It’s been an emotional 4 months since my last blog post. I have cried many tears. I have felt sad, angry, resentful, overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, fearful, a mixture of emotions. At times, when I was feeling at my absolute worst, I even struggled to see whether life was worth living any more. But today, as I write, I am filled with so much hope. I’m smiling. Today, I’d like to tell everyone out there reading this what I’ve been up to for the past 4 months.
Living with a painful secret
As many of you already know, I’ve always been a very positive person. I always find it easy to see the bright side to everything. I find it easy to see the good in people. I’m resilient – I bounce back quite easily. But for most of my life, I have been living with a really painful secret.
I was sexually abused from the ages of about 6 years old to 11 years old. By someone very close to me. I am now 27 years old. I was forced into silence by this person. I suffered alone for 20 years. I didn’t tell a single soul until just 7 months ago.
There was nobody I trusted to tell. Nobody I thought that would believe me or care. As a child, I would lock myself in my room and cry. Alone. Thinking to myself, “I wish I could tell someone. Anyone. I wish someone would care.”
But this person absolutely terrified me. I blamed myself for what happened. I told myself that I just had to ‘get over it’.
So, that’s what I tried to do. I tried to ‘get over it’. I lived a happy life. I got married. I had 3 children. I made a successful career out of writing and I returned to study.
What hurt the most about keeping this secret was having to keep up with the lies. Being forced to see my abuser. Putting a smile on my face around him when he’d done unimaginable acts to me. Acts that many adults would even refuse to do.
The turning point
But the turning point came 7 months ago when I did a First Aid training course.
I was triggered at this course. I couldn’t get the abuse out of my mind. I walked away with a certificate in my hand, but I was crying. I drove home with tears falling down my face. I couldn’t do it any more. I couldn’t pretend that what my abuser did to me didn’t matter – because it did. It mattered because I mattered.
My loving husband let me take my time. We went into our bedroom, shut the door and I cried. I stumbled over my words. I went back and forth, changing my mind about whether I should tell him.
Then I did it. I said the words that I never thought I’d say. I said the words that the 6 year old part of me wanted to say 20 years ago. I said the words that I had been keeping inside, to the detriment of my own happiness.
That was 7 months ago and even as I recall that first disclosure, I cry. I cry because I remember the pain, the anxiety, the fear of me revealing the most deepest and truest part of myself. The part of me that I was so ashamed about. The part of me that I never wanted to reveal to anyone.
But, on the other hand, I remember that day as the first real day of the rest of my life.
Finally living as me
Photo Credit: kongsky / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Since disclosing this to my husband, I have disclosed my pain to many others. 3 months ago, I chose to publicly disclose it.
I no longer feel shame the way I used to. I no longer blame myself, I blame him. I no longer feel worthless and a ‘piece of crap’ like I have felt for most of my life.
I finally feel free. I feel absolutely amazing.
I started counselling back in December. And it’s been one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made. My counsellor, who is also a psychologist, has told me that I have Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Social Anxiety. As I am training to become a Youth Worker, this diagnosis doesn’t surprise me at all. But it does reinforce that what happened to me shouldn’t have happened. I didn’t deserve this. And I’m not to blame for this.
And most importantly, I have lived with this for 20 years and still continued to lead such a rewarding and fulfilling life. I am so strong and I will be OK.
I remember when I first starting counselling and my counsellor heard my story. She heard each and every detail about the abuse. She listened to how it’d affected me and how I felt about myself. She listened to the open heart I had for others, my kindness, my ability to see the good in everyone. She listened to how my true passion in life has always been to help others.
And you know what she said? She said,
“You will be OK. You have extraordinary strength to have gotten this far.”
She spoke with such confidence that I believed her. I have never stopped believing her.
The ONE thing always in your control
People have asked me how I did it. How did I keep this secret inside for 20 years and grow up to be such a kind and loving person? How did I hold such traumatic pain inside my heart and still look at life so positively?
Because I’ve always known the ONE thing that is always in your control – your attitude.
A few weeks ago, my husband looked at a childhood photo of mine and commented with amazement, “In your photos, you’re always smiling. Now that I know what happened to you, I can imagine how much it hurt to smile. You’re amazing.”
This is what I told him:
“No matter what happened in my life, I continued to smile. Even now, I choose to smile. You can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control what happens with the rest of your life.”
Since speaking up about my abuse, I have realised how much my husband, my young children, my friends, my in-laws – absolutely love and care for me. I have had a friend cook dinner for my family. Another friend baking me cookies. I have had loved ones giving me hugs and listening to me cry.
I have realised that every negative thought that I ever believed about myself – isn’t true. I’m not any of those hurtful things.
I am an incredibly strong person and I am destined for so many great things. Within a year, I will be a qualified Youth Worker and I’ll be helping kids believe that there is always hope.
So, please, let my life be a living example that there is ALWAYS hope after child sexual abuse. Even if the abuser was someone very close to you. Even if your abuser tries to shut you up and threatens to take you to court. Even if the abuser gets support from the people who should be supporting you.
Remember your worth. Don’t spend your life trying to make other people happy. Don’t put yourself and your needs last. Do what’s best for you.
Regardless of whether you’ve suffered trauma like me or are simply going through a challenging time at the moment – please hang in there. Please believe that things will get better.
I used to wish I could have told my 11 year old self, “You will be OK. You will be happy one day. You will be married, have kids, have a rewarding career. You will feel good about yourself. Don’t give up.”
Then I realise – I wouldn’t have needed to tell my 11 year old self that. Because I got through it all on my own 🙂
Let my strength remind you that you are strong. You will get through whatever pain that you are going through. And you will come out a stronger, wiser version of yourself.
My loved ones always tell my three children, “You girls are so lucky. You have an amazing Mum.”
It feels good to finally believe that they do 🙂