Apologies in advance this is a long post that details my trauma and survival story
TW: Child SA, Grooming, Child Pornography, Self Harm, Attempted Suicide, Suicide, Drug Use
I guess I an looking for fellowship with other people who have experienced sever childhood trauma. To keep things somewhat brief (it’s still a long post) I will just give a quick re-cap of my experience to see if anyone else could possibly relate. I also have not told my story to anyone other than my therapist. I am sorry I cannot reveal my identity because I am just not ready. If for some reason you figure out who I am, please use discretion.
When I was about 4-5 yrs old my mom got a new boyfriend. He was a big deal in our small rural town. He was cherished in the community because he volunteered his time coaching the girls volleyball team at church and he would frequently give people money to pay their bills rendering him a hero in their eyes. One of these people who cherished him was my grandmother who raised me as her own. (My mother had severe mental illness and addiction). He infiltrated my only safe spot at the time (my biological dad was in prison on and off but more on him later).
My childhood is foggy up until about 12-13 years old. My earliest memories are being SA’d by what was now step-dad. He used to make videos of us and me with other kids. Somewhere around that time he “directed” a movie with me and my best friend at the time. My friend had never been assaulted before and it really messed with his image as a young man, and a few months after the incident he took his own life.
Shortly after my dad was released from prison I was still around 12-13. This is an important part of my story because it was the first time someone actually VALIDATED me. He took me to a Mexican buffet restaurant but he saw that i was not eating and my head was down (I was a chunky kid so not eating was a major red flag that my dad picked up on). He started to gently question me, then he came right out with “is someone touching you”? I looked up at him with tears in my eyes, I was so relieved he didn’t make me say it out loud (I was not ready). After a few more questions he found out who the predator was and he never made me say a word, he could see it on my face. I had told my grandma, aunts, and mother plenty of times. I was always told “not to make waves because he takes care of us”.
Unfortunately, my dad had no impulse control. He drove right to my moms house and busted in the door and started throwing things everywhere. He slapped my mother across the face and knocked her to the floor. He then went to my abuser and proceeded to beat him within an inch of his life. At the time it scared me but as I got older I would refer back to that scene for cathartic relief when I was really struggling.
My abuser called the police on my dad. When the police came they greeted my stepdad with handshakes on a first name basis. The police also knew my dad for being a criminal who did multiple stints in prison. The police separated me from everyone right away. They never asked me any questions. Sometime later they loaded my dad in the police car and left me there with my abuser. The scene of my dad beating my abuser up was cathartic but thee scene of him being taken off while I stayed behind with a predator will forever haunt my dreams. It was a feeling of dread I cant explain.
A few weeks later my step-dad was arrested. Again this was because my dad was my hero. He told anyone who would listen; jail staff, his defender, even his judge. He got enough peoples attention. My stepdad’s computer was taken and it seemed that the whole ordeal was over. I made it through the worst years of my life… I thought.
He was rich so he had the best lawyers. Long story short his sentence was only 2.5 years because the only evidence that tied him to a crime was the child p*rn on his computer. I was never allowed to give a statement to the police and my friend’s mom elected not to go through with testifying because it was too it painful for her (which is fair). On the other hand, my dad and HERO got 7 years for aggravated assault. I was able to go live with my dad’s mom and brother in another state and got away from my abusers. Luckily my dad was released in only 2 years due to overcrowding and good behavior, but part of me thinks that the parole board saw his story and gave him a break.
I visited again at 15 because I missed my siblings, cousins, and other family and friends. I was told that I was going to stay with my mom’s mom (the woman who raised me in my early life) and that my mom and my abuser were out of town when I was scheduled to be there. Well I guess my mom wanted to see me and was able to get my grandma to break down and let them come over. I was scared and tried to hide as much as I could, but isolating myself only made things worse. My abuser was able to corner me at one of my aunts houses after she had left, and I was abused again. Only this time instead of gentle treatment it was rough. I fought back this time and he liked it too much. I told my grandma what happened and she called me a liar. When I went back home I never told my dad I was scared to lose him again. He went to his grave never knowing that information. That was the last time I ever saw anyone from my mom’s side of the family.
I am queer and that was the one tension point between me and my dad, he was a devout Christian. He caught me with a girl at 16 and said that my “perversions” were due to my trauma. Instead of getting me into regular therapy he “trusted in the lord” and put me in reparative therapy in our church. That experience was a whole other trauma experience to get into here. By 17 me and my dad were fighting too much and I ran away from home. I began doing drugs and sunk into a bad spiral. I had always self-harmed but this time it unhinged. I still bear the scars and still struggle with using it to cope. I attempted suicide during this time. I took an overdose of Xanax and I went into the back wooded area of my friends house during a party. I was found and only held for 72-hours. However the friend who found me became the love of my life. We started off as friends and I moved back home but living with a friend. We continued to get to know each other and fell in love. It was a twin flame connection.
Although I used drugs to numb myself I became a master of compartmentalization at a young age. Drugs were the tool to help me feel numb my pain and pack it away. I would be falling apart inside but always kept a calm front. I would literally schedule times to have mental breakdowns. I was able to get a good job and start my life right after high school and I had my own child at 21. As soon as I found out I was pregnant I stopped using. I was determined to be a good person for my child to be around, especially since we are pretty much on our own.
I did struggle tremendously with relationships and I honestly still do. I have horrible social anxiety so making friends was rough. I treated my child’s father horrible to the point of pushing him away completely. By the time my kid was 12 months he had already gotten someone else pregnant and was engaged. That was actually the worst pain of my life weirdly enough. I found someone who saw me and made me feel safe, and he couldn’t handle the chaos so he went away. He is still absent and I don’t push him because of how I behaved all those years ago.
One thing I did not struggle in was work. I became an veterinary nurse and my skill set built quickly. Becoming proficient in my career was the first time that I felt some self-worth. I was able to go to school funded by my hospital and started to carve out a good life. I just thought that the occasional meltdowns were going to be normal for me and I continued to grind throughout life.
At around 26 something in my brain was jarred and I started acting out impulsively. I would spend money I didn’t have or I would have risky sexual encounters. I thought I was “having fun” but it was actually an episode of mania. My dad was also manic-depressive so it did not come as a surprise. I went on meds and it helped for a while, but 7 months after started meds I attempted suicide again. The meds made me feel hopeless. After I got back home I was an unmedicated and unregulated manic-depressive with severe trauma but I still thought “Im fine”.
A few years ago I got the job of my dreams. Around this same time I started having this dream that felt real because I had body sensations from them. Sometime later I started having flashes during the day of the same dream but it was still foggy. Then one day the scene was clear as a picture. I was 4-5 when my mom first started dating my abuser. One night he stayed the night and we all stayed in the same bed. My mom fell asleep and Antique Roadshow was playing on the TV. My abuser turned over to me and frenched kissed my face, I was frozen. He then exposed himself and began to assault me. I was so small that there was blood on the bed from just one of his fingers. I cried out in pain and my mom woke up. She looked right at me and then rolled over and went back to sleep. For years I thought she was just too messed up to notice, but in this memory she allowed it to happen. The memory ends with me staring at the blood pattern on the sheets until he stops.
I denied that it was a memory and said it was just a dream. I was able to keep that up until I accidentally came across some old photos. In one photo there is me on my moms bed reading a Dr. Suess book. Everything in that picture matched my mental image. Down to a chipped edge on the big box TV. At this time I lost it. My daughter was also around the same age and all I could picture was it was her on the bed.
At this time I had a new great job and a new partner. My partner was older and saw that I was struggling mentally and she gave me an ultimatum; go to therapy or we break up. I had never actually received any therapy other than when I was in juvie a few times as a young teen. One of the state therapists actually told me “if things are so bad why not just end it”. I had a distrust of therapy and mental health professionals because I had bad experiences with them in the hospital. I was reluctant to try but wanted to keep my new partner and job. I entered DBT for PTSD therapy in August of 2020 and it was both the best and worst thing to happen to my life.
It was the best thing because now I can control my emotions and reactions so much better. I would have huge blow-ups and multiple day shut-downs before DBT. Now if I am struggling I have skills that can snap me back and I can think about better ways to handle things not driven by emotion. However it took 2.5 years for the therapy to be considered useful to me.
DBT therapy completely took away my ability to compartmentalize. Its like it opened all the doors and now my mind is just a messy flood. I am more blunt, I reach my limit quicker, and I have a general apathy toward life now where it’s hard to find joy in anything. I was unable to complete my job duties and had to leave my job. Leaving the only thing that gave me self-worth behind was rough, but my job was also causing compassion fatigue worsening my mental state. I now have frequent panic attacks, and although I can calm myself better now it’s annoying to not be able to control it anymore.
However there is another positive. My quest for self-worth led me into getting back into school. School is rough but I love it so much. I am studying history and I am going to Spain this summer to study in the archives. I am so happy that I am still alive to take part in this opportunity. I am making new connections in hopes of building a completely different life than I thought I would have 5 years ago. I am focused on Pre-Colombian/early colonial period in North America and hope to write a book one day that fills a gap in North American History.
Life is still hit or miss today. I had to go back to work on the weekends but now I have frequent migraines. No one in my life seems to understand how bad these migraines are and how they are taking over my life. I am going to the doctor soon to hopefully get relief. Everyday though it feels weird to be in the world with other people. Its like time goes slow and even in a crowded room I am all alone. My most recent relationship ended and I am enjoying being alone. Peace in solitude is new for me and I thank DBT.
So this was my story. Does anyone else have similar experiences (of course I would never ask you to elaborate). If you have more time under your belt of living life after severe trauma I would love to hear about your experience and if the “light comes back”. I lost an awesome part of myself with DBT therapy and I would love to have her back in someway. Also if you have been through something like this and are newly navigating it and would like to talk please message me. Again I would never ask you to elaborate but I would be happy to listen.
If you lasted this long thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading my story. Its been nice to write it all out. <3