Karen Answers Irena’s Third Question

Comment by Irena on August 18, 2008 4:47 am

Dear Karen,
You see, I still feel protective of you, and the little girl you were. I am still in tears from time to time over what you endured and would never allow any child that was mine or not to suffer alone if the slightest sign were given me that she needed to be helped or protected. It’s exactly why in civilized and even tribal societies there are laws that protect minors, and I’d hope most responsible adult citizens take that personally.

When I was a teenager I had a very close friend who could have been you, Karen, but she never let me close enough to help. By the time we were 18 our lives had split in different directions – I felt that she was deeply ashamed of herself for what her father had used her for and intuitively I knew this is what limited our friendship and ability to evenly share like friends do. She had talked of her father a lot, we both feared our dads although mine was physical and alcoholic, he never crossed the line, but hers took it all. She had several younger siblings that she was excessively protective over and responsible for – her little twin sisters especially.

Underneath her overwhelming sadness, shame and painful shyness she was extremely cool and smart – we shared a passion for David Bowie and books but not enough to keep us growing together after high school. In her mind, there was just no comparison between us and our gapingly different personal lives, yet I was the closest person to her, at least that’s what I felt at the time.

Then I heard of her death, by her own hand a year after leaving high school. How misguided was I to not intervene? I think the revelation of her story while she was alive was an impossibility to her – just could not happen. I wanted to tell teachers and adults around me but in an all girl’s catholic school I remember feeling like the information I was carrying just wasn’t wanted by anyone around and was going to be dismissed as slanderous and damaging and I’d be punished for it. In any case, she’d have denied it vehemently if it went public. Nobody wanted to know.

I think most children don’t survive because they can not bear their own memories. Without good memories, how do you grow into a mentally and sexually healthy adult? This is why your story is so important and so needed. Dissociating saved you, that is clear. Thanks for explaining to the skeptics out there and suggesting they ask themselves a few questions. They obviously are drawn to, and need to read this book and ask the questions they need asked.

good luck with the paperback launch. I hope more people find it “light weight” enough to purchase. You’re going to keep inspiring people for the rest of your life. I have never fully realized the pain of losing my friend until now – it all connects. Thanks.

Irena

Dear Irena,

I’m so sorry that you lost your friend to suicide. I suffered many days feeling suicidal. Only God knows what prevented me from acting on it. The pain I carried everyday was too overwhelming to bear alone. I was often afraid, losing faith, and the will to live. Yet somewhere within me I made one last effort to seek help and found it. I believe Dr. Baer was God sent and just in time, for I surely wouldn’t be here now, writing to you, and trying to help others if I hadn’t made an unbreakable promise to Dr. Baer not to end my life. This didn’t mean I no longer wanted to end my life, because I did. What this promise meant was that as long as I felt cared for, I couldn’t. I continue to fight thoughts of ending my life. The difference now is I have faith and believe life is worth living if I only give it a chance.

I know exactly how you feel about not telling the teachers or anyone else what you believed was happening to your friend. I believe you’re right that they would’ve dismissed it as slanderous and punish you for it. As a Catholic school girl myself, I was told numerous times, when I tried to share my pain, to “honor your mother and father.” I was also told I was evil and deserved to be punished by my parents. This was one of the reasons I drew within myself and dissociated. During these years no one wanted to hear anything and what could have been known was simply denied.

I couldn’t share the details of my abuse with my best friend either. My best friend of over twenty years found out about me when the book was finished. She was upset that I didn’t share the details of my past. After I explained I needed her to treat me as a friend and not pity me for all that had happened to me, I believe she understood my reasons for not sharing and thanked me. Don’t blame yourself for not being able to penetrate your friend’s wall of pain. She couldn’t let you come over. Like your friend, I felt shame and didn’t wish to bring my pain into my friendships.

It is Dr. Baer’s and my hope to inspire others to seek help. It is also my hope that through my answering these difficult questions there may be others who will understand the effects of childhood abuse, pay attention to the signs, and take the steps needed to help another child.

Thank you for your thoughts and sharing a bit about your pain. I’m sure others have experienced the difficulties in being in a friendship with someone who had been a victim of abuse.

Karen

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