Saturday, March 18, 2006

Getting Personal

If you're looking for something upbeat check back another day. Today I am hitting a very personal and sensitive subject. It is rather long since I don't have an extended entry option. But, it is very important to me to post this.

Three things happened recently to prompt me to write this. They are all connected to the abuse I experienced as child.

First, Monday I spent a little time at a Christian school/church that reminded me of one I attended when I was young. Then, last night I received news of the death of a childhood friend. He was the Uncle of the little girl my step-father molested. It was her courage that led to his prosecution and prison time. Finally, I woke up in the wee hours this morning and caught a a very powerful episode of Oprah. It originally aired October 18, 2005. But, as I am not in touch with current events, I had never heard any of this. Oprah was interviewing Laveranues Coles. He was talking about his own experiences with his step-father molesting him. I now have tremendous respect for this man. This is not something very easy to talk about. Especially for a man molested by another man.

These events have led to some very deep thinking and reflection.

Sometimes writing is very difficult for me. Until I started this blog, I had not written very much since my teenage years. Writing back then was survival. But, my emotions kept the words from flowing. I was only able to write when I was under the influence of something. It was only then that I could write. But, I feel compelled to tell my story. Not just the details of events, but the emotions and struggles. It is extremely hard for me to open up to people on a very personal level. I feel I need to do this.

For me, the hardest part of being molested wasn't the physical part but the shame, humiliation, hopelessness and confusion I felt. Feelings a child should not experience. I had a hard time accepting that I could love and hate this man so much at the same time. He came into my life when I was four. He was not always the monster. He was the very best and absolute worst father a man could be. There was no inbetween.

In the beginning I battled my emotions by turning to God. On Sunday mornings, I would quietly get dressed for church as everyone else slept. The church bus was my salvation. I knew God could heal me. Everyone told me so. Every Sunday I anxiously waited for "alter call". The Church I attended had a small kneeling alter at the front. I would go up there and pray and pray and pray to God to stop the pain I felt. An adult would come and pray over me. It was the only comfort I had at the time. In my 10 year old mind, I knew God would save me from the life I was living. Looking back now, I wonder why didn't any of the adults question why a child would cry and pray every Sunday. When God didn't make things better, I denounced Him. I remember slumping down against the gym wall at school, burying my head in my knees, and shaking my fist at "God" and telling Him I would never believe again. I was angry. Angry at everyone. But, mainly myself and God because I couldn't make the pain go away and He didn't rescue me.

When religion didn't work, I turned to "science". I researched my symptoms. Mood swings, depression, crying, and suicidal thoughts were among them. I remember being elated when I figured out what was wrong with me. I rushed into the guidance counselor's office and announced that I was a Manic Depressive. Since, I finally knew what "my problem" was, I knew I could fix it now. The counselor dismissed my notions. She never called my parents. She never asked why. She did nothing. Except tell me I was wrong. At eleven I wanted to die. I wished for it every day. And I could not tell a soul. I was bound in a prison of shame.

I battled the highs and lows until I discovered alcohol and drugs. I finally found a way to numb everything. I could drink until I felt nothing or I could "smoke" until I was laughing and happy. In fact, most of the time I remembered nothing. Things grew worse at home. My step-father provided the alcohol and drugs. It was an easy way to take advantage of me if I was unconscious. My emotional state worsened. My life worsened. There were only a few people I felt comfortable enough to be around with out altering my mental state. But, I was ashamed to even tell them.

After graduating from high school, I was finally able to escape the abuse. It had been on and off for almost 10 years. It was during my most formative years. When everyone else was learning about the world and figuring out what they wanted to do with their future, I was still struggling to convince myself I even wanted to live. Shame is an extremely binding emotion. I had lived nearly half my life in fear and shame. I felt dirty and unworthy of love but desperately craved it.

I know there are children out there experiencing the same thing. Everyone needs to keep their eyes and ears open. Children cry and demand help but won't always ask for it outright. They want to know someone cares.

I was fortunate enough to pull myself together and get therapy. Then, my healing was helped even more by the voice of an 11 year old girl. She and I held hands throughout the trials. She was my salvation. I don't think I could have faced my step-father if that little girl hadn't stood up to him first. As a child I wanted an adult to save me. But, in the end it was a child who saved the adult. I owe her my life.

This is why those events hit me so hard. My step-father always told us how terrible the kids next door were. Then, when we were no longer vulnerable he took advantage of one of their children. Other than the mother of the little girl, I never talked about it with the rest of their family. So, even though I have not spoken to them in 15 years, I have a deep connection with this family. They have been part of my life since I was 13. They have had more than their share of troubles. The little girl's father died in a car accident a few years after the trial. Now, another brother has died and one other has cancer and is not expected to live to see the end of this year. My prayers are with this family and my heart goes out to them in their time of sorrow.