Pain. Learning. Growth.
This story was submitted anonymously by a dear friend of mine, who with the intent to protect her family, both extended and immediate, decided to remain anonymous. This lesson and the wisdom that came from her experience is without a doubt the most impactful story I have shared to date. It not only left me in tears because of its rawness and authenticity, but it touched a place in me because of the sexual abuse I encountered as a child from a family member. This dear friend’s courage has inspired me to continue healing myself from this rampant “secret keeping” that occurs throughout our society with regards to incest and sexual abuse. If you have ever been abused, had a friend or relative who has (and that should cover about my entire readership), please read this story. Thank you Brave Woman! I love you.
When I was 21, it appeared that I had life by the proverbially balls. I was financially independent from my family with a great job as a catering manager for a successful high-end company. I was finishing by undergraduate studies with a nearly perfect grade point average, I had a boyfriend I adored and whom I would say adored me even more and we shared a quaint apartment in a picturesque town. Unfortunately, that was my outward projection of which I wanted to present, of who I wanted to see myself as. My truth was that there were incredible conflicts inside of me and they were about to present themselves.
One of my realities at the time that I did not share was that I was bulimic. I used bulimia to control my weight and be that cute girl I so desperately needed attention for. I slept very little in order to go to school full time and work full time. At the same time, I started having what I would call flashbacks. Images appeared in my mind sporadically for about the span of a year. They were clear and exact. They were from my childhood. As they progressed, they became more sexually graphic. At first, I ignored them. But as they continued I began to realize that these were actual memories of mine, not creations. They were memories of sexual abuse that occurred from the age of 8 to 9. My world fell apart. Suddenly I was faced with some cold realities. Ideas of my family, my childhood, were completely shattered. My boyfriend lashed out at my family telling them they didn’t know anything about me. When he brought up my sexual abuse to them, there was anger; it was an assault by an outsider. Some embraced it and others accused me of trying to mess everything up. My relationship with my boyfriend fell apart as I struggled to maintain a control. With my graduation approaching, I uninvited my family.
Huge anxiety set in. I began to feel like I existed alone in a bubble that wasn’t real. Myself in this bubble went about my daily routine but everyday the bubble grew thicker and I felt like I wasn’t actually in life. I felt incredible guilt and shame. I felt like I had no real idea of who I was and that everyone around me existed in a world in which I didn’t. All notions of my childhood, my happiness, and my relationships were now completely in question. I began to think that my existence up until this point had been a self created façade and now, with my newly understood truth, I was a negative to my family. About a month prior to my college graduation, it simply became too much and I decided to end my life. I remember the evening as if it were yesterday. After months of feeling like I had been enclosed in my bubble, I finally had perfect clarity. I gathered up quite a bit of painkillers left over from a medical incident the year prior. I got a bottle of Absolute and sat down in the living room. I had a couple of shots and then started taking the pills with shots of vodka. I finished the pills and downed as much vodka as I could. Everything was setting in quickly. I remember clearly thinking that if I didn’t want to die, I should call someone NOW. I got up from the couch, went into bed, said goodbye and closed my eyes.
Well over a day later, I woke up in bed in horrible pain. When I realized I wasn’t dead, I was pissed. Frickin’ pissed. My anger quickly turned to determination. If I had to live than that’s what I was going to do. With my newfound determination, my bubble disappeared. Within a week I had met with my abuser and had a very frank conversation about all that had occurred as a child. I spoke directly with my parents and brothers and informed them of everything. I took my finals and invited both my parents and my younger brother to join me at my graduation.
I realized that the essence of who I was was still intact but now with my memories and recent misery, it was simply more complex than I had previously understood. I immediately began therapy to help me understand how my sexual abuse as a child had manifested itself in my behaviors even though I wasn’t consciously aware of it. I was determined not to allow my sexual abuse to define me but rather to now shape my understanding of the depths of my own mind and my power to survive.
It has been over 20 years since I first had flashbacks, since I sunk to the depths of suicide. In that time I have remained incredibly empowered. I have been responsible for my own happiness and when life has surprised me with disappointment, I have corrected my path to realign with my happiness, with my needs and desires. I feel fortunate for what I have been through as it gave me a daily consciousness that I have carried with me for decades. It has helped me achieve many things in my personal life, my professional life, and my connection to the world.My abuse provided me opportunities to help others who also experienced sexual abuse with myself often being the first person they told. I have assisted friends and their families in traversing the immediate reactions, the societal perceptions and projections, of abusers and victims. I am proof that anything you experience provides an opportunity, a gift.