being an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse in today's society is like carrying a child through a minefield every day.
But Rage is addictive.
I see that I've harnessed anger as a subconscious tool, giving it it's own persona in order to send it into the shadows for much of my "perfect" Norman Rockwell childhood.
Yet, even knowing this,
I see Rage as a separate entity.
I see that I might not have survived without him and, like Little Girl, I am reluctant to give Rage up.
I feel that he is responsible for my survival.
I am certain of it, because the one time he gave up on me, I almost won my battle to keep all of this a secret forever.
“When Rage loses, many will never survive to tell their story.”
SELF TALK - Chapter VII
when Rage loses
Turns out, I probably owe Rage my sanity and, quite possibly, my life. He guided me in and through and back out of almost every humiliating challenge with Little Girl in tow, thankfully; then left me alone to have a relatively normal life in a good and kind family.
But twice, Rage failed me. Or maybe Little Girl fooled Rage. She didn’t hide or rock. There were none of her usual tears. She didn’t ride her mental anguish, throwing the reins to Rage when she knew her mind would short circuit and explode. These times, she gave Rage none of the usual cues to step in.
It all came together calmly the first time I decided I was done. With complete submission and a rare sense of peace, I decided it would be over.
I could tell you why I did it; explain all the factors leading up to it. I could tell you my only close friend had just died in a car accident. I could tell you how, at 17, having just escaped my abuser’s reach I, literally, walked in on my first real boyfriend in bed with my assailant’s wife.
I could elaborate on the specifics of why I chose that night to give up; that I knew with juvenile certainty that no one would ever love me; that I just wanted out.
My story is no different than any other abuse victim who has decided to take their own life. It’s just as valid; it’s just as messed up; and it's altogether common. It reads something like this for us all:
“I am suffocating under the pressure of my life. I am certain that it can not get any better and, even if it did, I am not worthy of it’s bounty.”
“If the people who love me know what I have been a part of, they will no longer love me. They will never look at me as good and pure again. I am ruined.”
“I can find neither window, nor door in these brick walls. Solid pain; everywhere I turn.
I am done.”
The first time, I remember taking the nine pills clearly, a mix of Darvon, Percoset, and Valium; all I could get my hands on and, hopefully, enough, but I doubted it. I took out my pocket knife and sat thinking, toying with it while the pills kicked in.
I thought about my mom. I loved her dearly. She would be devastated to know they’d repeated raped me. And Dad… he’d never be able to accept the fact that I didn’t tell him. In my juvenile mind, I felt I would lose their love if they knew what “I’d” done; what I’d “allowed” to be done to me. Better to be dead.
Why didn’t I tell them a long time ago? Why didn’t I say something before it was too late?
I was in too deep. I blamed myself. Looking at other young teens now, I realize that there is nothing I could have done to make it my fault. I was a child. It is my opinion that any adult who encourages or participates in sexual acts with a child is a pervert worthy of death. But I’ll save that for another chapter...
Suffice it to say, I saw no other option and, this time, Little Girl and Rage failed to intervene. The only way I saw to win, was to end the game. That day, Shame beat Rage. When Rage loses, many will never survive to tell their story.
My pocketknife wasn’t very sharp. It took some work to get a cut big enough to bleed well.
I remember doing it.
I don’t remember feeling it.
I remember wondering that I didn’t feel it.
I was dizzy as I stood. I walked across the courtyard, stepped onto the dark highway in front of my building, and laid down.
I don’t remember feeling scared.
I remember feeling very sad.
I woke up on the floor between the kitchen table and sofa in the crappy efficiency I was renting. Some kids I had recently met were turning into my driveway. As the only sixteen year old with an apartment, I got more than my fair share of “friends” dropping in to use the place. Usually, I found this annoying. That night, as luck would have it, they saved my life.
It is my mission to become Rage in his best form; to bring him out of the shadows of empty, mad promises made to appease a frightened victim. Instead, I will now manifest him as my warrior.
Rage and I will stand together with Little Girl and defy Shame before an indecent society!
We MUST make our lawmakers understand, acknowledge, and PUNISH sexual offenders for the devastating effects of their perverted actions. I propose the death penalty for sex offenders; just get them out of the gene pool. The only people who think mine is too extreme a position, have never experienced extreme sexual violation.
I've been given a life sentence in humiliation and body memory.
I woke up on the floor between the kitchen table and sofa in the crappy efficiency I was renting. Some kids I had recently met were turning into my driveway. As the only sixteen year old with an apartment, I got more than my fair share of “friends” dropping in to use the place. Usually, I found this annoying. That night, as luck would have it, they saved my life. Had they not been turning in, they'd have surely granted my wish.
But as fate would have it, I lived; and, thankfully, FINALLY - long enough to know where shame really lies. Shame isn't a persona anyone carries to cope. It serves no useful purpose to its bearer.
Shame is a thick, noxious fog, created by others as a protection against some imagined humiliation.
Shame settles in so closely around us that we actually TEACH each other to accept and bear it, rather than expose ugly truths.
Shame encourages one to NOT act; to sweep the filth under the rug and hope no one lifts the corner.
Rebel against Shame.
Shine light and heat on it.
Educate and Advocate.
Force it to dissipate.
If society won't hold abusers accountable for their life devastating actions, Karma will not hold me responsible for what I may do next.
I think survivors of many kinds of violence and abuse can relate to “just trying to disappear”.
Hide. Wait. Pray.
How my heartbeat betrays me,
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