Childhood. Well, judging from the pictures I’ve seen, I’d say life looked pretty good from birth until about age 12. Then I remember reaching that good ole number 13. You know, the one associated with being unlucky, as well as the first of the teen years.
To most, this number triggers a sense of fear and doubt regarding the future. For me, it is a symbol of hope and a new beginning. Age 13 is where my memories start to take root, so it is here that I will start my story. Let the journey begin.
When I look back, I mean, really take a moment to close my eyes, look within and allow my mind to travel back in time, I see her. Not only can I see her, but I feel her. (I read what I just wrote out loud, and ask my 5 year old, “Who is she”?
He avoids my question and points to my computer screen and asks “mom, why is there a mystery mark after the word she?” Seamlessly, he jumps from his question to answering my question with “she is you.”
My son is right, the girl I am picturing and can feel so intensely right now, is me. Wow, I am surprised I let myself in. I am also shocked by what I am feeling right now. This moment, it’s so contradictory to the girl I knew when I was 13. She is actually allowing me to feel her, she never did that back then.
Confusion fills my head but is quickly replaced by adjectives which clearly define each emotion for me. I am grateful for her honesty and willingness to open up. I know how difficult it is for her to be vulnerable. She wants me to know her, so I can share our story.
I start to cry, but no tears fall. My hands are shaking and something as mundane as typing has become a struggle. “Just focus”, I tell myself. I see her again, that strong willed 13 year old, the one that survived sexual assault and then forced her mind to shut down, completely erasing all 12 years of childhood!
I’m angry! I was a child, people are suppose to protect children. I was injured beyond repair, how does that happen? Those were meant to be carefree years, but instead someone didn’t care and stole my freedom. I spent the best years of my life, my youth, being tormented. Crying again. Still no tears.
It is difficult for me to watch others as they reflect on childhood. The expressions their faces make are always those of wonder and bliss. You can see their eyes light up as fond emotions are stirred. Wonderful images fill their minds, allowing them to mentally relive colorful moments.
I will never have this luxury, and I accept it. I only have one childhood memory and the expression it brings to my face is that of fear and horror. It causes my eyes to dilate and destructive emotions to be stirred. No imagery, just mental torture as I relive my darkest moments in that pitch black room. This is where my story begins.
If you have experienced trauma in your life, and you are still alive, congratulations! Your strength amazes me and fills me with hope for the future. You are a warrior. You defeat demons on a daily basis and for that I applaud you.
As for me, instinct chose survival over memories and at age 13 instructed me to forget what I had been through. My heart sided with my mind and together they initiated a full system shut down and reboot.
My whole life, I denied reality and its existence. I accepted each day as a dream, once I awakened from my sleeplessness. I busied myself, and focused on distraction, any time the past tried to resurface.
Then one day, I met her. My best friend. She made me laugh and I felt joy again. Her presence alleviated some of my pain, but she was not enough. The agony, was still unbearable, whenever I closed my eyes.
Not long after meeting her, I was introduced to Alcohol. He was the life of the party, and seemed to bring out the best in everyone. I watched in envy as he got all of the attention and others enjoyed humor and care free attitudes.
I decided to go ahead and mingle with Alcohol and became immediately captivated. He helped me to forget who I was, and focused me on enjoying the moment. Eventually, I hung out with him, more than my best friend.
After going steady with Alcohol for a while, I was introduced to drugs. One led to another and eventually I felt complete. I regulated my lows, with highs, and my best friend was there for me, through it all.
Then one day, the perfect world I had created fell apart. My dad, the Navy officer, got stationed in Virginia, so our family was forced to pack up and move across country. Unfortunately, my heart followed me there.
It arrived broken, and incomplete. Pieces of it, had somehow been left behind in California. I worked diligently and made new friends and they provided me with the drugs and alcohol I needed to fill the void.
Soon, I had a boyfriend and even got myself jumped into a gang. Every direction I turned, led into trouble. I had no respect for anyone and my blatant disregard of authority overwhelmed both my teachers and my parents.
I had lost control over myself, and so had they. Then one day, my parents decided to drop me off at the airport instead of high school. Without warning, I found myself on an airplane traveling to Ecuador.
So, where was I? Oh yes, by this point in my story, I am a hardened 13 year old girl, who fears and respects no one. In an attempt to keep myself from destruction, my mind forced itself to completely forget every detail of the first twelve years of my life.
Although my mental memories were forcefully erased, my physical and emotional ones remained. Every night when I laid down and closed my eyes, my only remembrance would surface. In the darkness it would recreate itself, causing me to relive it.
As the sexual violation replayed inside my head, I could feel agony throughout my body. My mind wanted desperately to make sense of what had happened to me, but I didn’t understand. It tried to figure out who was responsible, but I couldn’t see in the dark.
Unfortunately, as real as my experiences felt, I only had access to flashbacks. They only took place in pitch black settings, so I could never see anything. Still yet, I would lay there every night in silent fear and anguish in hopes of seeing my perpetrator.
Each flashback left me with a feeling of disgust and anger. I felt helpless and voiceless. I wanted to scream for help, yet knew I could tell no one. After all, who would believe some kids wild accusations, against the versed defense of an adult. I trusted no one.
My mental anguish and feelings fermented as I continued to keep them bottled up.
Eventually I bubbled over in anger and resentment, which distracted my attention from my anguish. I no longer cared for anything or anyone, including my self.
At 13, I grew up, and subconsciously decided to hide what was left of my child. It wasn’t much since her perp had destroyed her physically and spiritually. He had ripped the sense of comfort, security, knowledge, faith, joy, pleasure and innocence right out of her.
With his bulldozer, he had completely demolished her whole sense of reality. Somehow he had made off with her freedom to feel. Her inability to trust, made it impossible to experience love. Her childhood had disappeared, leaving her miserable and lonely.
Once I was strong enough to make my own choices, I took action. I decided to take control of my own life in a way that no one could hurt me again. My reaction to my pain was active protection no matter the cost. This translated into rebellion and defiance.
From then on, I made a personal vow to no longer obey adults or authority figures. Any time they tried to demand requirements from me, I would go against their request. This thought process which led to taking a stand, extended to teachers and school work.
To be continued…..
P.S. I’m not writing this for me, I’m writing this for you. I found these words in the hell of my soul. If you haven’t found yours yet, but you can relate to mine, these are for you. I AM RELEASING THEM FOR YOU, just as my friend cried for her father, who never was able to cry for himself <3 While we must absolutely love one another, we should also be vulnerable and broken for each other. I feel your pain, and I’m telling you it’s okay to feel mine.
So, this is Part 4 of my story. I wanted to go ahead and jump right into it, since Part 3 was so Grimm. If you haven’t read the previous posts, which were the hardest ones for me to share, you can start with Part 1 here http://blog.craftycutie.com/my-story/the-beginning-of-my-story/
Okay, where was I? Oh yes, I’m a hardened 13 year old girl whose poor parents have no idea what to do with. They don’t know about my mental anguish, or how to keep me away from my negative social life OR what to do with my REBELLIOUS “acttitude” (you know, the way I was acting in response to my attitude).
Well, they decided to ship me off to my Aunt and Uncle’s house, who lived in Ecuador. As in the Republic of Ecuador, in South America. Not America like U.S.A, but SOUTH America, which is located on an entirely different continent!
Needless to say, I was shocked by the whole thing, but able to remain calm. When I arrived at the airport I felt confident and un-phased as I boarded the plane. Although I was off to an unfamiliar land, I figured life would basically return to business as usual.
Well, I was wrong! I had no idea how dramatically different things would be for me. My plane landed and as soon as I got off, I became overwhelmed with confusion. The moment I stepped foot on Ecuadorian land, my whole concept of reality changed.
First of all, what I consider a small, kind of wimpy airport in America, was like Godzilla (or Godzirra 😉 compared to the “airport” I landed in Ecuador. Believe it or not, there was no Starbucks, oh wait…what am I talking about? There was NOTHING there.
This airport, was nothing more than a big metal building, with a rustic attempt at a floor. Within its lonely, and raw walls, I only noticed one memorable piece of furniture. What?!? No lounge area, no gates, no terminals, no division in foot traffic. What?!?
I was accustomed to the super sized, go big or go home mentality, with extravagant airports. The kind of airports which cradle miniature malls within their giant concrete walls. Where you can find the biggest vending machines on planet earth.
Vending machines, that are way bigger than any adult I know. Hi-tech machines, that now offer conveniently sized electronic devices and accessories to big kids. You know, those adults looking to treat their inner child to a luxury toy like an i-pod or whatever.
Rant: Really America, you can’t just wait until you get home to buy yourself some fancy high tech device! You have to spend your money now and buy it from a vending machine! Gone are the days, when a candy bar or a soda, were a big splurge.
Anyway, what was I saying? Oh yes, American airports. Concrete walls wrapped around mini malls, fully equipped with franchise restaurants and of course, at least one Starbucks and/or a Cinnabon, if you’re lucky (Oh man, I can smell that 879 calorie “Classic” now).
An airport is a one stop shop for gifts, snacks, drinks, reading material, a shoe shine, massage, a buzzed mind and a full belly. Where you can also view impressive art as you are electronically transported by an escalator. Mediocre extravagance at its finest.
That is the kind of magically surreal experience I associated with the word airport. I thought of it as a place where you could arrive exhausted, with nothing but a credit card and leave fully caffeinated, with a wardrobe and matching suit case.
As my brain scrambled, trying to make sense of things, it zoned in on the only memorable piece of furniture. It was a tall, long countertop, covered in suitcases being searched by security guards. I began to feel a sense of panic, and reality set in.
Unsure of where to go, I tightened the grip on my suitcase and timidly approached the first husky guard. Much to my surprise, he nodded me forward, in the direction of the exit. I willingly took his direction and felt free as I walked through the door.
Once I reached the outside waiting area, my sense of relief was quickly returned to panic. As soon as I walked through the door I was visually bombarded by a multitude of people. They were grabbing hold of a tall, chain link fence, looking in on me.
Each face just as unfamiliar as the situation I found myself in. Fortunately, a voice from the crowd yelled out a familiar name, Tania (or maybe it was Tani, which is what my aunt calls me). I proceeded in the direction from which I heard my name, and she found me.
She, was my Aunt, my Tia, the most incredible and humble soul I’ve ever met. A grown woman with stars in her eyes, which shined as bright as her smile. I was overwhelmed by the love I instantly felt from her, someone who didn’t even “know” me.
It became instantly obvious to me, that everything I was accustomed to in America was gone. My Ecuadorian experience this far, was beyond the grasp of my comprehension. I accepted this fact and stopped resisting the feeling of being out of my element.
This was a timely decision on my part, considering what came next. My Tia, walked me to a friends dusty, old truck. She got in the back of it and motioned for me to get in the truck bed as well. I was confused, as this was against the law in America.
I went against what I knew and listened to the instruction of my new care giver. I jumped in the back and plopped down next to my Tia. The driver started the truck and I grabbed onto my suitcase. We hit the dirt road and the airport disappeared, behind a dust cloud.
To be continued…..
Wishing you smiles and sunshine,
By this point in the story, I was in Ecuador and had just left the airport in the back of an old truck bed. I was holding onto my suitcase with one hand and balancing my weight with the other. A giant dust cloud followed us.
As we traveled down this rocky, dirt road, I began to wonder when we would reach a paved road. My wondering turned into disbelief,which then became a dis-reality. The road never changed, and we had arrived.
We pulled up to the house and I nervously gathered my belongings. My aunt and I jumped out of the truck bed and she led me to the house. We were greeted at the door by a friendly man, with a warm smile.
The man was accompanied by two beautiful young ladies, with dark, gorgeous hair. He took the lead and introduced himself as my uncle, Tio Jose. Once he was done, the two girls told me their names, Claudia and Lilianna.
I greeted each one of them and they welcomed me in and showed me to my room. I was surprised by the simplicity and starkness of their home. Even more so when I entered the room my cousins and I would be sharing.
Much like the airport, it was almost empty. It basically just had our beds in it and that was it. The bedding was plain and neutral and so were the bare, matching walls. I began to miss my Top Gun poster instantly.
I barely slept that night as I anxiously tried to wrap my brian around my current situation. I was 13 years old and my parents had sent me away, to a foreign country, to live with family members who were strangers to me.
Over the course of the night, this reality sunk all the way in. I woke up in an unfamiliar place and had to adapt. I started with acceptance, and moved forward into adaptation. I observed intently and followed their lead.
This practice became the essence of my being while I was there. Not only was everything I experienced, culturally different but I barely spoke the language. I felt awkward and eventually lost my confident front.
I had to struggle through communication, and therefore became selective about what I used my words for. I didn’t feel like an interactive part of my environment, so I embraced observation. I felt like an outsider.
I watched the people around me and how they acted and interacted. I was so used to being a part of a group, that this mind shift was difficult. No longer was it I that was acting and interacting, I was an observer.
These people, my family, had taken me into their home. From that day on, they made me a part of their everyday lives. These strangers included me in each of their routines, plans, chores, interests, and social circles.
The choices they normally made without thought, had to be rethought. Every plan they made, had to comprise of something at least one of them could involve me in. They shared their space and their lives with me.
I didn’t realize it then, but now that I think back, this family was amazing! They welcomed me, an outcast, rebel with too many causes; known as a trouble maker, with no tolerance or respect, into their home.
They took me in and invited me to stay as long as I needed to, because we were family. I loved them instantly, but I missed the luxuries of the good ole’ USofA. My desire was to get back there, as soon as possible.
I felt comfortable in my previous way of life, I knew it well. This new life was so totally different. I would even say it was almost the complete opposite, of the way I was living before I got shipped off to Ecuador.
Although I was miserable and dying on the inside, at least I was having fun, living on the outside. In this new place everything was different and unfamiliar, every choice I made required thought and a shift in mindset.
It was difficult living in Ecuador, but it became clear why I was there. I needed to reevaluate my actions and keep myself from repeating them. I had to come up with evidence that showed I was good enough to go home.
In the meantime, I attended an all girls school run by nuns. I took my sweet time, literally, eating pastries the nuns made, while figuring out how to get back home. I barely spoke the language, so it was difficult and confusing.
Trying to make friends at this new school was excruciating. My dad was in the Navy, so moving every four years had led me to perfect my friend making skills. It was all about confidence and finding a common interest.
Well, this situation was like none other I had encountered. I barely understood the language. Being unable to communicate caused me to loose all confidence. I had a hard time finding things in common with anyone.
I was living in a completely different culture. The way of life, especially where I was living in Ecuador was foreign as well. It was a little town, named Pifo where time moved slowly and there wasn’t much to do.
While there wasn’t much to do, there were many to love and be loved by. I enjoyed watching my aunt, uncle and cousins live their lives and learned a lot from each one of them. They taught me to be more compassionate.
My aunt woke up early every morning, walked to get fresh milk from a cow. She also bought other groceries for the day, from local families on her way back home. She boiled the milk, and made juice from fresh fruits.
This woman loved with all she had. My Tia dedicated every part of her being to her family. She had no regrets about doing so either. Her life was hard, it was exhausting, but she lived it every day without complaining.
She was amazing, and so was my uncle, mi Tio Jose. When I think back to what I remember the most about him, it’s complicated. He was such an interesting human being with an even temper and hunger for knowledge.
The man was and is brilliant, but simple. I really appreciate that about him, now even more so than I did then. He worked hard at a fish hatchery, doing things I obviously wasn’t interested in at the time, since I can’t remember.
My uncle, also loved his family deeply. He had a great sense of humor and enjoyed poking at my Tia, who was the more serious of the two. He enjoyed living and loving others, including his dog, who’s name I believe was Puppy.
His interests were extremely broad, including all of the news and politics of the United States. Even though we only had one tiny, maybe 12 inch t.v. in the house, it didn’t matter because he was my personal news anchor.
My two cousins Liliana, and her little sister Claudia were my angels. This is funny, because that is what my uncle always called me. What is also interesting is that their dynamic, resembles that of my sister and I.
Much like myself, Liliana was fearless and strong. She was a little rebellious, but in an intellectual way. She liked to push the boundaries just ever so slightly while still remaining grounded.
She was tough, and stood up for herself no matter what. She had a voice and she wasn’t afraid to use it. I loved seeing her confidence and felt right at home when I was around her. I knew together we were invincible.
This was the same feeling I had felt around my friends in Springfield, Virginia. My cousin Liliana was the one thing reminding me of who I was, and who I wanted to get back to being in America. I connected with her.
She immediately took me under her wing and kept me there until the day I flew back home. Everything she did, she went out of her way to include me in. She knew how to have fun, laugh and live and I soaked it all in.
I appreciated her balance between fun and academic studies. I was impressed by how she lived a little on the wild side, but remained focused on her goals. She worked hard to succeed in school and achieved her best.
My little cousin Claudia, she will be even more difficult to describe than my uncle. I think in part because I could sum her up with one word, “perfect”, but thats not enough of a tribute for someone of her character.
Okay, so much like my sister, who I would also describe as”perfect”, well mostly, this girl did everything right. She followed the rules, walked a straight line and even tried steering her sister in the right direction.
She studied hard, got excellent grades, and all her teachers loved her. At a young age she knew exactly what she wanted to study and the career she would go into. She was on her way to success and no one could stop her.
I guess, when it comes to her, the thing I remember most, is her tender heart. She had and I’m sure still has, an incredibly considerate and compassionate heart. She stood up for the meek, and what she believed.
This will conclude my Ecuador story, as I feel I have shared what is most important to me. Through telling this part of my story I have learned that memories are built on shared moments with others, not just the experience.
I also believe showing gratitude is crucial. Thank you for listening and sharing in my moments of reflection. My hope is that you also will be able to take time to reflect on your past and learn from all of your experiences.
This is Part 7 of My Story,
It took me writing 6 separate blog posts, to share a little over the first, one third of My Story. The first 3 entries were excruciating for me, but I am SO grateful to have been able to get them out into the virtual world.
I tried to be short winded but it just wasn’t possible (insert sigh here and take a deep breath). I needed people to know, just how devastating sexual abuse is. I wanted others to be able read the words I could never speak, so I wrote them.
I felt compelled to tell my personal story in an open and honest way. There were certain details I didn’t want to share, but I felt obligated to, so I did. It was the only way for me to express the severity of my past.
I wanted people to know how deeply sexual abuse has affected my being. In order to do that, I had to allow suppressed memories to resurface as reality. I wanted the world to feel what I felt, so I opened up my heart and told My Story.
My intent was to describe my experiences well enough, so that anyone could relate. If someone has experienced something similar, my story is for them to know that they are not alone in their pain. I am here.
I wanted you to know, that I am out here, in the world with you, hurting as well. My blog serves as a bottle for My Story. My hope is that every time I push “publish”, my words will reach someone who is need of them.
I would say my target audience is those who feel alone, taken for granted or misunderstood. I am striving to put my feelings and emotions into words for you. I want you to feel welcome, appreciated and understood.
For now, this will be my last and final blog post in regard to My Story. The first three parts were a nightmare to face, document and process. It took me a while to move past the depression and anxiety that came with it, but I made it.
I had a really difficult time moving past the fact that the trauma I endured, robbed me of my childhood. Once it started devouring my present as well, I knew I had to move forward or it would steal my future as well. I focused my attention on the next chapter.
The next three blog posts of My Story, took the focus off of me, by introducing others. It had been over two decades since these experiences took place, so it was difficult for me to remember specifics from that time.
I just wrote what I felt called to and was able to become subjective. In the end, I discovered that it is not experiences that leave an impression, but rather the people we share them with. Moments are fleeting, but relationships stay with you forever.
My memories included the hearts of those who took in this troubled soul of mine. I can still feel the positive impact these people had on my life over twenty years ago. I will never forget how they shared themselves with me.
Now here we are, on Part 7 and the only thing missing for a happy ending, is a new beginning. So, let us go ahead and jump right into that. In Part 6 of My Story, I was still in Ecuador, but we’ll leave there and move forward.
My intention is to finish sharing my past, so I can go ahead and jump into revealing my present. I feel as though I have openly shared the most difficult parts, and will therefore just rush through the rest, so I can be at rest.
After about six months of living in Ecuador, I convinced my parents that I had changed. I told them I was ready to come back home and start over. They took me at my word and flew me back to Springfield, Virginia.
It didn’t take long after re-entering my previous environment to re-adapt. I was out in the wild again, and before long, my protective shield grew back. This time it came in thicker and stronger than before.
I returned to hanging out with my same old, tough, but caring crew again. I seemed to be attracted to those who at one point in their life were outcasts, but whom learned to adapt and move their way to the top.
Although they were stronger and tougher than most outwardly, inwardly they were broken and fragile. At school we all seemed confident and secure, but afterwards we all numbed ourselves with drugs and alcohol.
Over the years, my patterns remained the same and so did my hardened heart. I was attracted to strong and confident people, who always seemed to be addicts. Throughout high school and college I continued to battle alcohol and drug addiction.
Although I drank and did my fair share of drugs in college, I felt like I was on track. I was doing well in school and was in an awesome relationship with a guy whom I loved. Then just like that, in a matter of moments, it was all gone.
One evening, I went out with my roommates and one of their boyfriends friends. I had one drink before leaving for the bar and told my boyfriend I’d be over in a little while. I wish I wouldn’t have gone out that night, but I did.
We all sat at a big table together and my roommates friend offered to buy a round of drinks. I never accepted drinks from anyone, but on this occasion I decided to make an exception. After all, he was buying drinks for everyone.
I had about half of my drink and began to feel really strange. I was so confused by the way I was feeling. I had tests that day, so I had not done any drugs or drank, except for one drink prior to going out to the bar.
Being an addict, my tolerance was exceptionally high, no pun intended, so I couldn’t understand feeling dazed after only one drink and a half. My confusion led to insecurity and my mind went into flight mode.
I excused myself and called a taxi to pick me up from the bar. The last thing I remember, is watching as the yellow cab approached. I blacked out and the guy who bought the drinks, followed me home and raped me.
After that night, my life spiraled quickly out of control. Being drugged and raped ruined the relationship with my boyfriend and caused me to completely shut down mentally and emotionally. My boyfriend and I were the only ones who knew about what happened.
My drug and alcohol addiction increased to the point where I was never sober. I consistently numbed myself from feeling anything. Every time my mind tried to think for itself, I would distract it by getting it high or drunk, or both.
Eventually, I lost touch with reality and stopped attending my classes at Chico State. It was my last semester before graduating with a bachelors in Health Administration, but I was so far gone, I couldn’t even complete it.
After dropping out of school during my last semester, my addictions continued to increase. Daily, I lost more and more of my self to drugs and alcohol. It got to the point where I completely lost hope and knew I was on my way to death.
My knowing, turned into reality and I almost died. One night after some heavy drinking I stopped breathing and my chest turned icy cold. I knew I was going to die and I became desperate. I thought, “God if you are real, save me”, and He did.
Instantly my breath was returned to me and my chest warmed up again. It was a miracle and the beginning of a new life. I put my trust into God and His son Jesus that night and asked Him to free me from my addictions and my shame.
My new boyfriend at the time, who now happens to be my husband, and I renounced drugs and alcohol that night and God healed us supernaturally. It was amazing. After 13 years of addiction I was set free overnight, with no withdrawals.
Not long after my my last near death experience, yeah, I’ve had a few, my crazy boyfriend and I got married. We’ve now been married over eleven years, have two rambunctious boys, own an electrical contracting company, and co-own our home, with the bank.
So, as you can see, life goes on my dear reader. Don’t ever loose hope. Don’t ever forecast tomorrows weather based on todays storm. For me, the brightest day, where fluffy clouds fill the sky, always shows up the day after a rain storm.
Wishing you smiles and sunshine,