Japan, Radiation and Incest: An End to Isolation

I’ve been trying very hard to keep my incest issues and my response to the ongoing radiation disaster in Japan separate.  But it’s a fool’s errand.  The abuse is the same, society’s response is the same, and I’ve been going down the rabbit hole of fear alone – the same way I got through the abuse.

The child me had no one looking out for her, protecting her, listening to her, asking for her truth.  Any sign of upset and my family stomped down, hard, so I lived the lie of the “good kid,” never making any problems that would risk further alienation from those I thought loved me.   I suppressed my feelings with food, drugs and stupid sexual relationships.  I hid my true self from myself and other people.  If you asked, I’d say I was “fine.”

When I found myself one mile from Three Mile Island, for the first time I faced a situation I could not talk, argue, cajole or pretend my way out of.  I was nailed by something bigger than myself, so big that my life and personality mark time as before and after it happened.

In the wake of this experience, I reverted to my incest survival instincts.  I lived alone, stayed alone, spoke about my experience with no one, even as I wrote and published about it.  I went through intense mental games to divert myself from the terror, once spending a full day figuring out what the letters of the alphabet mean.  Only after I moved to kibbutz in Israel – where I was forced to interact with people every day – did my isolation end, the conversation commence, and the healing begin.  People over there didn’t have a hard time listening to my story; they had lived through much rougher experiences.

When Japan’s nuclear nightmare began, I stomped onto public stages to speak, write, publish, post what I could, and people listened.  I didn’t consider my incest-based love/hate relationship with visibility, the retraumatization of reliving Three Mile Island every time I wrote or spoke, what this experience was doing to my precious inner child.

In the wake of this intense public exposure, it’s no accident that I developed an upper respiratory illness.  I believe I became ill in part because I could not speak of my pain (In Chinese medicine, the lungs are connected to grief).  I did not trust anyone to be able to take this walk with me.  I isolated, diverted myself with meaningless videos, online Scrabble and sudoku, endless Facebook updates.  When these coping mechanisms failed, I fell into blackest reverie about what we’ve finally done to the planet.  I felt intense anger, despair, sadness, disconnection, like I’d finally crossed the line into madness and truly belonged there.

I acted just like an incest survivor – isolating rather than reaching out, asking for and receiving help, putting the blame where it belonged.

Leave it to the Los Angeles Times to smack me out of denial.  This past Sunday, it had the gall to publish a story with the title: “Why Nuclear Power is Still a Good Choice.”  My fragile veneer of functioning imploded.  Hands shaking, I dashed off a post to the Times website labeling insistence upon nuclear energy as mental illness.  But that did not help.  I felt myself falling over the edge into a mental abyss.  In despair, I finally picked up the phone and called a dear, supportive friend (why I hadn’t called her before is the hallmark of an incest survivor).  I left a long, tearful message; she called me back within an hour and suggested I contact my therapist.  I did and – miraculously – got a session within two days (it can take up to two or three weeks).  This woman saw me through the depths of my incest recovery and knew exactly what to ask, what to say.

Here is what I learned, what I finally got clear on:

  • Now is not the time for isolation.
  • Now is the time for reaching out, building communities, taking care of self and others.
  • Now is the time for us to all be a little more Japanese in terms of respect, support, doing what we can.
  • Now is a time for holding close to those we love, granting forgiveness, acting with kindness and generosity.
  • Now is the time to speak our truth; there’s no time for anything less.

This may be the start of the true end times — not faith-based, as the Christians believe, but in terms of the planet and its teeming life.  If that’s true, I cannot stop it… but I also do not need to beat myself up because of it.  I refuse to identify with the perpetrators and take their crimes against humanity as my own.  Further, I will not be a mute victim to the perpetrators of nuclear energy.  I may not be able to stop this runaway technology that has stolen all our futures, but I can stand up for what I see as the truth and continue to put it out into the world.

Here’s the real kicker: I don’t have to do this alone.  I’ve begun to reconnect with incest Recovery groups, to seek out others who can engage in the deeper conversations, who understand the intimate link between abuse of a child and abuse of a planet.  I seek my people and trust that there are others.  I do not have to be alone.  Neither do you.

I welcome your input.

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One Response to “Japan, Radiation and Incest: An End to Isolation”

  1. Wanda Blomberg Says:

    Dear Libbe,
    I read every word you wrote AND I agree with you. I tend to go into isolation as I need the comfort of quiet for my survival. Thank you for posting this…and yes, I would say this applies to more people than most will recognize.

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