A special note to the women who read this, especially the women I went to school with: As a teenager and young woman, I didn’t know how to be with other girls. I only knew how to be with boys/men. I never felt good enough, pretty enough, or like I belonged, even when I was part of the majorette team, and I was competitive and aggressive in a very masculine way. I’ve made it one of my life missions to heal the feminine wound, and to reunite the sisterhood that we all, as women, share.
I’ve just reclaimed a huge piece of my past… a piece I haven’t been interested in revisiting for over 25 years. A few weeks after being added to a secret Facebook group called “Fresno High Friends,” I decided to reveal my identity as the former Kim Gammel in the group by posting my senior portrait and a group pic of the majorette team that I was on in 1978.
I took a very deep breath before doing so. Would this be a waste of time and energy, a big ol’ black hole? What inner demons might emerge to taunt me about that horrible time in my life when I had few friends and zero self-esteem? I took that breath and went for it, and I’m so glad I did!
I fled Fresno High a couple of times, once in my junior year (for part of the school year) and then in January of 1980, having passed the GED. I said no goodbyes either time. I just bolted.
Let’s rewind the cassette tape back a decade. My mom had divorced and remarried a violent and abusive man. There was physical, emotional, and sexual abuse that went on for 5 years, and that marriage broke up when I was 10. I had been threatened not to tell, and I didn’t… even after he was long gone. I turned it inward and hated myself.
The sexual abuse impacted me in a very particular way. I had no sexual boundaries and after my first post-abuse sexual encounter in my sophomore year, on some level I realized that I now had the power and no one would ever have power over me again. That power grew into a monster over time.
I drew troubled relationships to me, no surprise there. The boy I dated for much of my sophomore year had a nervous breakdown while we were together. I kept all of this secret, as I had been taught to do. Everything was closely guarded and on the sly. I had to shield myself from the shame.
In the summer between 10th and 11th grade, some friends of the family came for a visit, and invited me to come live with them in Sacramento. I imagine that I was complaining about how awful I had it at home, and they took pity on me. The excuse of the moment was that I could not get along with my sister (1 year younger). To illustrate this: I had done a nasty piece of work at the end of the previous school year, during majorette tryouts. My sister was coming in as a sophomore and trying out for the team. I told the coach that I could not be on the same team with her. She didn’t make the team. However, by deciding to move to Sacramento, I gave up my spot and she was placed on the team. I forgave myself a long time ago for that.
During the conversation with my mom and the next stepdad, I told them why I wanted to move away. I felt like a “black sheep.” I didn’t fit in. And somehow during that discussion, the truth finally came pouring out about the sexual abuse. My mom was petrified. Seriously, she could not move or act. I received no help or support, though there was talk of bringing criminal charges. Thankfully, that was abandoned. I was 16.
I moved out of my house and fled Fresno, running hard and fast from my demons. I had peace for a little while, at a new school where no one knew me. I had a boyfriend in Roseville who was very sweet and kind and had a stable family, and that was a very supportive environment. But eventually, I got tired of being a perpetual guest in someone else’s house.
I moved back home and went back to Fresno High partway through my junior year. Someone told me that there was a rumor that I had been pregnant and that was why I left (I was shocked then, but of course it’s no surprise in retrospect). I’ll put that to rest right now. That was not the case. I just ran away when the opportunity presented itself.
Now I had a driver’s license and a car, an old yellow Chevy station wagon my dad gave me. I went down the “stoner” road, smoking cigarettes and drinking Boone’s Farm jug wine when it could be had. I spent evenings dirty dancing at Electra disco and cruising Belmont. And the sexual monster grew.
When the chance to take the GED showed up in my senior year, I grabbed it. I was down to 4 classes and had straight A’s in all of them, but I was bored. My family and home had completely broken up and scattered, and it was time to get out of Dodge once and for all. I can still remember walking out of Fresno High for the last time in January of 1980.
I took a job at China Peak Ski Area, living in the dorms, and the sex-drugs-rock n roll lifestyle kicked in full force. I had also reconnected with my troubled boyfriend from 10th grade. He asked me to marry him and I said yes. Then, I went off for my second season at China Peak and immediately took up with a guy there. I realized that I had a problem… but in that moment, I pushed it away and decided to deal with it later. I broke off the engagement.
I did go to the Fresno High class of ’80 ten year reunion with my then-husband. All my demons came up in my face and I didn’t have the tools to deal with them then. It was a rough night, my husband didn’t really want to be there, and we were all 28ish years old… still posturing and preening and competing. It makes me appreciate the wisdom and self-love that’s come with getting older.
Fast forward the cassette tape to 1998. Two broken marriages filled with addiction and co-dependency, and I hit rock bottom. I self-diagnosed as a sex addict and started seeking help. It was hard to find in the small town I lived in in the Sierras, so I carved out my own healing methods. It took several years for me to get “clean,” but I was committed to healing, and there was no turning back. It was a gradual process and I took many non-traditional paths. Foremost was my personal spiritual path, also very non-traditional.
Eventually I realized that after years of therapy, my sexuality still was not completely healed. I found my way to a school that taught sexual healing, and became an avid student of these arts. It made a huge difference for me and finally addressed the abuse and addiction on a visceral, physical level instead of just talk, talk, talk. I became a practitioner, helping women overcome sexual abuse.
The name change came with the reclaiming of my feminine nature through the sexual healing work. I changed it legally before moving to Maui in 2006. It was a reflection of becoming a whole new being, changed and healed. I changed it all, first, middle, and last, to Amrita Divine Grace.
In 2009, I published a book to help guide people that had experienced childhood sexual abuse to healing and wholeness. It’s called “Reclaiming Aphrodite-The Journey to Sexual Wholeness.” It won an a award. I gave away over 1000 downloads. It’s on Amazon in book form and Kindle.
It was through the sacred sexuality work that I met my Beloved, Apollo. I was living on Maui and we met in Sedona at a sacred sexuality conference. We had a long-distance but very connected relationship for 2 years, then he moved to Maui and we got married in 2011.
In 2013, I was diagnosed with stage 2B breast cancer. I knew exactly why I had drawn the cancer into my experience, and healed that aspect very quickly. I was cancer-free in less than 3 months, and I had a very easy, uplifting experience with cancer. (I know, that sounds weird, but it’s true.) I had a double mastectomy and a beautiful reconstruction that used my belly fat to create new breasts… no implants. I said no to chemo and radiation.
In December of 2015 we moved from Maui to Western North Carolina (Smoky Mountains) and bought a house (something we could not do on Maui). We are still settling in, and I’m investigating what’s next for me in the realm of helping others have better experiences with healing and recovery from cancer and from sexual abuse. Maybe there’s even a connection. I know that all the sexual healing work I did made a huge impact on my cancer recovery.
Here we are, back to the beginning of the story. Several people have reached out to me in the Facebook group, and I’m remembering that yes, I did actually have some friends. It was not a waste of time or energy. On the contrary, it’s been a huge healing for me to reconnect with this piece of my past. And my heart is open to receiving the love that I could not receive back then… in high school. The outpouring of love and compassion as I’ve shared my story has rocked my world and touched me deeply.
Thank you for sharing this journey with me. I welcome your comments below.
Love & blessings, Amrita Grace, formerly Kim Gammel, Class of 1980 Fresno High