No one chooses to be abused – No one makes it happen – No one is immune to it. Somewhere, somehow vulnerability in a person makes it possible for another individual to exert power in a way that is deeply harmful.
So, what was my vulnerability? I was a child.
I was born into a lovely family; however, within that family there was someone who created a place where a monster could run riot around the mind, soul and body of myself, my siblings and my mother.
As a child and into my teenage years I was systematically sexually, physically and psychologically abused by one main perpetrator and also a network of other men. The abuse was a weapon and tool – it kept me silent for many years and separated me from myself and from all around me.
So, clever was the abuse that when I “came out” as a survivor the shock was huge for my family, although now we can all see patterns and can make sense of what were odd fragments of the past.
I “came out” as a victim of abuse in 2009. I had a very severe mental breakdown – I was incapacitated with Depression and Anxiety and spent 18 months being actively suicidal. Why then? Why not ten years earlier or ten years later? Our bodies and our souls all have a time but it doesn’t always make sense. For me, my timing came when I was finally safe – thousands of miles away from the abuse and abusers – and so my psyche was free to break apart and to reveal the past that it had kept buried away.
I survived at a cost, yes, but I survived.
Like a waterfall, the images, memories, and realizations of the abuse and its extent came to me. The force of the information spilling out was utterly terrifying; my mind and body suffered immense pressure and released it in the form of seizures and unconscious dissociations. I tried to control it with massive weight loss, which developed into a severe eating disorder that nearly killed me. My long years of self harm became a daily obsessive mess of which I now bare the life long scars – but one day I will learn to see them as scars of a warrior.
I was also inappropriate with money; I needed to be soothed and I reached out to anything I could. Life was a living hell. My husband describes me in the worst of those days as “being haunted”, and I was. I barely lived in this world. Why had my life come to this? Many years earlier my body, mind and soul experienced terror and torture but it lacked the adult capacity to understand and so it did what every child does – focused on merely surviving. And survive I did, but in the end all the surviving became too much for my damaged, tender, delicate psyche to handle, and I needed to be loved back to health.
So much of this journey I cannot comprehend, from the worst things to the unexpected and beautiful healing moments.
Painfully and Joyfully, much mystery of spirit surrounds all of this, the mystery of “Why me?” but also the mystery of how I was at last drawn to a safe place and put back together.
There are so many mysteries and parodies that suggest to me that within the unknown, bemusing, utter incomprehensible hell that is sexual abuse and recovery there is also many miracles. As I write this I realize that two years ago I couldn’t have written it. As I think over this I know that four years ago I was spiraling downwards rapidly into something huge and unrecognizable. But equally now I hold down a full-time job, juggle the family, spend time with my husband and friends – I am beyond surviving: I am a survivor.
Yes, there are days when it’s tough, horrible, agony and I am still “doing the work” within a therapeutic context and within the context of self-care; however, I am now on a road where I am developing a healthy relationship with myself. Now my family, friends and strangers all have a chance to know Me – not the person that someone else tried to create through their abuse.
I refer often to this being ‘my journey with love’; this has a dual meaning: for within the journey I am on this journey to be at peace with my sexual abuse, abusers, my past, my life and my body, and ultimately to be in love with myself and I am on this journey to share that love with you.
A poem by the Theologian and mystic George Herbert (1592-1632) gives the name LOVE to GOD, and so I offer this to you, as I believe that what I have been given is to be passed on to others with love.
No one chooses to be abused, but you can choose to be a survivor and to be YOU – the true You who is not defined by any type of abuse or abuser.
Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.
“A guest,” I answer’d, “worthy to be here”;
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”
“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.
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