Tag Archives: survivor

Repair, Recovery, and Rejuvenescence

From Merriam Webster, the meaning of rejuvenescence follows the theme of the renewal of youth, and vigor. 

The Good Stuff

I love using fifty-cent words as much as the next person (especially writers/bloggers) but the thing is, the title really fits with the theme here. Truly, each of these words evokes emotions associated to my current circumstances. In the same vein as my previous blog post 30 Pounds of Throbbing Pain this post is a sharing of some of my personal journey towards wellness, physically, mentally, emotionally. A couple of weeks ago I was rushed to the Emergency Room because I was experiencing intense abdominal pain. The sensation could only be described as the feeling that something had ripped loose inside my abdomen, to the point that I could scarcely breathe. Now, in my experience any trip to the ER is stressful, and this one was no exception. Within minutes of arriving, they had started an IV, given me strong pain medication and were performing a variety of tests including a vaginal ultrasound and pelvic exam. As a woman who has given birth to six children, I have had my fair share of pelvic exams. They’re never fun, but over the years (especially during my child-bearing years) it’s become a lot less difficult to manage the stress and emotions that come unbidden during such a personal experience. It wasn’t long before we discovered what was going on, and soon I was scheduled for an appointment with my gynecologist.

discussionSo, the exam. Honestly, this had to be one of the most thorough pelvic exams I have ever experienced. At one point, he handed me a mirror so I could see what he was explaining. It may seem somewhat unorthodox or uncomfortable, but I found it empowering. Perhaps as women we should be more familiar with our genitalia. We should see it, be as familiar with it as we are with our breasts or even our face. I was surprised the emotions that were evoked by having my doctor explain in excruciating  detail every aspect of my vagina and pelvic organs. So, all of that to get to this point, I am suffering from a prolapse of my pelvic organs. Specifically, I have the following:
  • Cystocele – A cystocele is formed when the bladder bulges or herniates into the vagina.
  • Rectocele – A rectocele occurs when the rectum bulges or herniates into the vagina.
  • Uterine prolapse – A uterine prolapse occurs when the uterus falls into the vagina.
Now, I will bet you’re wondering why I am blogging about such a personal experience. I find as a woman, that there are so many things that we DON’T talk about. It’s a fairly common, with nearly one-third of women experiencing prolapse or similar conditions sometime in their lifetime. However, it seems that this is a topic that is rarely discussed by women. It seems that once we’ve had “the talk” with our mother’s (or aunt or grandmother or best friend) about sex, that somehow we’re supposed to figure it all out ourselves. Why all the silence? What are we so afraid to talk about?
This is really why I am sharing this experience. Maybe I’ll be the one story someone reads or hears that tells them this is ‘normal’ and not shameful. That you don’t have to just live with the symptoms, but should feel comfortable (or at least not scared to death) to talk to your own doctor about it.  I am fairly young for the surgery, most women are over 60 before they experience symptoms requiring surgery. My own mother had a hysterectomy following my birth, so it’s not something that was even on my radar. And while multiple pregnancies and vaginal births were likely a cause, so was the sexual abuse that I suffered as a child.
I guess the part that I really feel is important to discuss is that I wasn’t really expecting the flood of emotion that I’ve been feeling. And like my foot/ankle surgeries, it seems that I am just now repairing damage done to me during the years of abuse. At 47, finally, I am having reconstructive surgery that will return my body to where it was pre-abuse.

 article-0-0C42CD2700000578-329_468x365Even with the 700+ words that precede this sentence, I cannot adequately describe the myriad of emotions that I am feeling. I wonder how the recovery process will affect me mentally, when it’s likely that I will be experiencing things so reminiscent of the original injuries.

On Monday, May 19th, I begin the next leg of the journey to wholeness, to recovery, to rebirth of sorts. I realize that this may be long or arduous, but also empowering. I hope that this post (and you) will remind me of this in the dark moments that are sure to come.


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Filed under Panic, Raised by Wolves

INVICTUS, by William Erne…

INVICTUS, by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

This poem was quoted to me by one of my dearest friends, Carlos, after reading my post 30 Pounds of Throbbing Pain. Though we’ve yet to meet in person, he is a man I’d take a bullet for, and one who has taken the time to really “SEE” me.

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March 29, 2012 · 11:54 pm

Well Howdy Hi There!

When I was a tot, before my mother married her fifth husband, Dennis (now referred to as The Beast), she was a self-proclaimed “wild woman”. She enjoyed herself, she enjoyed men (thoroughly), especially men in the United States Marine Corp (semper fi).

She and her friend Jane were well known in Long Beach California, for their partying and raucous ways – but perhaps mostly for the ever-present matching sweatshirts that said “Well Howdy Hi There” on the front and “Black Russian Time” on the back. In truth, they didn’t want to waste time with formalities, they wanted to get straight to the “fun”.

This was the late 60s, early 70s – and I guess my mother could be construed as a revolutionary fighter in the sexual revolution. Truth be told, she worked hard, and was raising two kids as a single mother – I suppose she deserved some fun.

I was so young, that this “time” in my life could be better described – or more accurately described by my older brother, David. Being 8 years older than I, he endured so much more of my mother’s wrath and abuse at the time. I cannot know or even fathom the abuse that was visited on him. He was, and remains, my hero. I know there were many times he stood between her and I, and took the brunt of the beatings.

She was an enigma, outwardly seeming the “perfect mother”, with “well-behaved” children, a hard worker (she was) and “put together”. But privately, she was controlling, spiteful, abusive both physically and emotionally, and, I would posit, in a great deal of emotional pain. But this is no excuse for her actions, simply an acknowledgement of the truth.

I have spent the better part of my adult life trying to repair the damage done by my childhood – with the last six years focused on my relationship with my mother. In 2005, I brought my ill and elderly mother to live with me. I sometimes still question the sanity of that decision. I have to compartmentalize my life, to a point, to do it successfully. Basically, I began our relationship then, in 2005, having buried the past during therapy, after years of cutting her off from my life.

She is too frail to do an physical harm, and I must remain strong to disallow her the ability to do any further emotional harm – on the contrary – I seek healing. She is still incapable of recognizing or acknowledging the past, she lives in a bubble, an alternate reality she has woven around herself. But I know the truth. Others know the truth, and in actively loving her, and actively loving my family in a healthy and non-abusive way, I am healing.

I refuse to pay the abuse forward, to use “I was a victim of abuse” as an excuse to visit the sins of the father on my children. I AM A SURVIVOR! and there is more power in the difference than you can possibly know.

There are hard days. There are good days. I am growing and learning. I am healing.

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Filed under Raised by Wolves

30 Pounds of Throbbing Pain


Tuesday, March 20th, I had surgery. Not a simple “let’s put a pin/screw in your foot to hold it together” surgery, but a “let’s completely reconstruct your right foot and ankle” two hour surgery.

My husband (henceforth referred to as JW) reminded me that this was the 8th surgery I had undergone since we married in 2001. This was the 5th foot surgery.

During all the preparation for a surgery, all the IV sticks and blood pressure cuffs, the question always comes up – what exactly happened to you to make you need THIS surgery? Often, for the sake of the person asking, I simply say “childhood abuse” and leave it at that.


I like to leave it at that. Because the truth is painful, and the truth often scares me. The truth makes me think that possibly my luck is going to run out and I won’t wake from anesthesia this time.

The procedure I underwent on Tuesday the 20th had a description that was so long, convoluted and technical that the surgical nurse didn’t even know what it was. In order to confirm that I knew what was happening, I simply said “he’s reconstructing everything south of my shin”. In truth, this amazing surgeon basically broke and reset my foot and ankle, doing several tendon grafts to hold it in place, taking a wedge of bone from my tibia and wedging it into the inside of my ankle (a bone graft) to set my foot at the proper angle. Once everything was screwed/pinned and sewn in place, he molded a cast onto my foot & lower leg, wrapped it up tight and sent me off to the recovery room with a morphine push.

I had this same surgery done last June on the left side. It was 12 weeks of no weight bearing, riding a knee scooter, agonizing pain and showers every 3 days (because that’s all I could manage).

12 weeks of talking in my sleep because I can’t actually find REM, of moaning every time I had to roll over, of crying because it hurt so much. JW would say it was more like 6 months of me telling him he couldn’t even begin to understand the pain.

So, here we are again. Why?


Because in 1976 I was a ballet dancer.  I had talent, and at 9, I was dancing en pointe so well that a ballet company wanted me to train with them. They were old-school, with Russian coaches who smacked the backs of your legs as they barked at you to hold your head up as you plie.

Because the dance company wanted me to live with other dancers so I could train all day, and have private instruction.

Because my stepfather couldn’t bear the idea of having the object of his sick desires, the receptacle of his rage and violence, the victim of his nightly rape and brutality to be taken away.

At 45, I am finally having my feet and ankles repaired because at 9 my stepfather thought it better to break them with a hammer so I could never dance en pointe again, so he could keep beating and raping me every day for another 5 years.

And now, it feels like I have 30 pounds of throbbing pain hanging off my knee, and the pain is so reminiscent of the original wound, and sometimes I can’t help but cry for what was lost. I scarcely take the pain meds – because there simply isn’t enough Dilaudid or Morphine to lessen the pain in my soul.

It helps that JW is wonderful. It took me a long time to find him. It helps that my daughter (Bean) is perfect and funny and loves to dance.  It helps that my children will never know the savagery that I have lived firsthand. It helps, too, that the Beast is dead, his liver finally pickled to the point that the alcohol poisoned him. What helps most is being able to talk about it, being able to say, this happened, this made me – but it won’t win. It paints a shadow into every corner of my life, but it won’t win.


Filed under Raised by Wolves


It seems these days, everyone has a blog. I feel like such a “joiner” – but for years people have been telling me that I should write, I should share my experiences with the world at large.  So here I am, writing my very first blog post.

INTRODUCING….The Amazing Dawnfelice

I sometimes feel like a circus side show. I was, after all, raised by wolves. OK, not really wolves – that might have worked out a little better for me. Actually, I was raised by my physically and emotionally abusive mother, my divorced and absent father, and my mother’s fifth husband and sexually and physically abusive stepfather. Wolves and vampires would have been better.

I plan to let you peek inside my psyche through this blog, but not in some boring chronological way.

And this isn’t a spoiler in any way – it turns out okay – well at least so far – because I am happily married to a wonderful husband and father to my six beautiful children, five boys and one girl. These children will know no abuse, save the stories I tell them to help them know their mother and to explain the world.

Thank you for reading. Stick around, this is going to get good.


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March 17, 2012 · 4:42 pm