Friday, October 12, 2018

Why Do Happy Memories Make Me Cry?



...All of a sudden I remember you and me
Watching the clowns on the Playa with the little kids
Wearing big monster mask heads
Answering silly questions
That made us laugh like kids ourselves.

Your arms were around me
As we watched and laughed.
It seemed a magical time, a magical place.

From this I know.
No matter what should happen
Though we may drift apart,
There are many things that will make us look back
And smile.

If this is true,
How come I'm crying as I write this?



"A butterfly lights beside us, like a sunbeam and for a brief moment its glory and beauty belong to our world... but then it flies on again and although we wish it could have stayed, we are so thankful to have seen it at all." Author Unknown

Friday, October 5, 2018

I Don't Know, 'I Don't Remember, I Don't Remember' : On Being Transparent About Sexual Abuse


SEXUAL ABUSE AND POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER
WHY WE CAN'T REMEMBER THE DETAILS
By Kate McGahan LMSW


Along with the rest of the nation, I have been riveted on the Brett Kavanaugh/Christine Blasey-Ford testimony. Why all the hoopla? Aside from the deeply disturbing values and attitudes that are being consistently revealed in current politics, the story touches everyone who ever abused, was ever abused, ever did things beyond their control under the influence, ever forgot …ever remembered.

Last week Dr. Ford reminded me of what happened to me. She reminds me of what I tried to forget. It’s not like I forgot altogether what happened to me. Oh no. It’s that when it actually happened, I dissociated from myself because, quite simply, I didn’t want to be there. I wanted no part of it. So I “left”! Dissociation is a natural defense mechanism for those experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) whether it is due to wartime, devastating natural disaster or sexual, physical or emotional trauma. 



When he came looking for me that first night when I was ten, I was hiding from him. I had already learned that I did not like the way he treated me. He was just, well, “yucky.” Every night through my terrifying moments, he would find me, hiding. Behind curtains. Behind chairs. Under beds and tables. He always found me. I don’t know why I didn’t just run away from home altogether but there was something in the experience that paralyzed me like a deer in headlights.

I don’t know how many times over the years he did this, but it was many times. I never told anybody about it. This was the first person who taught me to Not Say No, to Not Tell Anyone, to try to continue loving someone even though they hurt, abuse and betray. He taught me how to deny the Here and Now, how to suppress my feelings until it became natural for me to stuff them away altogether. He taught me to expect that someone you come to love will probably come to hurt you. He taught me that family can betray you.

DISSOCIATION:
WHY WE CAN’T REMEMBER WHERE, WHAT, WHEN
BUT WE ALWAYS REMEMBER WHO

Once he found me and took me to his bedroom, I couldn’t hide my body anymore, so I hid the rest of me. I vacated. I dissociated. While his hands groped and his aged appendage shook as he spoke dirty words to my virgin ears, I exited the situation. My mind was able to whisk me away. I floated up out of the situation. Around the walls, covered with pink and blue wallpapered flowers. Up the wall to where the white painted molding met the yellowed ceiling. Most of the time I’d be “up there” somewhere but sometimes I would go even further. I would go through the ceiling and out into the freedom that was the rooftop and the sky. Despite what was happening I had already developed a faith in God and the angels and I believed that when I went “up there” I had a measure of safety that I didn’t have below. When we are traumatized, leaving the scene spiritually and psychologically is a safety measure. It’s By Design for one’s survival. It's no surprise that we cannot remember details when we are "not there." The circumstances at hand are too overwhelming to process and so we are designed to have an exit route and that route is called Dissociation.



When someone drinks or does drugs, they can exit too, through blackouts, drug “trips” that take them out of context with their own bodies, straight into an altered state. This is why most of them do it. They can't remember the details either, those that happened during their trip. They too are seeking an escape from something in their lives that they can’t bear. Some people can’t find their way back. They can be stuck in a confusing state of Dissociative Disorder, which is a disorder of identity. When you leave yourself behind this way, the day eventually can come when you find that you don’t know who you are at all. You don’t even know what you are. You have not lived life like a normal “person”.

When children are abused, they can lose sight of who and what they are. Now nearly fifty years later, I still do not know my worth, my value, my best qualities overshadowed and disguised by lifelong shame. This makes no sense to someone who has never experienced abuse, that a child can have such shame and guilt for the torrid acts of someone else, but it is the nature of a child to suffer guilt for such things beyond his or her control. Many suffer this for the rest of their lives. 


When you're young and your parents divorce, you always think it’s your fault. After all you are still somewhat ego-centric, as all young children are, and you think the world revolves around you, so therefore everything must have to do with you, for better or for worse. With various types of abuse, there is deep shame for being submissive, for not saying “no” to something that is deeply wrong. There is guilt for not being brave enough to tell anyone, not reporting the perpetrator. Perhaps even guilt for enjoying the experience despite the circumstance. Horrors! 

One of the specific problems for children who experience abuse of any kind is that as they grow, their brains are developing too. What goes in becomes a part of them. Walking. Talking. Tying Their Shoes. Reading, Writing, Arithmetic. Words of praise become a foundation for how they see themselves as they move forward into adulthood. Physical, Emotional, Sexual Abuse. These too become a foundation for how they see themselves and rate their poor self-worth as they move forward into adulthood. They never know why they don’t trust, they fear betrayal, they avoid intimacy. They throw themselves into dysfunctional relationships – after all, we attract what we feel and we will be like magnets drawing the same kind of people to us who will continue to hurt, harm, betray and abuse. In our ongoing insecurity, we can become addicted to pathways of escape: drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography or work. We further dull our awareness of who we are because we don’t like who we are and we must find some way to escape from our own lives. It’s just another kind of dissociation. There are so many ways to lose ourselves. Each one of these situations is actually another opportunity to Show Up differently, but still we tend to focus on losing ourselves instead of finding ourselves. 

...Until one day we are reminded and it all comes rushing back. It fills every sense that had forgotten until now. The groping, the gravely voice, the lumpy pillows, the wallpaper flowers, the stale smell of the room. You can’t say when, you don’t remember how often. You only remember the flowers, the ceiling, the man, the hands, the feeling of terror and powerlessness ---- only now there is no escape from it. You have finally admitted to yourself that this has happened and now what are you going to do with it? You can’t heal what you don’t feel and now fifty years later you feel it’s full effect. You feel the fury, knowing how it changed the way you came to live your life. You see it from the eyes of an adult now. You know now that you deserved more in life but look how you always settled for less.


Last night anchor woman Connie Chung came forward. God bless her. She has remembered too: the trusted family doctor who delivered her as a baby who came to assault her as a co-ed. In fifty years she never told anyone but her husband. She now reminds me of one I’d forgotten. Our small town family doctor who fondled my breasts during a procedural exam for college admission.
     “Is someone playing with these?” he asked me.
     “No.” was my shy but robotic answer. 
      How on earth does one answer this?
     “Aww, that’s too bad,” he replied as he gave a last fondle.
     Oh my God I forgot about this until now.



So many of us are caught in the process of unlearning the erroneous things that we’ve been taught, needing to rewind back to our innocence and to remember the love and respect we must inherently have first for ourselves. We must tell our story and once it's told, to learn what we can from it and try to forget the part that only deprives us of creating a better story for ourselves in this new day and age ....knowing that the challenges along the way are what gave us the strengths of empathy, compassion and appreciation for the good things in life. Nothing is ever all good or all bad. The key is in accepting it as part of our development and moving forward with the strength of character that we have developed. We are different people because of these things and when it comes to our own testimony of ourselves, we are innocent.  

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change; 

courage to change the things I can; 

and wisdom to know the difference.



Thursday, October 4, 2018

We've Led Parallel Lives: You've Been Abused Too

(Excerpt from the upcoming book, "It's All About You" by Kate McGahan)

Tonight I read about a man who had been fondled by a stranger for twenty minutes at the age of 8. This guy grew up carrying his pain with him through 32 years of marriage to a woman he never really knew. He had buried his wound and locked it up tight thinking that time would take it away… while all along the secret followed him and haunted him.  It returned in every intimate moment that should have brought him joy.

Are you him? Am I?  What happens when someone is repeatedly abused year after year by someone they are supposed to love? By someone who is a member of the family who teaches only betrayal? I don't know about you but I've tried to heal for many years. How? By continuing to choose to be with ears that didn't hear, kisses that bruised and left their mark, hugs that engulfed and smothered ...and hearts that betrayed. They wanted everything and always on their terms. I have continually avoided closeness, as if I could avoid being hurt any more than I have already been! As if avoiding intimacy could keep me safe…

Why is this so complicated? I don't know about you but sometimes the new love I feel brings up old pain. The more intimacy we share, the more pain comes up. 

Do we brush the pain aside for the sake of comfort in the moment or do we look it in the eye and strive to show up differently?  I am trying really hard to show up differently in my life.  It's so hard! One by one my fears are leaving me but the bigger they are the harder they fall. Dear God help me to keep surpassing my comfort zones until the day comes when I am no longer afraid.

I want to talk with you about your abuse. I want to know if you have healed. Maybe that is the reason you don't reach out to me?  Is that why you seem so distant sometimes? Is it why I am?

I have learned that trusting myself is prevention.
I have learned that trusting someone else is the cure. 
The right someone. 
The conditions are right. We can do this.
We are the wounded healers. We can do this one kiss at a time.

I am not big and strong like you but I would do 
Everything in my power to shelter you and keep you from harm.
I believe you would do the same for me.
We will make up for the lonely years when no one was there.
From now on it will be on our terms at the right time in the right place
With the right one... in the right way.

Who knows, perhaps our shared drama of abuse is the very thing
That made it possible at this exact time and place in our lives
For you to find me and for me to find you waiting for love to find us.
If this indeed is true, 
I would go through it all over again to be with you.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Gnarly: On Sexual Abuse

The issue of Senator Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Ford has brought up some old pain for some of us. The physical pain may leave but the emotional injury never quite goes away.

She thought this was going to be fun.....!  

His long life had been disappointing;
Few successes, broken dreams.
A defensive wife, a self-centered son;
Life was falling apart at the seams.

He had settled for a dull routine
Of smoking a pipe and sittting.
No one expected much out of him
And the lifestyle seemed befitting.

Every once in awhile he'd argue
Just to liven things up a little.
In order to feel superior
He enjoyed finding ways to belittle.

As the years passed he grew frailer.
With this, his pride took its toll.
He searched for roads to pleasure
And as he did, he lost sight of his soul.

One night he reached out his gnarly old hands
To the breast of a ten year old.
He exuded authority and power
Which gave him a sense of foothold.



She was shy and quiet and despite her shame
Complied with his demands.
He abused his power over the child;
She was helpless in his hands.

He abused this power for many years
Only thinking of his needs.
No worry of repercussions or the
Results of his misdeeds.

He chose her, a lone scapegoat,
Knowing she'd never let on to the scam.
He made her his whore and his sweetheart;
His lover, his Madame.

His imagination was rampant,
Took no note of her passivity;
And after awhile, he took it in stride
As another routine activity.

The dog was her saving grace. 
Neither one at the time would ever have dreamed
The problems this routine would make
To a girl who'd never dated a boy
But who'd already had her share of heartbreak.

She went into the world only to find
She held men in reserve, at a distance.
These gentle young men who saw all her strengths
Took her hand and would meet her resistance.

The next twenty years were spent healing
The deep scars she received in her teens.
Running from those who loved her the most
Yet seeking the man of her dreams.

She still is in search of the one man
Who is gentle and safe and kind.
Not willing to settle, unafraid to commit,
She now seeks a love unconfined.

Loyal to a fault, whoever wins her
If they care and they never betray,
Will find her healed and ready to give
And receive love in every way.

The girls in the family. So much sadness there.
What you don't allow yourself to feel, you cannot heal. 

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, in the U.S. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men have experienced some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. When I began dealing with my own abuse in 1989 it was "only" 1 in 7 women. The abuse began when I was 10. I didn't reveal it until I was almost 30. It is the human nature of victims not to tell anyone. 
When I wrote this poem, I shared it with my psychotherapist who was helping me to change my life and to live it as a human being, not as a wounded victim. He asked me if he could share it with his sexual predators group because "they need to know the results of their behavior. It's how they learn to accept responsibility for what they've done and how they begin to heal their own wounds." 

It's a hard un-doing but if we don't tell, if we try to forget, if we don't allow ourselves to feel, if we don't share with someone we trust, we remain with a stronghold of sexual trauma for the rest of our lives. This is the true price we pay for having been abused. What we don't feel we can't heal. 

If you're still reading this, here's the irony!
I was abused by him from age 10 until age 15. One day we received a call. He had had accident while working on the lawnmower. The blade took off his right middle finger. Do we laugh or do we cry? 

I again stand in amazement of the universe and how karma works. Meanwhile, I continue to work on my healing. I know with statistics that you may be one who has been hurt too. Prayers going out to you. This will be another book that I will write one day.  Life is the school, love is the lesson....


"Gnarly" From the obscure book by Kate McGahan, 
Available at Amazon.com

Friday, September 28, 2018

ONLY GONE FROM SIGHT: JACK McAFGHAN'S LITTLE GUIDE TO PET LOSS AND GRIEF - Now Available in Paperback!


THIS BOOK WILL ANSWER EVERY QUESTION YOU HAVE ABOUT END-OF-LIFE
DECISION-MAKING AND HOW TO SURVIVE PET LOSS.

Our favorite four-legged grief counselor, Jack McAfghan, guides you gently and honestly through all aspects of pet loss and grief. Jack will prepare you, teach you to make peace with the decisions you may ultimately have to make and help you to understand that the end of this life is not the end of life at all. Learn the secret language that will help you communicate with your pets no matter what side of the Rainbow Bridge they are on. This little book will help you know how to make the right decisions, how to stay strong in your time of loss and how to move forward by using the power of your love instead of the limits of your mind. 


TABLE of CONTENTS 
~Facing the Inevitable
~Anticipatory Grief
~Not Just a Pet
~No Life Without Loss
~Death: Feared & Misunderstood
~End of Life Decisions
~Preparing for the Passage
~"THE APPOINTMENT"/ Euthanasia
~Aftershocks
~The Process of Grief
~Ashes and Memorials
~Waking from the Dream
~Shock/Denial
~Fears and Tears
~Anger
~Complicated Grief
~Bargaining
~Who to Blame
~Suicide
~Depression
~There is no Death
~You Can Heal What You Feel
~Acceptance
~Growing Pains
~Anniversaries
~The Language of the Heart
~The Gift of Grief
~Dreams: Meeting Places of the Soul
~Signs from the Afterlife
~How to Tell the Children
~Life Beyond Grief
~Only Human
~Grief Support

Your best friend waits to speak to you on every page in this book. Give the gift of understanding. Help the pet lover in your life to face transitions courageously, rid themselves of guilt and blame, know how much they are loved and strengthen their faith that life never ends and that love never dies.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Oh If You Only Knew




Do you ever feel that your life is a tragedy? 
Have you ever let someone walk away without telling them how you feel?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Getting Carried Away into the Prison of Your Mind


How did that stuff get into your head?
What makes you think you’d be better off dead?
Those thoughts can destroy
They can kill; They can maim.
Why not take them
And fan them with flame
Of more positive things.

Form follows thought. 
Your intentions have wings
Which carry your life
To the very same things
That fill up your head.

You think you’ve no choice
Like you’ve been taken captive,
You obey the voice
Which over and over says things to you
It relentlessly chatters
Sometimes it will spew!
It’s goal to disarm you of thoughts
Pure and true.
It makes you a victim
You get stuck in it’s glue!

And it's all in your mind.  

Monday, September 3, 2018

My Secret Love

Lo, praise for the epic scenes ne'er told
So many from the days of old.
When time was young and youth was new
And love was pure and true.

Many sagas I could write
Of those who tried to win my heart
Or me theirs.
Through hoops and fields of memory run
The words that speak Of Life and Love

Kept inside, a silent prayer,
That one will come and remain there,
Through tests of time and storm and strife
The reason others went astray...
The one who is my Love for life.



Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Fast Forward

You don't need anything else
When you have everything you need.
And everything I need
I find in you.

Alas, you pack your bags
And travel far from me
Taking all the love I have to give
With you when you go.

Forgotten, years later,
I am doomed to become
A fat, drunk, depressed old woman
Who maxes out her credit cards

And cares for naught
But her memories of you.



Friday, July 20, 2018

All of Us Are Lost Until we are Found: What I Learned from Losing my Dog for a Few Hours

Tonight I was walking Immy and Joey in the tiny artist colony of Tubac, Arizona. As we headed up the gravel road to the Montessori School I stopped to take a photo of the cranberry colored monsoon sky. In that very moment a cottontail rabbit sprang from the nearby bushes and Immy took off like a rocket after it, the leash flew from my hand, catching me totally off guard.  


Joey and I raced after her, but she was going 45 MPH and we were going maybe 8 MPH. She was absolutely nowhere to be seen as we came to the crest of the sloped gravel drive. A giant field, the frontage road on one side of it with Highway 19 just beyond. My mind was taking me to crazy places. I called her name over and over. Almost crying. "Hey Immy, Good Girl Come On! Let's go home!"  I whistled, the same whistle I would whistle to bring Jack home. No luck. She was nowhere to be found. 

Joey and I then ran as fast as we could all the way home to get the car.  Of course dusk was upon us. It was getting so dark already. I left the patio door open in the event she came home of her own accord. I grabbed my flashlight, stopped to post a Lost Dog post on my Facebook Page and the Tubac Barrio and Surrounding Area pages. I tried to post on the local Lost and Found Pet pages but was I a member? No of course not. I was never going to lose a dog. My hands were shaking so badly and between that and Spellchecker I was about insane already.  We took off in the car on the DARK roads of Tubac. Immy is dark! The roads are dark! My mind, still taking me to terrible places. 


We drove back up to the area where we last saw her. I drove all over the schoolyard, the nearby acreage. I climbed into the deep rocky ditches and the water-filled arroyo with my flashlight. Calling her calling her. Meanwhile the huge trucks are bearing down on the nearby highway. 
"Dear God, not the highway."  She is smart but I do believe she would walk right out in front of a car despite my years of trying to teach her otherwise.  


Then the train.  Whoo Whoo!   OMG. The railroad tracks! The train! Just 1/4 mile away on the other side of the village from the highway. I start hyperventilating. Crying. Driving slowly on all the streets of town, crying her name out. I had no whistle left. To the Frontage Road for 1/2 mile. I refused to consider the highway option.  It had claimed enough canine lives since I moved here so I tried to believe that statistically she was safe.  : / 



I was getting more and more upset. Hyperventilating.  Three times I came back to the house to see if she was there, but no Immy.  Each time I got more upset than the last time. A third drive through all the streets of town. I realized how upset I was getting; sick with it really. 

"Stop." I say. "Where's your faith? God's got this." 
God. The angels. Jack. Anyone else? I asked for help from all of them. 

I started to imagine her walking along the side street with her leash dangling behind her, waiting for me to find her walking along, ever so nonchalantly.
A song popped into my head and I started singing. 


🎶"There she was just a walkin down the street singin do wah diddy diddy dum diddy doo..." 🎶
I turned a corner, got nervous again. Those tears, that fear is so persistent! 
But so's the tune. 
"She looked good, looked fine..... "🎶
"God's got this. He knows what he's doing."
The tears, the fears still trying to get through. My imagination, trying to get the best of me.   
".... and I nearly lost my mind."🎶

We're all lost until we're found
Then I remember my pendulum. I had not dowsed in many years.
It was in the console of my car.  I pulled it out.
No, it said, she's not at the highway. No, she's nowhere near the railroad. Not there. No, not there. She was in the village limits. She was within the 9 square blocks of our quiet little village.
She was safe. She wasn't dead or injured.
🎶"..do wa diddy diddy dum diddy do..."🎶
Around and around the town I went. Visiting all the nooks and crannies.
Coming back along towards our house, I'm crying again!
OMG what if someone finds her and uses her for dog fight bait!  OMG!
Stop.
"Dear God protect her. If she doesn't ever come home, take care of her. Please."
Crying.
"I promise I'll never use my phone again on our walks if you only bring her back."
Entering the Bargaining Stage of Grief now.
Waah!
Stop.
"Get into your faith Kate. It's life. Whatever happens will happen."
I thought of Jack's excerpt from Book 3, Return from Rainbow Bridge...


Whatever happens there's a reason. I have to trust God with His Plan. 
I have to trust myself that she loves me enough that she would want to come home. 
I have to trust her that she is smart enough to find her way home. After all, we walk these village streets every day. She must know her way around quite well by now. She is a hound dog after all.  

Driving up the gravel road to the school for the fourth time, 
did I see two shining eyes up the road in the headlights?  
🎶"Before I knew it she was walkin' next to me...singing do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do."  🎶
No. It was my imagination.  Maybe a premonition. 
Wait. Look! Is that her standing over there?    
No. It's a downed tree that just happens to look like her.

Hey, a rabbit! It looked like the same rabbit she went after. 
Came out from the same place in the bushes. 🐾
I followed the rabbit.
🎶" Whoa-oh, I knew we was falling in love..."🎶

A left turn down into the nearby neighborhood. Into a vacant side lot. 
Drove my car over the bumps and rocks to search the lot with my headlights. 
Did I see two shining eyes ahead?
  🎶"She looked good. She looked fine. And I nearly lost my mind."🎶

From the Archives
🎶 There she was just as natural as can be. Standing perfectly still. Looking at me.
The rabbit was sitting there watching us the whole time.
Immy seemed confused, scared, not moving. Looked like she didn't recognize me.
This sighthound had to get a close smell of me to know it was me.
She often lets fear get the best of her. (Sounds like someone I know.) 
As I got closer I was able to see her dilemma. She had gotten the handle of her 16' retractable leash caught on a nearby mesquite bush. (so strange, we usually use the retractable on the wilderness trails and the regular leash in town, but for some reason we used the retractable one tonight. Divine Intervention?) Not only that but she had obviously tried to get herself loose and had it wrapped around quite creatively on an upside down tree stump beside her. Knowing how she gets when she is scared, I was not surprised to see the rest of the leash wrapped round all of her legs, like a cat's cradle, so she couldn't move an inch. 
The rabbit just watched. Immy was silent. She never complains about anything. She just endures. 
🎶"Whoa-oh, I knew I was falling in love..."🎶

It took about ten minutes to get her untangled from herself. 
Gosh she must've heard me crying and calling for her all over town, from her tangled web on this dark vacant lot. I wonder what she was thinking. Feeling. 
As soon as she was loose I hugged her and hugged her and hugged her. She is not usually tolerant of much affection but she was hugging me back. 
She was thrilled to get into the car. I wish I had a picture of her and Joey when they reunited at the car window.
But no more pictures when I have a dog on a leash. 

We headed home. 
🎶"...and so I told her all the things I'd been dreamin' of..."🎶

I had to be calm. I had to have faith. I had to stop crying and Be Still.
The stress. The adrenalin! Imagining the worst.
The moment I stopped worrying and put my faith in God and all the rest of us, everything turned around. 



I came home to hundreds of prayers from my frantic posting on Facebook two hours earlier (gosh it was only two hours? It felt like ten!) A very kind and helpful call came in from the local Santa Cruz Sheriff's Department who had received a call from a friend in Connecticut about my lost dog, wondering if they could help. (I was a little nervous, I thought they might have been calling me because I had been driving off-road all over the town screaming "IMMY!" and carrying on). I also received a call from an Animal Communicator friend I had met in Sedona who has expertise in Finding Lost Pets, calling to offer to help me free of charge to locate Immy. And one of my home care patients who is now a Facebook Friend offered to drive down with her husband to help me try to find her. Wow. I am overwhelmed with the care and concern and offers to help us tonight.  

What an adventure. She's exhausted. Joey's exhausted. I'm exhausted. 
But we're happy.  🎶So Happy Together 🎶




When you lose something precious and then get it back, you make sure to fulfill your promises. No more taking photos along our walks. It's going to take some discipline for me, based on my history. 
🎶"Now we're together every single day...
We're so happy and it's how we're gonna stay..."🎶


You do what you have to do and you honor your Promises. 
🎶"..Do wa diddy diddy dum diddy do..." 🎶

Night Night Miss Immy.  


Lyrics Do Wah Diddy by Manfred Mann
Songwriters: Ellie Greenwich / Jeff Barry
My apologies ahead of time if this song sticks in your head for the rest of the night too! 

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