My father, the man I loved, looked up to and adored, sexually abused me from the time I was about 4 or 5 until I was about 14 years old. I have many very clear nearly intact memories and I have many, many more partial memories of bits and pieces of abuse. Everything fades into black. Everything. I could not put the events of my life in order if my life depended on it. My childhood is a mishmash of broken bits and pieces and flashes of really horrible abuse. All of it comes out of the darkness and goes back into the darkness. There is darkness around everything in my life. It is the one prevailing theme.

He began somewhat slowly, but by the time I was 11, my father was raping me. He would make me act out pornographic events. I would beg him and implore him to stop, crying and pleading, but he was totally unfazed by my cries and begging. He made me strip for him, he made me shower with him, he made me perform oral sex, he penetrated me with his fingers and his penis.  He did whatever he pleased whenever he pleased. He did it all and nothing I did or said ever stopped him. Not even one time. Not even a slight hesitation.  I was a toy. I was the prey. He was the predator.

He was a teacher and sometimes, he would come back to the house after he had left for school just so he could abuse me, returning after he knew my mother would be gone to work and my brother would be at my grandparent’s house where he went before school. During the summer, he was always there while my mother worked. My grandparents didn’t want me around; I tended to stand up to my paranoid-schizophrenic grandfather, which caused him to rant for days on end.  My brother, the family boy, was always welcome there, however.  This left me alone and vulnerable. I was completely powerless and terrified and degraded. I didn’t matter to anyone. I was an object. Created to be used.

My mother was narcissistic and depressed and sporadically hit me, knocking me down, dragging me by my hair, slapping me, when I didn’t do something just the way she wanted it done. My father would hit me too, but when he hit, I went flying across the room. The funny thing (well, strange thing) about the physical abuse is that it didn’t even register as abuse.  It was so benign compared to the sexual abuse and the nightmarish chaos of my life, I didn’t even consider it to be abnormal or problematic.  It still seems like a minor aside.  Like, “so they hit me…yawn…”

There was no one to go to for help. I tried. I told a teacher and a pastor. Neither believed me. My father was, after all, a teacher, a police judge in the town where I lived, respected. My parents were a bit odd, but well thought of.  Both the teacher I went to and the pastor told me to stop lying. I was totally alone.  Terrified.  Broken.

Before I married my husband of 22 years, I told him about the abuse because I knew it had an impact on me in a very negative way, although I didn’t grasp the massiveness of the devastation. I wanted to warn him. But he still wanted to marry me, which pleasantly surprised me. We were both Christians who believed God was putting us together. I thought someone loved me for the first time in my life. I thought maybe I finally mattered.

But once married, I learned that my new husband didn’t love me.  I tried to hold the ugliness and messiness in, but some of the scary emotional turmoil began to show and rear its head.  My new husband told me he didn’t want to hear about my pain or hear any of the things that were going on in my heart. He told me point blank that he didn’t love me, never had and that I should keep my issues to myself.  He completely rejected me and it cut me to the core. I tried to make the best of it.  I tried to make it easy on him and keep it to myself as he asked.  So for the 22 years we were together, I buried it as deeply as I could and tried to go on; tried to be a good Christian wife. I did O.K. in some ways, not so O.K. in others. I was fairly successful in business, considering my meager beginnings. But my heart began to feel very numb and over the years, it became dead, totally without any feeling. I was a dead man walking…a true zombie.  A shell.

Sleeping dragons never die. The monster I kept hidden as best I could all those years was still inside of me. And when my husband left me for another woman, the shell crumbled and fell.  All that was left was ashes. I lost my church at the same time I lost my husband. Then I lost my job. Then my dog, a rescue I was deeply attached to, died. I had nothing left to live for.  And so, I tried to kill myself.  But somehow, beyond reason, I survived a massive overdose, forever changing the bell curve for that particular drug’s overdose survival rate.

Today, I’m in counseling for abuse issues and for an eating disorder that has nearly killed me. Had I gotten help long ago, it would have been so much easier. Having some support would have greatly helped. But unearthing all the long buried emotions, wrong perceptions, shame, self-hate, confusion, feelings of worthlessness, blame and unending terror is very difficult at this point in my life, especially because I’m so alone.

Being abused has cost me my life. I don’t know if I will ever recover. I have health problems that cause me to miss more work than I should and I’m afraid I’ll lose my job. I need intense help, but I can’t afford it. And there isn’t anyone in my life who really wants to deal with this awful mess except those professionals I pay to care. My brother has finally come to believe and understand some of the nightmare and I’m grateful for his concern. I’m so afraid it’s too late. I don’t know if there’s anything left to salvage. Life is scary. I don’t know how to trust or connect. I’ve never been loved, so there is no sense of safety or security or of having any value. I wait for the next knife in the back, the next horrible thing to happen, the next setback. Financially, I’m in ruins. Emotionally, I’m destroyed. I’m afraid…so afraid…every day, of everything. The next thing may be the thing that gets me. Guts me. And I’m incredibly tired of trying to fight this battle and go on.

This is what being sexually abused has done for me. And this short summary is just the tip of the iceberg.

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