Invalidating My Truth
I realized, rereading what I was originally going to post here, that I was minimizing my experience. I wasn’t even really writing about it. I was staying on the surface, flitting around, not getting to any more profound level. I was, I don’t know what I was trying to do. Make it easier for people to read/hear my message? Make it easier for me to share?
While writing this, I did realize what I was doing. I was playing out the narrative in my head. The one that says the abuse wasn’t that bad. Or that I should “just get over it.” And the very old thought loop, “Why am I making a big deal out this? It’s not a big deal. It is a big deal.” And by writing in a minimizing way I am doing a disservice to myself and to those who will read this.
Minimizing my story only teaches others that my story is not worth their time. If it is not worth my time to write the truth, why should anyone else give their time reading it? Exactly. They wouldn’t.
Wrestling with Shame
There are reasons that I was doing that. I was minimizing and invalidating my own story and my feelings, all while thinking I was sharing (I was not) my story. Why? Am I still trying to protect my abuser? My family? Probably. Part of my “training” as an abused child included keeping the secret to protect the family. Even now, I struggle to push through that.
The real reason that I was minimizing and invalidating my own story is really because of the immense shame that I still feel. I was reading an article by Beverly Engel on Psychology Today, Healing the Shame of Childhood Abuse Through Self-Compassion, and that is what I finally realized. I can call it whatever I want, but at the very core of the issue is that shame.
It’s bullshit. I am a bit mad at myself. I was a child, abused, and alone, and it sucked. I will no longer minimize my experiences. I am so tired of feeling ashamed. I shouldn’t feel ashamed, my abuser should, but he doesn’t. And I know he never will. He still maintains his innocence in my abuse.
Own My Truth
I am scared and nervous to write and share my narrative. To talk about the abuse, I went through in therapy is one thing (and very key to me being able to do this). But to share it in such a public manner is downright frightening. So, why am I pushing myself to do this? Because I feel I have to. It is my purpose.
And denying myself my purpose, as I have realized, was only adding to my anxiety and depression. Not being true to myself, most of my adult life led to a semi-breakdown in 2018. It was not fun, and if I had been honest with myself before then, I would not have had that breakdown. I am glad that I did have it because I could not go on like I was.
I write about it in Find Your Truth. The funny thing about that post, I still hadn’t figured out what my truth was when I wrote that. I was still following a different path. But, that first post led to others, which led me to my purpose. Not all paths end where you thought they would.
Ripping Off Shame Band-Aid
Therefore, in the immortal words of someone, I am going to jump in and tell my truth. There is nothing graphic, so don’t worry about what you are about to read. I don’t remember a lot but what I do, I know to be true.
This blog is me coming out with my truth. I am not going to dive deeper into these memories just yet. I am not sure that I am ready for that. But you need some information about my early life. Writing about my abuse, even in the broadest of terms, is me ripping off the band-aid of shame.
My father sexually abused me for years. It started, probably before I even really have a memory of it. If I had to try to guesstimate an age, I would say starting at four or five until the day he walked out on us. I think I was ten, maybe eleven. My memories are very, well, fuzzy, I guess, is the best way to describe them. My life ended then. I carry that with me always.
A common myth is that child sexual abuse is perpetrated by strangers and pedophiles. But most people who sexually abuse children are our friends, partners, family members, and community members. About 93 percent of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser.2 Less than 10 percent of sexually abused children are abused by a stranger.3
Walk with Me
I am going to help you walk with me, in my proverbial shoes, for a moment. I would like you to think of your most vulnerable, shameful moment. It can be anything that left you feeling raw, exposed to the world. If you are having a hard time thinking of something, think of that dream where you are naked in a classroom or equally public setting.
Got it? Okay, hold onto that feeling. Now I want you to multiply that feeling by one million. Now, carry that feeling with you as you go about your day. Every day, all day, keep that exposed feeling at the surface of your consciousness.
You want to run from that feeling, don’t you? You want to cover that exposed part of yourself, but you can’t. You are feeling jittery and exhausted all at the same time. What you are feeling only scratches the surface of how I and so many others feel every single day.
Yes, now, as an adult, I still feel that way. But especially as that little child, I had no control over what was happening around me. I could not escape, and so I went about my day, feeling raw and exposed. I had boxed the memories away, but the emotions were always there.
Even as I write this, my vision started to narrow, my heart is racing, tears are forming, I am sick to my stomach, and I am shaking. The feelings of those things stay with me (us) forever. I unconsciously react to even thinking about what I do remember of those moments.
When I allow myself to feel those emotions, like I just did, I feel an overwhelming sadness with those unconscious reactions. Sad that I lost my childhood because I can’t remember most of it. I lost my innocence before I even knew what it was like to be innocent. So many things were taken from me. As I write this, I am crying.
I am letting the tears fall. I am owning those feelings and allowing them to occur. Allowing myself even to feel a little bit is a significant breakthrough for me. I usually push them down, so I don’t have to feel anything. I don’t consciously remember all of the horrid details, but my body does. And that is how I know the truth.
How You Can Help
Wondering what you can do to help the fighters and survivors of childhood abuse? Believe our stories. I am serious. Do not ask, ‘what did you do?’ That is the worst. Because I (we) never did anything to deserve that. By asking that question you are adding to the shame that we already feel.
Being there is the most significant way that you can help. And not just survivors but those in the midst of it now. When someone comes to you with their truth, don’t question, accept. You can ask questions later, but first, that person needs you to hear them. Be there and listen.
Whatever they are telling you isn’t about you. It is about that person. And they are sharing something painful and hard with you. Sharing like that, exposing yourself to someone else, it is really, really hard. They came to you for a reason. You should feel very special that they trust you so much that they are confiding in you. They need your help.
Don’t fuck it up by interjecting your own shit
- Engel, Beverly. Healing the Shame of Childhood Abuse Through Self-Compassion. Psychology Today, January 15, 2015 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-compassion-chronicles/201501/healing-the-shame-childhood-abuse-through-self-compassion. Accessed July 20, 2020
- Child Sexual Abuse Statistics. (2015). Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), https://www.rainn.org/articles/child-sexual-abuse
- YWCA. Child Sexual Abuse Facts. September 2017. https://www.ywca.org/wp-content/uploads/WWV-CSA-Fact-Sheet-Final.pdf. Accessed July 21, 2020