Break The Chain
(Operation Underground Railroad)
Please be aware, this blog post might be a trigger for someone.
It is not my intent to cause any further distress for anyone!! This post was created to tell "my story" (which totals about 3 paragraphs in length). Also have included a number of observations and things which have helped me - perhaps they can be of help for someone else too.

Always in the past on this blog I have tried to write about things I was experiencing and going through - hence so many posts about depression. Then there were the few instances talking about grief or PTSD - and finally about having suicidal ideation. One of the big reasons why I stopped writing here was because I did not know how (nor did I want) to share or talk about the foundation behind many of the things I have written about. Please know it is not my goal to write a lot about this topic - thinking this will be the only time.

Also, please know that I do not write any of this casually - nor am I doing so searching or asking for sympathy or empathy. Am only putting it out there to share my story. One important part of healing is accomplished by sharing your story. It does not need to be done publicly (such as through social media or a blog) - simply talking to others can be a relief and a big help. This I know from personal experience - the first time I said anything,outside of a counselor or an ecclesiastical leader's office, was a few years ago. It was with a group of women who also had stories of their own (I attended this class twice). For me, it was very healing and powerful to talk about what happened - finally I wasn't alone.

Am very certain and very sad there are far too many stories and situations out there to even attempt to address. The intent of this blog post is not to explore the multitude of other people's experiences - mostly because I am not at all qualified to do that. If you have had, or are now experiencing, any type of abuse or trauma - I encourage you to take action and get professional help. Now!!

The following is part of what I posted on social media just over a year ago - now I am able to talk openly (if someone wants/needs to hear) about what for so long I could not admit to anyone, including myself.

   Finally publicly facing and accepting the truth that I am a childhood sexual abuse survivor. The trauma began 50+ years ago, when for several years I was sexually abused by an extended family member. Never told anyone, even my parents, and a part of me is glad they didn't know. But guess since they're both dead, they now know what I could never say when they were alive. In fact never talked about it at all until about 5+ years ago with a counselor.
   Very very few people in my life are aware of anything, because I have always tried to wear a mask to hide behind. Thought that if people knew, they would think less of me, or would reject me and turn away, mostly because it is a topic which no one really talks about. For decades I've lived in a perpetual state of cycling through denial, anger, fear, stress, anxiety, shame, and many other things associated with PTSD. Always wanting to be loved, but feeling of no value and totally undeserving of anything more than a mediocre life.

So now you know one major thing I’ve been dealing with - and will continue to do so on one level or another for the rest of my life. This is one of my biggest issues, but don’t worry there are plenty of others (ha ha). One item I did not mention in that social media post - nor in sharing my story with the class I attended twice - is the reason why I never said anything to anyone. In addition to the incredible shame and guilt felt (and sometimes still do, even though it was not my fault) - there was always a voiced threat for me to not say anything to anyone. Was told many times if I did, then I would be hurt and my family would be hurt. Didn't want to know what could possibly be worse for me than what was happening - and at all costs I had to protect my family. So really tried to hide it all deep down  and never said anything, all the while slowly dying inside. It was hidden very well and stuffed deep inside in an effort to protect myself - that for decades even denied the existence to myself. However everything which happened eventually must come to the surface.

The sexual abuse only happened when we, fairly frequently, visited family in a neighboring state. This is when the extended family member (related by marriage) at night snuck into the house and room where I was sleeping, then took me to another location. No one knew I was gone for hours during the night, they were all sleeping. What started at first with one man raping a very small child - turned to being not just him, but also multiple men paying money to do the same thing. Have discovered that what happened to me was basically sex trafficking - which is sadly too prevalent in the world, with too many different methods and levels.

This spanned about 3.5 years, starting a couple of months before my 3rd birthday. It not only consisted of sexual abuse, but mental as well (which I am attempting to correct, but this is not easy). Cannot tell you how many times I was told, "good girls don't do what you just did" - which has always left me thinking I am not good. Was also "trained" and told what to do, leading to extreme guilt believing what happened was somehow my fault - feeling I was not just a victim, but a participant. Finally I can remember when it all stopped. It was after another man once again raped me (which he had done many times before) - then said that I had gotten “too old” for their preferences, and to stop bringing me there. The abuse in a way escalated and continued for a number of more months, then finally it stopped and I was no longer taken at night. Some might incorrectly assume because it was over, then I was and am, okay. Yes thankfully the abuse stopped, but it has affected and impacted my entire life since then.

The body and mind keep the score and never forget - no matter how long memories have been suppressed. That may be done for decades, like it was with me - and once surfaced there is an element of grieving the loss of "what might have been", of what was stolen or denied. Just like grief, with sexual abuse there is no healing timeline and steps can be repeated many times. Giving the impression to self and others no progress is being made. If someone has any repressed memories - it means that your brain tried to protect you from a horrible experience, and those memories are very real. Suppressing memories, sometimes for decades, is more common that you might think, especially in childhood sexual abuse survivors.

Abuse also is very much part of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with which I live. Please know there are certain things/situations which can be a trigger for me. I really try to avoid them - but sometimes the internal fear or memories can generate verbally expressed anger or fear. Really do my best to just walk away - sorry if you've had a front row seat on occasions when I haven't been able to do that. Please accept there are things/situations which I cannot deal with, and please don't question it. If you need more details about "why" something is a trigger - just ask. However if you do, also be prepared to possibly hear the blunt reasons (remember, you did ask). Perhaps it might be better for you to just accept when I say that something is a trigger.

This abuse is a root or foundation for many of my mental health issues - which I have tried so hard to work on. One blessing for me was last year in July 2018 when I went to a multiple-day retreat here in Utah, sponsored by The Younique Foundation. At their Haven Retreat, the purpose is to provide learning and healing for women survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I am grateful for the opportunity - it was there that I was able to learn and gather new tools for healing to add to my toolbox. For the third time, once again was able to share my story there - this time the full story. And it was there that I developed a bond with other women who have become my forever soul sisters.

Remember no matter how bad it is or was, someone somewhere will always have experienced worse abuse than you. It is important to keep in mind to not be grateful it wasn't worse. Wait a minute, isn’t gratitude supposed to be a “good thing”? Why would you not want to be grateful the abuse wasn't worse? Don't get me wrong, gratitude is a very good attribute - and there are many things, big or small, to be grateful for which can empower you. However doing so in this instance makes it very easy to then become trapped in a cycle of diminishing or minimizing the trauma you suffered. There is no hierarchy or ranking of trauma - your trauma is real - your trauma is valid. Please know that sexual trauma may not always entail the tactics or level which I experienced. Each person's reality is uniquely theirs - as can be the degree of impact in their life.

You also might mistakenly believe this is the only reason behind my severe chronic depression, and suicidal thoughts. Yes, childhood sexual abuse trauma has been a very large contributor to those for me. It is a foundation for many of my mental health struggles, but perhaps is not the only reason. I will only briefly mention a couple of them in this blog post. One is a genetic component, and another is my chronic autoimmune health issues.

Perhaps hopefully what I've written can help another person (female or male) who have also been impacted by childhood abuse. Want to let these people know the fact they survived is a testament to their strength. For me, survival was also about the power of parental love - which saved me even without my parents knowing - and without my realizing it. That you are a survivor is a reminder your story is not finished - life can be worked on - and someday you will emerge as a butterfly. These are things which I need to remember, but doing so can be very difficult.

Suppose in a way I wanted to share my story - not just for the healing doing that can bring me - but also with the hope of better understanding regarding the mental (and sometimes physical) health issues which I have. Please be patient, healing from anything takes time and effort - however much of those are needed.