Last summer I had decided I wanted to live more. That quote, “die with memories, not dreams,” began to replay in my mind. So, in June of 2020, my husband and I went skydiving for the first time. That first jump brought an awareness of my relationship with control and would open the door, bringing an understanding of the many layers and beliefs that create my behaviors. My bucket list is long, and many of the items require me to be physically fit with endurance and a general sense of wellness. On January 1st, I began a journey to return my body to a healthy state.
It is so interesting how we set out to accomplish a goal, and it shows us so much more about ourselves. Twenty pounds since January, many layers of belief surrounding my sense of self have been exposed. One of my personality traits is to decide I want to do something and not waver until I do. I have a discipline I did not realize I had. When I reflect on my life, I can see where I have settled, this behavior was certainly learned through trauma, and then I have enough and make a change.
When I observe this behavior going back, I recognize it began from the time I could interact with the world. Those first eight years of life would form the behaviors and beliefs that created atmospheres of bare survival. The most traumatic was at five years old, although it began before then, where I learned to sexually satisfy a thirty-year-old man as a means of survival. For several years, this situation continued until I had enough and could no longer endure one day. I was eight and had learned that sex was a tool for survival.
AS my pounds fall away, so too does my shame. I only have a few classes left until I complete my BA in Psychology and begin the journey through graduate school. Some memories have surfaced, one, in particular, that seems to have triggered a series of remembering where I had learned to disassociate and compartmentalize. About a month ago, I recalled asking my mother for the $50 for my original application to Youngstown State University when I seventeen, living in my second apartment with my first child. At that point, my parents still claimed me on their taxes yet did very little to support me. My mother responded that she would not waste her $50 on me because I would never graduate from college and would always just be a whore. Well, bitch, look at me NOW I say in my most gangsta voice!
Granted, I am 45 years old, and it has taken more than ten years to begin to pull the layers of my trauma back enough to start the depth of healing that I require. I could never have done this had it not been for my husband Ian and his unconditional support and love over these years. Ian has compassion and a lack of judgment I have never found in another human being, and I am forever grateful for the atmosphere he provides that allows for my return to self-love.
I wish I could say the trauma I experienced ended when I decided I was no longer going to be an eight-year-old concubine. This situation was just the first experience setting the scene of a cycle that would repeat throughout my life until 2011. In 2011 I set out to understand my behavior and heal. It has been a long road of recovery, recovery of the self I never had the chance to know. The self who was always made to feel ashamed of who and what she was.
This memory of my mother’s response to me has me looking deeper at shame and its relationship to the layers I am shedding. For the first time in this blog, I am addressing the aftermath of the results of that early sexual abuse. It made me hyper-sexualized, and even though I had not participated in consensual sexual activity, I was constantly called a slut in school. Until I was thirteen years old, again I got tired of it and decided I would have sex with someone of my choosing; later, I would recognize this as an act of control in a life that was so out of control. There was nothing romantic or beautiful about it; I simply wanted to overcome on my own terms something that plagued my life. I was a master at disassociation and continue to work through being present.
While that act was empowering, it did nothing for my self-image, and I began to circle the drain with behaviors that would create environments that brought me closer to abuse. On one evening, still thirteen years old, I was at a woman’s home for who I used to babysit, it was dark, and I needed to walk to another part of the apartment complex. We lived in the projects; my father was a raging alcoholic, and my mother was already plagued with abandonment and abuse issues. Trauma really does repeat generationally if we do not treat it. This woman, “friend,” as long as she benefitted, her husband offered to be the knight who would walk me safely there. Only on the way, he physically assaulted and raped me. I kept this to myself, and when I showed up at my destination wore the smile everyone wanted to see. Over the years, this woman was on again off again with her husband; all I could say in support was that he wasn’t a good person. We see here where time and time again, I learned to disassociate. I already knew what happens if I confided in someone. I would be the problem. I had this proven to me time and time again when I shared my perspective or experience, how those with greater power would belittle me and continue to push me into my place. A girl who lived in poverty with an adoptive black father and a terribly wounded and codependent mother. Who the fuck did “I” think I was? I should be ashamed of myself.
And this shame I carry, which has been projected onto me through social constructs, continues. Until now, as I lose this weight. Not just the body weight, but the weight of what I have been holding inside for as long as I can remember. I learned sex was a job, and it was a job I needed to perform to survive—just one of the social constructs created around being a woman. With men or women, sex was a way to get what I needed in life. It never felt good; something happened to my cells that I could no longer feel—each piece of me a master at stuffing, shutting, and disconnecting any FEELINGS.
After that rape experience, I would go on to “date,” which was just having sex with a man, yes not another teenager but a twenty-one-year-old man with whom my mother completely supported, and I would become a teen parent. He used me for sex and set the stage for a lifetime of the emotional abuse I would accept from men and women. He used me as his little toy for more than five-plus years, and the men that followed were no better. In each relationship, I believed that there must be something wrong with me; why couldn’t anyone LOVE ME.
The relationships were all physically and emotionally abusive until I finally met my current husband in 2007. And because of my shame, I almost sabotaged this relationship. I had met nice men in the past and pushed them away; this time was no different. But he stayed, he supported and loved me, unconditional real love, and wow, I didn’t even know how to identify it. When I was in my late twenties, I found out my adoptive father watched us girls shower. I shared it with my sister, hoping to find some sort of healing from the betrayal I felt about someone I had put on a pedestal. Instead, I was treated as if I was the one with the problem for even speaking about it.
Shame, I will release you this year. As I get closer to understanding you and myself this year, I will lose you as the layers come off. My goal is to find the confidence and self-love that I should have experienced when I was a child. Many of the relationships and groups I have been a part of over the last ten years would look at these experiences, always preaching to let them go, stop carrying them, and find the gift. That toxic positivity is what I had been doing my entire life. However, I am pro at it; showing up and standing in my truth regardless of the reactions of others was not my specialty; I had learned to people please and talk about what others wanted to hear. I know my authenticity scares you, and I finally understand why. It is because you have not healed your wounds; you have disassociated and bypassed them just like I have. You have not fully processed the pain and emotions associated with your own wounds, only shoved them to the side or taken them out when it is convenient and can benefit you.
More importantly, we live in a society that has taught us we do not need to discuss these things. It teaches us to look away. That it cannot be that bad, you could have it worse! Be grateful. And for many years, this was my approach. Today I say, NO MORE. None of this was OKAY! Yes, I AM ALLOWED to be ANGRY, and I do not have to satisfy you with my fake smile and balanced demeanor.
Wow, what a workout! I just lost the emotional twenty pounds to match the physical twenty pounds! As I am that much closer to my goal. Like when I was eight and when I was thirteen, then again in 2011, I decided I had enough. It is time to be healthy in the way that I desire to be; not the way society has proclaimed. It might make you uncomfortable, and maybe YOU should look at why.