Age 5-7 – sexually abused by a trusted neighbour over a period of about two years.
Age 8 – I suffer my first major panic attack. I have no idea what the f**k it is that is happening other than it feels horrible and I am sure that I am going to die. Bedtime scares the crap out of me…I am convinced that I will forget how to breath.
I suffered from horrific panic attacks as well as serious depression for many, many years. I saw many doctors and shrinks and they all treated the problems that I told them about. No one cracked the case though. All the many years of talking to professionals and not one of them ever asked if I’d been sexually abused as a young child and I sure as hell wasn’t going to say anything. I’d talk about the rape when I was 13, the abusive marriage, the self-destructive behaviours and addictions but what that man did to me when I was in kindergarten and grade one was a conversation I was NOT having. No f**king way.
There was one psychiatrist who wanted to admit me to the hospital for an addiction recovery program but I declined. After all, I had just left an abusive marriage, was not using, had a part time job and had two children to care for. How on earth could I ever find the time to go for treatment? How could I burden my mom with caring for my sons? How would I ever be able to pay my rent without the income from my job? It would just be so selfish of me. I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I would be fine. (ya right…)
So the doctors diagnosed…labels were attached and treatments and medications administered. There were mood, anxiety, personality, addiction and adjustment disorders. Sometimes together and sometimes on their own. I’d go for years without help and simply look after myself. After all – I was coping. I had a family to support and a career to manage. Not one single person knew what was going on deep inside. No one knew the root cause.
I was not living. I was simply coping.
I am sharing this information with you because there is a HUGE cost to society when a child is sexually abused. The children grow into adults with high rates of chronic depression, higher rates of suicide, substance abuse, higher incidences of rape, abusive relationships and all flavours of mental illness. Many of us do not disclose. We dismiss it. We pretend and we fool ourselves into thinking we have dealt with it. Until the day that we just can’t cope anymore and we ‘hit the wall’. The secret gets spilled or we spill our guts in some form or another. It’s never pretty.
When I finally disclosed – it was 42 years after the first instance. FORTY-TWO YEARS of carrying so much shame and self-loathing. Years of functioning but not living. Years of numbing pain with cocaine and alcohol. Years of hiding from the world but mostly from myself.
It’s scary for me sometimes. I still get panic attacks. I often have triggers that can throw me to places that I’d rather not revisit. PTSD is part of my life. Shame still threatens to cloud my view of myself and major depressive episodes visit me from time to time. Thankfully, I now know that it is ok. A panic attack WILL pass. A trigger is not reality – it is my brain playing tricks. Depressive episodes will often reveal something of great beauty. And I have made a choice to do something with ‘all of this’.
Voice Found is how I choose to take action and do something to help prevent other children from having their innocence taken. Voice Found is how I choose to take action to find support for adult survivors.
I’m living now.