Monthly Archives: August 2016

Polio

Tank respirator (“iron lung”) in use at Union Hospital, Terre Haute, IN 1953-1973, Author Daderot (PD)

Polio has been known since antiquity [1].  Before vaccines for the virus were discovered, polio was a scourge [2].

Fortunate patients experienced only minor symptoms.  Others were paralyzed to varying degrees; left with deformed limbs, or permanently dependent on mechanical respirators (“iron lungs”) for their next breath.  A certain percentage died outright.

Up to 50% of those who survived polio succumbed to post-polio syndrome, as long as 35 years later.  The symptoms of post-polio syndrome include exhaustion, difficulties with memory and concentration, increasing muscle and joint pain, and depression.

Will Power and Moral Superiority

Recovery from polio is not reliant on will power or moral superiority.  Neither is recovery from abuse.  We must not, therefore, grade ourselves on the extent to which we can be said to have recovered.

Vulnerability

Like polio, abuse can leave us vulnerable in certain areas.  This is not the same as being weak.  To be weak suggests that, with a little work, we might be stronger.  It implies a certain lack of character on our part.  That is not the case with abuse.

Effort and Determination

Yes, we can, with effort and determination, overcome some of the physical, mental, and emotional scars stemming from abuse.  But there is no arithmetic relationship between effort and outcome.  A teaspoon of sweat will not guarantee us a corresponding amount of improvement.  Nor, for that matter, will a gallon.

That is not to say the effort is useless.  Whether we succeed in overcoming the scars of our abuse or not, the mere effort develops qualities in us we could not have anticipated.  Qualities like courage, patience, and humility.  Like fortitude. Continue reading

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Heartbreak

Heart transplant in 5.5 lb infant, courtesy of Anatomy Box anatomybox.com

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Willow Short was born with a congenital heart defect, detected while she was still in the womb [1].  Doctors warned her mother, Megan, the baby could be stillborn.  But Willow was born alive.  And, at just six days of age, the little trooper survived a heart transplant.

A newborn’s heart is roughly the size of a walnut.  It can fit into a spoon.  The fact a child’s chest cavity is much smaller than an adult’s makes surgery more difficult.  The time a transplant on a child takes will vary.  The procedure may be as short as four hours or as long as sixteen.

Megan Short was extremely grateful to the donor’s family.  She was quoted by the The Reading Eagle as saying, “Someone else’s child died so mine could live.  I know they’re in so much pain.  I’m so thankful.”

But Willow needed fifteen different medications, around the clock, after being discharged.  Megan Short told the New York Times that she developed PTSD from the anxiety.  Continue reading

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Carnality

Walt Whitman, c. 1860, Author Matthew Brady, Source Library of Congress  (PD-Age)

“The man’s body is sacred and the woman’s body is sacred, No matter who it is, it is sacred…”

–        Walt Whitman, “I Sing the Body Electric”

The great American poet, Walt Whitman, was roundly criticized for publishing those words.  Whitman’s landmark Leaves of Grass, the book containing “I Sing the Body Electric”, was initially ignored by the public then viewed as controversial.  The poem – dealing as it does with the human body – was labeled obscene [1].

Whitman celebrates the body, in all its physicality – the stomach, the lungs, the bones and marrow, the heart, the bowels, and the rest.  The poet speaks of apprentices, laborers, farmers, firemen…even slaves.  He praises infants, girls and boys, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons.

What Whitman concludes is that the body is an expression of the soul.  “And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?” he asks.

The question is worth considering.

A Temptation to Sin

“You don’t have a soul.  You are a soul.  You have a body.”

–        Gnostic heresy [2]

Christians often view the body as a temptation to sin and nothing more.  In this view, the body is a sort of overcoat to be used, beaten into submission, then discarded.

Abuse victims understand that outlook far too well.  Often, we despise our bodies.  In an effort to distance ourselves from the abuse, we distance ourselves emotionally from the flesh which was subjected to such pain and humiliation.

Emotional distance becomes our refuge.  We hide our bodies in drab and shapeless clothing; disguise them in layers of fat; or cut them as punishment for the unforgivable crime of serving as targets for our abuse.

Abuse and Sexuality

Because of that alienation, it can be extremely difficult for child abuse victims to reconnect to their sexuality, as adults.  Some of us never do.  We carry that secret shame as long as we live – a “defect” for which we feel somehow responsible, though it is as much a scar of our abuse as any other. Continue reading

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Mercy Reprised

“Divine Mercy” painting in the sanctuary of the same name, Vilnius, Lithuania, Author Alma Pater (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported,  2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic, and 1.0 Generic)

There are 275 references to mercy, like this one, in the New King James Version of the Bible [1]:

Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments…” (Deut. 7: 9).

If our emotions were not dampened by abuse – suppressed so that we could better endure the pain – we are likely to feel great compassion for other victims.

But abuse victims have difficulty applying mercy to themselves.  We do not, generally, see ourselves as qualifying for pity.

  • We should have known better than to be alone with our abuser…no matter that he was a loved one from whom it was natural to crave attention and positive feedback.
  • We should have realized what would happen…no matter that we were too young to understand.
  • We should have found a way to avoid the abuse inflicted on us…no matter that our abuser was an adult, capable of manipulating us and our circumstances.
  • We should have figured out how to make the abuse stop…no matter that our abuser had all the power, yet showed us no mercy.

This is our thinking.  These were our sins, sins for which we continue to punish ourselves to the present day.  Some of us even blame ourselves for “causing” the abuse. Continue reading

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