I’ve been a lifelong Joni Mitchell fan. For those who know me, it’s easy to see why. She appeals to my inner hippie. One song in particular—Both Sides Now—has always been a favorite but I’ll admit younger Kiersten didn’t quite get the full meaning of the song.
I truly get it now. Or, at least, why the lyrics burrowed deep into my soul for eternity.
As I watched Sara Barielles' beautiful rendition of Both Sides Now during the Oscar’s ‘In Memoriam’ last night, tears welled but not for obvious reasons.
As a child and a young adult, I looked at life as Joni did:
Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds that way
I had no idea that life could look so different. What I once thought was black and white wasn’t really that way at all. The more I lived, the more I would come to understand that I don’t fully understand.
I recently wrote to my abuser. I told him I know what he did and how it shaped my entire life. It took three years, from the time I first started having flashbacks, to feel ready to put pen to paper. Much to my surprise, writing the letter was easy. Taking direction from my soul, my fingers tapped away furiously on the keyboard. I felt strong. I knew it was time. But there was a moment I realized that both sides of me—little Kiersten and adult Kiersten—aren’t fully integrated.
As I was sealing the envelope to put in the mail, tears welled in my eyes. The thing is, I didn’t realize I was crying. It was as if it wasn’t me. I was surprised by the trail of salty tears down my cheeks. I quickly realized it was Little Kiersten who was crying—a release after all these years. Maybe now, I’ll start to fully connect with her again. Maybe she feels vindicated. I don’t really know yet.
Looking at life from this side now, I am truly grateful for the healing and growth I’ve experienced over the past three years. And I’m proud that I didn’t let the revelations of my life break me. I feel now, they are just part of the tapestry of who I am.
But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I've changed
Well something's lost, but something's gained
In living every day
I've looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all
I really don’t know life at all, or the reasons we endure what we do in our human experiences. What I do know is I am grateful to feel open to not knowing or understanding everything. Just carrying on one day at a time without all of the answers and most importantly, becoming whole for the first time in my life.
I’m living both sides, now.
Don't look down. It's way too steep. Yet, truly, all I want to do is jump.
I'm ready. I know I am. Sure, I sometimes question whether putting pen to paper will really make any difference but I already know the answer. It will, if only to the little girl who held her tongue for three years, plus 37 more. Never in a million years would I have thought, at age 43, I'd be mentally journaling thoughts I want to include in my letter to the man who sexually abused me and raped me when I was a child.
It's a weird place to be. I'm leaning over the edge, but still finding the space and courage to write what's in my heart.
In the meantime, these postcards caught my eye.....
While champagne toasts were being made in half the homes in America this past week, many sexual abuse survivors were experiencing bubbles in a very different way.
Let me be clear. This post is not about one candidate versus the other. It's about what I've experienced—as well as others in my circle—as a survivor this week.
I was truly surprised by how much I was triggered by the outcome. I didn't expect it but it came in as one very large, thick, heavy bubble of grief, rising to the surface. I know, as a highly sensitive person, I was feeling my own sadness as well as the sadness of the collective. With that said, as a woman who's been through bankruptcy, job loss, and the inability to afford health insurance, I completely understand wanting change. Revolution. Fix what hasn't been working. I get all of that and I respect Americans wanting a better future.
As a survivor, I felt violated....again. Maybe it was the never ending loop of election ads on TV, but I kept hearing a mash-up of the Access Hollywood audio over and over again in my head. "Grab her by the pussy" looped in my mind. Typewriter text from the stories about women who experienced our new President-elect as a sexual predator scrolled behind my eyes like the opening scene of Star Wars. Mainly, I thought about how, for the next four years, I will have to see my president in an equivalent form to my abuser.
A friend of mine who is a therapist told me her clients who are sexual abuse survivors are booking appointments with her left and right in order to help cope with the feelings bubbling up. I've heard multiple survivors say they felt like they were raped again, not just by the results but the knowledge that some of their strong, smart, compassionate female friends voted for Trump, a known sexual predator. As women, we naturally think that our sisters couldn't possibly condone that kind of behavior and i'm sure the women who voted for Trump do not; however, they still said "yes" to putting a man at the helm of the free world who has shown his true colors regarding women. To many survivors, it just felt like a big fat slap in the face.
I'm finding it's a process and by owning and honoring the pain, healing is happening. Feelings coming from deep within are surfacing for many who haven't fully looked their abuse in the eye. Women from all over the country are reaching out to one another for support, providing life jackets for bobbing in this first wave of post-election pain. For that, I am so grateful. We're coming together in ways we haven't in the past. Sexual abuse is such a taboo topic but a HUGE light is shining on it right now and we all know only light can defeat dark.
I certainly don't have all the answers and I'm coming to grips with my feelings one bubble at time, but I will say overall, I am even more determined to use my voice to help stop the perpetuation of our country's rape culture. If we don't do it, who will?
If you are a survivor and want to share your feelings with me privately, please feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can always post an anonymous comment.
One of the hardest parts about being a childhood sexual abuse survivor is trusting memories and/or repressed memories. Doubt enters the mind quite a bit, especially in the beginning as memories/flashbacks bubble up. For me, discovering and trusting intuition coupled with assistance from other spiritual and mental health professionals helped reinforce that what I was coming to grips with was not "just in my head."
Part of my healing journey has involved really tapping into my own intuition and learning to recognize how to differentiate intuition from ego. I am going to share a few tips I've learned along the way but please know, everything surrounding intuition is very individual. I believe intuition is like a road map for life, if we learned to get quiet and listen.
Intuition is subtle. I've learned over the years that my ego mind is much louder than my intuition. When I get an idea that I know is truly stemming from my intuition, a calming feeling comes over me. And the thought/idea will keep coming up over and over, but in a quiet way. My ego mind is much more of a bully and more impulsive. And typically, if i get an idea out of nowhere and there's a sense of urgency and fear around it, I'll know to sit back and wait. If the thought comes back to me in a very calm way, without fear, i'll know it's something I need to pay attention to and act on when I feel the time is right.
Ex. When I was coming up with the idea for Mod Mom Furniture, everyone thought I was nuts. I had no carpentry experience and zero design know-how, yet the idea to start my own furniture company kept pushing me forward and it wasn't panicked. Sure, I was nervous, but deep in my gut, I felt very calm about it. I was excited and felt in my soul, it was something I was being guided to do.
Intuition can produce physical sensations. Sometimes when I'm ignoring the more subtle intuitive thoughts, my body will get my attention. I will feel chills/goosebumps. Sometimes, I'll even feel muscle spasms in different parts of my body. For example, when I start to feel twitching in my knees, it's typically because I'm resisting moving forward in some area of my life. I felt this intensely before I came out with my childhood sexual abuse story. And the minute I published my post, the twitching completely went away. More commonly, we all know the "kick in the gut" feeling and how it literally feels like a heavy punch to the upper stomach. From my studies on the energy systems of the body, that area corresponds with our power center so when you go through something that strips you of your personal power, your body responds physically.
Seeing is believing. Everyone is intuitive but some are more inclined to pick up intuitive information in heightened ways. Most highly sensitive people live in this category and many don't understand what is happening to them. For me, when I started to fully tap into my intuitive side, I was seeing things out of the corner of my eye and questioning my sanity. Ultimately, it was the help of other intuitive healers and spiritual counsel that helped me understand I wasn't going crazy, I was just opening up more to what was always there. Learning to pay attention to signs helped me learn to trust my intuition. A few signs you may notice are....
Other great resources for learning more about intuition:
10 Things Highly Intuitive People Do Differently
How to Recognize True Intuition
Recognizing Your Body's Intuitions About Vibes