I have spent my entire life being ashamed of who I am and what happened to me. I spent my life feeling constantly ashamed and at fault. I spent my life not being able to trust anyone around me. I hid what happened to me to protect other people, even the person who hurt me. I would never wish my life on anyone, or want anyone to have to deal with what I have gone through and continue to on a day to day basis.
So here is my story. Hopefully it can help someone else to not feel the same way I do.
When I was five and six years old, I was abused. Mentally and sexually. The abuser? The person who was supposed to be my “father”. I was told constantly to never say a word to anyone about anything that he did. Being as young as I was I did what I was brought up to do: listen to adults and do what they say. At the time I didn’t understand what exactly was going on, but as I got older, I understood more and more about what was actually going on.
I realized how badly I was actually abused.
I found it extremely hard to trust people around me and form good relationships. If I couldn’t trust the person who was supposed to protect me and be a father to me, then who could I trust? Whenever I felt safe and happy with someone, I quickly found an out and essentially ruined the relationship I had with the person.
I also quickly developed an eating disorder. I hated what I looked like constantly and didn’t want to be in my own skin. My mindset was that if I could change what I looked like and my entire appearance then maybe he would stop with the inappropriateness and the past abuse would go away. I hated myself because I felt like it was my fault. I didn’t dare say anything to anyone. I didn’t want to disappoint my family or ruin the image of a “happy” family.
Growing up I was a perfectionist.
I didn’t want to do anything wrong.
I didn’t want the abuse to start again.
I needed to have some sort of control. So I dove into extracurricular activities. I was never home. I was always at school, clubs, and sports. I was happy when I wasn’t home. I didn’t have to put on a face and pretend I was happy and comfortable at a place that was supposed to be a home. A home where I didn’t feel welcome or safe.
Then last November my entire life changed.
I lost my best friend, my grandfather. He was my inspiration for everything I did. I felt safe with him. Like no one could hurt me ever again. A month after I lost him I couldn’t hold in my secret anymore. I told my family starting with my mother what had happened. I had spent the last fifteen years holding it in and trying to black out the memories. Most of my childhood memories are from stories and pictures that I have been told and shown. But i brought it all back when I couldn’t hold it in any longer. It was the hardest conversation I have ever had with my mother. I was in a ball on the floor of my bedroom sobbing hysterically saying I can’t live like this anymore. I couldn’t get the words out until my mom threatened to bring me to a hospital to be put on suicide watch. From that night on, I lived at my aunt’s house.
My family all banned together and helped me through what I had to do in the next few days. They brought me to the police station to file a report and get a restraining order. The day that all happened, my abuser committed suicide. I felt responsible. The last words that he said to me were
“If you say anything it will kill me”.
Those words ran through my mind for weeks afterwards. No matter what my family said, I couldn’t think otherwise. He was still controlling me.
I went back to college two weeks later. I constantly had nightmares. Some so bad that my roommate had to wake me up because I was screaming and crying in my sleep.
I left for the semester two weeks in.
My family convinced me to try therapy and in the beginning it worked. She helped me to stop blaming myself. He couldn’t face the consequences of his actions. He was a coward and took the easy way out. Never even apologizing to me or admitting to me what he did.
After a while I stopped going to therapy. She told me to write what is in my head if I don’t want to talk about it. I’ve gone fifteen years without talking, so it’s what I’m used to. I tried the writing, it works for me. Just getting the words out of my head, even if it doesn’t always make sense helps. It takes the mess and chatter out of my head so I can see clearly and focus on what really matters.
And now I continue to move forward.
I am not going to ever let him control my life again.
I am taking my life back.
The most difficult part now is learning to trust. Being able to trust someone to not put me through this much pain again is hard. Although situations with other people are completely different and not at all related to this part of my life, it is always hard to open up to someone and trust them fully, because of that betrayal in the past. I have tried and found a select few who I can say I fully trust with my life, but there are many others who can’t seem to understand why I have problems trusting. They don’t see how I connect it in my mind, and I can’t seem to put it into words.
I want to help people. But if I want to do that I now know I have to help myself first. I am not used to putting myself first, so it is weird, yet I am working on it. Yes I do have relapses with my eating disorder, and yes I have nightmares occasionally, and my anxiety and depression comes and goes in waves, but that’s a part of my life. I have healthier ways of dealing with them now.
I decided to share my story because I want people who have been abused in any way shape or form to have the courage to speak up. You don’t have to be ashamed of it.
It is in no way your fault.
People who do these types of things are different; they need to control everyone around them. Don’t let them continue to control you.
Don’t let them control your life.
Find your person who you feel safe with and confide in them. Trust me, I wish I had the courage to do this a long time ago, but sadly, it made me the person I am today. I have my problems, but they make me stronger.
Your story isn’t over yet, speak up, get the help you deserve, and keep going.
This powerful post was submitted by Jen Goehring for the Coping: This is Who We Are series. Jen is extremely brave from both her past experiences and for taking a stand to be a voice for the voiceless. Take a moment to read her journey and remember that if you suffer any form of physical, mental, or sexual abuse to never be afraid to ask for help. You are not alone.
You are loved.
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Jen I have never been sexually abused, but I was emotionally abused. I think you are strong and glad that family rallied around you. A lot of families don’t. They blame the child. With your new attitude you will make it and you have a lot to educated others with. Help yourself first as it should be and then help others. I believe in you. God bless you!
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I am so glad that your family stood by your side. I’m sorry that you suffered so long in silence. You are an inspiration to us all. I wish you the best on your healing journey. Sending you tons of positive thoughts and gentle hugs, if okay?
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This is truly an incredible story of hope and redemption. Your life is a testament to other people that hope is real. I can’t imagine the horror of what you’ve gone through but I know that you will be an incredible light to other people who have suffered as you have. Thank you for your bravery and honesty!
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