In my previous article, I stated that several things had taken me out of my comfort zone this past week. Well, another of those things was reading the book of an internet friend of mine---Colleen Spiro.
I met Colleen through her blog "Surviving By Grace". ( http://thethirdfloorwindow.blogspot.com/ ). Colleen and I are about the same age, married, and have grown children. We are both also incest survivors and write about our experiences on our blogs so that we can help ourselves and also reach out and help other survivors by letting them know that they are not alone.
I have been told a number of times over the years that I should write a book about my experiences. Colleen has done just that in 2008. I haven't yet but after reading Colleen's book "The Third Floor Window" I am determined to write one also. It also helps that I have been getting nudges from other people (Slade, Corinne and Sherryl) in the past year to do the same thing and while reading Colleen's book, I ran across, not one, but two books on writing your memoirs. For the first time ever, writing a book of my own seems like a distinct possibility. Did I just make another committment? My week has been full of those. Do they all have to hit me at the same time?
First of all, I want to thank Colleen for writing her book. When I first started looking at my incest issues there weren't many books on the subject around. There were even fewer that were written by people like me that didn't have degrees in psychology or some related field that were actually survivors of incest or childhood abuse. Now, finally people like Colleen are beginning to write their stories. In writing her story, I felt like Colleen had written my story. I was surprised at the similiarities between us.
One of the first pages in Colleen's book, she calls "Telling My Story." On this page, she says the following: "For years I have been silent. For years I have kept the secret of my childhood. But now I feel it is time. It is time to tell my story. A story that is unique because I am unique. And yet I think, in many ways, it is every survivor's story."
In reading page after page, I found that Colleen was indeed telling my story in such a simple, straight forward way that I really appreciate. Incest was a word, that like Colleen, I had trouble with in the beginning. Incest seemed like such a nasty, secretive word. It is. Like Colleen, for many years I was silent and endured the pain without understanding why incest picked me out. I now understand that men who rape little girls do so because they can. They do so for the control that it gives them over another person. A child is small enough that people ignore them, sometimes, even when the signs of abuse are very apparent. Many who choose not to see do so because of their own abuse issues or their own low self-worth. Many people are just afraid.
Colleen writes about the effect of questions from other people:
"Why can't you just forget about it and put it in the past? Why are you whining about something that happened so long ago? Everybody has problems. Get over it."
People often don't understand that for an incest survivor just getting over it isn't an option. The pain of betrayal and being controlled and lied to and misused by an authority figure in your life just goes too deep for recovery to be so easy or fast. For most of us, treatment and recovery takes many years, usually a lifetime.
Colleen explains very well why I write about my incest issues on my blog. She says, "I have a deep need to find meaning in my suffering. I know about redemptive suffering, how God can transform suffering into eternity, into glory, into something good. Seems kind of pie in the sky though unless I can translate it into my everyday life."
Colleen goes on to say, "I am driven by the feeling that if one person is helped by my suffering, if one victim is helped by my telling my story, then it might all seem worth it. My telling of the story which is so hard to do might be worth the effort and the fear and the shame I feel at times. And then if it helped one person, maybe it will help another and another and another... and why should I stop? I feel better knowing my pain helps ease another's pain. It is like balm for my wounds."
Amen to that Colleen. That is exactly why I write about my own experiences. Nobody helped me until years afterwards. I don't want anybody else to feel as alone as I did in this journey.
Colleen grew up in a small town in New England. I grew up in small towns scattered all across northern Louisiana yet our stories seem the same in so many other ways.
People always ask why you didn't tell. It is easier to ask that question than it is to answer. I always felt that the person asking was already judging me, looking for some fault in me that caused the abuse to happen to me. In her book, Colleen does an excellent job of answering this question. Thank you Colleen.
I have never heard anybody else talk about how they had a problem picking out Father's Day and Mother's Day cards because they didn't fit her family. I have felt that way for many years.
Again, Colleen describes my family when she said, "Dad was the one with the power. To me, he was the ultimate authority. I saw that he made all of the major decisions, such as where we lived and what car we owned. He made the rules and he was the one who disciplined me when I broke them. He made the money so he was the one to give Mom money when she needed it. When I was a little girl, Mom didn't drive so he was the one to drive us places when we asked him."
Next Colleen says, "Dad was king of our little kingdom. He had all of the control. His word was law. So when Dad told me not to tell anyone, I knew I had better obey."
This was my family. My dad was the dictator. I compared him to Hitler.
My mom learned to drive sometime in my early teens. Colleen could have been describing my mother learning to drive with us in the truck. Dad shouting at every mistake that Mom made, us kids sitting in the truck terrified to say anything or to even breathe too loudly. I didn't learn to drive until I was in my 40's because of all of those old terrors that I had to overcome from those long ago driving lessons.
Colleen mentions that she read an article online about a survey that was done on college students in which they were asked about the effects of sexual abuse on their lives. The majority denied that they had any problems. My immediate response was to say that they were in denial. As a college student and for many years after, I was in denial of my own issues and the effects that were bothering me. I would bet if those same college students were asked to do the survey when they were older, in their 30's or 40's, their answers would be more honest.
I finished reading Colleen's book several nights ago. I couldn't write any sooner than today about the experience. It is a book that I hope that each of you who are reading this article will go and buy. "The Third Floor Window" isn't an easy read. It is a must read if you want to understand incest and what effects it has upon its victims. Colleen shows how she went from being a victim to a survivor.
I am still processing the emotions that reading "The Third Floor Window" has brought up for me. I don't have the words to tell you everything that I am feeling about this book. Feeling is good. It is still sometimes a jumble of emotions that I don't always know what to do with or how to feel about. This is an area that I am still in grade school learning how to do. I ate lots of things that I shouldn't when reading this book because eating gives me comfort when I am distressed. One of these days, I will learn better ways of dealing with these feelings, but not today. That is one more thing that Colleen's book gave me---hope that someday all of the pain will stop or at least be at manageable levels.
I hope you will click on the following link and go to the blog "Heartfelt Heartlook" to read the review that she wrote about "The Third Floor Window":
Heartfelt and I write from different views of the book.
Colleen, thank you for the courage that you had to break the silence in the form of writing your book.