by Essayist and Guest Blogger Heidi Davidson-Drexel
I was not officially a child when I was violated by my boss, a reality which further muddied the mess of emotions I felt about it. I used to struggle with what to call the experience. I was enough of a child at the time to feel molested, but couldn’t reconcile that term with my age. For awhile I referred to it as a controlling relationship- a title modification that allowed me to skim past essential details. But it wasn’t a relationship. It seemed there were no accurate descriptions, words or phrases that fit.
To write about it, I had to allow myself to peer into my inner state at the time it all happened. It wasn’t an easy place to go. But when I finally got up the courage, the overwhelming feeling I had was one of sympathy for my younger self. The internalized guilt and self-hatred had dissipated with the years and I could see the confused young person I was, grabbing onto anything she could find.
This feeling of understanding grew as I worked on it. The barrier between adolescence and adulthood is like a line of buoys separating the shallow end of the pool from the deep end. It’s flexible- easy to cross back and forth. In all of the outer ways, I was like an adult. I started working at 14 and was supporting myself while in college. I studied hard and did well in school. But emotionally, I was still splashing around in the shallows.
When I started out writing this piece, I thought if it as an explanation to some nameless person, some naïve reader who might not understand how such a thing could happen. I wanted to show how easy it is to lose the ground under your feet, how it could happen to anyone. By the time I finished the essay and reread it, it was clear. I had written it, not for some nameless bystander, but for my younger self. For the part of me that still didn’t understand what had gone wrong, and for the parts of me that still felt I had done something to cause it. I wrote this for the child I was, in the hopes that she can begin to move on.
Read the essay here.
I just read Mary Gustafson’s “Time Stops.” Thank you for sharing this moving work.
The cycle of moving in and touching the wound and then retreating is very effective. It takes us down a stairway to a destination we may not ordinarily choose to reach. She reveals her heart and at the same time reveals her urge to obscure it.
Fine emotional writing with a big wow factor.
I just finished reading “Time Stops” by Mary Gustafson.
This compelling and important piece of writing fills the reader with raw emotion. You acutely feel the pain as she takes you along on a desperate roller coaster ride to snatch joy while dealing with the long term effects of deep trauma.
As one layer cracks to allow a moment of enlightenment, and perhaps freedom, paradoxically, another layer filled with tangled memories descends. The author illustrates a long, winding path of shame, guilt, and fear fed by a still-present societal stigma with regard to mental health. Yet what stands out more is the resilient spirit of human beings.
Thank you for publishing this beautiful essay.
Good evening. I wanted to write to let you know that I just finished reading a piece called “Time Stops” by Mary Gustafson. I found this piece to be an amazing, profound, raw depiction of sexual abuse and its far-reaching and long-lasting effects on a woman.
As the daughter of a woman who habitually was abused by her father, both mentally and sexually from the age of 3 through age 12, I believe if my mother was still alive, she would have benefited greatly from reading this particular essay.
I know it would have helped her to know she was not the only one. Thank you for choosing this piece to publish. It really is beautifully written and deeply moving.
I just finished reading Mary Gustafson’s “Time Stops” and I wanted to thank you for providing a great space for such stories to be. I found her piece to be eloquently written. It stood out for me in its fierce vulnerability and told a personal tale that for many women, myself included, can relate to. Hard subject matter told with a deft touch.
Good for you Longridge Review, I look forward to reading more of your picks.
I just finished reading Ms.Gustafson’s (essay) Time Stops. What a beautiful and heartfelt depiction of such a horrible experience. I was both touched and enraged at the same time! She is an incredibly strong individual and SURVIVOR. Her story is both inspirational and heartbreaking, and I found her writing style unique and engaging. I look forward to reading more from this talented writer.
Read Mary’s work for yourself on Longridge Review: Time Stops
A heads up, this issue is really heavy. There is recounting of a lot of trauma.
But this is part of our mission, I believe. To bring forth how serious childhood is to who we become. To offer empathy and compassion for adults who are still trying to find themselves whole after harm they suffered at a tender age. Absolutely, sometimes the formative event is love or humor. But often, it is not.
Sometimes the harm is callous disregard. Sometimes it is violent assault. Sometimes it is the betrayal of a friend. Sometimes, it is a parent’s love growing mysteriously cold.
And yet….each of these writers still seems to carry a small, unextinguished light. The search for resolution and healing is much of what these essays have in common.
Christopher Woods‘ photographs carry that same small light in darkness.
We hope you will read each essay with care, and with time. There is much to learn here.
Peace and write on,
Editor, Longridge Review