It comes when I least expect it. And I am left wondering where it came from. What triggered it...
The feeling that I cannot catch my breath...the feeling of being smothered. The helplessness that comes with a memory I don’t want to remember. The brief bewilderment, the ache and sadness that comes with it. I find myself inhaling deeply. Calming with each free breath.
I wonder if the memory comes with stress, or the feeling of not being able to catch my breath, or if it comes after. I just know it arrives.
No longer the victim, I say to myself. No more, does he have the power to make me feel afraid. And almost as quickly as it comes, the memory finally fades. We cannot control every thought, or every memory; but we can control how we react to it…
My hope is that by writing these words, those of you who were abused at the hands of those who were supposed to love and cherish you, will find comfort that you are not alone in it. I know the darkness at times can seem overwhelming, and we get weary of fighting it, but there is light. There is hope. Always hope. I believe this with all of my heart.
I find that childhood memories usually come in the stillness when I am holding one of my children, or one of my grandchildren. Or as I watch my children from afar.
The thought that comes is how? And Why? How can anyone abuse an innocent child? A child like me? A child like mine?
It just seems so easy to love.
Among my experiences as a young girl, one particular moment is emblazoned in my memory, like the branding of cattle. I was held under water in a pool for so long, I thought for certain I would never surface again. I was only seven years old, and I was afraid of the deep end of the pool at our apartment complex.
“Let's jump in together then,” he said. Reluctantly, I held his hand, and leaped into the pool...only I did not get to surface.
His grip tightened, and I was held under for an eternity. My lungs burned. I remember struggling, looking up at his distorted face through the ripples of surface water…and the sound of the bubbles of my last exhaled breath rumbling in my ears. And it seemed like such a long way up to the surface where that breath awaited. An eternity, it was, for me.
When I was finally allowed to come up for air, I got out of the pool gasping for air and choking on tears of disbelief and hurt.
That was the last time tried to leap fearlessly.
I am not telling this story to elicit sympathy. I am telling it because it is part of my story. It is a part of the story of my life. Just one of the many many moments that changed me, and my feelings of security and trust for most of my life.
We who are left to struggle with the aftermath of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse often times identify as victims. It becomes our brand. Our excuse. We try to control our lives and our relationships in ways we sometimes don't even realize, because at an early age, we were completely powerless. We were at the mercy of other people and their control over us.
We worry about what people think. We become people pleasers. We demand love on our terms. We live our lives around everything and everyone but ourselves. We feel unworthy. We have inner voices that drag us through absolute hell. We put ourselves last…
And we feel broken.
For years, I lived inside of the brokenness. I lived inside of the feelings of unfairness and anger and resentment and regret. I had no self-worth. I chose all of the wrong men and tried to “fix” them to my liking. I felt absolutely unlovable for the first 37 years of my life.
I feel like I am finally beginning to surface. Even now, at 44 years old; even when I think I have fully conquered it, it is still here.
I am sometimes still giving my past abuse, and my abuser, the power to determine my self worth. I still struggle. I'm not here to lie to you and tell you I'm leaping fearlessly and to tell you I'm all healed up shiny new and I never make mistakes. I work on healing every. single. day.
What I am here to tell you is that I know it is not easy.
I am here to tell you that we can rise above it.
I am here to tell you that you are not alone in your struggle.
I am here to tell you that we are worthy of joy and happiness and love.
No matter how old we are, we can always begin.
Give yourself the chance to surface.