by Jennifer Fleming
My name is Jennifer and I am a rising survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I am riding 260km along the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail, from Hamilton ON to Presqu’Ile Point Provincial Park in Brighton ON, to raise money for SACHA. My goal is to raise $500.00 for their excellent community services.
My story is simple; I suffered most of my life with a seeming inability to trust, get close to people, or feel good about myself. I believed all the worst things about me, and I believed the world was a dangerous place to be. I learned to survive by hiding, pushing people away and carrying the burden of my shame alone. It felt safer that way… Until it didn’t anymore.
Four years ago I made a decision to deal with the pain and fear. It was a hard decision and much of it has felt like recovery from frost bite; there’s an awareness that something is numb, a part that feels dumb and useless and barely alive. As life and feeling are brought back, so comes the pain of all that I refused to feel before. Healing hurt. Healing hurt a lot.
My comfort came in the shape of being outside as often as possible. Under the sky, I could be free from all the trappings of identities that were not mine, identities that had never truly belonged to me but were placed on my shoulders by the world of cement and buses and shopping centres. In the woods, I could hear my voice, I could feel my heart and I could be safe enough to feel my pain and rock in the cradle of nature.
My bicycle has been my vehicle and my medicine for as long as I can remember. Riding a bike is freedom to me. The wind on my skin, the hum of the drive train, the whir of the pedals spinning on the pavement, the beat and rhythm of my heart and breath and the single line focus of just get to that next bend, just pump your legs to the top of that hill, just another kilometer, have been the medicine needed to let my spirit expand. And of course, the occasional pause to help turtles and snakes across the road and the lingering admiration of birds and butterflies as they went about their journeys.
Riding took my mind away from the words of my healing and into the movement of my feelings. When the words ran out or were to painful, movement became my expression. Anger; ride it out. Fear; ride it out. Grief; ride it out. Every kilometer of pavement I covered was another dose of medicine to getting the suffering out from the inside; the sweat, the tears and the shrieks of joy that ripped from me as I experienced each heart pounding, gear grinding moment of aliveness were reminders of a simple truth; I am who I have always been, experience only brings wisdom.
Riding gave me a way back into my body; after a life of living in my head through books and day dreams, my bike opened up a whole new, real, tangible world I had neglected to be a part of. It showed me that I had control, that I had a say in what happened to this body. I could choose many of my experiences, that me and my body were in this together. That I wanted it to be that way.
My decision to ride from Hamilton to Brighton came last summer. After a particularly rough summer, I decided I wanted to visit the place of my youth where I always felt most at home, the first woods I had ever known; the old family cottage. It wasn’t until this summer that I was able to do it.
Personally, this ride is symbolic of the change I have gone through. It’s a demonstration, to me, of the strength, grit, passion and power that I have inside me to do hard things, to engage myself fully in my life and my world, and to show myself that I have what it takes to achieve what I set my mind to.
One of the most powerful lessons I have learned, am still learning, is that I can’t do it alone. Not anymore. I can only get so far, reach so many, on my own steam. At some point, we all need to ask for help. Even hard core, do-it-myself survivors like me. This has been my hardest lesson yet, to ask for help and receive it gracefully. To learn to lean on others and trust that they can help me carry the load. And in a lot of ways, that’s what this fundraiser is about personally.
Riding for SACHA to raise funds is my way of saying, we are all in this together and together we will rise. This is me reaching my hands out to you on my behalf, on the behalf of the women in my community who are trying to heal all alone, on behalf of the children carrying terrible pain and suffering alone; we need each other and that includes you.
Your funds will go directly to SACHA to support their excellent counselling programs in the Hamilton area. Every day their 24 Hour Support Line handles phone calls from men and women in crisis, needing support, attention and care. SACHA offers free counselling to any person who has experienced sexual violence at any point in their lives who find themselves in the middle of a healing process they can’t manage alone. People like me. You probably know the statistics, you’ve heard the conversation, maybe you’ve even be a part of it. Here’s another opportunity for you to take a step in the right direction.
Support me, I am asking to lean on your shoulders.
Support us, we are asking to lean on your shoulders.
Whether you can donate to the cause, or simply share, all that you can give is so deeply appreciated. At the end of the day, simply being seen and recognized as human is all any of us have ever wanted. See me. See us.
Together we will rise.
If you would like to read more about me and my story, I would be so delighted and honoured if you visited my blog at Survivor Rising.
And thank you, so much, from me and from all of us.