The sky is dark
I sit here quietly,
thinking, pondering.
Where is my life going?
What shall it lead?

I feel myself following
dark shadows into the fog.
Where is my life going?
What shall it lead?

Still I follow, thinking, pondering.
Is my life in vein
or will it be meaningful tomorrow?

The words just poured out of my soul as we all rode the bus to school. My longtime friend and neighbor, Craig, needed a poem. I had no idea that the poem that I was about to write would cause my continuous search for freedom from the chains that held me.

As we passed by the trees and houses that seemed all too close together, I helped him. Craig needed a poem for his English class that day. When he asked if I would write one for him, I did not hesitate. I wrote...

Roses are Red
Violets are blue
I am schizophrenic
and so am I.

He thought that my non-original poem was very funny, but he wanted something more. He needed something that was deeper, something that I could give away, something to help him. That was what I was used to doing, and I could easily do. If there was someone in need I would do my utmost best to fulfill that need, even if that meant putting myself in front of the train.

As I sat and listened to the highschool friends chattering away I felt a cloud of suffering envelope me. I could feel its dark cold fingers reaching into me...poking and pinching at the very parts that only I could protect. But now, as I searched myself for something...anything, I realized that I no longer had myself. These cold dark fingers had grabbed me and held me tight. I was captured, captured in my own loneliness and pain.

The words poured out of the soul that remained. I wrote and wrote. I had no idea of the words or the meaning until later...much later. I only knew what I felt, and what I did not feel.

As I finished writing, I stopped and scanned. I looked over what it was that had just poured out from the core of my being. Checking for any mistakes, any misspellings...I looked up and saw Craig anxiously awaiting for my finished work. As I handed him that poem, I felt myself handing over all that I was, and all that I could be. It was no longer something that I had. Gone were all of my decision making capabilities, my joys and sorrows, all of that which is me...gone.

Craig and I had been friends ever since he moved in around the corner from me. There were no girls to play with, only boys, so we all played together. I was perfectly content playing cars, making forts out of blackberry bushes, playing football and soccer. We played and played. Once in awhile the boys would gang up on me, but I think I probably deserved it. We were never in any large fights as I could always get up the next day and know that we could get together and fly kites or play on the slip and slide.

It was always a big event when someone new moved in. We all wanted to know who it was...did they have any kids to play with? Were there any girls for me to relate too? So, whenever this happened we would all watch and wonder. Such anticipation on those days, we could all just burst!

Not too long after Craig had moved into our neighborhood we had another family move in right next door to him. This family was very closed...always inside the house. I remember the dad being very big, and the mom being larger than the dad. She always had smoke billowing from her lips, I never understood that pleasure. They did have a kid...a boy. He was a bit older than us but we liked to play with older kids if they would let us...that was always a privilege.

His name was Shane. I did not care for him very much...he seemed dirty to me. Not necessarily unclean type of dirty, but rather the way he would look at you with that anger in his eyes and the things that would come out of his mouth. That was something that I was not used to...

I was used to a very tight family structure with love and laughter. My dad was big and full of love. If I ever needed to be corrected he would be the one to remind me. He had wavy hair with a white patch right in front that he got when he was sixteen. He sang, solo and for a time he sang with a quartet, (acapella of course). He also played the trombone and I loved him, still do.

My mom, ohhhh my mom. She was always smiling and laughing. Never, O.K., hardly ever was she angry. But when she did get angry you knew that she had had enough. We would usually get a warning, "You are treading on thin ice". That was always my favorite. She stayed home with my brother and I for most of our younger years. When we got old enough, she started to work outside of the house.

Troy, my older brother by five and a half years, was someone who I loved unconditionally. I looked up to him and admired him (still do). I am sure that I was a nonstop pain to him however.Together we would play cars, leggos, lightbright, and playdough. Playdough was my favorite!

My family raised us as Seventh Day Adventists. I was very involved with the church from the time I was three. I would sing special music...and I loved it. The first song I sang (I am told) was Jesus Loves Me. I was standing on a chair as my mom accompanied me on the piano. When the time came for me to stop, my mom stopped playing...but I kept on singing. When she realized that I wasn't going to stop she started to play again until I was through.

I have always loved my church family, and have always been a large part of it. As an SDA we would go to church on Saturdays (hence the name Seventh Day). Sabbath, as we call it, began on Friday night with the setting of the sun and ended on Saturday, also with the setting of the sun. During the Sabbath we would have vespers (singing, stories, and prayer), some nights we would go to other peoples homes and have vespers. Some Sabbaths were spent practicing for Church. We didn't watch television (unless it was nature oriented), and we didn't listen to the radio (unless it was a Christian station). We had all of our shopping done and that meant that Sabbath could be spent with family and God. I have never truly regretted being a Seventh Day Adventist. Adventism is what has kept me moving and striving. As an Adventist I have always known that there will be a day in which Christ will return to take us home with him (Acts 1:9-11). Just as I have always longed for his return, I have always questioned it.

Standing on a chair, singing at the top of my lungs that Jesus loves me, I have looked for him. Where was this Jesus that I needed so desperately to protect me at times in my life when I was so alone. Where was he?

Shane had invited Craig over to play, I think that I just happened to be with Craig. I didn't care to go, but what else could I do...I would be alone. So, we both went to Shane's home. As soon as we walked through the front door the smoke choked me in the darkness where we stood. We were led to the hall where I was able to catch glimpses of light that penetrated through the suffocating air. As we stepped into Shane's room I felt a bit of relief that the sun was shining in a bit from the outside world.

I went to a frog puppet that was resting on a chair and began to play with it. It had a tongue that, when you squeezed the frog just right, would come flying out. I loved it! So funny!

As I sat in my world with the frog the boys talked of what we could do. I heard someone say hide and go seek...now that I could do! They continued to discuss as I sat and watched my frogs tongue shoot out. Breaking me out of my happiness found, they asked me to step into the closet. I told them that I did not want to go into the closet, and they in return threatened that they would never play with us again. I had no problem with that, but as I turned I saw Craig's face crushed. Then I realized that if I didn't stay Craig would hate me for causing him to lose these boys as friends. Eric and Erin were there also, they were thirteen or so and lived across the street from Shane. Shane was ten or so. Craig and I were Six years old, so you can imagine the honor we felt being invited to play with these older boys. When the time came to make the decision, my decision had already been made for me.

As I stepped into the closet they shut the door. I could only see small pieces of light as it leaked through the slits. I strained to catch a glimpse of something and as I did the darkness took over. They put a chair to block the doors and then piled up pillows to assure that I would not see a thing. One of the twins stood in front of the doors, I believe it was Erin, to assure that I would not escape.

In the darkness, I felt myself suffocating. The air was too thick for me to breathe...I began to beg to be let out. They kept saying in a minute, in a minute. I could not wait another minute. I began to beg harder telling them that it was hard to breathe. What were they doing, why won't you let me out?

Just when I thought that I would be there for the rest of my life the light leaked back in. The chair was removed and the doors opened. They all stood looking at me with strange glares. I asked them what they were doing, but there was no response. Then, one of them spoke...

Take off your pants. What?! I couldn't believe this, take off my pants?! I am not taking off my pants...,"NO", I said. "Take off your pants or we will not play with you anymore." With this Craig's face went into panic. As I pulled down my pants I could feel their eyes on me.

When my pants hit the floor they turned to Craig and said the same thing to him. He did the same, shaking as they fell. After that they commanded me to take off my shirt. By now I was numb from disbelief and so I took off my shirt and felt nothing, nothing at all. Craig was told to take off his as well. It all happened so fast, yet so slow.

Then they told us to lay down on top of each other. Cold and alone we did as they asked. I remember seeing Craig, all of him. He was so pale and weak looking. We both shook, and I don't know if it was from fear or if we were cold. As we lay there I began to fear what would happen next, and before I knew it the door flew open.

There, filling the doorway, stood Shane's mom. Boy, is he in trouble, I thought to myself. But then, she opened her smoke filled mouth and yelled at us..."Get out of my house! You are disgusting! How could you do something like this! Get out, you should be ashamed of yourselves, Get out!".

Frightened and in shock I ran home to my mom with tears streaking down my face. Why did I get blamed for it? Didn't she know that I said that I didn't want to do that?! What was happening?

When I hit the front porch, I sat and cried in the safety of my own home. My mother came to the door and when she saw me weeping, she came to comfort me. She asked me what was wrong, and so I told her. I told her all that had happened, about the closet, about the removal of the clothes, about us not wanting to, about the mom yelling at us. I told everything.

When I had said it all, she looked at me with her loving face and comforted me, telling me that it was just what kids do. It was just experimentation. It was just a fact of life, that is all. Not my fault, not their fault. That is just a part of growing up.

I forgot all about this incident until I was dating in highschool. I went to a public highschool and made friends my freshman year with mostly Juniors and Seniors. They were all wonderful people, not the `in crowd' but not the outcasts either. We were all just accepting of everyone...the middle people.

Through these friends I was introduced to Dan. Ohhhh, Dan was cute. He had big brown eyes, brown curly hair, freckles, and rosy cheeks. He was my kind of a guy. Reserved yet fun.

We began dating my sophomore year, he was a junior. We dated for a long time...a little over three years. During that time my spirit was broken from the endless giving that I did. Dan needed a lot, and I was willing to give until I had nothing left and then I would give even more.

Things didn't get really bad until my senior year. Dan had graduated the year before and he did not continue on. He moved in with people that were into smoking pot and drinking...and that is all they ever really did. Dan and I began our journey into the sexual experience about then. It was something that I had always wanted to save until marriage, but if Dan needed it then I would give it. He would be touching me all the time unless I had sex with him, so I would do it so that I could have someone to talk to and do things with.

I had left all of my friends for Dan. My life was work, school, and Dan. Sex was a daily routine. I would get up, go to work, go have sex with Dan and run to the store to get him breakfast, go to school, go back and have sex with Dan and get him lunch, and then hope to do something together. It was like that day in and day out when I started college.

It got to the point where I knew he was lying to me. I would ask him if he was smoking pot, and he would deny it. I would ask him if he was dropping acid, and he would deny it. Each time he denied he would get really angry with me for even asking. One day on the way to get him some breakfast he said to grab some money out of his wallet. I pulled out the five dollar bill that was there and out came five hits of acid. I asked him what this was doing in his wallet and he said that it wasn't his. Then he said that he wasn't using it but he was selling it. (So that makes it better?!) I couldn't believe it.

Then he would close up on me. He would lay on his bed and curl up to face the wall. I would feel guilty for causing him to do this and so I would beg him to forgive me for making him feel badly. He would just stay like that, so I would try to do what it was that he responded to...sex. Sometimes I tried to simply tickle him but this just made him mad. One day I learned never to do that again because he turned and literally threw me off of the bed and onto some crates that were on the floor.

This was a relationship that I had led myself into and could not remember my way out. He was my everything and he needed me. I helped him. He needed me.

Many of the people who cared for me would ask me to leave him. They knew that I was changing, but didn't know why. One day, under a lot of stress, my mother asked me if I was having sex. I couldn't believe that she was asking me this. I had not had my period for three months and I was scared to death, and here she was asking me if I was having sex. She kept asking, and I finally yelled at her and told her that yes I was having sex and that I thought I might be pregnant.

With this she cried. She cried and said that if my father ever knew, it would kill him. This comment hit home to me because when I was fifteen my father should have died one night from aplastic anemia. The doctors say that it was a miracle that he did not. So, the thought of my father dying because of something that I had done killed me.

She told me I needed to go have a pregnancy test done. I already had done one and it turned out negative. She said that I should do another one. Dan refused to go with me, so I went by myself...just as I lived my life by myself. The test turned out to also be negative and my period came a week or so later, but I was still stuck...alone in my darkness.

Through the church I met some nice people. Their names were Rick and Ruth. They befriended me, seeing my need. Rick was helping me with my math at first, (I absolutely don't understand algebra), and through this our friendship grew. They took me into their circle of friends and let me into their lives and the lives of their family. We would get together on Friday nights for vespers with friends and on Saturday nights we would play games or watch videos.

A few weeks after the friendship had been established they sat me down and said that they needed to talk with me. I sat down, heart and ears open to what they were needing to discuss. They poured out how much they cared about me and how they could see that I was not happy in my relationship with Dan. About how they knew that I would not want to live that way forever and how they wished that I could leave him.

I cried. I cried because they were wanting to help. I cried because I wanted the help. I cried because they cared and wanted to listen.

As I sat there and in tears explained my life in its routine I asked them if they would still be there if I were to break up with Dan. I asked them if they would be there, or would I be alone. Would I be alone in my darkness?

They assured me that I would not. They also said that I could stay there with them after. They said that I should make a clean break and that I should tell him not to call me, talk to me, or write to me. It was to be over and that was the end.

I went and told him. He cried and closed off. I felt horrible for what I had just done. I told him that I take it back, that I love him, please forgive me. He did, we had sex, and that night I called him on the phone and broke up with him. He got mad. He yelled at me and said that he couldn't believe that I didn't even have the guts to do it in person. Then he started to cry saying that he was going to kill himself. I couldn't take it. I hung up and began my life in the hands of yet another.

Rick and Ruth were very good to me. I moved in with them, disrupting their lives, and they took me in with love. I was not eating much and I was swimming an average of twenty laps a day. It was difficult for me to sleep as I would have nightmares. One night I woke up and saw Dan's head (only his head) next to me. Another night I woke up in terror because I had dreamt that Dan was outside in my backyard very angry and he was going to hurt us. During this time I had a friend of his tell me that he had taken a knife and cut up a teddy bear of mine...gutting it were his words. He had also taken the same knife and cut up a picture of me. So, I took refuge in Rick and Ruth's home, and I was grateful...very grateful.

Dan did call there once. He called and spoke with Rick. I don't know exactly what was said but I remember Rick saying that actions speak louder than words and that what Dan was saying were just words. That was the last phone call from him.

Rick and Ruth were very kind to me. Rick was a big brother to me, and Ruth was a big sister. I was in a dark hole and they were the only lights that I could see.

Rick asked me one day if I remembered the first time in which we had met. It was three or four years before when I was fifteen. We were all at a youth rally and when the time came to go home we all piled into this car. I ended up sitting on Rick's laps since it was so crowded. I don't remember that...but he did.
As I stayed at their home, Rick began to establish a relationship with me. He comforted me at first by touching my hand, rubbing my back. Soon he was touching my arms, kissing me on the cheek. Not long after, he began to kiss me on the lips explaining that it was OK for a brother to kiss his little sister that way. Then, the kisses got more passionate. I became lost in my world, lost in the death that had occurred in me. I was but a piece of meat, that continued to smile so that no one would see that I had died inside.

He came in at night when I was needing comfort, a hug, and he would touch my breasts. I did not move or say a word. I lay there, turning the touches as best I could into the hug that I so desperately needed.

One day, he stayed home from work ill. I was in the bedroom crying, he came in to comfort me. He took my hand and slid it down into his underwear. My hand hit the warmth of his penis and I began to hyperventilate. He withdrew my hand and began apologizing...but then he continued to touch. Later we began having sex. He told me that he was doing it so that I would not go back to Dan.

I became so lost in the world that I felt I should no longer exist. I would play with knives and such, but Rick would always stop me. I loved Ruth so much, and I was in so much pain from the events that took place. What could I do? What should I do?

Around Valentines Day I met a nice guy from the college I attended. We became friends and then began dating. On one of our trips I told him that I needed to talk to him about something, he wanted to listen. As I spilled out all of the pain that had been taking place I cried so hard that my nose bled. I didn't know that it was bleeding until I got into some light and saw that there was blood all over my shirt.

With this man in my life I was rescued from Rick. We all continued to be friends. I put all of my pain deep down inside and prayed that it would stay there for the sake of us all.

I went to church and listened as Rick taught the Sabbath School class. I kept wondering how God could love someone like me, someone who had done something so horrible. What had I done?

Many times, after the break up of the one nice guy I had found, I realized that I could not keep this buried. I knew that one day my guilt and shame would explode.

I began my journey to counselors. The first counselor I ever saw was before Rick. It was a counselor at the highschool. We became friends, so that made counseling difficult. I loved her and we decided that it would be best if I found another counselor.

I didn't deal with it for a long time after that and when I was in too much pain from it all I turned to the assistant pastor of the church and his wife. They listened to me and wanted to help me find a counselor that I was comfortable with. I saw a Christian science counselor. The first visit we had he shut the door, that was not a good experience but I told myself that I needed to deal with that myself. It is perfectly normal to be in a room with a middle aged man and the door to be closed....right? Our next session he asked if it would be OK for him to use a technique on me that involved touch. He explained it to me and I wanted to be able to do it. I closed my eyes as he proceeded with this technique, touching me directly above my breast...I couldn't handle it. I wanted to be brave and to just be able to do this but I burst into tears. As I left that day he gave me a flower. I never went back.

The next "counselor" I saw was a pastor from one of the area churches. I say "counselor" because I now look back and realize that I must have been his guinea pig. I told him my story, and he told me that I needed to get plenty of rest, sunshine, water, exercise, healthy diet, prayer, and something else that was ridiculous. The next time I saw him he told me that I needed to just forgive Rick! That was the first time I ever was able to state my feelings. I stood up and yelled at him that until he is a woman and until he goes through what I have gone through he has no right to sit there and tell me to forgive Rick. That was our last session, and my last counselor for a long time.

I put all of that behind me once again and decided that maybe I could live my life happily without revealing and dealing with all that I had been through.

About this time I met Brian. I was entranced with him as soon as I saw him. We met at Safeway, I was buying stuff for lasagna and he was the checker. My friend had told me that we should go through Brian's line, but I was disgusted at her obsession with cute guys. To satisfy her I went through this Brian's line. When we got up to the counter to purchase whatever it was that we were to purchase (lasagna, but I had forgotten), our eyes locked. He winked at me...then he winked again! I don't remember any words being spoken except for Karen saying that we should probably go.

When my feet hit the outside pavement I shouted at her that he had winked at me. We continued to scream all the way to the truck and then went rambling on about what I should do. Should I give him my number? How else would he get to know me, or me him?

Well, a few days later I went into the store and through purchasing a packet of Big Red chewing gum and some salt, (otherwise known in chemistry as NA), I gave him my number. He called me two hours later on his break and we made a date for the next day after he got off work. We have seen each other every day since.

He proposed to me on my birthday, we were married a year and a month after that (May 12 of 1996) and it is the best thing, (besides God and finding my inner child), that has ever happened to me.

Our entire time dating was wonderful, all of my thoughts of Rick, Dan, and others were distant in the love that I had found. I didn't come into problems until about six months after we had been married.

I began a new job right after we had married. I started with another, his name was Todd. He was someone who I saw as my brother and I knew that I wanted to be friends with him.

One night as we were enjoying a slow work day I mentioned that if I ever wrote a story that I knew what the title would be, (we were talking about poetry and stories). I mentioned that I had poetry that I had written and that I had been wanting to write out my story but that I just hadn't done it yet. They were all interested and Todd specifically said that he would be interested in reading anything that I wrote.

So, I sat down and wrote my heart out and that began my true journey of self discovery and healing. I was told that I should just tell my mother, and tell Ruth, and to tell everyone in the church what had happened. But then someone else simply said, "I am here to listen if you need to talk". Those were the golden words that I needed to hear...and they were spoken in truth. I trusted yet again, and this time my trust was not broken.

Todd pushed me to seek counseling, and pushed me to speak to my husband. I didn't want counseling because it had just been painful in the past. Telling and retelling is so hard to do when you are being tossed around in the system. I was a tomato in the salad bowl. When I finally decided to go with counseling it was equally as difficult to continue when I would get tossed. But, with the help of supporters, I continued. And I am glad.

I didn't want to talk to my husband. I didn't want him to see that the happy person he married really was painfully hurt. I didn't even know who I was, how could I show him without first doing a test run on myself. I was lost without his support, and once I had opened up to him I allowed my healing to breathe. I was allowed to do what I needed to do, and that is what I had been denied of for all of those years.

This has been the hardest challenge I have ever faced, but it has also been the most rewarding and I wouldn't change it for the world. As Allyson Jones put it so well:

If I could wish for my life to be perfect,
it would be tempting but I would have to decline,
for life would no longer teach me anything.

I am not through with my struggles, and I don't know if I have yet scratched the surface but I do know that I am not turning back. I am through with pushing this under the rug...it is out and the only thing to do with it now is to turn it into something beautiful, and that is what I am hoping to do.

I want you to know that I did find a wonderful counselor. It took me three more tries but just when I was seriously going to give up I hit a homerun. I am glad that I kept going and that people encouraged me along the way.

This has been very difficult for me to do, but it is something that I needed so desperately to fulfill. At this point in my life it is my `calling', if you will. I have needed to do it for me, to acknowledge and honor the fact that I am a survivor and that I am here. I have done this, also, so that if there is just one single person out there who can feel some sort of understanding from what I have written, then I have done a good thing. I am hoping that someone out there will be searching for someone who can understand, that is what I can do...understand.

When you read whatever it is that I have written please know that I have felt the pain and that I know that you feel pain. We can together make it through this mess and go on to know joy...