November 18th, 1995, 18 years ago today, I boarded a plane in Atlanta by myself. I was finally getting away from the abuse. However, it took me years of on again/off again therapy and just simple time to finally free me of it. Perhaps that is still a work in progress.
At 14, I was handed a plane ticket and told I was going to live with my Mom and sister in NY. I was so conflicted. I was finally getting what I had always wanted, which was to be with my Mom, but at the cost of leaving everything and everyone I ever knew. As an adult now, I see this decision for what it really was. It was the coward’s choice. It was easier to send me away than admit and deal with the now exposed fact that for the last eight years of my life, I had been sexually abused by a family member, a man that was supposed to be my main protector. That choice taught me that I wasn’t worth fighting for.
Since becoming mature enough to understand the significance of that move in my life, I have dubbed today my re-birthday. This year I’m choosing to celebrate big. I’m choosing to unload the weight this secret has put on me. I know a lot of people will ask why tell such a secret? I tell it because secrets that hurt people aren’t supposed to be kept. This particular secret is hurting me. This shameful secret is a cancer on my spirit and it’s just finally time to let it go.
I’m tired of whispering about it. I’m tired of the misconception that what happened to me is rare. I am the statistical 1 in 3. Let that sink in for a minute. 1 in freakin’ 3. I’m tired of not acknowledging that being sexually abused has effected almost every aspect of my being including being a Mom. I’m tired of making sure the spine of my survivor self help books are not showing to ensure my company does not suspect I am damaged goods. I’m tired of this being the one subject that I won’t talk about.
People that could ignite a conversation about this are
not seeing ignoring the correlation between sexual abuse and addiction, self harm, psychiatric disorders and generational dysfunction. Between working in the field of mental health, and personal relationships, I have witnessed the common thread. I would dare say at least half of the “mental health patients” I work with have a history of being sexually assaulted. It is no coincidence that survivirs rotate through the broken mental health system.
At 32, I have learned how to mourn the girl I was at birth. I’ll never truly know her because the abuse killed any chance of her becoming who she would have been, in a sense, it killed her. I can’t say I’ll ever be “ok” with that but I have made progress on making peace with it. Being sexually abused at six years old, and for such a long time after that, created grooves in my brain that were never suppose to be there. It caused my system to go haywire at an age that I wasn’t able to process it being any thing other than normal. It created confusion and a lack of understanding of what safety, love, self worth, and healthy sexuality is supposed to be. Becoming a teenager only heightened everything and the residual affects of my child hood abuse led me down one too many dangerous paths. It poisoned me with shame, fear, anger and a lack of self worth that has lingered for far too long.
The abuse made me not who I am but how I am. Who I am is more than the parts of what happened to me. Figuring that piece out allowed me to make the transition from victim to survivor. Letting it all go has been the hard part.
For today, I will celebrate…maybe even get crazy and bake a cake. I will recognize the blessing that was that horrible, poor decision made 18 years ago today. I will let myself acknowledge the hell I went through and recognize the woman I have become, only in part, because of it.