It's been 3 days since the article opening up about my childhood abuse was published, and I'm completely blown away by the love and support I received. The kind words of encouragement, the thoughtful messages, and the overall care that I've been shown have left me feeling incredibly humbled. I don't think I will ever be able to convey what it has meant to me.
Sharing my story wasn't easy. But it was necessary to my own healing.
I've always been an oversharer. I don't hold my cards close to the vest, my face is an open book, and I'm generally pretty vocal about things going on in my life - good or bad.
But the knowledge of my abuse was different. After I recovered the memories, stopped hyperventilating, and sat there slack-jawed, I had this sudden urge to shove everything I just uncovered back down. I didn't want the memories to leave our room, I didn't want to have to say the words, "I was sexually abused" to anyone, ever. When my husband gently urged me to call my parents, panic set in and I didn't know how I was going to be able to tell them.
During the trauma and the years we continued to live in that neighborhood, I lived in a world with two realities, one where I knew I was being abused and the other, I wasn't. I spent much of my 8 to 10 years of age fluctuating between confusion and anguish for the situation I was in, and utter denial.
I never wanted to burden my parents.
It was late, around 11 o'clock when I summoned the courage to call them. My mom was asleep and my dad woke her up. I was crying, she didn't know what was going on. At the time, I wished that my mom could read my mind through the phone and know everything that had happened without me having to say the words. I managed to say, “insert her name here" through the tears, and my mom was grasping for words, confused at what I was trying to say. I vaguely remember mumbling through tears, “Please don't make me say it."
They were shocked. These things don't happen to families like ours. My parents were very involved in my childhood, they always made me feel loved and appreciated, I never wanted for anything and I always felt safe. No one could have predicted that this woman was capable of what she did. She was a soft-spoken, middle-class soccer mom, and an elementary school teacher. There was no reason to suspect she was anything other than what she presented herself to be.
My parents did everything in their power to protect me and keep me safe, but she was able to find a way past their protection. It didn't matter how healthy, functional and good our family was.
Although the period of my abuse is hazy and confusing, one thing remained clear - I didn't want my parents to have to deal with any of this. So it was crushing, to finally tell them something I had locked away for 15 years.
Once I told my parents, it became real. Now I had to go on with my life. I had to get up for work in the morning. I had to have dinner with friends. I had to clean my house and do laundry and cook. Life couldn't stop. My husband eventually fell asleep, and I lay there, my mind processing through what just happened.
I don't remember much of the day after. I went to work in a haze, and immediately let my boss know the condensed version, as I didn't expect to stay the entire day. I worked three hours before I couldn't hold it together any longer and drove to my parents' house, where I laid in bed for two hours waiting for my therapist to call me back.
The following weeks and months are a blur, but I know that with every new family member or friend that I shared my story with, the more in control of the situation I felt. There were a lot of “that makes sense" reactions. I had struggled with so many of the telltale symptoms of abuse for so long, that when the memories were uncovered there seemed to be a collective “aha" moment by the people in my life.
As I've matured, I am more careful about what I share and who I share things with.
But I don't see sharing my trauma publicly as crossing a boundary. I was sexually abused. It really stinks that it happened, it's hard to deal with sometimes, and I will always have to live with the effects of abuse to some degree.
My husband has Asperger's and was diagnosed as an adult. When he got the diagnosis he said, “I know what my enemy is now, so I can combat it." The abuse and its effects are my enemies.
It's a daily fight to combat my demons, but I've come a long way. Through my faith, therapy, support of my loved ones, and now, sharing my story, I feel more in control than I've felt in a really long time.
My therapist once said: the more you share your story, the less power it holds over you.
Writing has always been therapeutic for me. When I started writing for Odyssey, I never expected to get as personal as I have with these last two articles. But I have this platform, I love to write, and my hope is that someone out there reading this, feels less alone.
Thank you for supporting me on this journey.
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