*TRIGGER ALERT: MENTION OF SEXUAL ABUSE AND RAPE*
My brain is sometimes troublesome. Good stuff happens in my life all the time — magical stuff, even — and my skeptical brain seeks to discount it. Lately, though, a seemingly endless series of coincidences has brought a variety of good people and growth opportunities into my life. The more I’ve focused on what I want and need in life, the more life just serves it up.
Except for that damned nuisance brain of mine. It always looks for the logical explanation behind miracles large and small, always seeks to discount the magic, always seeks to pull back the curtain on the phony wizard. And somewhere, in the deepest, darkest corner of that grey matter, a nasty little voice whispers: You think this good stuff is for you? You think you deserve it?
Once upon a time, I fought social media kicking and screaming. I understood that as an author, I needed to post, blog, and Tweet ‘til the cows come home. But I wanted to do it about as much as I wanted to eat those same cows (I haven’t eaten beef since age 12, and I haven’t missed it). I got comfortable with Facebook, worked on the blog, and am more or less keeping up with my least-favorite: Twitter.
But last week, the #MondayBlogs hashtag on Twitter (launched by Rachel Thompson, author of Broken Places) led me to the post ‘Sink or Swim’ on Life Unfurled. Mandy struck a chord with me in discussing the divorce she is going through. I contacted her and struck up a conversation, which we eventually moved from Twitter to Facebook.
You know, so we could converse in more than 140 characters at a time.
We discovered much in common: we’re both self-employed, both about the same age (OK, she’s younger), both on our second divorce, both wondering how the hell we got where we are. She lives on a boat — something I continue to contemplate — and even looks like she could be my little sister.
Most significant, though, was something I discovered when I went back to her blog and read every one of her posts. She is a survivor of sexual abuse, and as a result, she is battling PTSD and anxiety.
As most people close to me know, I too am a survivor of sexual abuse and rape. Beginning when I was just 4 or 5 years old, I was abused by a teenage boy who had myriad problems and took them out on me when he babysat. In my own teenage years, I trusted someone I thought was a friend, and found myself the victim of a violent sexual assault.
In the years that followed, I became the poster child for the symptoms of PTSD commonly suffered by survivors of sexual abuse and rape. I had an eating disorder. I cut myself. I was depressed. I abused alcohol and drugs. I had zero sexual boundaries. I attempted suicide.
Again, these are things most people close to me know. I was fortunate enough to receive excellent medical help and counseling in my early twenties. I learned that being secretive about these awful things that had happened to me only exacerbated the shame that fueled my self-destructive behaviors. And that I had no reason to be secretive.
No one invites abuse or assault.
That shame belongs to the perpetrators alone.
It’s been a long time since I keenly felt the pain of those earlier chapters of my life. I took my last antidepressant pill in 1998 and have since managed my mental health through diet, meditation, and exercise. When you see me post on Facebook about crossing the finish line at a sprint triathlon before you’re even out of bed and think, Damn! She’s crazy! Yup. Absolutely. And all that physical activity is how I keep the crazy from eating me alive.
I’d been thinking quite a bit lately about sharing my experience with my readers. Though the pain of my past seems far removed to me now, some of the difficulty I went through as I weathered my divorce in the past year reminded me that no matter how much we might like to believe we can leave certain chapters of our lives behind entirely, we are all the sum of each and every one of our experiences. Amidst the sadness and loss of my divorce, that nasty little voice buried deep in my brain would sometimes creep up: What did you expect? You thought you deserved better?
Only now, my heart responds, Why, yes. Yes, I do.
This, I have realized, is the reason my painful past is worth sharing right now. When I read Mandy’s posts in Life Unfurled, I knew our paths crossed for a reason. She began her blog with the intent of releasing the burden of shame that isn’t hers to carry. I set that burden down long ago, but I still live with some of the scars.
But I live.
I live, I live, I live.
And she will too.
My brain may still doubt all the wonderful miracles life keeps sending my way. That dark little part of it might still cling to the training it received from people who hurt me. But in this mortal realm, my smarty-pants brain is stuck on board with my heart, and my heart is at the helm.
As Mandy wrote in her introductory blog post, “let’s support each other in the lives we dream of living.”
Sometimes we just need to know how many people are in the very same boat.
In addition to #MondayBlogs, author Rachel Thompson began #SexAbuseChat on Twitter — every Tuesday beginning at 6 p.m. PST, survivors of sexual abuse and rape can join in the conversation.
If you need help, link here to RAINN for a list of international resources for victims and survivors of rape, sexual abuse and incest.
And if you have difficulty finding the help you need, please feel free to PM me through my Facebook page. I’m not a counselor by any means, but I will gladly listen and help you find the support you need to live the happy life you deserve.