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Not a lot of people know my story. My family may or may not have guessed this part of it, but I certainly haven't come out and told them.
I'm missing a piece of myself, a piece that's been intentionally removed, and it’s left me empty and partially invisible. Worst of all, I'm missing the gifts that might come from it. I'm missing out on living my life to its absolute fullest because I'm not whole.
I've spent 22 years teaching myself how to skirt expertly around this part of my story, omit it, and tell myself, “It’s not something that defines me.” But it does define me. Everything I've experienced — good and bad —defines me. I'm not one or the other; I am all of it. I am the quilt, not the individual patches.
I'm on the edge of a precipice, desperately gripping my toes to the chipping and falling rock ledge that plummets to the chasm of my truth. I am about to own a huge part of who I am. I am about to step off the ledge.
For four years, I was molested by my mother’s ex-husband. From ages 8 to age 12, I was seduced, treated with “special attention,” given priority, and molested.
The shame I've felt is so deep that I've never been able to tell my family, and certainly no more than a handful of friends. In some way I've always blamed myself for letting it happen. I beat myself up for years, thinking I could have prevented it, or said "no," or helped myself through it.
I realize now that this shame was unfounded. My logical adult mind understands this. I look at my own daughters and see clearly that they would never be able to avoid or even protect themselves from a sexual predator, especially if that person was supposed to be a parent to them.
I lived in fear for years that “he” would find me again, that I would be abused again, and that my children would always be in danger of being subjected to this abuse in some way – either by a family member (like I had), a friend, or a complete stranger.
Since I was a child, I have gone to psychologists, energy healers, body workers, and shamans to "deal" with this. With all of them, I would evade the subject and say things like, “He would touch me. It was inappropriate.” But I would never get into the details, and would never reveal how often or for how long it happened. I would change the subject pretty quickly, talking instead about my issues with my mother, or my parents’ divorce; normal things people expect you to talk about in therapy. I began to master the art of evasion.
I did yoga, went on retreats, learned how to meditate, changed my diet, took healing courses, wanted to become a healer myself. I did everything people who want to heal are supposed to do. I did them all with enthusiasm and commitment. But I wasn’t doing them with the intention of healing the wound; instead I hoped to bandage it, to cover it up enough to live with the pain and keep moving forward.
It’s not that these things didn’t help. They did. Each meditation, each time I went to the mat, each time I helped a client, I let yet another wave approach and slowly begin to etch away at the giant, long-standing sandcastle of my molestation story.
Then I met my current healer, who knew how to deal with me in a compassionate and no-nonsense way. She began to teach me about my power, and that precious thing called choice. She helped me slowly begin the process of empowering myself, and remembering that I am “She who chooses.”
For four years, we worked on this. She talked and guided me through healing tactics like speaking to the empty chair you imagine your abuser sitting in. We did emotional release work. We did past life work. The waves of healing became bigger, and more chunks of the sandcastle drifted back into the sea transformed.
But not until she said six words to me last month did the critical wave take away enough of the castle to create an epic collapse, a crumbling that would demolish the beast forever. I had the “ah-ha” moment. My perspective and my life changed forever.
We weren’t even talking about the abuse. We were talking about a life change that my family and I recently made, and she said to me – I will never forget it – “Stef, you could have said, “No.” That is, I could have said “no” to the change as easily as I had said “yes”.
Along with my jaw, something dropped. I understood. I saw and really felt in that moment exactly what she meant and had been saying to me for four years.
I am she who chooses.
The fire in my belly ignited, and in a short time was burning so brightly and with such fury it became strong enough and powerful enough to completely incinerate a part of me I’d be holding onto with a diligent and oppressively strong grip: my victimhood.
That day, I stood looking out my window, staring at the scenery in front of me — the trees, the houses, the water, the sky — and it all looked different. It looked different because I finally realized that everything I look at and everything I see is through my eyes. The scenery is exactly what I think it is — nothing more and nothing less. I decide what I see; I decide how I feel; I decide what I think. I decide.
My victimhood was crumbling into ashes.
Later that night, I journaled. I wrote down in chronological order some of the defining moments I’ve experienced, and more importantly, my reactions to them. The pattern – my pattern – jumped off the page and sobered me.
For years, I'd been giving up. I'd been collapsing, and I had convinced myself that I'd learned how to surrender, taking my life for what it was. I was sorely mistaken.
Surrendering to life doesn't mean being submissive and giving away power, like I'd been doing.
Surrendering to life and the experiences it brings means allowing for those experiences to happen, then accepting our responsibility to see them for what they are and own our part in creating them.
When I went to bed that night, I knew I had changed my life forever. I knew I was finally letting go. I knew that from that moment forward I would be the one in charge of my life, my emotions, my thoughts and my actions. I was no longer a victim.
I am done being afraid.
I am done feeling shame.
I am not a victim.
I am a 30-year-old woman who chose to set herself free.
This is my story.
Who are you with your story?
So often people who have been sexually abused experience this crippling, silencing shame. I want to encourage those people who have silenced themselves to speak up. Speak your truth. Set yourself FREE.
You deserve to be heard. You deserve to be seen. And you deserve to be whole.