Sunday, April 6, 2014

How Do I Learn to Love and Accept Myself, When Incest Taught Me To Hate Myself?

Part 4 of, "10 Things I Needed To Learn In Order To Heal."

 I had to develop a healthy inner parent to counteract all the unhealthy, destructive, messages I received as a child, (and I am still receiving them.)  Messages that I am shameful, defective, and I would be better off dead.

I had to become the loving nurturing parent I never had.  This was no easy feat, as my role models were more than lacking.   

By developing, and listening to an inner nurturing adult voice, I am able to reject my parents' and family's negative views of me as false, and accepted the Torah and God's view of me as truth.  I know that my family blames me and hates me.  I know that God loves and accepts me fully and unconditionally.  

Eating disorders, skewed body image, self-hatred, rage, and confusion around sexuality, are common symptoms that incest and child sexual abuse survivors have to deal with. 

 The following piece (written a number of years ago)  illustrates how I used my mature adult "parent" voice to help heal the young parts of me that were so hurt.  

  The intense feelings that I express are a normal response to the abnormal trauma and pain I experienced.

Wounded Monster

Wounded Monster howls at the rain and wind. His tears are faster than the rain. His anger is stronger than the strong wind.

Wounded Monster sits naked on the toilet, fat spilling over the sides, fur matted and tangled with blood and dirt and tears.
He looks down at his throbbing wounded heart where a gaping hole is red, bloody and raw.
It is just too empty and too painful.
Wounded monster stumbles on flat wide hairy feet into the kitchen and grabs food to stuff into the hole.

 Maybe it will feel better.
He just feels fatter and uglier and more monstrous. 

He howls in pain and loneliness and rage. He howls at the moon and the sky, the wind and rain. He howls at the empty hole in his center, and at the empty sky.

 He swings his huge fat hairy arms in desperate angry circles knocking down people, even children, who dare to come too close. He howls in terror at the people and the children, and pulls the fur out of his skin one hair at time. He bites his hands. He shrieks. He screams piercing screams. He rocks on all fours, and rattles the bars of his home-like cage.

An adult woman, short but capable, approaches Wounded Monster.
She stares into his red eyes. Her brown eyes are calm and steady, soothing and firm.
 She is not scared of him. 
He growls, spits blood, and throws dirt in her direction. He knows he stinks and that should keep her away. He swings his hairy arms at her and kicks his hairy ugly feet at her face. 

You are not so scary.”  She says.

He bares his sharp brown teeth and growls a low threatening growl. Why won't she leave me like the others?
 She seems to read his mind.

You are living in my house so I am responsible for you.”  She says.

She reaches out a hand and he snaps at it.

I can help you feel better.”

He does want to feel better.

Come with me.”

Keeping a careful distance he follows. He is curious. She leads him to the bathroom and runs the water in the tub. She holds up a bottle.

This is a special remedy to cure Wounded Monsters.”

She adds it to the water. The water turns purple. Wounded Monster cocks his head and drools. He hates baths. He won't get in.
But he does want to feel better.

Again she seems to read his mind.

You will feel better."  She tells him.  "I am here to help you. I am a certified Wounded Monster Healer.” 

He dips a black hairy toe into the purple water. He feels a bit calmer already. He climbs in and sits. He growls at his ugly body. 
Fat, hairy, dirty, smelly, stinky, shameful. 

Your OK just the way you are,” the certified Monster Healer assures him.

He spits at her. He hates people. 
She smiles back. 
His fur is starting to soften in the water, to melt and disintegrate and fall off along with the blood and grime. Underneath is smooth skin of a little girl. She looks about ten. She tries to hide her body.  She bites her hand.

Your OK just the way you are";  The woman repeats, as she
 pulls the plug and wraps a towel around her.

You are not a monster. You're a little girl who is sad and hurt.”

The girl is crying. “I'm all alone.”

I know. Me too, but I'm here with you. We're together.”

I hate my body” the girl says, “It's gross.”

The woman nods knowingly, “I'm also uncomfortable with my body, but guess what? We are both female and this is the way female bodies are. Every female has a body like this.”

I HATE it!”

I know.” The woman soothes.

I hate being female.”

I know.”

...And this hole in me...I'm so sad. I lost my entire family.”

Yes you did.”

I lost my mother and my father. I lost my sisters.  I loved them. I lost all of my brothers. I loved them too.   But worst of all, I lost myself.  I'm not even sure who I am. 

My father abused and molested me and then stopped. I missed it. I hated being invisible. I hated being molested. I couldn't exist either way. “

I understand...You are a part of me.  Sometimes I feel your feelings.”

The girl continues as if she hasn't heard. “I loved all of them. I lost them. I'm so sad. I can't stop crying.”

I'm crying too”; The woman says. "It is a huge gaping hole inside of me too. Nothing can fill it. Nothing can fix it. It's where they used to be...My family and myself.”

So, who are we then?” The girl asks.

We are what's left. The pieces that are left. You are a part of me that got stuck at a young age.  You waited in trauma for me to grow up, and come back to help you heal.  

You wear a monster costume, but you are not a monster.  You are a hurt little girl holding a lot of shame that is not yours.  
You did nothing wrong.
You were violated and betrayed...You can give the shame back to the ones who wounded you, and told you it was your fault. 
I am an adult now. 
 I will keep you safe. 
I will help you and all of the hurt parts of me heal." 


  1. HI Genendy,
    I just want to let you know how moved I am by your last piece. The experience could have been written by me ( though probably not as eloquently) I really needed to hear that just now. I am still really struggling to get away from this part of my past. reading your blog has normalized this for me, it makes more sense to me...
    All the best, stay strong
    Have a wonderful yom tov

  2. its scary that such an emotionally damaged person is a care giver to children. be responsible and get yourself healed before you take care of our most precious children. if you don't make this decision yourself others need to create an outcry.

    1. This comment is probably from someone in my family. If your really concerned about children e-mail me privately and I will give you my number, or we can meet and I would be happy to discuss your concerns. One of the things I teach children is not to resort to hiding and name calling. If you have something of value to share, stand behind it. The concern for my emotional state has been dealt with in a previous post. I will post the comments from professionals and other parents who send to my Gan.

      Devorah Schendler, Ph.D.May 17, 2013 at 12:25 AM

      Anyone who has had the privilege to send their child to your gan knows with absolute confidence that you are the most nurturing, safe, and respectful of boundaries ganenet around. As a clinical psychologist and mother, I have learned so much from you about how to effectively and respectfully communicate with my children. I often ask myself “how would Genendy speak to the children in this situation?” You teach the children how to politely, sensitively, and successfully express their likes and dislikes, get their needs met, and resolve social conflicts. Your gan is not just a safe environment, but it is an environment that fosters within the children the tools needed to promote their own safety even when they are no longer under your care. If anyone has any doubt about your safety, they should come and see your gan for themselves. Your open door policy for parents and others to observe you at any time is because you have nothing to hide-in fact you have everything to be proud of! Looking forward to continuing to send my children to your gan for many years to come!

    2. Dvora Shmulewitz Sanders, Ph.D.May 20, 2013 at 11:09 AM

      As Genendy stated so well (and so respectfully, as this is how she treats everyone!), and as many of the previous comments confirm, her gan is a place where children are respected, nurtured, and loved in a safe and fun environment.

      As a scientist who researches risk factors for psychiatric disorders, I agree that someone who experienced severe childhood trauma and subsequent psychiatric disease, but who has not dealt with these issues, would probably worry me as a caregiver for a child. But Genendy has faced these issues and spent many years working through them and strengthening herself in the process; she is probably the safest person to take care of our children. After going through the experiences she described, Genendy would never treat a child in any way that would impinge upon the child's safety, self-respect, or self-confidence, as she has a real and deep understanding of the pain and damage that an adult can cause, more so than others who have not had her experiences. The proof of this is that Genendy could have kept quiet - and then no one would be "worried" or "scared" - but she cares more about our precious children than about herself, and by talking about her experiences, thereby helping to protect other children, I am sure she will save lives! Genendy, keep up your amazing work, both as the best ganenet we've ever met, and as a champion of our children, the biggest gifts we have.

    3. Genendy, Excellent explanation and examples of the problem and its solution. I wish I would have had those when I was raising my children. Here in Baltimore, I have seen the wholesome children that have come out of your Gan. I'm glad you trust yourself and are sharing your knowledge with the rest of the community. Hatzlacha rabbah! Keep up the great work!

    4. Genendy, I can't say this enough: You are the best, most caring, most respectful, safest ganenet our children have ever had and without exaggeration the only ganenet we have met who acknowledges and respects children's boundaries, both physical and emotional. My only regret is that our older children didn't have the opportunity to attend your gan. (So thanks for all you're doing for them now; they are learning so much from you!)


    5. Miriam Friedman May 19, 2013 at 6:43 AM

      I heartily agree with everything Devorah Schendler wrote in her comment above. Having sent three of my precious children to your gan (and having sent to many other ganim), there is simply no one I trust more to be respectful and sensitive toward them. My mothering has also been profoundly influenced by your example- "I can't let you do that because our home is safe for bodies and feelings," is something I probably say at least once a day!
      As a therapist, I also agree that it's people who have been abused and NOT PROCESSED IT that may pose a risk to others. You are the polar opposite of this. Having experienced the ultimate danger as a child, you are devoting yourself to creating ultimate safety for children. With admiration, Miriam


  3. Thank you for that sentence. It silences me, and holds me, calms me. I can hear the woman in me saying that to the child in me. I don't often hear the woman in me. My therapist wants me to find her, and live as her more often. So you helped me, Genendy.