Saturday 11 February 2012

To be, or not to be, that is the question.

I have agonised over sending this post. It is probably the most revealing thing I've written. I have spoken to some friends and the reaction was mixed. Overall the opinion was to post it. I did so briefly yesterday, but then chickened out. To quote a good friend of mine "There are costs & consequences associated with living in truth, just as there are with living in lies & falsehood."

If you choose to judge me harshly then you are free to do so. If you choose to unfollow me then again that is your choice.

To be free of the past, to be free of the nightmares. To be free of my own, personal, demons. My fears haunt me. My desires terrorise me. The overwhelming pressure I feel inside to share all I know; of myself and of the realities of trying to survive through my teens and twenties.

There were times that I sank so low I thought I could never climb out of the gutter. I had different personalities within my own head to deal with too. We've all seen the cartoon depicting a man with an angel on one shoulder, and a devil on the other I think? Imagine four on each side... Each determined to be heard, with me in the middle, mostly unaware. I thought for years that I was mad. The biggest proof I had was the evidence of others and the fact I lost time so often. Blanks in my memory.

Drink caused me to behave in ways that would make me cringe with embarrassment when sober. I smoked weed, at first enjoying the triply highs, but later only experiencing earth shattering lows. Anything to escape who I was. I was soiled goods. I was dirty, second hand trash. Unworthy and unable to fit in with society.

I was raped by a college "friend" on my seventeenth birthday. He was seven years older than me. In some ways I don't blame him because I acted out sexually with anyone who liked me, or wanted to get to know me. I acted out this way through my late teens, my twenties and into my very early thirties.

I left college a year later. It wasn't a decision that made me popular with my family.

After a few weeks someone else tried it on with me. I reacted badly. I sank into a black pit. I ended up homeless, slept on the streets for six weeks in the middle of winter. I also sold myself in order to get some money for food, for drink.

I managed to pull myself together, and with help from a friend got somewhere to live and a job in a nightclub. All went well for a few weeks, though I felt I was losing my grip on reality.

I experimented with much during my late teens. Drink, drugs, sex, religion and even magic. I also experimented with death. One weekend, at an all time low I swallowed a load of pills washed down with copious amounts of vodka. I woke during this attempt to see my mother in front of me. She was mighty pissed at me. Told me it wasn't my time, that I had much to do. I saw her, I heard her, I even recognised her scent. I promptly emptied the contents of my stomach onto the floor, then passed out face first onto it...

A few months later my father died. I knew he was ill, but his death still came as a shock. He had remarried, had a "new" son and lived near his wife's family. I spent little time there. When he had been diagnosed with cancer, I was eighteen. He asked me to look after his wife and baby when he died. It was a difficult moment, but I agreed. When he married her, I was living with the grandparents and also an uncle who lived near my school.

On the night of his funeral, my dear sister, her then husband and also her "next" husband got me very drunk. They sat me down in the living room and she started interrogating me about my life. This is the same woman who had called me a liar when I plucked up the courage to tell her at sixteen that I had been abused...

A few hours into this "discussion" my sister decided I should be put into a mental hospital. She was a trainee nurse at the time and her ex boyfriend worked in such a hospital... My fathers widow tried to dissuade me, but I told the family doctor whom my sister had telephoned that I feared for my life and that I wanted to be admitted into the hospital.

My sister and aunt had told me a few times that I was responsible for my fathers death. That worry about me had sent him to his grave early... My sister had blamed me for my mothers death too. She told me when I was nine years old that my mother would have lived if I hadn't have been born. My mother chose to have me knowing she had cancer. She delayed treatment until after my birth. She lived a further nine years...

I spent about ten days in that hospital. My sister spread the word that I was "nuts. The doctors in the hospital eventually disagreed however and told me to stay away from her for my own sake. I was discharged and had no choice but to go back to the grandparents house. This was after some torturous "therapy"

I spent eighteen months in therapy, but even back then, the full extent of the sexual abuse did not surface. The therapy revolved mostly around my self image and my self harming behaviour. The reasons were never fully explored.

The grandfather died, I married. I saw my fathers widow and my half brother once only. I saw my sister about three times in ten years. After my marriage failed I went off the edge again. I spent my first night alone with a bottle of vodka. It was empty by morning.

The self doubt, the insecurities came flooding back. I spent ten years "in the wilderness" with my fractured personalities. The conditioning I had undergone as a small child leading me. My place in life was to please others. To be subservient, to simply exist. There are memories of these years that haunt me almost as much as those of my childhood. There are people I knew then that don't understand this.

Towards the end of this period I started assimilating some of my personalities. I grew more confident, I longed for normality. I was desperately unhappy. One Christmas I tried to kill myself again. A good friend talked me through my pain, a friend that I've now lost.

New Years Eve, the same year... My sister called me, drunk, apologetic and full of shit. She was having a party. She asked me to hold on then next thing I knew my fathers widow was talking to me, then my half brother. We agreed to meet up. It took 14 months for me to pluck up the courage to do so.

I cleaned up my life. This was eleven years ago.

I eventually kept my promise to my dying father, but not in a way he might have imagined. I fell in love with and married his widow, became stepfather to my own half brother. We are a family. My sister reported me to the police for marrying my fathers widow. They checked everything and we had done nothing wrong. They were considering prosecuting her for wasting police time however... I haven't heard from her since.

The aftermath of the childhood sexual abuse followed me like a shadow.

Rather than go into individual details I shall list those that I have experienced. Still am in some cases.

Alcohol and/or drug abuse. Self harm. Self loathing. Anger and fits of "rage". Random feelings of immense grief or doom, sexual dysfunction, doubts over sexuality, "prostitution", feeling unworthy, feeling dirty, feeling set apart from society, depression, D.I.D, mood swings. Losing time, setting myself up for a fall, hurting others before they could hurt me. Being withdrawn, eating disorders, fear of meeting strangers, fear of being hurt, acting out, attempted suicide, physical manifestations of past abuse. There are more, but even writing this is triggering me.

My life was a mess. Along the way have been those who took advantage of my naivety, my good nature and my generosity (materially and otherwise). I have made mistakes, I have hurt people. I have hurt myself.

I survived the years of abuse, the years of self harm, I lived. Surviving or living is not enough. I deserve more. I could write for days filling in the gaps above. One day.

In the meantime, I will continue to try and thrive. I lost my childhood, I ruined my early adulthood, I escaped.

I've lost my business and the way of life I enjoyed. So I must start afresh. I shall rise from the ashes of my past. I shall do so with head held high and with a determination to succeed, to enjoy life.

This is my life.


CherryPie said...

You are! You are beautiful soul, and the beauty is there in everything you post despite the traumas that life has put you through.

Life is a journey and some people have to enjour more than others. I don't know why that is and you have had to enjour some terrible things that no-one should have to go through.

Your journey had been dark, but all I see in you is light.

I hope I am making sense...

Unknown said...

My friend,please know that my life is better because I met you. I identify with you and share many of the same pain and grief. I am truly sorry for what happened to you. I love and care for you. Fredy

Sharon Rose said...

Beauty for ashes. There is a promise, I read it often. Hold onto this, you will be given beauty for ashes.

My dear, the courage it took to write this, the determination to speak up, I applaud you.

You continue to show wings, fluttering through, rising above an empty cocoon.

Beyond Survivor said...

Not sure if it was courage, stubbornness, determination or what. I've survived much. Why is the question I ask myself frequently. I really appreciate your support and that you left a comment here for me. This road I walk feels very lonely much of the time, even with family and friends around me.

I never learnt how to play, how to belong, how to fit in.

Thank you again. This support means so very much to me.

Patricia Singleton said...

Jan, call it what you want but you have it. It takes courage to share what you have here, what you share in every one of your posts. I know what that loneliness feels like. I haven't felt it for awhile but I do remember. What helped me to stop feeling so lonely was to love myself. Know that you are worthy of your own love and of the love of family and friends.

What happened to you was not your fault. You deserve better. Better has to start with you.

Faith McDaniel said...

Oh Jan, your courage continues to inspire. I have learned not to tell others, "I understand" because I know how it makes me feel when they say it to me and I know they are totally clueless, but I so want to tell you how much I understand and really mean it. My postings have slowed down although my writing has not. I have been playing the "mind game" of "to post or not to post." Building the strength to share more one day at a time because I know you have my hand in yours. I hope you can feel my kind and gentle squeeze back to you. Stay well on your journey!

Unknown said...

Dear Jan, you have become my wonderful friend. You are someone I look to connect with each day. The process of my speaking out and sharing my own story of abuse has brought many people into my life, but only a few that I have truly connected with on a friendship, respectful and mutual. You are a true survivor of your past and the traumas that haved plagued you. It is not your fault and you share your inspirations to continue moving forward with others each day. You give my soul a connection that is truly appreciated. You are a spark in my new life of healing and helping others. You are a support system for my good and bad days. I look for your poetic words each day and often they describe the lost person of my childhood. I praise you my friend for sharing all that you have here. Thank you for allowing me to read and share it with my friends and followers. Blessings of peace and hugs for your daily strength dear Jan. Know in your heart that you are a warrior moving forward in the aftermath of abuse. The happiness of life is due you and your words will allow your beautiful star to continue to light the way for many. hugs :)

Debbie T said...

To be. To bear the soul from the shadows of the past. To love the beauty of your soul. To save the clarity of your mind. To seek inner balance and peace. To appreciate God for the given gift to you; which is called life. To love life and be blessed to continue your life journey through the light that you carry within.~D~

ByronStol said...

As I was reading through this post I was thinking, 'what's there to judge?', given your concern about being judged harshly that you mentioned at the start. All I felt was this overwhelming sense of compassion because like so many survivors I know, the abuse has screwed up our lives well into adulthood. Trauma leads to all sorts of behaviours and so what I see in you is someone with amazing resilience to be able to get to where he is now.

A fellow survivor said to me last year that the shame I carry about my adult life is not really mine to carry, because if I hadn't been abused then I would not have set foot on the path to self destruction. The shame belongs with the abuser(s) because our lives would have been a lot different if the abuse had not happened in the first place.

It is to your credit that you have come this far in your own journey and I salute you for that. You have my deepest respect and admiration.

Anonymous said...

Jan, I am so proud of your courage in posting your story. Many of the dark turns in your path mirror mine and I know how agonizing it can be to speak those words aloud, let alone to write them (which can be so much harder to do). There is nothing there to be judged on; all the blame and all the shame belongs to your abusers alone. Let none judge you for the choice of family you gather around yourself either. When horror and family cruelty make us create our own family where we can feel safe and loved, that is the only truth that matters. If any wish to judge, they must first suffer every pain you ever felt; if they can survive as you did, they will have no desire left in them to judge. We are survivors who choose to find the strength to share our past to help others. No one has the right to judge. You are an inspiration to many; a voice for those who are afraid to speak. Your articles and words have helped me often, to find my way through my own darkness. Thank you for sharing your pain, your light through the darkness, that warms us as we stumble on our way. Remember that we strive with you; you are not alone. Our paths to healing are parallel and may never cross in this world, but we can help each other and so many others just by knowing that each of us is not alone. - W.R.R. (@RagMan_RIP)

Anonymous said...

I feel blessed everyday that you came into my life
with your poetry. I am a survivor of a viscous assault in 2004. Stabbed, beaten,stomped and a lot Thank God I don't remember. They left me like a piece of trash 2 die alone on a deserted dead end road. Long story short, I was found & have been fighting both mentally/ physically, even 2 this day 2 get my life & dreams back. I was both a painter & Art Teacher. Dreams lost, fast forward 2 twitter & a brave sweet man offers a complete stranger 2 get her dreams back. @esduckie

Beyond Survivor said...

Thank you my dear friends. YOU give me the motivation to carry on.

Anonymous said...

Your story is a testimonial that one can rebuild himself from the deepest pit. It also shows that abused children are left with a ruined mind. Something that most adults and courts need to know. Your witnessing has already saved many people. Keep talking about it.

Suzanne said...

My heart goes out to you... No child asks for this.. this life long sentance. <3

Susan said...

My brother died recently. He drank himself to death. No one seems to know why. I can only guess. Thank goodness some people are able to face their demons and survive. Thank you for being strong enough to do what my brother could not.


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