Ruth Parkinson’s Poem & Story of Survival!

I want to offer a special thank you to Ruth Parkinson for writing her poem & story of survival and becoming a part of our “Abuse me. Why?” campaign to educate the public regarding abuse issues. These survivor poems and stories are also being publicized to help other survivors learn that they are not alone.

Tend to Your Garden

Tend to your garden she said,

So, I sacrificed myself for my children.

Tend to your garden she said,

So, I found a job and studied.

Tend to your garden she said,

So, I tried to fix myself.

Tend to your garden she said,

So, I sought a spiritual path.

Tend to your garden she said,

So, I tried harder.

Tend to your garden she said,

So, I looked for my gifts and talents.

Tend to your garden she said,

So, I worked on my relationships.

Tend to your garden she said,

So, I nurtured myself.

Now you understand she said,

As I tended to my garden.

Ruth Parkinson’s story of survival

I was brought up in a controlling, fear-based, fundamentalist religion. Obedience was revered as the height of spirituality and saying ‘no’ was the ultimate in rebellion. Unsurprisingly, boundaries were completely foreign to me which left me vulnerable to anyone who might want to use and abuse me.

On top of this, both my parents were neglectful and abusive. My father was a perfectionist and always angry. He never spoke, but always yelled and I was terrified of him. He would yell things like ‘accidents don’t happen!’ and bang our heads together or tell us to pull our pants down and give us a belting. Nothing was ever good enough for him. One of my clearest memories of him is the look of disgust on his face when he looked at me. I tried hard to be good and as quiet as possible, not only because I feared him, but because I desperately wanted his approval. I have strived most of my life to be the best at everything I do because I felt so defective that I needed to be better just to feel equal.

My mum was chronically depressed, and I became a mother to her as well as my younger siblings. I developed a strong sense of responsibility for anything that went wrong around me. I felt responsible for other people’s needs and emotions whilst denying my own. I carried this through into adulthood when I got married and became a mother to six children. My whole identity was wrapped up in taking care of others.

As a teenager, I had no self-esteem or confidence. I had a lot of anger and at age sixteen I told my mum, ‘I’m sick of being good!’ and began drinking every day and sleeping with any man who wanted me. My parents kicked me out of home, and I was homeless for a year, sleeping in strangers’ beds or their couches. I thought of suicide daily but was too afraid to do it as I believed that I would burn in hell for all eternity. Probably the only good thing that came out of my fundamentalist upbringing.

Thankfully, for me, my twin sister fell in love with a man who lived interstate and she asked me to move there with her. I enthusiastically grabbed this opportunity for a fresh start and gave up drinking overnight. I started working and then studying and my life felt like it was back on track.

A couple of years later I met and married a very controlling man who was involved in the same religion that I had been brought up in. We both believed that God created women to serve men and that wives should obey their husbands. He took it to the next level though and treated me as someone who had no thoughts, feelings or needs of her own. I was essentially nothing more than a slave!

I wasn’t allowed any money or friends and I rarely left the house without him. The children and I had to ask him permission for everything, literally even a piece of paper! One hundred percent of the time when I asked him for something, he would interrogate me for half an hour about why I needed it and he would always say ‘no’ at first, but sometimes, he would later change his mind and allow me to have it. As you can imagine this was extremely humiliating and soul-destroying.

My life revolved around him and raising our six children without any help from him or anyone else. I also homeschooled. He was violent with our children, often beating them with a stick so hard that they would get welts. I tried hard to keep the children out of his way in order to protect them. I was repeating the same pattern I had developed when I was a child trying to protect myself and my siblings from our dad.

After ten years of marriage, I started feeling like I was going insane, so I made an attempt to leave and move to my mum’s house with the children. When he realized what was going on, he stepped in and wouldn’t allow me to take the children. There was no way I was leaving my kids – they were my world – so I stayed.

By this stage, I had become so dissociated to cope with the situation that I would often feel like I was going to leave my body. This was terrifying, but I always managed to bring myself back by focusing on taking care of my children. A hatred towards my husband began to grow in me. Whenever he was late from work, I would hope that he had had a car accident and died and I would visualize the police knocking at my door. I saw this as my only way out. I didn’t know at that stage that there was help available for women in my situation.

After my sixth child was born, I had a breakdown. I still, only just, managed to take care of my children, but could no longer keep our home clean. I cried every day many times, day and night, and pleaded with God constantly to rescue me. On one of these occasions, I turned to my husband and begged him to help me. He just looked at me for a moment and then kept watching as though nothing had happened. For some reason, he was unable to see what was happening right in front of him. His only response during this time was to get angry at me for not keeping the house clean. I started to feel like I was slowly dying on the inside.

Then, one day, my husband started talking about moving to the other side of the country. He planned to go over on his own with our eldest child, find a job and accommodation and then the rest of the children and I would join him. After he had been there for a couple of months, it suddenly dawned on me that I had received my answer to prayer; he was out of my life! I felt so liberated, literally like I had been let out of jail. I was ecstatic at the possibility of a new life for me and my children. I still remember that feeling like it was yesterday.

Every time I thought about living with him again, terror would seize me and I just knew that I couldn’t do it. So, when he called to say that he was ready for us to move over, I simply told him I wasn’t coming. He said that he would come back then, and I said ‘no’ for the first time in our marriage. I think about that time as my ‘miracle’. He could have chosen to force his way back into my life, which would have been completely in line with his controlling nature, but he didn’t.

Since then, so much about me has changed or is in the process of changing. I have had a lot of therapy and worked a lot on myself. The road to recovery has been long and hard, but year by year it gets a little easier as I learn to love myself more. Today, I am not only free of my husband but also the destructively warped beliefs that I was brought up with and my dad’s critical, hateful voice in my head. I no longer need to be the best. I am enough just as I am. I do still live with fear. It has been my constant companion throughout life, but that too is changing, and I am enjoying more and more moments of calm. I have learned that to nurture myself is my number one priority and that I must speak and live MY truth, not someone else’s!

Again, thank you, Ruth Parkinson, for writing your poem & story to help other victims know that they are not alone. And, for becoming a part of our “Abuse me. Why?” campaign geared to educating the public on abuse issues and helping other survivors know that they are not alone. Please feel free to contact me anytime if you would like to become one of our featured survivors who has art, a song, or a story that would educate or lift the spirits of survivors across the globe.


Dr. Speer, Ph.D., CLC, CDRC, Legal Advocate

For 24/7 Support, & to attend our next FREE “Abuse me. Why?” Live Support Group, follow the link to our FB “Abuse me. Why?” Trauma Survivors Support Group.

Sandra Speer, Ph.D. is a world-renowned Author, Keynote Speaker, and Certified Life Coach and Disaster Recovery Coach who offers Seminars, Group and Personal Coaching designed to show all how to move beyond their past to live happy and successful lives.  Dr. Speer knows from personal experience as a survivor of a lifetime of abuse, that recovery brings happiness and chances for unlimited success.  As a Legal Advocate, Dr. Speer strives to ensure that abusers are punished.  Nothing makes her happier than watching prosecuting attorneys go to jail, children return to their right parent, and individuals find justice with her assistance.  If you need to charge, fight the system, or in need of making a complaint against a doctor, mental health practitioner, corporation, or institution; Dr. Speer has the experience needed to win your case.  Her publications include The Remains of Hurricane Katrina with various articles written as a contributing journalist for educational books and publications, FEMA, and the American Red Cross to help all understand Trauma.

I am looking forward to meeting you!
Dr. Sandra Speer, Ph.D., CLC, CDRC, Legal Advocate