For Survivors Trying to Decide

By Norbert Krapf

n-book-coverIf you have something in your past like what I talk about in this recovery memoir and dramatized in poems in four voices in my previous book, Catholic Boy Blues, but feel insecure about dealing with it because you are not a poet or any other kind of writer, I want you to know that you do not have to be a published writer to help yourself heal. There are people who can help you, but of course we survivors are nervous about sharing our abuse stories.

We can start by telling even only small parts of our story to people we feel we can trust. So maybe there is a good friend you can start with. Talking with this friend will bring you great relief. You don’t have to tell the whole story all at once. I am on my second book about healing from child abuse, but even in two books I will not have been able to tell my whole story.

Every time we survivors tell anyone we trust something about our abuse, we heal just a little. There are many professionals who can help you in your effort to recover and move on. If you are Catholic and were abused as a child or adolescent by a member of the clergy or other church employee, your diocese must have, as established by the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopt­ed by the U.S. bishops in 2002, a system in place to help survivors get help. There are stages of the recovery process that the diocesan victim assistance coordinator will help you begin. I didn’t report the abuse in my past until fifty years after it ended. It is never too late to help yourself. I know people who say, “What’s the use of talking about this fifty years later? Let sleeping dogs lie.” I am not one of them.

As my therapist has said to me repeatedly, if you keep the monster silent inside of you, it will grow bigger and bigger and could start to eat you alive. Every step you take to recover will help shrink that monster, give you more power, and make you feel better. You will be taking control, gaining more power with each step. Just checking your Catholic diocesan website or, if you are not Catholic, other websites for a phone number to call or an email address to write to will make the monster begin to shrink. Even just going to that website and thinking about taking that step will make you feel better. You won’t feel so threatened by the “dirty little secret” you have kept to yourself. You could write out on paper, in notes or outline, what you’d like to say, like when and where the abuse took place and the name of your abuser.

In many poems in Catholic Boy Blues, I talk to myself about the abuse, sometimes one part (voice) of me talking to another, but in others, such as “A Prayer for Survivors,” “Symptoms,” “Let It Rip,” “This Is Not the End,” and “Alternative Our Father,” I speak to my fellow survivors. I would like to share a poem with you. In it I am talking about myself, observing symptoms that now, I can see, perhaps because I have been confronting the monster in writ­ing, were a product of the abuse that for so long I wanted to keep buried. Not all of them are negative. Some are actually positive, such as becoming aware of the signs of other people’s distress, relating to those down and out, speaking out against injustice, fighting against what’s wrong, wanting to help others.

Perhaps you see some of these symptoms in yourself. Per­haps you are a little too hard on yourself and there is a reason for this. This is not an easy problem to correct, as I keep discovering. We survivors often carry larger burdens than we realize. I can testify, however, that it is good to speak about our abuse to the right people and feel that big old monster shrink a little bit with every word we say about what we have kept bottled up inside ourselves. I hope the poem “Symptoms” will encourage you to shrink your monster:

Did you ever wonder
why you always notice

so many frowns,
hear so many sighs,

relate to so many people
down on their luck,

want to speak out
against so much injustice,

often feel so
easily betrayed,

take on so many burdens,
right so many wrongs,

want to help so many people,
feel responsible for what

life has done to so many—
but do not take the steps

that will help you see
you should be kinder

and more respectful
to the person you are

and appreciate the good
you have done?

This is an excerpt kindly shared by the author from Shrinking the Monster: Healing the Wounds of Our Abuse (In Extenso Press, an imprint of ACTA Publicatons, Chicago, Illinois) 2016 © Norbert Krapf, reprinted by permission.

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