© 2018 by Kate Ryan.

When I was about 50, my isolated amnesia started to lift.

 

Until the memories started coming back...there were times I thought I was insane. 

I've had PTSD all my life apparently. 

 

*

 

I grew up on the upper west side of Manhattan. 

My father had plenty of money.

He was a “hard working monster,” is what friends of the family called him. 

But I didn't put that together until later, until I actually had my memories of the assaults. 

 

We had money, we had vacations. 

At most, I thought, “What am I a sad little rich girl?”

I couldn't go any further.

Because my brain was protecting me. 

 

*

 

The first thing that came back to me, the very first thing was this visual image of my father's face right up to my face saying, “I'll kill you if you tell.” 

 

That was the most graphic. 

That was in 3D, color, horrifying. 

 

I knew instantly what that meant. 

Here I was, 50 years old, confronted with this image before my face.

The fact that I know what it was that he was supposed to be warning me about. 

 

Eventually another memory came back of him saying, “Well I'm going to have to kill you anyway, because I know you're going to tell.” 

 

I was in this tremendous double bind. 

I remember being terrified.

I lived my life under duress.

 

*

 

My sister committed suicide when she was 29, so many years ago. 

She was 4 years older than me. 

When my memories started coming back, I realized that I had seen her raped by my father as well. 

 

I was lucky, because I didn't lose hold on keeping myself alive. 

I married, had two children.

My husband died of lung cancer really early into the marriage.

Remarried, had two more kids.

 

I had a career with my second husband in the natural product industry.

But I hadn't been able to get through college. 

There were things about the way that I functioned that were always a disturbance. 

I thought that there was something really wrong with me.

 

*

 

By the time it was '96 or '97, something in me said, “Woah.  I've got to just go into seclusion and see what happens.” 

 

I had subscribed to a Buddhist journal. 

I got this brochure from the monastery and I read it cover to cover. 

I had no idea why I was fascinated by it. 

 

So I went to live in a Zen Buddhist monastery near Kingston New York. 

Over the last 20 years, I lived there about 7 and a half years. 

 

There's a regularly sitting zazen seated meditation scheduled. 

A couple of hours of meditation in the morning and then services and you do work practice. 

Everything is designed to allow your mind to quiet a little bit. 

Then there was sitting at night.

There was a weeklong retreat where nobody spoke, and you did nine or ten hours of sitting every day.

 

I must have felt safe enough for my mind to sort of unclench.

 

I remember when I came home from the monastery at a certain point, the first time I came home, a friend who had known me before and after, she said, “Whatever you're doing keep doing it.” 

 

*

 

{After a series of retreats, Sensho quit her job to enter the monastery.}

 

Something was calling me. 

 

I left my family. 

My youngest child was in her last year of high school. 

It took maybe 15 ears to get to the point where I felt I didn't need the monastery anymore. 

I came permanently out of seclusion there. 

 

I literally, at age 65, hadn't decided what I wanted to do, what I could devote my life to. 

 

So I stopped sitting and I started exploring, and then did the coaching for transformation course.  And I became certified in that. 

 

Half-way through that course I realized, “What have I been doing my whole life?” 

 

I've organized forums and I call them "From metoo we rise" to have the word incest not be secret, to have the word rape not be something that can't be spoken out loud. 

 

I'm putting together, at age 69, putting together a new career, having the first certification after my name (CPC, certified professional coach) that I've ever had in my life.

I have clients right now, but not enough to support me. 

I feel like I'm sort of pre having graduated college. 

I'm trying to take it all lightly.

 

*

 

I sit quietly now. 

Just trying to ultimately do what Zen Buddhism is suggesting really helps, which is to just be aware of what's going on in your mind because it's really not reality. 

 

Your thinking process is about your ego and your past and all that. 

What you're doing without thought is what really living is all about.

 

I light a candle several times a day.

And I light incense several times a day, just to get that motion of doing this with my hands, and not having the thinking be there. 

I am just lighting a candle. 

I am just lighting incense. 

 

And then I continue to look at my thoughts, because my thoughts are not reality. 

I hope that doesn't sound too radical but it's the truth. 

Ask the Dalai Lama. 

 

*

 

 

There are physical symptoms or there are emotional, mental symptoms, like I won't be able to find words. 

I'll startle easily. 

It's all the PTSD symptoms.

 

I can go for days not realizing why I'm uncomfortable and then realize, "Oh!" 

And that's the awareness. 

"Oh, that man maybe was treating me in a way that somehow reminded me of my father, really controlling, or whatever.”

 

And sometimes this comes as totally unexpected.

Or sometimes I can see it, like this is the kind of situation where I should remain aware. 

 

And it's ok that I get triggered, but the more that I get triggered and I'm aware, the more that I'll be able to just be with it and not feel the effects of being triggered. 

The pain in terms of my own family that this has caused is untold. 

 

Although I didn't abuse my children, there are aspects of the way my parents acted, especially my father, that I have replicated in my life with my children.

 

My father grew up in an orphanage in Philadelphia and was raped as a small child there. 

And so he grew up very emotionally skewed. 

 

I grew up with him screaming on the phone to all of his employees. 

I kind of interviewed all the people that I knew that had been working for him and they all said the same thing:  that he was this monster and he was horrible. 

 

*

 

I carried and I nurtured my children until they were toddlers. 

 

But as they started to get older, here were people who were challenging as children challenge their parents.

And I was controlling. 

I was loud at times, and I was confused. 

 

They grew up without the physical assault but with a certain amount of emotional assault.

And I think worse than that they saw that I was angry and they absorbed that. 

 

My second youngest daughter—I have four daughters—committed suicide when she was 23.  And she was described by many people as a very angry person. 

Having lost my Valerie, whose name I have tattooed on my forearm here, that was the biggest blow. 

 

My daughters who are still with us cannot yet relate to what happened to me. 

Because they grew up with the same anger that Valerie did. 

 

*

 

I get it. 

I can't get it any deeper. 

I've gotten it to my core what I, without volition, have done to other human beings.

 

I'm working on it. 

I keep working on it. 

 

My youngest daughter is very mad at me. 

And my oldest daughter doesn't even want to talk about it. 

 

So I just keep intentionally staying with the fact that these are beautiful people, and I am too.

And if it's within their power to understand why things happened to them and how to put this all together, they will come out better for it. 

 

*

 

Whether you've been sexually assaulted or not, if you have a question about how to put your life together, just keep going with whatever it is that seems to help. 

 

I am living proof that if you just keep going and don't look back, unless you need to, keep searching for what will help and you're going to find what you need.

 

If I can love my life, if I can do this, how many other people can do this? 

It's an extraordinary thing to realize.

 

 

-Sensho