Trigger warning: Child abuse, sexual assault.
Last week was by far, one of the most emotional weeks of my life. I had been building myself up for something, knowing full well that that day would leave me feeling anxious, stressed, emotional, and confused. That day was all those emotions and more.
But I have now jumped that hurdle, climbed that mountain, overcome what I thought I couldn’t overcome.
But did I feel so confident in the lead up to it? Far from it.
Last Monday, I arrived to work with a brave smile on my face. I conquered the day and was very productive. But I knew, deep down inside, that I was not myself.
As the week went on, I began to struggle to hold it together. I reached out to loved ones, to friends, I self cared. I took a bath, did some reading, did some writing, made a conscious decision to return to counselling regularly. Yet, I was consumed by what lay ahead, I couldn’t imagine getting through it.
In my job, I work with children who have experienced extremely high levels of trauma. In conversations I have with them, when they feel they cannot not cope, I often say:
“You know why it’s so hard being your age – being a teen? You haven’t been as lucky as us adults who have already gone through bad stuff and gotten through it. So, I get it. You’re going through some hard stuff and it feels like it will never get better. But it will. I remember feeling just like you, really really down. But you’re strong and you will get through it.”
One of my besties, whose opinion I value deeply, often says during difficult times:
“I’ve been through worse. I know I will be okay.”
And she’s right. She’s hit the nail on the head.
Fact is, I can say, at this point in time, I have experienced much, much worse in my life.
- I have been sexually abused for several years by a family member I thought I could trust. I was not even 10 years old.
- I lived with the abuse alone for 20 years, never feeling comfortable enough to tell anyone.
- My abuser threatened me with legal action for speaking up.
- The police officer who interviewed me told me there was nothing she could do, even though I begged and expressed concern he has a Safety House sticker on his home.
- The first person I ever loved broke me in an absolutely heartbreaking way and reinforced my negative belief that people who claim to love you will eventually leave and hurt you.
- I have been involved in several traumatic life-threatening situations.
- I once lost my job and could not even afford food or even toilet paper. I sat on the ground crying thinking I had failed my children.
- I only have one blood relation that seeks out the effort to talk to me. Everyone else thinks I lied about being sexually abused and has disowned me.
That simple list alone tells me that I have endured more than most people have in a lifetime. And as broken as I may feel at times, I have been able to successfully put myself back together.
If you are going through a difficult time, please know that just like you, I have felt like I was not okay. That I wouldn’t be okay. I have felt so stressed, so overwhelmed, so anxious, so depressed.
But I also want you to know that I am actually exactly where I need to be. That I conquered something really really difficult last week and I am still here to tell the tale. That I am on the right path.
Choosing the “easy” route in life, on the surface, appears to be the more ideal option. We think to ourselves, let’s do what others want of us, let’s do what will make other people happy, let’s neglect and sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others. But where do boundaries come in? Where does self-respect in? Where do our own values, our hopes and dreams factor into all of that?
As much as we want not to hurt others, we have to remember not to hurt ourselves either.
We can’t show others compassion if we aren’t truly compassionate with ourselves.
I’ve made my own mistakes in life, decisions I wish I could take back. Decisions that will haunt me for the rest of my life. But I have owned them, taken responsibility for them. I know I’m not a bad person. I am just human, learning like everyone else, and trying my best to better myself with every friendship, with every relationship, every job, every interaction with my children and with everyone whose path I cross.
Not everyone will agree and support my decisions in life. Not everyone will understand, even if I try to explain it to them. But what matters most is that I can tell myself that I thought deeply about my decisions, that I am ready to face what the implications of the decisions are.
Truth be told, I am a bit emotional, scared, and anxious about what my future holds. But I’m also excited and proud of myself for having come this far. I will be okay.
YOU will be okay.
We will get through this together.
This is the beginning of the rest of your life too 🙂
Thuy Le (formerly known as Thuy Yau) is a freelance writer and Youth Work graduate living in Perth, Australia. She loves to share her own personal experiences about overcoming adversity, as she believes that human beings are more capable than they realise. She writes to make a positive difference in the world and to inspire others to learn from themselves and their own experiences. Her writing has been discussed on radio, won writing contests, appeared on The Huffington Post UK and major Australian sites such as news.com.au, SMH, Kidspot and Essential Kids. She is currently writing her first book.