In my last post I talked about my childhood abuse and the lessons that it taught me. I learned that I was to blame for the abuse, which made me bad and unlovable. Trying to be perfect, in order to earn the approval and love I so desperately wanted, was futile. That left me with the only other lesson I had learned from my abuse; that sex was currency. I spent it liberally throughout my adolescence and into my young adulthood.
In my early twenties I tried a different strategy to obtain the approval and love I wanted. I married the “right man” according to my family’s standards. He was intelligent, hard-working and came from a good family—surely destined to go somewhere and be someone. Unfortunately, fidelity was not one of his strengths. Once again, even though I had tried to do the right thing, it all ended up in one more failure. A divorce at 28 years old was one more piece of evidence proving I was a bad person undeserving of love.
My depression returned, this time with a vengeance. I spent the next three years in and out of psychiatric wards, battling to keep a hold on my will to live. In 1994 I tried to kill myself. And while I didn’t succeed the fact that I made the attempt terrified me. I started talking about my abuse in therapy. I spent ten days as an inpatient at a psychiatric facility specializing in trauma recovery.
Finally, I began to see the lies my abuse had taught me. I didn’t have the strength to search for the truth yet, but I was able to see the faulty beliefs that powered my thinking. It was hard work.
After making some progress I married again and had my son. But because I hadn’t begun claiming my truth, I easily fell for the lies my second husband regularly told me. It took years to get the courage to leave that marriage.
When I finally did, my life circumstances changed quickly. My son and I ended up homeless. Depression seized hold of me again. This time it reached deep into my core and shook me for all it was worth, The lies from my childhood abuse came back to life. Once again I felt unworthy, unlovable and incapable of doing anything good.
That lasted six years, so many years of emotional pain and hopelessness. Until I started a blog, and began sharing my story. I stood up in all of my imperfection, stopped hiding and started talking. Publicly.
The response was overwhelming. I heard from first one survivor of childhood abuse, then others, then more. “Me, too” they said, “I understand. I thought I was alone, but now I see that I’m not”. That simple act of sharing my imperfect story gave other survivors the courage to do the same thing.
I started a Twitter chat for survivors. They came in droves. I shifted my role from Therapist to Trauma Recovery Coach and started a Google Hangout with my new business partner. More survivors came forward, talking about the healing power of joining in community with other survivors. We started a second Twitter chat, published an anthology of survivor stories, launched a RokuTV channel and began a national advocacy campaign called The #NoMoreShame Project.
Through all of this work I’ve learned how to not only recognize the lies my childhood abuse taught me but how to kick them out of my life in favor of the truth: that I’m worthy, lovable and capable of good things even though I’m imperfect. In fact, it’s my imperfection that gives me power.
I’m so grateful to PsychCentral for giving me this forum to not only tell my story but bring education and information to survivors worldwide. Education is empowering. Community is healing. I hope you’ll join me as we build both here on and through this blog.