I think one of the hardest things to deal with from being abused is the feeling that you're never quite good enough. When you are young and another person treats you like you are worth nothing, and your power is stripped from you, it's very hard to take that power back and get those feelings of worth reinstated.
I have two clear memories of sexual abuse. One of these has been with me since my late teens and has never shifted; there's not much of it but enough for me to still feel a pang of ick when I recall it. The son of family friends was playing Hide'n'Seek with us. We hid in one of the bedroom's wardrobes. It was dark. And, you know, stuff happens.
Yep. Stuff happens. I'm at peace with it but am struggling to write what that stuff is. There is that fear present. Not of him but of judgement from others, of someone saying, that's not abuse and you're making something out of nothing.
Maybe I am. Maybe I did. I don't think so.
Because it impacted me. In the context of my childhood and my life, it changed me. I was never the same afterwards. I was very young, and the touching down there violated a part of me. I couldn't tell anyone. I lost my voice. I had never really felt safe before and I definitely didn't feel safe after.
I always felt that there was more. There was a way that one of the adult family friends always made me feel when he looked at me: vulnerable, uncomfortable, undressed. A horrible feeling when it isn't coming from someone you love or choose to be intimate with. Last year, during a healing session (I blogged about this at the time), I had a video reel of the sexual abuse playing through my head. That included penetration and all over grossness. Again, I was very young.
By the time this one was fully revealed to me I had completed so much personal work on my own healing, reclaiming my voice and standing in my truth that it barely impacted me emotionally. If anything, for me, it validated how I had felt all of those years.
Neither of these situations was one-off. And I don't think they were the only ones. But, I'm not sure. And I don't think it really matters. The impact was made. I needed to heal that. I'm happy with the knowledge that I do have. I don't need or want more.
We are all very different. What one person can handle, another might find completely devastating. I think that's okay. We all have our own path to walk. And, in our own time.
When I was at uni, away from home and my family, my indicator behaviours became more pronounced. I became obsessive compulsive with cleaning. I was cleaning the house from top to bottom every morning, manically. I stopped answering the phone; okay on its own, but as I listened to it ring out, and landlines ring forever, I was gripped by absolute terror. I became reclusive and shied away from any physical human contact. I started eating really badly and quite gluttenously (hello future weight problem) attempting to shield and nurture myself all at the same time. And, I started arguing unreasonably and without any flexibility in my tutes at uni; I needed everyone to hear me. Flashbacks were coming at random times.
I was sliding between mania and depression. I wanted to hide and be seen, I wanted control and wanted to be looked after. Contradictory behaviours that were driving the sanity bus straight to insanity.
I had majored in Psychology and knew enough to research the behaviours indicators of sexual abuse. I listed them. Made an appointment with a local sexual abuse specialist counselor. Turned up, with my list, and matter of factly announced that I was sure I had been sexually abused, could she please look at my list and validate that for me.
She was amazing. She smiled, read my list, passed it back, and started a dialogue neither validating or denouncing my claims. With her support, I started unpacking my behaviours and my memories and owning them all. She empowered me to see that I had choices, and reminded me that healing was a process, and a long, arduous one.
And, then she went on maternity leave and my professional support stopped for a time.
It was only through owning my perceptions of my childhood sexual abuse that I was able to move forward, very slowly. I started to speak my truth. The hardest thing was telling my mum. She validated my claims, but that opened a whole other can of worms for me. More on that later.
There were many dark times during the next, close to ten years, I'd say. My twenties became marked by trying to work myself out and get better. I couldn't see me reaching my thirtieth birthday; I was sure I would be dead by then.
I drank a lot in my mid to late twenties, started casually using some low level drugs sometimes, and wanted to walk into the ocean and not come out more times than I can count.
More on all of this later.
But, I survived. I still didn't think I was worth very much, I didn't like myself very much, I was doing more and more for others at my own expense, I was bitterly unhappy, fleeing from situations that challenged me in all of my relationships, working hard to not commit to any people, and succeeding, but I survived.
Sigh. What a journey through darkness.
Sexual abuse: the gift that keeps giving.