Most of you know I was repeatedly raped as a teenager. I wrote a book about my story. On October 15, the day or so after the #MeToo went viral on Facebook, I shared it. Within minutes, an old high school acquaintance, let’s call him Dick, responded with this “Yes ma'am - and if all the people who whine & cry their way to a limelight would learn to solve their own problems...What happened to our Pioneer spirits.”
I felt like I was being attacked. In a way, I was. After the initial shock, came the nausea. His comment definitely hit a trigger deep inside of me. I felt so much anger. How dare he diminish the rape that I endured as a teenager! Or imply that I was using it to "cry my way to a limelight". What does that even mean??
This sent me in to a defensive mode. I wanted to make him an “other”, the way he made me one. I wanted to call him an ASSHOLE. I wanted to hit him in the chest with my fists. I wanted to call him stupid and assign him to the “other” political party. But, I realized that if I responded to his response with name calling, then I would be just as stupid as he was. I knew that I should not respond to him with my blood boiling the way it was. I blocked him immediately to prevent him from contacting me again, and went to bed.
I thought about Dick’s response the next day day. I realized that stupid was the wrong word to use for Dick. He was ignorant of my situation, and of all situations involving assault and rape. Which is completely different than stupid. I will say that because of his comment, I believe him to be less evolved.
Meanwhile my friend, Asha, responded with more for me to think about: “#MeToo is a great learning/eye opening moment for others who are unfortunately quite ignorant in what goes on for way too many women in the world. I think Alyssa Milano deserves respect for starting it.”
A day and a half after Dick’s comment, I finally responded with this: “It took me a while to think about how to respond to Dick's comments. First, I blocked him. I do not want that kind of negativity in my life. Ever. Second, no one can minimize the rape that I endured as a teenager. It happened! And 48 of my FB friends also had the guts to "whine their way to the limelight" by posting #METOO. Way to go, friends! Third, Thank you Asha! This is absolutely a case of ignorance. And last, I absolutely AM being a PIONEER and sharing my experience in the hopes of helping other rape survivors process their shame! I wrote a book about it! Find out about it at dellabarbato.com”
I finally realized that Dick’s response is an opportunity for growth for me. I am so grateful that I did not act out in anger. I must realize that Dick is not his thoughts, just as I am not mine. He is a child of God, just like me. Perhaps he does not have a daughter, or has never thought about how he would feel if someone he loved were assaulted or raped. We can disagree without being disagreeable. There is enough hate in this world. Peace out, Dick.
One month ago Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas Coast. His second and third bands hit Houston hard. The rain came down in sheets early Sunday morning, August 27th. I saw and heard the true meaning of sheets of rain. Five inches per hour for four hours. In total, Houston got over 51 inches of rain! This broke the record for rainfall from a single storm in the US!
People drowned in their cars. There were 70 casualties in all. Water was to the roof in some homes. Thousands of rescues of folks trapped in their homes by boat. There are thousands of stories of Houstonians and others from around the nation who came with their boats to help. They are being called First Responders. We are Houston Strong!
Two dams were at 56 feet of water! The George R Brown, NRG Stadium and the Toyota Center were full of thousands of refugees. 136,000 structures were damaged or destroyed in Houston alone. They are calling Harvey a 1 in 1,000 years flood. I wonder if we will see another.
Willow Bayou, less than a football field from my condo, came across the park, then the parking lot, then my courtyard, then began entering both my front and back doors Sunday morning. At the beginning, I was trying to soak up the water with towels, funny to think about that. Mom was with me, and she helped me. I only got 6 inches in my home, and it receded within 6 hours. So many got much worse. But I heard someone say on the news, it does not matter whether you got 6 or 60 inches.
That Sunday morning before the water hit my home, I prayed to God that if things got bad, to remove my worry. I had heard recently that if you worry, you suffer twice. Pretty good advice. It truly does no good. And God DID remove worry from me. Even when I was walking in ankle-deep water, unplugging the TV, DVR, DVD player and the rest of my electronics - I did not worry. We still had power. And I am so very grateful, that we never lost it.
Like so many, I still look at bare floors and missing sheet rock in my home. Since I live in a condo complex, I had to purchase planks to separate my unit from my neighbors where the sheet rock was. We both have cats! Plus, we needed some privacy. But, I get to live in my home. My upstairs remains untouched, except for all of the STUFF I had to bring up from downstairs.
My heart goes out to all Texans who got flooded. And now, Floridians, Puerto Ricans, and ALL who got flooded from a recent storm. I did my part. I donated to two relief organizations and volunteered my time. I saved hundreds of meaningful flooded photos, mucked out, and helped move. And through it all, I did not worry, and I put on a friendly face. Thanks Higher Power, for answering my prayer.
Do I deserve it? “It” being anything. Whoa. Deserve is such a strong word. I can feel that pit of black in my heart as well as a constriction in my throat just writing that question. My brow furrows and the tears start to sting in the corners of my eyes. The sinus cavities behind my nose start to burn and I know that if I look in the mirror, my nose will have turned a pale pink. A different shade than the rest of my face. Because whatever the “it” is, my immediate answer is “no”.
How? After all the healing that I have done, how could the answer still be no? How was my brain trained so completely that at the age of 50 I still feel so undeserving? I know that there are so many answers to that question: sexual abuse, emotional abuse, lack of parental praise, encouragement and validation.
But, that was all from my childhood and teenage years. And I have been working so hard at recovery and healing to change those brain pathways. For the past four years!
. . . Oh, wait. I know. It was the decades of self-blame and shame that dug at that pathway. Direct offspring from the abuse, but lasting ten times longer. I guess that river must be filled in first, before the path can veer. And that takes time and patience. I will get there. One day at a time. Because deep down, I know that I deserve it ALL.
Blog 2August 9, 2017
I wrote the following journal entry and essay as a twenty-seven-year-old while traveling in Europe with a man. It baffles me that I was so wise about my own emotional growth, yet was never able to live by my words. I just kept shoving my emotions down into my dungeon. Enjoy:Athens, Greece. I am sitting on a ruin wall on top of the Acropolis. I must write. I am getting to know myself more and more every day, and so much of it I do not like. My emotions get so strong, and I cannot control them a lot of the time. So I cry. And then I get angry with myself for crying, and I cry more.
What is important is that I love myself. Yes, there are things about me that I will try to change. To grow emotionally. But I refuse to be a different person for anyone. I should not have to. I want to enjoy the rest of my trip without all of these emotions in my head. How can I push these emotions out of me? They are a part of me. Part of the person I love, but I do not love them because they make me feel sad and many times angry. But on the other hand, maybe it is those same pools of emotions that allow me to love people, places, the sunshine, flowers, animals, all the wonderful things that God has given to us. Geez, I am crying again. I have an emotional pool bigger than anyone I have ever met. God, I cannot push them away. The good ones or the bad. I must love every part of me. All of me. Even the bad emotions. And deal with them as best I can. When I am in times of hurt, maybe if I write, it will go away. To go all the way through it. Let it live its course. Get in touch with it, know it and try to understand it instead of pushing it away.
Okay, so why is it so important to me that Diego want me? Because I love him and want him? If so, then the solution is to not want him. But there again, I can’t change the way I feel. I can’t push the good feelings out any more than I can the bad ones. Maybe there is no answer. Maybe analyzing is the wrong thing to do. I have gone full circle, and still want to cry. So, write something else.
In learning and discovering and analyzing my own feelings, and hence, my own mind, I realize how little I know myself after twenty-six years of life. I picture that my mind is like the Earth, and if you travel from land mass to land mass, you learn more. But most of the time, you stay in one spot and live day to day. Not traveling. Not learning. So like a traveler in Europe, I am being a traveler of my mind. But there is too much to see in one lifetime. So, I will possibly and probably never learn all there is to know about my inner self.
So with that knowledge, the hardest thing in the world must be to get to know and love and be with another mind (and Earth) for a long period of time. It is like trying to make two Earths live in harmony. Sometimes we sing and sometimes we make war. Because, after all, that other Earth-mind is traveling and discovering his own Earth-mind. And we are four billion Earths! [Of course, now we are seven!]
Wednesday, November 17, 1993
Geneva, Switzerland. Walked and shopped all day. It is pretty cold here, almost 1°C. Listened to lots of music, went to a Thai restaurant, but they did not serve Thai food. Bought salad fixins for dinner and ate them with rice at Diego's apt. Had a dry red with dinner. Diego gives me his bedroom while I am here, and he sleeps on the couch in the living room. His mother has a bed in there. I wanted to ask Diego so bad how he felt about making love in his room when his mother is home, but I was just too scared. I was sure he wanted it when he said, “Let’s go to your room.” We listened to more music and looked at books. Then he said he wanted to go to sleep. I am fairly certain that he saw the disappointment on my face, but I said nothing. He kissed me good night and left.
I am unsure of my feelings, and confused. And, I am more unsure of his feelings. If I know that he is not the “one” for me, so why do I want him? My sexual appetite surprises me. I even got jealous when he introduced me to his friend, Maria, today. Grow up, Della. Diego is your friend. Sometimes--no, all the time--I wonder if he is growing tired of my company. My self-esteem has always been so low. Why?
I told him once, “in many ways we are alike, but in some ways, you are more like I want to be. I worry too much about everything. You are so care-free. Can you change yourself without changing yourself?” He had no answer. Why do I feel like I have to be loved by everyone? Why is it so important that he like me? I used to think from his post cards that he sent to me in Texas that he was in love with me. Now I know, he is just a wonderful person who can share his feelings on paper. But not verbally. I told him once that sex would inevitably bring us closer. It did. I told him this also, that I love him more now than I ever have. He said nothing. My feelings may be back-firing. He cuts me down a lot more lately, “Come on, think” and “I know more about your country than you do” and “I told you…” What is happening? Fight back!
Don’t worry, be happy. Try not to lean on him.
Nobody promised life would be easy. Grab a cup of coffee, and we'll share the trials, tribulations and triumphs. Life's a little easier when you realize that others have gone before you.