I recently did an interview with some of the local press as part of the publicity for the Wall of Silence exhibition that came to Burnham-on-Sea.
It was difficult to talk about it but thought I might share some of the conversation with you.
First of all, if you could tell me a bit about what you went through
When I was about 13 I was sexually abused by a ‘family member’. Subsequent to the abuse there was a need for that person to control me, to make sure that I didn’t talk about what had happened. Tis was basically done by emotional control / threats. I remember for example being told, “Do as you are told or THEY will come and take you away”
The result of this was that I almost totally suppressed the memories, denied them even to my self.
The result was, naturally, that this had a major impact on my emotional development and ability to form and manage relationships for example.
There is a quote that sums it up well, I think
“Many remain fixed at that child level of emotional development, as though the trauma put a stop on time. Adult information and knowledge are added as they grow up, but the underlying guilt, fear and inadequacy remain and govern much of their decision-making. The governing power of these feelings is seen in the compulsion to sabotage such happiness as comes their way. Relationships are strained to breaking-point by constant demands for proof of love (which can never be believed), by chronic jealousy (which cannot be comforted), by endless emotional tests (programmed for failure) and by sexual dysfunction (since pleasure is not allowed to the guilty).”
― from “Rescuing the Inner Child: Therapy for Adults Sexually Abused as Children (Human Horizons)”
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Just over 18 months ago my father died. I was fortunate that I was able to spend time with his in his last few months and we were able to talk, not just about his illness and what he wanted at the end, or didn’t want to be more accurate, but about memories, both good and bad, times spent together and apart. Some things he said didn’t make too much sense at the time, but now I can see and understand what he was trying to say to me.
In his last few weeks I would sit beside his bed, and talk. I’m not sure he heard me, or if he did was able to understand but my presence seemed to calm his somewhat. In his last few days he seemed to become more agitated and while I wouldn’t say distressed certainly confused about where, or indeed who, he was.
This wasn’t a simple not knowing that he was in a hospice, or exhibiting the memory loss associated with dementia. No this seemed to be something more than that. Almost as if the world he was experiencing was very very different to the one we live in and he was struggling to make sense of it. Struggling to adapt to the new environment where all the learnt skills and expectations were of no use.
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Imprisoned in time, a boy, a young teen
Stuck in a moment, an event, a trauma
No door to exit, no windows to gaze out of
Silently Screaming as memories swirl and constrain
Betrayal by one who should have gave love
Innocence taken by one who should defend it
Trust destroyed by one most trusted
Memory too hard, too dangerous to keep.
Shackles of the mind, self-imposed on by the boy
Memories denied, hidden and rejected
To change the past, undo what was done
Something that couldn’t, mustn’t, have happened
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Harm None? How do we judge
Things have moved on a bit since I last thought about this.
I was asked to talk to social services, who informed me that they would want to consider what action they would take based on my story and that the natures of things was that they might have to also refer this to the police.
So the question became do I talk to them, to tell them my story or not? It is not in this case a simple equation of who will be harmed by my actions and what offset benefit might there be. It is a question of where responsibility lies.
The core of the problem is that if I was to open up to them then the control of what happened with information, and what the consequences were, would no longer be in my hands, and it would be me of my own free will giving that control over to them. How does that sit with the ideas of personal responsibility imbedded in the injunction to ‘harm none’?
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This post looks at how well some of the perceived characteristics of people who self-harm, Age and Gender, fit with the reality of Self Harm in the community.
For most non experts, and undoubtedly a few experts as well, the perception of people who self=harm is one of almost exclusively young, teenage, and predominately female. This is not surprising as the language, images and targeting of both press reports, Support and information organisations web sites as well as academic papers reinforce that perception.
While it is obviously difficult to fully and accurately understand the demographic makeup of the people who shelf-harm, it is often a secret activity, we can, I suggest, get a first level approximation of the issue from those presenting to hospital emergency departments.
Statistics from the south west of England do not support the stereotype that it is teens and young people – 15-29 that are the majority group.
In fact the 30-44 age range present at hospital in almost identical numbers with the 45 – 74 age group reaching 50% of the numbers of the younger groups.
The same statistics also show only a excess of females presenting in the 15-29 age group but with the gap narrowing in the older age groups
I think form this it if fair to say that self-harm impacts both genders and all ages, and while young females do seem to have a higher prevalence of self-harm the statistics do show that the perception of self-harm as a predominantly young female issues is far from the truth.
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I recently have had to begin facing a rather difficult question. One that at its core asked me to interprets one of the prime directives of Wicca.
“an it harm none, do as thou will”
The question boils down to this, if doing something that is needed for my own recovery & survival adversely impacts on the life of others the where do I stand with respect to the tenant expressed in the harm none rule?
Add into this that there is a moral and potentially legal component, in that the action I am contemplating is to formally report historic sexual abuse, and the who question becomes even more murky.
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I can feel it, in the air and in my mind.
I can feel it in my soul and memories.
I can feel it in my lack of hope and in my fears
I can feel it building and growing
I can feel it sucking hope and faith
I can feel it destroying the future and plans
I can feel it drag me back to the darkness
I can feel it pull me down
I can feel it calling to the blade
I can feel it calling to my wrist
I can feel it calling to my blood I can feel it, it won’t kill me.
I can feel it , it will make me kill my self
I can feel it, it isn’t death
I can feel it, it wants to turn me into my own death
I can feel it, I can’t hold out much more
I can feel it, I want the peace it brings
I can feel it, touching my soul, my heart, my life, my hope
I can feel it calling
One of the things that can contribute to difficulties in dealing with mental health issues is the ability to express and explore thoughts and feelings. Often people with mental health issues such as depression or dealing with traumatic experiences such as childhood sexual abuse find it difficult to ‘drill down’ into these dark recesses of their mind or to ask themselves the sort of questions that are needed.
Sometimes talking therapies can help, other times a trained psychologist is needed. But on occasion it is simply the need of a framework where these deeply buried thoughts and feelings can be opened up and examined that prevents some progress being made.
While Tarot can never replace the professional help that other therapies can deliver, I feel that there is a place for it in the bigger picture for some people in helping them to begin to address some of the mental health issues they face.
Why do I say that? Well from personal experience of beginning the journey into looking at my depression and self-harm, beginning to understand the underlying causes, the Childhood Sexual Abuse, and behavioural issues and self-destructive beliefs, that that abuse formed the foundation of I have found using Tarot for self-exploration a big help.
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So I have been thinking how, as a Pagan, I should view the issues around self Harm.
I mean for the person who is Self Harming rather than the wider issues of support and help. While there are obviously Pagan specific factors to consider when treating, or providing help, to somebody who self harms, such as belief structures and world view which would obviously be very important in treatments such a s talking therapies, I am more interested at the moment on the more internal view. How does being a Pagan sit with Self Harming.
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So I have been using the tarot a lot recently to help me understand where I am and the direction I must take and the path I must walk.
I many years ago though about the spread I should use and came up with something I felt comfortable with. I have been using this spread a lot and thought maybe I should share it with everybody who isn’t reading this blog.
So the spread.
Imagine a pentacle, five points and the centre.
As usual shuffle the cards and pick one that represents you,
I take one sight unseen from the pack, and place it face up in the centre of the pentagram.
Then from the top of the pack, face down place five cards where the points of the pentagram would be.
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