#MeToo, Child abuse, Depression, gas lighting, Hope, mental illness, Uncategorized

Healing Trauma

 

img_7491Continued from  : An Adventure Awaits

When the show aired, a new level of healing came…but it wasn’t immediate. It took time for everything to ruminate, circulate, and eventually sink in…honestly it still is. The haze on my mirror was thick…after all, it had been gathering grime and dust for over thirty years.

When I saw my step-dad (from here on referred to as him) on stage I could not help but feel sorry for him. That was always my downfall –feeling sorry for the people who hurt me the most. I just could not understand how someone could or would hurt someone else intentionally. Why? There must be a reason behind it. That reason took away my anger, but it also took away my ability to see them as a danger.

A gift and a curse life gave me –to find the good in people. It was what kept me alive, but I now see it is also what kept me in situations that were unsafe.

As I heard him speak, I could not feel the anger I should have felt. I felt sad. I felt sad that he was alone. I felt sad that he did not understand what he did was wrong. I imagined his life now, and I wanted to help him. This empathy, or pity really, kept me from acknowledging my own feelings. It kept me from being able to own what he had done to me, to my sister, to my mom.

George sat with me as we watched the shows. His anger was visibly present. I still could not see what George saw. It had not sunk in yet.   As we talked after the show, about what was aired, and what was not, I still felt sorry for him.

“That’s what he wants. That’s what he’s always wanted.”

“Maybe, but I still can’t help it. I still remember the good parts of him.”

“After what he did to your sister? After what he did to you? Your mom?”

I could see there was nothing I was going to say to explain it. I didn’t even really understand it myself. “But, he didn’t understand what he was doing.”

“Did you not hear him only admit to what he was charged with? He knew what he was doing then, and he still knows.”

As George’s words hit me, I saw it. I saw that he did know. He admitted to only what he had gone to jail for. Nothing else. My pity turned to anger. For the first time in my adult life I could see him for who he was.

That’s when it shifted. That’s when the mirror started to become clearer. Nothing was what it had seemed. Nothing. It got worse before it got better as I went back through my life with this knowledge. It is life shattering to realize that your whole life was a lie. You are not who they told you you are. So who are you?

Who am I?

What if all of my memories were a lie? What if my gram wasn’t who I thought she was? What if I didn’t really know anyone as I thought I did? These thoughts took me down. Back down to where I had fought so hard to get out of.

When I was ready to stand back up, I saw the world differently. I saw myself differently. I understood that the trauma I had gone through as a child was worse…much worse than I had accepted before. Not only had I been abused physically, sexually, and emotionally…I had been forced to live in an alternate reality…and forced into believing that it was me that was damaged. This belief was still haunting me, causing me to see who they wanted me to be, and keeping me from seeing who I really was.

Imagine for a minute that your eyes are blue. Beautiful, sky-blue.

“Your eyes are brown.”

“No they aren’t, they’re blue.”

“No, they are brown.”

“No. My eyes are blue.”

“Don’t be crazy, they are brown.”

“No! They are not!”

“What, are you color blind? They are brown.”

“I am not! I know they are blue, I can see them.”

“Stop being difficult. You just want to make everyone out to be a liar, when we all know you are the liar.”

“No, I am not! I know my eyes are blue.”

“We all know they are brown. Tell her.” A nod of the head.

Maybe they are brown?  “They are blue…I think…I thought…”

“Go on, look in the mirror…see…they are brown.”

“Maybe I don’t know my colors. I do have brown eyes.”

“See, we told you.”

What color eyes did you have again? The above scenario is how my entire childhood was, and followed me into adulthood, when my ex-husband took over.

What I realized was that every person who had ever hurt me, had been introduced to me by my mom. My dad, step-dad, the man who raped me, my ex-husband…all were sent to me through her. Each and everyone of them shared this connection. As I took this in, I realized that the lies they told me were all similar, almost as though she had handed them the book, How to Keep Jessica in the Dark.

I learned who I was from that book. I saw myself only how they saw me. I beat myself up because I could not see myself in any other way. Even after traveling on my healing journey, even after being with people who told me how they saw me, even after sharing my story with others and hearing praise and encouragement –I still could not see what they saw. 
 
The spell that book carried left the day my mom died. It has slowly been lifted off of me, but the roots of damage are deep. I have to live each day shaking free from its hold over me. I look in the mirror, and I still have to take a cloth to clean the dust that settled back over it. It takes effort every single day to re-learn who I am. 
 
When I understood this. I understood why. I understood why I have such a hard time pushing the negative self-talk out of my head. I understood why I cannot accept praise, or kind words. I hear them, but it doesn’t feel right. It feels foreign. Slowly, I start to see a glimpse of who I really am.  
 
I had thought when my gram died, I did too. And maybe that is accurate, but I was not officially reborn until my mom died. With the spell lifted, I am now learning how to live without the lies, without the hurt. A whole new world. Each day is a new day.  
 
I am not who they said I was, and understanding why I believed all the lies so intently, I am able to forgive myself a little more. It was ​that ​bad, and I do not have to pretend that it wasn’t. The freedom that came from this helped me see how much I really did need to heal the past trauma. I had done a lot of work already, but new work was needed. It was time that I gave myself permission to love myself.  
 
The thought of being free from the spell, from the lies, from the negativity scared me. What if I was not worth getting to know? What if I was not worthy of love? What if the lies were the truth, and when everything is fully lifted, I will see that I am broken.  
 
Anxiety lingered as the days to go to Onsite grew near. My heart pulsed out of my chest, fluttering at the top of my throat. I couldn’t sleep. What if I wasn’t ready? If not now, when? I had been held hostage from my real life, my true life for too long. I was ready to try. 

Continued on: Trauma Camp

#MeToo, Rape, Sexual abuse, sexual assault, Uncategorized

“Honey, He Raped You.”

“You know you wanted it.” His voice blasted through the phone as memories of those nights flashed in my mind. My silence enraged him. “You begged me for it! Make sure you tell them that.”

So I did.

I was afraid of what might happen to me if I told the truth. It was easier in my fifteen-year old mind to do as he said so it could be over, and I could move on with my life. I hadn’t meant to tell anyone in the first place. My intention was to end my life…so I really and truly could be done with it.

I sat at my mom’s word processor in her living room as I typed my obituary. I wanted the world to know who I was when I was gone. I knew no one knew me well enough to write it, and the thought of what they might have written made me want the end to come even faster. I imagined it to go something like this:

Jessica Aiken-Hall, 15 of Lyndonville, VT was a failure. She failed at everything. And now she is dead.

I was pleased with the words I was to leave behind. I didn’t want to make anyone feel guilty about my death. I didn’t really think any further than the pain would end. I would not be able to fail at life any longer. But I failed at that as well.

My obituary fell out of my notebook onto my mom’s floor. I was taken out of class and brought directly to my counselor’s office. The burn of humiliation flushed my body as my social worker drove me to her office. I even failed at killing myself. You can’t get any lower than that.

In my counselor’s office she asked me “why?” Her genuine concern for my wellbeing might have been what saved my life. I tried to lie my way out of it, but she wouldn’t allow it. She pressed until she got to the truth.

“I had sex…I didn’t want to. I said no, but I wasn’t strong enough to make him stop.” The tears blinded me as I looked down at my feet. I didn’t really know then, that this was the reason behind my suicide plan. I just knew I was done with feeling worthless, and the shame from the “sex” lowered me to an all new level of self loathing.

“Honey, he raped you.”

Raped me?

She went on to tell me that I had to tell the police, and there would be a trial. Panic rushed over me. I couldn’t go through another trial. I was still in the midst of the one with my step-father. I didn’t have another one in me. She begged me to tell the truth, but I couldn’t.

I was brought to the police station, where I was interviewed. “So, tell us what happened, Jessica.”

He came over to my room, after Gram was asleep, and we talked for a few hours. Then, he kissed me. He pulled off my pants and underwear and pushed me onto my bed. He turned off the lights and then he unbuckled his belt and pushed his pants to his ankles and got on top of me. I told him “no,” but he didn’t listen. He put his hand over my mouth and told me to “Shush.” I was scared, but the pain helped keep the fear away. I felt the warmth of my tears fall down my cheeks as he thrust inside me. When he kissed me, all I could taste was his Wintermint gum. The smell of his leather jacket filled my room. I wanted to vomit. All of my senses were on high alert, and took over everything. When he was done he left. Left me in my bed, wet from tears and his ejaculation. Left me empty.

He came back the next night, and did it again. This time I did not fight him. I let him do what he wanted. He told me I was worthless, and that I was lucky that he was “fucking” me. “All the girls want me, you know.” He left me again. Numb and alone.

“He came over to my house and we had sex…I wanted it.”

“So it was consensual?”

“Yes.” I shook my head as I tried to knock the images from those nights out of my mind.

Because he was twenty-one and I was fifteen, he was charged with statutory rape and placed on the sex offender registry.

My mom called me a whore, and my male social worker made me go on birth control, since I was promiscuous.

He was not held accountable for what he did to me, just like all of the others.

For years after the RAPE when I smelled leather, or Wintermint gum I would be back in my bed, under him. My life flashed back to that scared, fifteen-year old girl and I was paralyzed in the moment. When I saw him at a store, the fear from that night made me feel helpless, and alone. Uncontrollable tears would fall and my heart raced.

I paid for what he did to me for years and years.

He stole my virginity. He stole my self worth. He stole my power. He stole my control.

But he did not steal my hope.

I saw him recently, for the first time in many years. I stood in the distance and watched him with his wife. A middle aged man, with demons he will have to live with. I was not the only one he did this to, but like me, the others did not turn him in. Because of his actions those cold, February nights, he will forever be a registered sex offender. He no longer holds any kind of power over me. I understand now that he RAPED me, and that what happened was his fault. He did steal moments from me, but he no longer is entitled to any more control over my life.

For years I was ashamed because of what happened. When I told of past sexual partners, I always included him. The sting of his actions haunted me. But no more. I will never forget what he took from me, or the pain he caused me, but I have released him.

I have forgiven him.

I am stronger because of it.

#MeToo, #TeamKimandJessica, Child abuse, Sexual abuse, Uncategorized

#TeamKimandJessica

1_IN_10One in ten children will be sexually abused before age eighteen.

One in ten.

Children who are sexually abused often feel alone. They feel shame and guilt for the abuse that is happening to them. Many are too afraid to tell, in fear that the perpetrator may hurt them or someone they love, and some who do tell are not believed or dismissed.

perpetrators

In most cases, the child is sexually abused by someone they know, and often trust. This can make it even harder for them to tell. By trusting the abuser, they might not know what is happening is wrong, or they may feel obligated to keep the secret.

risk_factors_3The abuse starts before a child’s eighth birthday for 20% of children who are sexually abused. When the abuse starts at a young age, the abuser has the time to “groom” the child, and make them believe what is happening is normal, or is their special secret. Abusers know the tricks that work to keep themselves out of trouble, and in control of the child.

Abusers are conniving people, who are looking to get their needs met. Many times, they have been abused themselves as children, but that does not justify their actions. They know what it is like to be on the other side of the abuse, and yet, they allow the cycle to continue. Instead of being a voice for the children, they place their hand tightly over the child’s mouth and steal their innocence. They know what it is like, and yet, they chose to harm a child.

My sister, my daughter, and I are in these statistics. The level of abuse varies for each of us, but the trauma caused at the hands of our perpetrators lingers inside of us. We have good days, and bad. We have days that we love ourselves, and others where we loath ourselves. There is anger and rage, guilt and shame. We question our worth. And wonder, “was it really that bad?”

Anytime a child is victimized, it is that bad. 

It does not matter if it happened once, or a thousand time. The scars are there. Trust is broken. And the world becomes a different place. Three girls were touched before their eighth birthday, by men we knew. We carried secrets inside of us until we were able to release them. And we fought back.We made our voices heard. We were brave. We were strong. We put one foot in front of the other everyday to carry us a little further from our past. The few moments of the abusers’ gratification left us with a lifetime of imbedded trauma. It is our choice to ignore it or to own it and work through it.

I believe there are more than one in ten children that are sexually abused. I believe the number is much larger, but they are not ready to share their secret just yet. I believe the problem is much bigger than we know. This is a problem that we need to help with, and telling our stories is the first thing we can do.

When we share our stories, the isolation a child feels is lifted a little. The more they hear of others facing what they are facing helps take away some of the shame. A camaraderie is felt, and the world doesn’t feel so alone. These are the reasons I share my story. I know what it feels like to wonder if I was the only one. The isolation alone was enough to crush me, and the fear of what other people would think of me caused me undue stress. I didn’t know there were others.

Our voices will echo throughout the land.

You are not alone.”

“It is not your fault.”

“You did nothing wrong.”

“You are strong.”

“You are loved.”

Tell your story. Share with others how far you have come, or how far you want to go. Together, we have the power to change the stigma attached to childhood sexual abuse.

#MeToo, Child abuse, Sexual abuse, Uncategorized

Break The Silence

When I was a little girl, I was taught to keep our secrets. I was trained to not talk to anyone. If I shared with anyone what was happening, I was told that I would get into trouble, or I would be made to live with my dad. Living with the secrets caused me to isolate, and keep to myself. I was labeled as painfully shy, and was sent to the guidance counselor on a regular basis.

A smile stayed on my face, to hide how I was really feeling. A smile keeps people from asking questions. A smile adds enough light to cover up the darkness. If a child is smiling, they must be happy. No one knew why I wouldn’t talk or engage in conversations, they just figured I was quiet.

And that is where the mistakes are made. Smiles can be worn as masks. Being quiet does not always mean a child is shy. But, how do we as adults know the difference? When do teachers have time to question if the smile the child is wearing is real or if it is hiding something? How do we know if a child is just quiet, or if they are being made to hide things? There are no good answers to any of these questions. There were adults in my life, who wanted to know what was going on, but I wouldn’t let them in. I was too afraid.

I was trained to keep quiet and to not let on that anything was happening. When I was alway from home, I was happy. I was safe, but I was still under strict orders not to tell. For the moments I was out of the house, away from the dysfunction, part of me knew that was where I belonged. There was never anything in me that made me think that I should let another adult in on our secrets. Even my gram, who I told everything to. I never thought that someone might be able to stop what was happening.

I look back at this time, and I wonder why. Why would I protect the people who were not protecting me? Why would I believe the lies they told me? I believed them because I did not know there was another way. I believed that I was the one who was doing wrong. If my own mother wouldn’t help me, who would? It was that one act that made me believe that I was unworthy of protection from anyone, and had me questioning if I really needed to be protected in the first place.

When I encounter six year olds, I wonder how I could have been so resilient, how I could have survived the things that I lived through. And then I get the realization, that maybe they know too. I know other children live the life I lived. I know there are other children who go to bed at night with the weight of other people’s burdens covering them tighter than their covers. When I see children, I know the secrets they are capable of carrying. I know the pain a quick smile can hide. I know that they need our help, even when they do not know it.

For thirty years I held all of the secrets close. I guarded them with everything that I had. When some escaped, I held the rest even closer. I did not want anyone to know the reality we lived in, truth be told, I didn’t want to face that it was reality. I did not have a voice for all those years. I let others mistreat me, I let them hurt me, and I let them own pieces of me.

As a mother myself now, I have to speak up. My voice speaks not only for me, but for my children as well. I hope, that my voice will be loud enough to speak for the children who have had their voices stolen from them. My voice will not be shushed any longer. I will speak my truth and I will never be silenced.

My memoir, The Monster That Ate My Mommy unleashes all of the secrets I held. It tell truths that took me a lifetime to understand. It shares all the things I was told never to tell. The words on the pages are my truth, and I will never again keep them hidden. Secrets are toxic. They are the poison that keep the wrong people in charge of us.

We all have a story to tell. We all have been given challenges to overcome. It is what you do with that challenge that matters.

You are not alone in your struggle.

You are braver than you think.

Never give up.

#MeToo, Sexual abuse, Uncategorized

My Story: #MeToo

pexels-photo-622135.jpegEver since the #MeToo movement hit the news, I began to think about my story. My first memory linking me to this movement is from when I was four years old. Although, I had been told it began before I was one. A female babysitter experimented with me while I was in her care. She was young herself, and told my mom after just a few questions. Before my first birthday I joined an enormous group of women, men, and children, who have been victimized sexually at the hands of another.

I wasn’t even 365 days old yet. And that’s when it started. Started…just began. Oh, there’s more…more than I can probably remember. My #MeToo just became #MeTooManyToCount. I know I am not alone. I know there are many others who have been victimized and re-victimized, by one or several. The number of people who cannot add the #MeToo hashtag is so much smaller than the ones who can; they just are not all ready to share.

At four years old, an older boy, who has his own #MeToo story, again, used me to experiment with. We were naked. He tried to have sex with me….and he just might have, but I was four and didn’t know what sex was. I never told. I did not want him to get in trouble, because if I told, they probably would have killed him.

At five a neighbor boy, only a couple years older than me made me take my pants down while he tried to have sex with me. Two older boys were watching. They did not try to help. They watched, and later told me they would tell my mom on me for being a whore. I was five.

At six the sexual abuse by my mom’s then boyfriend began. My mom was present for almost all of the abuse. I was reprimanded for being a dirty girl and letting him touch me. When I threatened to tell, I was told that I would go to jail, so I kept the secret safe. This abuse lasted for about three years, although the constant innuendos and sexual remarks never stopped.

At twelve the sexual abuse from the same man started again when I began to develop breasts. Every time I walked past him, he would reach out and touch them, or pinch them with some sort of comment to follow. I hated every part of it, but it was the norm in the household. He would touch my breasts and I would try to hide my chest all while my mom was watching.

At fourteen I finally told someone about the sexual abuse that I had been experiencing. The secret that I held close for eight years was finally released and I was put in foster care. When my mom was able to talk to me again after being removed from the home, she asked me to “recant” my story and blame the abuse on my dead father–the only man that never touched me in those ways. She told me that if I did not lie, it would be my fault if my then seven-year old sister was taken away and put in foster care. I did it. After a lot of convincing, I did what she asked to try to protect my sister with the hope to be able to return home as well. She got to stay, but I had to remain in foster care.

While this was happening, the only thing in my life that made sense was English class. I put all of my feelings and emotions into words and wrote until I couldn’t write any more. I arrived to class early each day, because I looked forward to the praise I received from my teacher. He told me how proud he was of my effort, and how beautifully I wrote. Approval was the one thing I could not get enough of.

One morning as I took my seat in class, the student teacher was the only one in the room. I instantly felt uncomfortable and thought of ways I could leave until the others arrived. The desire to leave left me paralyzed in my seat. He walked over to my desk, his groin level with my desk and he pressed himself into my face. I shrank back into my seat as I waited for him to leave, but he didn’t. I was relieved when another student walked in and he scattered away from my desk. The power he held over me was not something I was unfamiliar with, and maybe what all of the above perpetrators had in common.

At fifteen I was raped by a twenty-one year old man who was renting a room in my mom’s house. The second night when he came back he told me my mom had put him up to it. She fed me to the horny wolves…again. He did not get charged with rape because I did not have another trial in me. I reluctantly told the police that it was consensual, and he was charged with statutory rape, and I was labeled a “whore” by my mother.

At nineteen, I began working in a machine shop full of men. My best friend and I were the only two women on the shop floor at that time. At first it felt nice to get the special attention, but that faded quickly when the unwanted touching and comments filled most days. The fun place to go turned into a place that I dreaded.

My smile and quite demeanor made me an easy target; if there is such a thing. The unwanted sexual contact made sex confusing. I began to think the only thing I was worth was sex. My image of myself was distorted. If I could not make guys look at me, or turn their heads when I walked by, I felt worthless. If I wasn’t getting attention I felt ugly, and if I was getting attention I wanted to feel ugly, so I would let my weight get out of control. It was a constant, confusing battle.

I wanted the attention, but I hated the attention. A swirl of ecstasy mixed with depression. The roller coaster of self-loathing became my ride of choice.

“You’re too ugly to make anyone love you.”

“Why are you such a whore?”

“He thinks you are pretty…I like how that feels.”

“He thinks you are pretty…make him stop looking at me.”

The battle of negative self-talk turned all my thoughts into hateful ones.

I hated myself. I hated how people treated me. I hated how I wasn’t strong enough to make them stop. I hated that I didn’t know what love was. I hated that I was labeled a whore, and later a victim. I despise the v word, because it makes me feel weak.

The v word takes away my power, as did all the others before. I am not a victim. I am a survivor. A survivor of others’ actions and of my own negative self-talk. I know that I am not alone. I know there are countless others who know just how I felt. I know there are others who do not know who they are without the abuse. I know that I am not the only one who still feels like that scared little girl at times..

There is power in numbers. Together, we have the courage to tell our secrets and the strength to learn to love ourselves, to see ourselves as the truly beautiful women we are. From the inside out. You don’t have to suffer in silence. Our voices are changing the world. We will overcome, and we will rise above it all.

#MeToo

#YouToo

#Together