Part 1 was posted on December 18. You can read it here.
But what was the straw that broke the camel’s back in my case? What hurled me into that dark abyss I described earlier? The paranoia, the anxiety, the nightmares and sleeplessness. Not opening my closet in three years or not caring about much of anything. The fear of being alone in a place or in a crowd of strangers. Fear of going to unfamiliar places. Of driving myself across town. Did it start with the collective trauma and abuse mentioned earlier? I can’t be sure, but therapy definitely points to my attack by an inebriated young woman wielding a stun gun. She looked to be college age. One would never have guessed her capable of such a senseless assault. I told few people about it but it was years before I realized how that event stifled my voice. Yet “they” – the authorities in society – say if we don’t talk about assault right away it must not be true. Or we’ve waited too long to talk. They want us to talk on their timetable about damage done to us when there might not be visible wounds or we even understand the psychological scars that might not have surfaced yet. It was a few years after the attack that I finally sought the help of a therapist and was diagnosed with the PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder that changed my life.
Aside from our mental health, how does being saturated in abuse and trauma for years affect our physical health? Was that thyroid problem I had related to a blockage in my throat chakra because I had to remain silent so often in the past and couldn’t find or use my voice or because of the NDA I had to sign? Were those bleeding fibroids I endured for years a symptom of the grief of all I felt I lost and the pain and abuse I was holding within? Was I internalizing the stress and trauma of the PTSD from the stun gun attack? Doctors don’t know why millions of women suffer the profuse bleeding of uterine fibroids. Considering the close body and mind connection, might it have something to do with so many women living with some form of personal or societal insecurity?
But life wasn’t finished testing me yet.
A few years after the stun gun attack and my beginning to retreat from my public work as a result, my husband of 30+ years fell and hit his head and suffered a brain injury. We found ourselves layed-off from our jobs, without an income, without a roof over our head and without our identities. So much loss. We ended up in forced retirement, disabled and unable to work, and living on an isolated mountain. Most of our friends abandoned us due to distance. Some didn’t call to see if we were alive or dead. A long time friend who I asked to drive me home after my hysterectomy actually said it was too inconvenient and asked couldn’t I “tough it out and drive myself home” after having my abdomen cut open 48 hours earlier.
In hindsight, this was all a gift, but it would be a long time before I could see that. It was a journey that took me to a better place. It was a path of discovery seeing the world through a different lens, as well as myself and my life. And it’s that journey I want to share with readers in my book, Normalizing Abuse. It’s the insight that was triggered during my second Saturn return around age 60. The check in or assessment, the taking stock of one’s life that put me on the road to understanding, raised awareness, transformation and healing.
As I put on my “amateur social scientist” hat and researched my book, Normalizing Abuse, I discovered much about why we do the things we do as humans and I share it with readers. In other words, why we abuse and allow abuse to happen to us. Trauma can even begin in the womb and it can be found in our DNA from ancestor trauma. It’s really amazing any of us can get up in the morning. But we do. We endure abuse and exploitation to survive. But there is much wisdom and insight to be gleaned along this journey and there are many tools available to us to help us all survive and thrive. I share those too within the chapters of the book.
What is certain is we can’t continue to normalize abuse and exploitation. We must eradicate it because the resulting trauma is devastating. So let’s find our courage to awaken to it, call it out for the abuse that it is, and like the #MeToo movement that held abusers accountable, begin to reject abuse in every facet of our lives so that one day in our future abuse and exploitation are no longer accepted as the way things are. Instead, they are not questioned as being anything besides unacceptable and taboo. Let us together manifest a new normal where we regularly check in with our loved ones and ask about the quality of their lives rather than expect them to endure the madness to survive.
In conclusion, it was a long road but I’m happy with the destination. The wisdom gleaned from the loss and suffering only help me be a better person and walk the talk of Goddess values of compassion, empathy, nurturing and patience. And I am looking forward once again to my guilty pleasure of interviewing insightful guests on Voices of the Sacred Feminine. You’ll recognize many of them as authors of essays in the Feminism and Religion blog. I hope you’ll join us there on Blog Talk beginning in January.
Karen’s newest book, Normalizing Abuse, will be out in early 2023.
BIO: Karen Tate is a thought leader, speaker, seven-times published author, podcaster and social justice activist, Karen is a Caring Economy Conversation leader and Power of Partnership presenter. She has a certification from Smith College in the Psychology of Political Activism: Women Changing the World and she can be seen in the award-winning docu-film, Femme: Women Healing the World. She has been named one of thirteen Most Influential Women in Goddess Spirituality. Her newest book, Normalizing Abuse: A Commentary on Our Pervasive Culture of Abuse is scheduled to be published in January along with the return of her long-running podcast, Voices of the Sacred. For more information: http://www.karentate.net
6 thoughts on “We Endure Abuse to Survive, Part 2 by Karen Tate”
I just had an experience yesterday of normalizing abuse – I broke my foot last year, live alone and can’t help with shoveling – or couldn’t until it became impossible NOT to get help – then I got drunks, men who walked out on the job, men who used their power – so I went to a neighbor ( i took care of her dog for a whole year – no money) and asked for help…. guess what? no help – worse she kept trying to shift the conversation back to herself – after telling me two days ago to call her anytime…. abuse is normalized as is a profound lack of empathy for BOTH men and women.
I’m so sorry for your challenges. Its very hard when we’re alone and don’t have a circle of support.
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Thank you for this powerful part 2! I was struck by your mentioning physical illnesses — thyroid, fibroids, etc. — that relate to your trauma besides the direct results of violence. It makes so much sense that the cumulative effects of trauma would also affect overall physical well being. So I went to see if research had been done on how abuse and trauma affects general physical and mental health, and, as I’m sure you found also, there is a mountain of evidence that abuse and trauma affect the immune system and metabolic system, raises the risk for a host of life-limiting diseases, and on and on. Clearly our bodies express abuse and trauma in so many ways. Along with calling for an end to abuse and trauma on obvious compassionate and moral grounds, our society also needs to call out abuse and trauma for the public health catastrophe that it is, as we do with COVID or any other threat to life across billions of people. Perhaps more people would stand up and take notice if they realized the abuse and trauma in their lives was literally killing them. Thank you for helping me make this connection!
It’s amazing really when we cast our lens out on the world the amount of normalized abuse in all facets in our lives. These abuses used to be called sin in some cases. Today it’s just accepted as the way things are. I hope we live to see the day that abuse and exploitation is seen as the epidemic it is.
Karen! Many blessings on your healing journey and welcome back! You are a gift, my dear, and I have missed your show and your online presence. I hope your husband has improved as well. I’m a therapist and understand the effect of trauma, whether simple, complex or long term, and am so thankful you found someone who was helpful. 💖
Thank you Penny. I appreciate your words as I’m beginning to ready myself to start the podcast back tomorrow!! :) I know there are others who have experienced more horrendous things than I, but what I did experience shifted my perspective forever. And that new perspective feels important to share. I can’t un-see so much I over-looked before, namely how we are just normalizing abuse to survive. I think it’s important to discuss. Thank you for your validation and understanding and reply.