I wrote over twenty pages in my journal about my sexual history. I will not go into any great detail, but there is one thing I can not pass over, because if I did, there would be a missing puzzle piece to God’s masterpiece of me. I had been sexually abused around the age of three or four. Little did I know how this would affect the rest of my life. I had kept this a secret for over forty years.
I thought the typical things that all abuse survivors think, “If I don’t think about it, it won’t bother me or anyone else”, “Suck it up and move on”, “Things could be a whole lot worse”, “It wasn’t like I had been beaten and put in the hospital”, “It happened when I was so little, how am I sure it really happened?” The excuses to hide it were never ending. But now someone was holding me accountable and she was expecting nothing less than a vulnerable and honest heart from me. This was a huge lunge for me to take. Was I going to be gut-wrenching honest or was I going to cover “it” up again? I had been seeing my counselor for two years at this point. I knew I could trust her. I knew she would be a safe person for me to share my sexual history with. Those twenty plus pages were extremely difficult and painful to write just as it was when I wrote about my shame.
I was reading a book on boundaries by Anne Katherine. She was talking how the violation of a child’s sexual boundaries reaches into that child’s future and mangles the days and hours of their lifetime. She was also saying how it prevents a child from being able to develop boundaries. She wrote, “A single sexually exploitative incident in childhood, not necessarily penetration, but inappropriate touching or looking, causes exhaustive damage.”
Wow – this was making my head spin in every imaginable direction you could possibly think of! “Exhaustive damage.” She went further to say that the thought of mild sexual abuse made her shudder. She was calling what I thought to have been mild sexual abuse at the age of three or four “exhaustive damage!” What was all of this saying to me? I didn’t like what it was implying! I didn’t like to hear her say that the words “mild abuse made her shudder”.
Why were her words so cutting? Maybe because if what she said was true, then I needed to call my abuse what it really was. It was sexual abuse and it caused exhaustive damage in all the days and hours of my life from then on. At this point I was still struggling with coming to grips with what had happened to me. I was still finding myself wanting to minimize the abuse I had suffered at such a young age. I think minimizing it meant that I didn’t have to “feel”, which I guess at the time was my way of surviving. I thought that if I really saw it for what it was worth and really called it what it was, the pain would seem too much to bear. It seemed paralyzing. At this juncture in my journey I felt so confused, scared, and lost.
I finally came out into the open with this abuse four months ago. Why was it still haunting me? I thought once it was in the open between my counselor and my husband there would be no more hiding. This was a very scary place to be. It left me feeling out of control. It felt like I had just put my heart on a platter for everyone to view. It was vulnerable, open, honest and naked as it lay there pumping, wondering if it could survive the pain and humiliation as it bared its soul for all to see. Raw yet true. Calling what my heart had gone through for what it really was, my heart could no longer hide. It had to come to grips with what had really happened to it. It could not mask it or minimizing it any longer. But it had to call the damage it had been through by its real name: sexual abuse. At such a young age it had caused exhaustive, horrific, awful, and horrible damage.
Why was this so hard for me? Why did I feel like a mean and judgmental person towards my abuser? Why did I find myself beating my head with my hands like I was trying to make a bad dream go away? Why did I feel guilty for showing my heart the true colors of what had happened to me? Why was I so shameful of what happened to me? I had been suffocating my heart all these years, but not intentionally. Now I was beginning to see how I had not been giving my heart life during all these years of hiding, but I had given it the death sentence instead, not allowing it to be true, honest, and vulnerable so that it could breathe in life and feel fully, so it could love fully. I had held my heart hostage for over forty some years. “I am so sorry. Be patient with me as I try and learn to heal you, as I try to learn how to give you the air you need to breathe so you can pump to your fullest capacity, so you can feel to your fullest capacity. Bear with me as I learn to do this the right way. I will do my best to stop hiding, try to feel fuller and deeper and stop ignoring you. That’s the best I can give you for now.”