Hey girl, what have you been up to?
That was the question I was asked the other day by a sweet friend who I haven't seen or talked to in a while. I smiled but hesitated for a second. In my mind I quickly had to decide if I should tell her the full truth or tell her the easy answer. I decided on the easy answer because it's easier (lol) and I didn't want to put her on the spot with whatever emotion/reaction she may have to my truthful answer.
Here on this blog, I'm able to speak the truth. It's still tough to talk about my abuse with my voice. It's embarrassing, makes me extremely sweaty and vulnerable, and shameful all at the same time.
There's a book entitled, Perfectly hidden depression. It's a book written by Dr. Margaret Rutherford. It truly hit home for me. The book states, "Perfectly hidden depression is hiding behind perfectionism, and appearing to be fine. It's believing that if you show painful emotions you will appear weak. It's when you can look good on the outside, but you are silently falling apart on the inside. It's feeling like if you allow vulnerability to happen, you might just break. You actually fill your head with self criticism and shame and you can't express any of it. This then makes you feel trapped and alone, believing no one would understand." (paraphrased from the book and probably not done correctly because I'm not an English major)
I first spoke of my sexual abuse when I was 16. Looking back, my family agrees that more could have been done with the news. After the aftershock of telling my parents, I fell silent again. From age 16 to 40, I continued living with the weight of the memories, the shame, the guilt and the secrets. I was surviving and choosing to deal with it all alone. Looking back, I don't recommend this to anyone. My insides felt like a twisted knot, my self esteem and self worth had plummeted to an all time low and shame was ruling my life. By the time I was 40, I felt like I was mentally dying, and wanted to.
In the last 2 months or so, my therapist encouraged me to have family sessions, parent sessions, and husband sessions to discuss the abuse and it's toll on all of the family dynamics. I agreed that this was necessary but discussed my concern with my therapist on how hard it would be for me to do that. This would be, no doubt, discussing the nitty-gritty.
The day after she recommended this, I was at home and silently panicked and found myself collecting some things and planning a drive to escape reality of what needed to be done. I'm not proud of this and I'm ashamed that this happened. I got in my car and just started driving. I didn't tell anyone that I was leaving and I turned off my location settings on my phone. I grabbed some cash and drove. I ended up 2.5 hours from home before stopping. I didn't want to be found, I didn't want to talk to anyone and I just needed to escape. I didn't know how long I would be away. I had anxiety medication with me, a change of clothes, a toothbrush and a tank full of gas. Without writing about all of the details, I remained in a safe place for about 9 hours before I was found. My husband was called and he drove to pick me up. We arrived back home around midnight. I really frightened him and I'm so sorry for scaring my family so much.
I had checked out, escaped, and was hiding from the reality of future family sessions/husband sessions and just continuing to deal with my abuse. Sexual abuse is that big. Can you imagine sitting in the same room discussing how you were sexually abused/manipulated by your abusers with your parents, siblings or husband???? I was scared to death to do this and I retreated far far away. I reacted like a child would. I ran/drove away. Shame was dictating my drive.
Since my "road trip", I've summoned the courage and had a couple of sessions with my husband recently. They have been enlightening for us both. They are hard, we dread them, but are both committed to doing what we need to do. Abuse affects so many things. Childhood Trauma damages parts of your brain that should have developed one way, but due to the abuse, your brain reacts or develops another way. Communication about all of this is gut-wrenching, nauseating, terribly hard, but for us, necessary. Allowing myself to be vulnerable is so difficult for me and I'm still not good at it. I've remained stoic for 26 years and still counting. Being something other than stoic is a true challenge for me.
I've also had more sessions with my parents. It's necessary for progress and my healing. My abuse happened in the late 70's and early 80's. No one knew how to handle this subject matter much less talk about sexual abuse back then ~should of, could of, and would of's~ I love my parents dearly and this is so hard on everyone.
So, Hey girl, what have you been up to? -
I guess I can say that I've been fighting for my mental health, doing the extremely hard work, and challenging my courage. I have good days, bad days, sad days, shame days, scary days, encouraging days, powerful days and everything in between. I have a tendency to look fine on the outside but silently struggle internally. I'm trying to break that wall of pretending and free up my vocal chords to use my voice more.
With Thanksgiving coming up, I'm thankful for a husband and family who will go the extra mile for me, support me, be vulnerable with me, sit in sessions with me and love me - even when I am a mess and I freak out and I drive away.
Expose the darkness into the light. Tell your story. (It's hard as hell but I do believe it is working.)