A lot of times people think of tarot as something fun, a way to get a peek at the future. But tarot has another side, one that is becoming more popular. That side is as a therapeutic tool. Learn how tarot LITERALLY saved my life. Please be warned that there are sensitive topics inside, so please proceed with caution. (POST UPDATED SINCE ORIGINAL POSTING)
This whole post came about because of my college public speaking class. We were asked to do a speech on something that had literally changed our life. Some people spoke about meeting a childhood friend or even their spouse. My speech was a little more emotionally charged. I got through the speech without breaking down, which was hard because there were some tears in the audience.
My childhood started out pretty normal, if you discount the birth father who threatened to kidnap me when I was 6 - but that is a story for another time. We lived with my grandmother and grandfather for most of my childhood in a trailer park in an OK part of town. For a long time I was one of the only ones in my class who didn't have what they called "a real house". But with such a small town the kids that I went to elementary school were with me all the way through high school. My single mother was doing her best, but I know that she wanted more from her life then to live with her parents. So we were all happy for her when she met a man that appeared to make her happier. He seemed nice enough, and one night while I was with my gram they went and got married. I was a little hurt to be left out, but Mama was happy, so I swallowed it down. When I was 11 years old he filed the paperwork to formally adopt me. I was excited that I was no longer going to be "that girl", the one without two parents. Looking back there are so many things that should have made me wary, but let's face it I was 11 years old.
*** TRIGGER WARNING - DETAILS ABOUT CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ASSAULT FOLLOW. IF THIS IS UNCOMFORTABLE FOR YOU PLEASE SCROLL PAST TO THE HEADING OF DISCOVERING THE TAROT***
This man took advantage of the fact that my mom worked hard running her own restaurant(and trust me I don't blame her for the things that happened) and began to molest me. It started small, with things like him walking in the hall naked, to mentioning that my breasts were developing. I would wake up to find him in my room touching himself telling me how much I turned him on. I was 12 and confused. I used to sleep under my bed, all the way against the wall, and because my bedroom in the new trailer didn't have a door I would sleep in my clothes instead of pajamas - because it was harder to get access to me, and I didn't want to get caught changing. It got progressively worse, and although I was touched and forced to participate in oral sex thankfully I was never penetrated. He was really good at hiding it from my mom, mostly molesting me when she was at work, or when we went to Connecticut every Sunday for church. (Don't even get me started on how I feel about God, even now) I'll spare you a lot of the horrible details, but it continued until I was 16. From the time I was 13 he started working on making me out to be a troubled kid, and a liar. No matter how small the infraction I was punished. I can't count the number of times I was beat with a wooden paddle. Sometimes I was forced to stand in a corner for 8 hours, unable to move, relax, or even go to the bathroom. Nothing more humiliating then urinating on yourself, knowing that he would use it as an excuse to strip my clothes off and "clean me up". At the end of the day though he was able to convince my mother that nothing I said could be trusted. I had no where to turn.
Hitting rock bottom....
Broken down and damaged I felt that I was not worth anything, and that my family would be better off with out me. So at age 15 I attempted suicide. It was a cry for help that went unanswered. Convincing people that I was simply being dramatic to get attention this man mocked me in private about how I couldn't even do that right. The abuse stepped up and became more frequent and aggressive. I fell deeper and deeper into depression, and at 16 I again attempted suicide. My friends by now had realized that something was seriously wrong, and convinced me to come forward. I thank whatever power is above that they finally saw what I had been trying so hard to hide for years. I told my grandmother and my aunt first, both of whom had felt that there was something off. They held me as I cried, and then helped me to tell my mother what had been going on. After an initial period of disbelief my mom held my hand as we walked into the police station. To this day, I know that my mom blames herself for not seeing it, and because of that there are parts of the abuse that I have never told anyone about. What I told the detective SHOULD have been enough to put him away, but it was his word against mine, and without having been penetrated I had no way to prove that anything had happened. When he came home that day, I knew that I couldn't stay anymore. I took my stuff, my car and myself to my grandmother's house. I thought I was free, but I didn't realize that there was more to deal with.
My friends who had helped me to come forward now had no idea how to deal with me. I was still dealing with the fallout, and it made me act out. I drank, even drove home one night drunk. I've always read that those who have been sexually assaulted as children either become prudes or they become promiscuous. That was the direction I swung. After years of my step father telling me that no one would ever love me, and that boys were only after one thing - my self esteem was damn near non-existent. I kissed boys, put myself in dangerous situations, and became what many would call a "cock-tease". I never had sex, but I came close. I once went home with a store clerk that I had just met. I came to my senses halfway through the night, and thank god he was fairly cool about sex suddenly being off the table. Sometimes it scares me to think that those situations I put myself in could have gotten me raped or even murdered. All I wanted to feel was in control. There are times that I think that it was that spring that broke us, and things were never quite the same again. I don't think they could handle thinking about me on that roof, downing a bunch of pills, or sitting there sobbing with a gun in my hand. It wasn't their fault, they were still kids too. And at the end of the day it was just too much drama for them. I don't blame them.
Discovering the tarot...
It was during therapy that I was introduced with tarot. I was super lucky that the team I worked with was so amazing about finding that thing that resonated with me. One of my best friends growing up was always into those witchy things, so I think for me it also helped to give me a positive association. There was something so empowering about the tarot and it's messages. I used it as a healing tool over the following years. Although this card above is from the Animal Totem Tarot and is a recently released deck, it is my favorite example of the power of a tarot card.
This is the Star card. It features an oyster showing it's glossy pearl under the beam of a light house. The oyster is this amazingly resilient creature. A pearl is not the thing of beauty we think it is - it is an irritation to the oyster. A grain of sand gets into the oyster and it can't get it out. It irritates and digs at the heart of the creature. But does it just give up and die? No! It takes that grain of sand and works on it over YEARS until it is a pearl. Freshwater pearls can take up to 6 years and a saltwater pearl can take up to 20! In addition the lighthouse stands as a beacon of hope, reminding those trapped in the dark that they are not alone. I took the "sand" that was thrown at me through my abuse and instead of giving up (again) I am choosing to take that experience to create things of beauty and help guide my fellow travelers through life. Have you ever had a card just resonate with you like this? It's a heady and powerful thing... making you feel connected to something so much bigger then yourself.
Now, many years later I am a far different person then I was then. I still have nightmares, and flashbacks, but they get a little less every year. I pulled my shit together my senior year, and went through a Public Safety technical course. I learned to be an EMT, I was a certified firefighter, and I worked with the police department. I felt like I had a new direction to go in. I wanted to help people. I graduated with as a member of the Vocational Technical Honor Society, and had SAT scores good enough to get me into most any college I wanted (money for it was a whole other story). I went to college, going for an associates in Criminal Justice. I met my first husband, and had a beautiful daughter. It took me about 8 years, but I finally got that degree in 2006. When my daughter was 11, her father and I split. She stayed with her dad, because I didn't think it was right to pull her away from her friends and school while I got re-married and moved to New Mexico. This spring I graduated with my second Associates Degree, this time in Paleontology (more about that in another post). I'm headed for my Bachelor's in History so that I can possibly become a teacher at our local college. And just today my beautiful baby girl graduated from high school. I think about all the things that I would have cheated myself out of if I had been successful in taking my own life. I also get mad that my mother and I will never get back that time that we lost, and even today our relationship isn't always the best. It is a never-ending battle, and there are still days when I fight back that depression. Sometimes I still want to cut myself, but my family has gotten good at seeing the warning signs and helping me. I'm not alone anymore.
Stay strong - and practice self care...
If you know who Wentworth Miller is you may have seen his Facebook posts last year. This actor, best known for his role on Prison Break, has been out of the public eye for a little while. In that time he battled depression and gained some weight. Naturally the paparazzi had a field day with him, posting unflattering pictures and mocking him. Now he could have ignored it... but instead he chose to take the opportunity to reach out to his fans and share his journey. Every day he posted an inspiring tidbit regarding self care. It was amazing! Self care daily with tarot is easy to do - simply draw a card every morning as your guidance for the day. For me, I feel blessed to be able to reach out and help people to make empowering changes in their lives. I can be a light in the darkness for them, and sometimes that makes all the horrible memories fade just a little bit.
Do you practice a self care ritual? Tell us about it in the comments. And if you are in crisis, know that you are not alone. There is help out there.
24 years of tarot experience, 20 years experience as a mom, and a lifetime of knowledge is just rattling around in here!