Amy’s Story: How I Learned I Matter

by Gloria Feldt on December 18th, 2010
in Power Tools, Tell Your Story and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Sit down. Pour yourself a cup of tea and know that you are going to need some time to read author Amy Ferris’s story slowly and carefully. It will sear you. It will uplift you. I encourage you to write your thoughts about it here too. Thank you, Amy for sharing it.

First, here’s the cover note Amy sent to me, inviting me to post it so all of you could read it too, then her essay in full:

i wrote this essay about a week, week and half ago, on the advice of my amazing therapist. i have been dealing with such deep shame, deep doubt… and she helped me pull this up and out. and on the page.
righting my life. or … writing my life. as the case may be.
i’ve sent it to 3 people for both a reaction and their advice where to place it/put it. three amazing writer friends – two who are survivors, and one who just came out. they were – without sounding too bloated – absolutely amazed by this essay. they were so taken aback by my truth, my story… this piece.
i wanted to send it to you, after seeing on your blog that you are asking for stories.
this is my story.
it’s very painful.
it’s very raw.
it’s very liberating.
i am so fucking proud to have been able to write it, say it, share it, give it, open up an heart or two. make a difference.
i hope it saves many, many lives.
and i hope, deeply, more than anything, that my story gives women courage to stand in their truth, to tell their story … and that they too realize that their lives matter oh so much.

much love to you!
(I LOVE YOUR BOOK! it’s my christmas gift this year for my women friends!) (OK, I had to leave that last part in! GF)

I do not matter.

I am seven years old.

I am burning. My vagina is burning. I am scared and in pain and it is the middle of the night and I start to scream. My vagina is on fire. It burns and I can feel like my insides are exploding. I have an infection. I have many infections since I can remember. My mother doesn’t come into my room right away. She is right across the hall, a small narrow hall, a size ten shoe length. She can hear me. My dad can hear me.

I am nine years old.

I have an infection. I am peeing and it is burning and I am in pain. I am back at the Pediatrician’s office again, and she tells my mother I have a urinary tract infection again. She tells my mom I need to take cool baths. Not hot, cool. My mother is impatient. Irritable. Smoking. I am in pain. Antibiotics and a soothing cream and cool baths. I am sad and unhappy and in pain.

We stop at Orbach’s so my mom can go shopping. She tries on shifts and shoes and sweater sets. I am in pain and I am uncomfortable and I smile at my mom so she doesn’t get upset with me. She tries on clothes and I sit on a stool and I keep my legs wide apart, so I don’t rub my thighs together because that will irritate my burning vagina more.

We go home.

My mom tells my dad she didn’t find anything at Orbach’s. He asks how I am, she says, she’s fine. She is fine.

I do not matter.

My neighbors, Eddie and James, come over and want to play Doctor. I am eleven or twelve years old.

They are twins, and they are my age, and so, we play Doctor in my backyard. They crack and snap the branches off from the tree and stick the branches up my vagina. I am the patient. They are the Doctors. They tell me that Doctors can stick branches and stuff up a girls “thing” so that they can take her temperature. My mother doesn’t take my temperature in my vagina I say. They say, no, no, you can do this. I know they’re wrong. I don’t tell my mother that Eddie and James came over to play doctor. She’s watching The Mike Douglas Show, and she does not want to be interrupted when she is watching television.

I do not matter.

My finger doesn’t heal. It is crooked and bent and misshapen. I was running and playing, whooping it up with my friends when Andy fell on me by accident and I could hear the snap and the crack, just like a tree branch snapping in half, and it hurt and I ran up the hill and screamed, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, but Mommy was playing mah-jongg and she shooed me away and I went into the Bungalow and she came in, and pulled open the metal ice tray and wrapped my hand in ice, and made me promise, “cross your heart,” that I would sit there like a good girl, and she went back to finish the game, and I heard the ice cream truck, and I heard my mom and my aunt ask for “creamsicle pops,” and sometime later, my mother placed the two perfectly clean licked pop sticks on my middle finger and taped it with scotch tape and that was that.

My finger never healed.

I do not matter.

She gave my brand new Barbie, my brand new “still in the box,” Barbie to my cousin Debbie. She forgot, she said – it slipped her mind – to get my cousin a gift for Hanukah. So when she asked my Aunt what Debbie wanted, it seemed that she wanted what I had. She gave Debbie my brand new, still in the box, Barbie Doll and promised she would get me a brand new one, “Cross my heart,” she said. I never got the new one, the one with the black and white two- piece. Maybe she didn’t look hard enough, or maybe she went to a store that didn’t have Barbie dolls, like Orbach’s. I must have asked a million times but she did not like my asking over and over and over. It annoyed her.

I do not matter.

Awful horrible, bad, first time, painful, eyes shut, squirming sex. He didn’t love me. He hardly knew me. We had sex. I was 14, he was older and while he was moaning and groaning and saying please, baby, please, oh, yes, baby…. on the Zenith black and white television that was tucked in the corner of the room, Janet Leigh was getting bludgeoned to death in the shower while I was losing my virginity at the exact same time. He was older, an artist and he hung out at Max’s Kansas City and the Ninth Circle, and he wanted to paint me and told me I looked like, reminded him of …a younger, much younger, Ultra Violet, an Andy Warhol starlet. I was fourteen and lanky and had curly sexy mop-y hair and wore lots of make-up and mascara. He was my friend Stephen’s older brother and …

I. Gave. It. Up. For. Him.

I wanted to say no.

I do not matter.

I sat there with a few other girls my age. None of us talked. Names were called. Forms were filled out. Money was exchanged. Names were called again. Nurses took your vitals. You were given a robe. You undressed. You waited. You were asked, “Are you sure?” You said, ”Yes.” More waiting. Then you get called. Rolled in. A needle. The anesthesia kicks in. Count back from one hundred.



Ninety seven, Ninety-six. Ninety-five. Ninety-four.

Nine. Ty.

Thr. Ee.

Ni. Ne. Ty.



You wake up. You think it’s been forever, but it’s only fifteen, twenty minutes later. Groggy. Alone. Scared. The gown is bloody. I’m wearing a kotex napkin. Bulky. I ache, and I’m empty. Sad emoty. Alone empty. And I look around, and see on either side, the same as me. Bloody gowns. Groggy. Scared, and the nurse comes in with some juice and offers a sip, “here the straw, your lips are dry, sip…. sip… lift your head, sip. Atta girl.” She takes my pulse and checks my vitals and says everything is fine. “Everything went fine,” she says. I didn’t think to ask “boy or girl?” or did you know? Or could you tell just yet?

You lie there.

You wait.

No one is coming to get you.

You’re young.

You had secrets.

Scary, lonely, shameful secrets.

You get rid of those secrets.

You get dressed.

Fill out more forms.

Atta girl, one more time.

You leave.

You are empty.

You are head to toe fucking empty.

You cry and cry and cry, snot nose cry.

You are young and scared and you didn’t say no.

No, I can’t. No, I don’t want to. No, I don’t like you. No, I don’t want to have sex. No. Thank you. No.

I do not matter.

And I leave home.

And fly away.

I am young and scared and have no sense of myself, and I am filled with shame and guilt and make up stories about my life because god forbid I should tell the truth and then NO ONE WILL EVER LIKE ME. No one. I will say I am this and that and come from here and there and no one will know. No one. Because no one will care enough to ask more questions.

I am young.

I am lost.

I say yes again, and one more time.

One. More. Time.

This time the pain is unbearable because of the constant bladder and urinary infections and pelvic inflammatory disease and a rupture and tear and holy shit, I HAVE ABUSED MYSELF.


I have hurt my own body. I have torn my own body. I have given it away and tossed it away and I have stood naked in front of a stranger and I have said, here… here… here… and now I am in pain, excruciating pain, and the doctor asks me if I am sure, ARE YOU SURE, and I say, YES, and he says fine, and I am given a Demerol, and a drip, and I am asked to count backwards from 100 and I count to eighty two because I am so ashamed and frightened and then I wake up and I feel so completely alone.

Some juice, some warmth, some compassion, a soft smile, a nod, a comforting hand. “Take care,” she says, the nurse. “I don’t know how to,” I tell her.

You start with NO, she says. Mean it. Say it. Repeat it. No. No. NO. NO. No.

I try. I slip.

I do not matter.

More lies, more doubt, more shame, more guilt, more drugs, more men, more to store away and hide.

I am pinned against the wall.

He is angry. Enraged. Vile. Mean. It’s in his eyes. They are bulging.

He tells me he doesn’t love me. I tell him I don’t care.


End of story.

End of bad story.

I do not love him.

I do not want to spend one more moment lying in bed next to him, fucking him, sitting in a restaurant with him, sharing popcorn with him, driving in a car with him, waiting on line at the supermarket with him, ordering sushi with him, going to the movies with him, watching TV with him, cooking a meal with him, giving him a blow job, getting on planes and trains with him, visiting our families – his family, my family – with him.

I do not love him.

Why did you stay so long he asks me.

I was lazy I tell him.

I say it.


I grab hold of his hands, which are pressing down on my clavicles, and I say to him: I do not want to be with you any more. Not one more day. Not one more minute. I am not staying here.



I grab a few things. Small things. Personal things. Enough things. I grab my purse, my cash, my jewelry, my beads from my altar, a couple of tee’s, and jeans, and the clothes on my back.

I get in my car and I drive and drive and drive.

And I drive.

And that day, at 7:52 PM


I begin to matter.

No going back.

And yes, oh god yes, I slip sometimes.

Backwards. But I catch myself. I grab the railing, or the step, or the handlebar… or my husband.

And I feel scared and ashamed and shameful and doubtful and the self-loathing bubbles up, I am sometimes, but not often, brought back to moments. Memories, times that hurt so deep, that cut so fucking deep that I can actually feel as if my ribs are cracking. I can barely breathe.

I am sometimes, but not often, reminded of that young girl filled with such god-awful pain, crippling self-doubt, no self-esteem what so ever. None. She wanted … to be included, to please someone, to fix someone, to make it better, to mend someone’s heart and soul.

To be seen. To be heard.

To be visible.

To belong.

To fit in.

To be loved.

Please. Oh please. Please. Please. Please.


Here. Over here. Yes, Me. Here. Yeah, me. Love me. Please. Pretty please, with a cherry, man, on top.

She did not believe she mattered.

She was wrong.

Everything she did – EVERY. SINGLE. THING. SHE. DID -mattered so that someone else, another human being, could feel that they matter.

I matter.

Gloria Feldt

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

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