Charlene, One Year Later

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** I first spoke with Charlene just over one year ago. Below is the photo that was originally posted in Dec. 2017 along with her original story. She shared about the sexual abuse she suffered and how she has been on a path towards healing after spending many years of her life burying and hiding her past. Over the past year she has made great strides towards lessening the pain of the trauma, opening up, and letting go.

charlene

“Telling the story, for me, has been really healing because my story was very much a secret. I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t actually begin to talk about it until about four years ago after I had my son.

My family has a long line of sexual abuse. I was sexually abused by my father from the time I was very young, and I have suspicions he also did it to my sister. My mother was emotionally unstable, had violent outbursts and was verbally abusive.

The sexual abuse that happened to me, I really feel like it caused so many issues, symptoms in my life, starting with severe anxiety. That was probably the first thing. Stomach, severe stomach issues, starting from when I was – kindergarten all the way up until – I still have it, but it’s not as bad as it used to be. Eating disorder, alcohol and drug addiction, so many identity issues. Self harming, self destructive behaviors.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and on some really heavy meds for a long time, and then – only in recent times, like within the last year have I totally stopped taking that stuff because my psychiatrist and I, and my therapist, it was kind of just like, we don’t really think you have this. We think you have PTSD from trauma. And that’s really what it was.

It’s gotten a lot easier for me to talk about it. I didn’t used to be able to talk about this without breaking down. Every time I talk about it, it gets a little easier. It’s like I’m unleashing the secret into the world.

I recently spoke at a survivor’s meeting…and I left there with this really intense feeling of strength. There’s so many people that are benefiting from what you’re saying, and even though it’s hard for you to say it, you’ve given them such a gift.

This is me, this is you, this is so many people. And we all have this similar story.

As soon as I started realizing how shut down I was about it, it was like the floodgate opened. I couldn’t ever go back to that denial.

I think for me remembering every detail was giving validity to it. It was validating my experiences…. But I’ve gotten a little better with realizing that I don’t need that to heal. I don’t need those memories to heal. And I don’t need anyone to validate what I went through.

My father – he has manipulated everyone into believing that he didn’t do anything, even though he so much as confessed when it initially happened. It’s bizarre the way the brain can transform what’s said and then alter it.

I left the family completely, but do have some contact with two of my sisters. I’m the scapegoat. I’m the pull apart. It was a leaning tower, and it toppled when I decided to do what I did, but it was the best thing for me and my family. I do not have any connection with my mother now, but when I think of her, my brain is still like a child in the way that I wonder why didn’t you save me? Why didn’t you take me away from this? And she didn’t. She couldn’t. Because she’s a victim herself.

I think for me one of the things that is so hard with abuse is that at your core you feel worthless. You feel like you are constantly trying to achieve the unachievable, and you live in this – I feel like for me, I live in this perpetual state of motion, where I’m constantly chasing something.

The silence is so much based in shame. It’s this cycle…It’s so shameful that you’re locked.

I have been using yoga as a tool in my healing and today I thought of the things that yoga has taught me. So many things, but the biggest thing is breathing to let go. I am learning that there is so much healing in the letting go. Through my breath-steady, in and out- I have learned to move with so much more grace through this world. To soften my face, to feel compassion when I want to judge. I am reminded of love and courage, moments of clarity that have brought me into the present. Those moments are invaluable to me.

Yesterday after we got home from a long day, my son Miles said “It’s 8:56!? I never go to bed this late. I’m so tired. I just want my bed. Ah, peace. I have so much peace in my bed.”

When he said this my heart leaped and hit the bottom all at once. My husband and I, we have given him that peaceful rest, a peaceful life. I never had that. It’s a big deal for me to be able to give that to him.

My biggest fear is that he will one day hate me, as I hate my Mother and as she hated her own. Yet, it is in so many moments that he has told me this is not to be…and here is yet another. I am doing something right, I have to tell myself that sometimes.”

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