The Sixth Street Bridge

The Sixth Street Bridge
At the tender age of 17, I walked across this bridge, alone, into Downtown Pittsburgh, with $300 in my pocket that my mother had given me to get an abortion. I went into the Fulton Building (in the picture) and did what I was told to do. I didn't have a choice - if I did, I wouldn't have chosen abortion.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Postabortion trauma or postabortion drama?

I had gotten a notice that a healing mass for "victims of trauma" was going to be held nearby.  I'm thinking about going.  Well, actually I'm trying to decide between that and a Divine Mercy Mass that is being offered.  I haven't decided because I don't know for sure what I need or do I need anything at all?  One would think it would be an easy question to answer, "am I a victim of trauma?"  Alas, it's no easy answer for me.  In some ways, it's plain to see the scars that my past has made on my body, soul, mind, and heart.  Healing from all the scars and damage and hurt and pain is what I have been most occupied with the last few years.  But, I hesitate at really labeling myself as traumatized.  I guess because I would tend to reserve that term for other people who are really traumatized with far bigger wounds than I have, who have suffered so much more than me with sickness, and loss, and problems that I can't even begin to imagine.  So in my general m.o. of overanlyzing things to death before making a decision - I've spent the last few days thinking about it.  What would it mean if I do attend this Mass for the traumatized, for victims of trauma?

So, let's take the clichéd route and see what Merriam has to say about it....

noun, plural trau·mas, trau·ma·ta
1. Pathology. a. a body wound or shock produced by sudden physical injury, as from violence or accident. b. the condition produced by this; traumatism.
2. Psychiatrya. an experience that produces psychological injury or pain.  b. the psychological injury so caused.
Origin: 1685–95; < Greek traûma wound
I think the victim part is the real stumbling block.  I'm not sure its a label I want to take on, in fact I've spent most of my life trying to not be a victim, to anyone, including myself.
noun 1. a person who suffers from a destructive or injurious action or agency. 2. a person who is deceived or cheated, as by his or her own emotions or ignorance, by the dishonesty of others, or by some impersonal agency: a victim of misplaced confidence; the victim of a swindler; a victim of an optical illusion. 3.a person or animal sacrificed or regarded as sacrificed: war victims. 4. a living creature sacrificed in religious rites.
1490–1500; < Latin victima sacrificial animal
Holy hell.  Sometimes, ignorance can be bliss, I think.  So, on paper, I am a victim of trauma, but do I want it to stay on paper or do I want to take it on, call a spade a spade so to speak, and then I can do something about it.  I fear my melancholy, inner Virgina Woolf would take this info and wade in it for days on end.  Or, could and/or would this new, grace filled and Grace filled, aware of Who's daughter I truly am, person spur me on to go get this healing and take it as a gift and let every drop of it soak into my soul?  Avoiding the label of victim could be what's victimizing me now and how much energy to I spend trying to avoid it, trying to hide it, trying to ignore it?

However, I remain torn.  Shocker, I know.  I am definitely traumatized from the physical act of the abortion itself.  It was horrific, and I remember every detail due to the lack of anesthesia used at that time.  The abortion itself and the memory of it can come up at many times and unexpected times.  I'm traumatized from the years of harboring this secret, that I still harbor on some levels.  I'm traumatized from the years and still moments that I spend despairing when I'm absolutely convinced that I will go straight to hell when I die.  I'm traumatized by the way my Mom chose to deal with my unexpected pregnancy at the age of 17.
But, a victim? To me a victim is a victim because of someone else's doing.  If I'm a victim because of my own feelings - does that really make me a victim?  Herein likes the difficult part to flush out.  Because of my past, the choices my parents made in raising me, because of the freedom I was granted and lack of supervision, because of my non-existent self esteem, and whatever 100 other reasons, I was, for a long time, a recurring victim of a lot of things, physical and mental and I feel like those thoughts and memories are the ones that are eating me alive currently.  And some of them are my own fault as well, I don't want to find a scape goat to thrust them all upon and call it a day. I don't want to be like all the girls I've known who have sex with everyone and anyone and then when someone finds out about it, all of a sudden she calls it rape.  I was complicit in a lot of my past - but the whys surrounding that complicity cloud the picture significantly.  There were times when I wasn't complicit at all.

Some of these horrible things from my past, all of which I've confessed, albeit generally, and received absolution for, still haunt me and roll over in mind, and torment me.  I need to get rid of them and I'm not sure how to do just that. Some, a lot, of memories I have never uttered aloud to anyone.  Would I be able to take those with me to this healing Mass for victims of trauma and leave them behind when I go?  Or maybe I'm not ready for such healing if I can't even talk about the things that I may need healing from?  How can I move on from it if I've never said it?  Is this all postabortion trauma or just more drama?


  1. My grandmother had an abortion when my dad was little. She did it in order to stay alive for him. The doctors told her she would die otherwise - this was before penicillin etc. No-one found out until after she died, and it had been this horrible secret: you know the gift that keeps on giving, well this was the thief that kept on taking. It affected her married life, her emotional health(and so the emotional health of my dad, and then down to the third generation). She went to confession and was forgiven, and became a daily mass attender and communicant, but he acted like she never believed she was forgiven and the guilt and depression and anger carried on for decades, and still carries on after her death.

    I don't know you, but in some ways I'm getting to know my grandmother through your blog. If I could speak to my grandmother then, knowing what I know and understand now, I would tell her:

    To talk to the priest honestly and completely holding nothing back until she knows and understands and feels forgiven EVEN IF UNWORTHILY.

    That God loves her completely and utterly and has already died and risen for her.

    That she is completely forgiven, and to let go of the bitterness and pain and sadness and guilt and be a mom to my dad. She had the abortion in order to survive, and surviving she lived as if she was dead.

    I would tell her that one day her grandchildren would know, and we will understand and love her anyway, and that we will pray for her in purgatory.

    And then I'd give her a hug and have a cup of tea and a scone with her.

    1. Wow. I'm honored that my story means so much to you and I'm glad that it helps you in any way possible. Thank you for your kind words, you have no idea how much they mean.

  2. If I may. . . You wonder, "If I am a victim because of my own feelings, does that really make me a victim?" Let me give you a hypothetical situation to ponder. A woman was raped 20 years ago. To this day, she suffers nightmares, and has difficulty with intimate relationships and with trusting men in general. One could argue that the rape is long past, and that now, she is only a victim of her own emotions. Is she no longer a victim of the rape? I say she is, and if she never accept that she was a victim, she can never truly heal. Don't fall into society's "vitim" trap, of course, but accept that you have been victimized, so you may use that acceptance to heal.

  3. Choose God; no matter what has happened in the past, no matter what you have done, choose God. Choose Him now. Tell Him you want to be with Him, tell Him you do not want to go to hell. "He has made you for Himself and your heart is restless until it rests in Him"-St Augustine. In how you now act, with love for yourself and with love for others, show Him that you really mean it when you choose Him...and His all-powerful Love will draw you to Him and comfort you, no matter what has happened in the past, no matter what you have done. I realized this after living a terrible sin for over 30 years; and now, each day, I tell Him I do want to be with Him in heaven and I try to live the two greatest commandments. And I add this to the Our Father: "not my will" but Thine be done.