Burned at the Stake (Trigger Warning)

I was eight. My family had just moved from one small town in New Mexico, up to another. I want to name it, but, if I do it reveals too much about who I am. I keep my veil of safety. Being pale, with red hair and my own inhibitions in communication I was an outsider anywhere I went in this state. In small towns however, there is a generational acceptance and a strong xenophobia. That which is different isn’t just feared it is hated.

The children in this town were taught that red hair meant you were a witch. This lesson came along before I did. The further stigma of not being able to tan implied this further. I remember the attack, though it plays in half segments, like a badly edited movie and I feel like an outside viewer. I was on the swing, trying to kick the tree branch. Despite my fear of heights the Swing was as close to flying as I could get.

The other kids were calling me names again, chanting them at me, one threw a rock. The film skips. I must have fallen, my shoulder was out of place and my legs hurt. I was in a corner now, and I was quiet, I hadn’t learned to make them feel fear yet. They were new threats. The film skips. I hear the bible verses, half misquoted, none of them had actually read the bible they were just paraphrasing their parents.

“You’re weird.” Silence. “We should kill her.” Fear. “She’s a witch.” Confusion. “Thou Shalt’ not Supper a witch to live.” I did mock them back at that point, correcting their mistatement, “Suffer.” Fear. Suffering. I hurt. The teachers who watch and protect the students watched, they did not say a word.

I ran, I could feel the bones in my knees and ankles grinding, my hips hurt and crackled loudly. I could barely walk, a familiar feeling in daily life now. I cried too. No one wants to die. I thought if I died no one would protect my family. They laughed at my terror. I tugged on my teacher’s sleeve and begged, “They said they’ll kill me.”

“Go play.” The film skips. It’s the next recess. The sun is lower in the sky, and my body aches more. My shoulder is still out of place, but so is my elbow. The rope cuts into my skin. My lip is cut, my glasses are broken so their faces are just blurs. “Witch. Witch.” I feel the sticks under my feet, one of the boy scouts is rubbing sticks together to try and start a fire. I am being burned at the stake.

I did not cry then. I thought I was going to die. I closed my eyes, and I did nothing. I did not pray, I did not let myself feel. I just felt things. Mostly, I felt relief. I thought then I would never have to see my father again, or the older boy who had already found a new victim. I thought if I died my mother would be happy again. I thought the world would be a better place.

A sharp pain comes, and I start to cry. It’s not fire. They failed with fire and one of them threw a rock. The film skips. I cried, I knew I was bleeding and I knew too my guardians did not protect me. I had no teachers who cared, I gave up then. I gave up living in my heart. I had already been broken, I had already been beaten. This was just proof that the world was a place of pain and violence.

Proof no one could love a piece of trash like me.

Invalidation of a person. “She’s weird.” I did not scream, and I did not shout. I just waited to die. Why was it taking so long? Why couldn’t it end? Why did no one do a thing to stop them? Was I so very bad that I didn’t get to die? Was I so very bad that I was going to die?

The bell rang, and everyone else went to class. My teacher’s voice came as a snarl, “You will be counted as absent for the day.” She always looked away when the other children hit me, cornered me, and this time she had just watched. She looked away too when she caught one of the teachers raping another girl. This was the same. It all felt the same to me. No tragedy worse than the others, every breath was tragic and full of pain.

The third recess came, I hurt from the sun. “Whore.” I did not respond, I did not look up, I just stayed silent. “Slut.” More rocks came. One of them found a lighter, maybe a teacher gave it to them. The film skips, plays backwards, the insults the same, a chant of hate. The film skips forward. They have a stick that is burning. My ankles are covered with debris, rocks and sticks, a branch pulled from a tree. Dry tinder, dry grass. The lighter is set to the flames.

I wasn’t afraid anymore, I just watched the sticks burn, listening as they cheered. They were killing me, but, they were happy. I wondered if my mother would be angry at me for dying, or if she would be happy that there was one less mouth to feed. I could hear my father’s threats, I could feel his hands on me. Everyone said I was evil, so dying was right. One less bad person to ruin the world.

My feet hurt, but, I just stood there, tied to the tether ball pole. The principle suddenly was there, the film must have skipped again, but, I didn’t care. I just wanted to make them like me, so I would have to die. Then, maybe my mother could love me. I didn’t know she already did. I thought I was bad. I thought that every lie said was truth. I never heard the good, I don’t think it was said.

I heard yelling, I thought it was more hate. “How dare you just watch?” A knife was drawn, I thought the principle was going to kill me. I had been out in the sun all day, I hurt too much to think. The film skipped, he was carrying me inside. The teachers went back to work, watching. “Who did this?”

Silence.

Eventually I told him, all I could remember. I told him, and he cried. I thought that meant he knew I was evil. He called my mother, I don’t know if she answered but she did not come for me. My teacher kept her job, no one was punished. Only my body, my mind. He drove me home, he said he’d do something. I am sure he tried.

When I went back to school the next day, we started to read about the Salem Witch Trials. Everyone laughed about setting me on fire, about burning me. No one asked if I had blisters on my feet, if it hurt me to walk, or commented on the fact that I had blisters on my face. It was funny. The film skips.

It was all my fault, my mother said, if I just tried harder to get along. If I was nicer. The film skips. Years this time. In and out of the institutes I had already been, I was tired of it. Someone called me a witch, I fought back. I did not want to burn again.

The scars are hidden by other scars. No one was punished. No one cared enough. I was just a little girl, I wasn’t like them. I never will be. Over the years, I watched them as an outsider. I watched them live, I watched some of them die. None of illness, it was always stupid and preventable. I watched them age, I listened to their cruel words.

Every year, they reminded me about it, about the time they burned the witch. I still don’t know why it is funny. I was always threatened with a repeat performance, whenever I did not give them their way. My mother asked why I never had friends. Because I was the Witch. I took their mantle, I practiced the craft of hatred. I made them fear me.

I committed acts of violence, and I learned to hate. I never forgot that my siblings watched too, I never forgot that the teachers watched. There was real danger, there was no medical treatment for it. I had to walk to school until my feet healed, with burns. I had to feel the pain. I still feel some of it.

My sister found a half acceptance by selling her body for it. She let the boys do as they would with her. She let herself be their perpetual victim. It helped that she was born to be blonde, blondes cannot be witches you see. Their culture too taught them that the blonde women are the most desirable. My brother never found acceptance, he ran off as soon as he could, starting adult life far too early. Facing different pains than I.

My siblings who were born while we lived there still never quite fit. Generational Acceptance. Their great grandchildren just might fit in. I hope if they do, the town changes from violence and hate to love and acceptance. I never forgot who watched. I can still list the names. I know too, if my principal had not been sick, his age catching up with him and his body failing him slowly, they would not have just watched. He was a good man. One voice trying to teach them to love.

I never just watch. I will open my mouth at risk to my person, if it feels right. I will lift a hand to help someone if I can, or I will find a way to act. I never just watch. A part of me is forever burning, forever marred, and forever marked. I hear often that bullying is harmless. It isn’t. That was written off as bullying. I spent the rest of my educational career in terror for my life. It’s never just bullying. it is sheer and abject cruelty.

Is it just bullying to throw rocks at a person hoping to kill them? Is it just bullying to set someone on fire? Is it just bullying to blind them? Is it just bullying or is that the excuse given to make it alright to watch? What are you watching happen? What do you let someone do, that costs another?

Every word, every fist, every rock and the fire all took from me. Every adult who just watched is more guilty than the children, because the children did not know better. They only knew what they were taught. They were taught to persecute outsiders, to shun those who were different and to fear any slight varient. They were taught that god hates difference. They were taught hatred.

Not many people in that town grow up and function well outside of it. Part of it is the high density of criminals, hiding easily from the law. Part of it comes from the number of illegal immigrants. The lack of proper education, in a state that always falls in the bottom categories, this is the town that scores the lowest every time. The deficits that these children face disable them further than anything ever has me.

They burned me at the stake. I am struggling to forgive, but, when one of them ventures out of their town or when I must enter it’s borders I still feel sick and fearful.

They burned me at the stake. No amount of explanation or justification will ever make that alright. I may forgive them but I will never forget. I will not pity them, I will also not abandon them. If I am given the choice between watching or acting, I will act. I have to, I must rise above the actions of abuse, incest, torture, and pain. I must rise above. I must heal. I give myself this edict.

They burned me at the stake. There was no justice, there was no help, there was no relief, there was no escape. I had to face them. I had no safe place. I had no one to trust. I wasn’t just lonely, I was in a desolate place, beyond the reach of the rest of the world, wrapped in torture. Reality was worse than any horror story I could read. It was all just a nightmare, except that my nightmares ended eventually. I was beyond suicidal, I was beyond help, because no one offered help. I was blamed. I was a victim. I was nothing like who and what I am today.

They burned me at the stake. There is no forgiveness yet, but, I am trying. Each word written here is one word closer to forgiveness. I have forgiven myself for not being stronger, for being afraid, and for being a child. I have not forgiven them for their cruelty. I have not forgiven them for demanding kindness when they felt pain, for denying me my right to be a person. I am trying. If I can forgive them, then perhaps someday I can forgive my biological father.

I might never forgive them.

They burned me at the stake.

Medicalization of Humanity

I have spent my life being a patient. Most people do to an extent but a lot of non disabled people do not wind up in a doctor’s office monthly. Those that do are usually seeing a psychologist. I have been talking to my biological mother again, because she needs my help. In exchange for helping her with training her dog to be a Service Dog I asked for payment in therapy. Not literally, but, figuratively.

I think she was startled but, I am wounded emotionally. I am so angry at her, and I need to forgive her. I can’t do that without working out some of the issues and I want a mother. Some of the things that have angered me include over medicalization of my emotions. Being human has never been an option for me, despite the obvious inability to escape it.

From reading my blog you know already I have a history of abuse and chronic illness. You might have also noted an undercurrent of loathing for labels, though I am working to embrace mine. Some labels cannot be avoided. After becoming an adult I went and paid for a psychoanalyst to evaluate me. I wanted to know if, without my mother’s influencing them with her fears, I was really as insane as everyone told me.

I did this because I didn’t feel crazy. I felt depressed, but, not crazy. I did not think I was becoming a sociopath like my father. I put effort into fighting that, and won. What I did, to help prevent influence in this doctor’s office by my past was withhold information. It took several calls to find a doctor willing to work with zero patient history, but, the woman who did the test with me understood my need to find the truth.

In my childhood I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar, Depression, and a slew of other labels that never quite fit, including Multiple Personality Disorder. Most of these get renamed with each DSM, and with number V coming out (I don’t know my roman numerals and I am not looking up the translation, it is either four or five), I am again feeling pensive.

Part of it is the sudden ability to cry. For the first 23 and a half years of my life I could not cry without bleeding. I cannot seem to suppress my tears anymore. Again, some of this is because of effort though the effort sends me receding into myself at times. With that test, I was freed from the stigma of most of the labels I had received.

Those that stuck are depression, lower case because it is something that is perfectly natural considering my family history and personal history. It also is not something I will ever treat with pills again. Another is obsessive compulsive disorder. I need the world to be in order, and this comes from my past. Anything out of place could cause a beating. My disability has helped me with this. I cannot order the world, and I am healing because of it. I had no way of cleaning my room for years, it was horrible.

The test also helped hint at something else, I am Autistic. I have Aspergers. I haven’t told many people, just my Person and my mother. Now the world knows. I feared the Stigma of Autism. My best friend (All my friends are my best friends) Maxis is autistic and helped me to realize that my Autism just lets me be me. It has made things more difficult in some ways but I have adapted, and am extremely high functioning and no one can tell. My labels are not readily visible.

I also am an adult with Attention Deficit Disorder. I adapted as a child, after taking Ritalin. The Ritalin made what turns out to be a side effect of the autism, my extreme sound sensitivity, worse. I couldn’t stop screaming, all my pain was there, and of course I turned out to be allergic to it. My mother pulled me off of the drug despite my institutionalization. I recollect hearing her voice through a closed door, I was curled up in a corner in the Time Out room, being punished for not brushing my hair. My mother had come to visit and I had cried telling her how loud everything was, and hearing her tell the staff off for drugging me was the best sound out of all of them.

I am still sound sensitive. I can hear the sounds most people tune out. When a computer is turned on, each second I hear the scraping of the needle in the hard drive. it is deafening. I have five running right now, and have adapted to the cacophony of my world by adding more stimulus. I have yet to find true silence, even with a power outage but that is the best peace ever. Still, having mental distractions helps me cope.

I find it a bit ironic that being nearly deaf in one ear has not decreased my ability to be overstimulated by sound. Overloading is so far what works best. The great part about hearing everything is hearing my cats purr, when no one else can. Sometimes that sound is the best in the world. My nerves have always been just as sensitive, my skin feels too much and that can cause even the touch of William’s paw to have me crying out.

Still, in my life more damage has been done by mental health practitioners. I have been supposed to find a therapist for almost a year. First, I used the excuse of insurance, which did not cover without a copay. Then when that was fixed, I used the excuse of truth. I do not want a Therapist. I really hate them, and do not trust them. I am aware of my need now, to find one. I need someone to work with, so that I can help myself and my mother.

I remember my first Therapist. Her name was Candy, and my father upon finding this out asked if my Mother was taking us to see a stripper. He thought it was funny, I thought it meant that the doctor tore up paper. Instead, she told my mother that she could change my father. She told me and my sister, we all shared the sessions, how women must learn to cook and my bruises and burns, were just the signs that I was going to be a great wife.

I never believed her. My sister did, and when I told her at night that I thought that Candy was insane, she told me that she is a doctor, so therefore I must be wrong. I kept it to myself but at the age of four I just told her things I thought she wanted to hear. My father was sent to a mental hospital after attacking a man, or something like that a year later, and my mother did not let him back in, despite Candy telling her we would all go to hell. I think the woman let her religious tenancies effect her job.

The next therapist I saw was the one who had me put on my first Antidepressant. I was almost eight, and Doctor Baca decided I was depressed. Likely he was right but he never let me address why. He wasn’t a listener but talked about how I needed to try harder in school, how I needed to bathe more, how I needed to do things to be popular. If I got a word in edgewise he used it to shame me. I had begun to develop breasts, and upon relating the nickname I had at school, because my bra broke in Phys Ed, he agreed. I was slut shamed. The Nickname is not related here as it reveals the name that I have shed, but it contained the word whore.

The list of bad therapists goes on and on. No person is perfect but even the best amid them just wanted to label me. Many tried dangerous tactics and all of them post Doctor Baca insisted on medications. I took so many pills, and many had adverse effects including causing me to gain 100lbs in a month, but, the pills were more important than the girl. Each doctor took any crying as a sign not of emotional release but of depression. If I was happy at all it was a manic, if I was angry it meant I was psychotic. I lost touch with emotion itself.

My response was to try and kill myself, though, I couldn’t figure out how and asked my mother to help. The first time wasn’t the cause of my institutionalization, though the threat was leveled. I just didn’t comprehend it. The suicidal ideation passed and yet my brain warred to follow the rules that were leveled at it. My needs were far from met, and my Autism being undiagnosed meant I had no help. I was adrift, and lost.

The worst weekend of my childhood came then. I was beaten to the point of nearly dying, and denied medical treatment. There is much more to that story but it will not be blogged about, my fear of being attacked over it is too strong. My entire life was changed at that moment however. That is the hinge of life for me. That too, is when my personality changed the first time. The direct result of head trauma. That is the weekend where the first breaks in my back were had, my Xrays showing as an adult that when I was about eight I had four vertebrae break in my back, two in my neck. They healed well enough thankfully but I was in agony, I was alone, and I knew that I should not trust anyone ever again.

I was also threatened with food. My father had decided I was fat. I wasn’t yet, I was perfectly healthy, but he decided I should stop eating. He also instructed me to cut myself, though I did not manage that one. I did manage the eating disorder. He had told me too, if I did eat he would know and would beat my mother to death. I had to protect her. She always has needed my protection. So I gave up food. It was not hard, due to the pain.

Pain is the best appetite suppressant I know of. It kills the urge to eat in me, and is the reason for many people becoming malnourished with access to food. I lied to my mother the first few days and told her I wasn’t hungry, but, then she told me my refusal to eat hurt her. If I didn’t eat she’d surely die. Catch 22. No matter my choice she would die. I decided to eat, then, I would just throw up after dinner. Then my “daddy” couldn’t kill her and she wouldn’t know so she wouldn’t die.

This worked for a while, and my stomach stopped hurting and my skin even healed from some of it’s symptoms of allergy. I was however, bulimic by the diagnostic standard. No one asked why I was bulimic at the tender age of eight. My family didn’t figure it out very quickly, but, eventually they did. I am sure I had a decline in health. My memory was very foggy, and I had begun to have bursts of rage. Perhaps this came from the head injury, the painful seizures that I had started to have, hiding everything, or the burden of the household falling to an eight year old girl. It could even be the bulimia, the overdosing of drugs by my doctors, or, all of the untreated genetic ailments.

My stepfather had begun molesting my older sister, he was too afraid of me to hurt me, so I shaved my head. We discovered then how misshapen my skull is. My skin had begun to split on my breasts, and I thought if I was a boy then I would always be safe. I was of course unaware of the stigmas that were to come, but, I thought being male would make it all better. So, I tried to cut my breasts off. I failed, and for that I am grateful now. I am not sure what the therapists told my mother about all of this, but, from my perspective no one took into account that something might be wrong physically or that the abuse took a toll.

I was taken to a hospital, dumped off, and my mind and body were invaded. I do not know why these doctors thought a physical examination was necessary my first night there, but, they gave me a complete physical, including a pap smear. There was no explanation, but, I lashed out. My first night there was spent in the padded room of solitary confinement.

Diagnosis were tossed at me like darts at a board, seeing if one could fit close enough. Most of the girls there were suicidal, all of them had been molested or raped. Each of them had been battered, and all of the children were in pain. The staff were not all kind. One of the male staff would hit me, but I never said a word. He told me if I did, he’d see to it that I did not get to see my mother ever again.

My hair is also complex. Only half of it is curly, and this is all in the under hair. I had to bathe twice a day there to pass their cleanliness challenge, because of the Hidradenitis Suppertiva causing excessive sweat. I was allergic to the shampoo and cried each time I bathed. They gave me more antidepressants.

I mentioned once, how much my body hurt to the doctors there. I was quickly learning though, that all they wanted was for me to suddenly become a normal child. I wasn’t sure what that meant but noted what the children who got to go home endured. They could not yell, they could not scream, they ate every meal but not seconds, and they were nice all the time, if the adults were looking. I began to master the system. This meant no crying, so I got even better at being a machine. I let my world fall into their system of order.

I did go home, but, I couldn’t keep up the act of perfection. So, the cycle hit over and over again. I still couldn’t eat but was gaining weight. I was shamed for it. I was stuck then in either my mother’s clothes or sweat pants. Time passed and I was a teenager. My first period came on the eve of another hospitalization. I thought I was dying. The inability for people to discuss this function without clinical talk or shame had cost me knowing that this was going to happen. It didn’t help that my mother had told me all about how evil my Uncle Verne is. Verne is a rapist, a pedophile, and of course he would surely be out to get my mother’s children.

She had me stay with my grandmother while she made arrangements to have her crazy and devalued daughter locked away. My uncle called. Grandma had left me alone, despite my mother’s very valid fear that I would kill myself. I was considering it staring into her medicine cabinet when the phone rang. This was before caller ID hit that small town. I thought it was my mother. I thought maybe she had realized that the kids at school were mean, my hands hurt, and so did my stomach and I just couldn’t live like that. It was a strange voice. His voice was raspy, cold, and hearing me he sounded suddenly excited. I talked with him for a while, until I realized who he was. We didn’t trade names but when he called me by mine, I asked if he was my uncle.

There it was again, that duality, I was told by my mother that upon pain being dealt my way, I must never be rude on the phone. I was also told I must never let my uncle know where we were, who we were or to hurt me. I was terrified. Then, I felt warmth running down my legs. I remember what I said, “I am sorry Mr. Uncle Verne, I have to go now. I will tell my Grandma you called.” I hung up and went and sat in the tub crying because I was bleeding.

I thought that I was going to die, which, saved me from my suicidal thoughts. It was partly there because so often I was asked if I wanted to die. The idea wasn’t original to me, though I may have wound up having it anyway. I am not blaming the doctors, as without them I still would have died, I am merely questioning their methods. For every emotion there was a label, a drug, and a punishment.

For my fear of my period I was told I was a misogynist. I hadn’t even known what that was, but, upon being told I hate women, I thought it apt. At that time I wasn’t aware that self hatred is not the same, and the over labeling and medicalization was helping me to dehumanize. I was instead a child trying to make people love me. At this time my memories of my Sensei had been suppressed, and yet the mark of them remained, I was subconsciously seeking that same love.

The rest if my timeline, up until the Ranch, mentioned in earlier posts, is a blur, a mix of self hatred, cruelty, and a few bright moments when I went off the medication without telling people. Not all of my memories were destroyed by the meds, and the medicine did help me learn to control my flashbacks. I was so lonely however, unable to make contact with myself, isolated, and then something amazing happened. My freshman year of Highschool, I became the Valentines Princess. In my school this was on par with the popularity contests of Home Coming Queen or Princess and Prom Queen. My classmates elected me, and openly made this truth known, because of the simple fact that the most popular girl in school was pregnant and did not know who the father was. The pregnancy was not the issue, many other girls were pregnant too, it was the culture of this town. If you were not sexually active you were not acceptable. It was that she had cheated. Perhaps it was a form of slut shaming, but I was only aware of the fact that I had won. I had been chosen to represent the beauty of my class, a symbol of the perfection of love.

These memories are so crisp, as is the memory of my sudden happiness ending, realizing I had to tell my mother that I had won and needed a dress. There was no way I could take the title. I went to tell the coordinator, another student in my class and she found me first. She had already talked to the other wealthy students, and they were going to pool their allowances to buy me a dress, a trip to the salon to style my hair and they were going to have my hair done. They also were going to give me a free ticket to the Dance. At this point, my mother had left my Step Father, and money was so tight we could barely afford food. When I told her however, I expected anger and was given joy. She was happy for me.

We went through the rituals of beauty, I even shaved my legs, ignoring the pain that caused. We had my hair done, and, when I walked out with my Tiara in place, taking the arm of the boy I thought was the most handsome in school, ignoring his displeasure at being my escort, I stared out at the people in my school and was given a moment of joy. No one booed. I had expected that, after all every day I was on the outside. I kept the roses the principle bought each of the Valentines Court members for years, only shedding them when I no longer needed the reminder of my value, for I am worth more than roses and a popularity contest.

When I told my therapist about the feelings I had had, he told me I was becoming a narcissist. He berated me for every single feeling, and I went back on the meds. I was so certain he was right, and that my mother was too. The messages given to me during these visits to the psychologist were all so negative. Tomorrow I am calling and making appointments again. I am an adult now, perhaps, this will free me from some of the pain I feel. Perhaps I will find one who is willing to work with me on how to emotionally survive my physical pain. If I am offered medication my first visit, I will not return to that doctor.

I am still fighting for my humanity. I grew up meeting and failing expectations, never making my own. I am an adult now, and my own expectations are met. Yet when I cry, even at the end of a sad movie, I question, evaluate, and judge myself. My crying is the hardest, it is the most difficult for me to allow. I have come to embrace Happiness, anger, jealousy, but sorrow is the biggest terror. Even in the media we face the words of stigma. Pharmaceutical companies, doctors ignoring the validity of emotion, deranged fathers, and depressed mothers (Feel free to rearrange, relabel, or adjust these two for your own needs) all collude against humanity.

This is not the only way that people are dehumanized just one example of it. There is something in the air, something in the water, or perhaps just a tradition diluted with time that has caused dehumanization to become far too common. Civil Rights are torn away from people based on their supposed inhumanity, the disabled are not granted access because we surely aren’t human. I tried so very hard to shed my humanity, yet without it I cannot sing, I cannot write, and I cannot breathe.

I am afraid of psychologists. What if they refuse to not try and force me to take drugs? What if it turns out in the future I was wrong and needed the antidepressants? The consequences of these choices are the real fear. I fear too, that my next psychologist will refuse to see my pain as real. The wheelchair is not enough for some people, or it is too much. I will be writing a how to article on shopping for psychologists, after I am done, detailing my method. I will share it here.

  • Polls

  • Ye Olde Archives of Fury

  • Top Rated

  • Top Clicks

    • None