Trigger warning: Before reading this post, please be aware that it contains references to childhood sexual assault.
What happens when you try to cope and not feel? You break down and don’t heal.
I wish I knew that information when I was going through trauma in my life. But I didn’t. And when I turned 27 and broke down about something that happened when I was about 9 years old. That’s when my eyes open up. I started feeling and not trying to just cope.
One thing most humans have in common is pain, emotional and physical. When one experiences emotional pain, you cannot put a band-aid on it, or rub some ointment on it, therefore it’s most common to go untreated.
Also, the source of emotional pain is not always clear. And when it’s not clear we tend to treat the symptoms, not the cause. And treating the symptoms can come in many forms, pills to help with sleepless nights, alcohol, and drugs to forget temporarily. We all know that with treating the symptoms we only ease the symptoms and only temporarily. And usually when the period of ease is gone and it comes back. It comes back worst than before.
Let me tell you my story. When I was 9 years old my stepdad started touching me inappropriatly. Only at the time I did not know it was not right. I thought that was what a father was suppose to do. I had nothing to compare his behavior with. He kept on doing it every chance he got until I got taught in school what it meant when a man touch a woman. By that time I was 14 years old. The last time he tried to do what he always did I ran away crying. He shouted at me that I better not tell my mom. He said that if I were to tell her. He would just deny everything and she would believe him because she loves him.
When I was 15 I had my first breakdown. A boy walked passed me and accidentally touched me and for a moment I forgot where I was and what happened and I just started crying. My teacher saw what happened and took me outside to talk to her, but I did not say a word. The next day the teacher brought in a psychiatrist to speak to me, but I still would not open up. She then advised me to speak to my mom about what is bothering me. I agreed. All the way home that day I prepared myself to talk to my mother, but his words keeps echoing in my head “She won’t believe you, anyway.”
I gathered enough courage and told her what happened. I sobbed as I told her everything he has done over the years and the fact that I did not know it was wrong. She was mad, she confronted him. He was right, he denied it and she believed him.
I was 15. I hated myself. I hated myself for putting my mother in that position and I started hating my body. I wanted to be ugly so bad, so that he would not want to touch me and other man would not want to look at me. I started eating a lot and gained weight and always dressed like a boy.
To cope with all the hurt I poured myself into my schoolwork. It was a good coping mechanism I must say. I ended up graduating high school second in my class and acing one of the most challenging courses in my University at the time.
After I extorted my coping mechanism, I finished university and got certified, that is when it all came crashing down. When I was 26 years old 3 different guys on 3 different occasions tried to overpower me and take advantage of me, that was just the start of a deep dark hole that I did not know was being dug. I started to get more agitated in social settings. Jump at every move anyone makes. I could not sleep, I could not eat. I went to the doctor and they would give me pills to help me sleep and eat. At the age of 27, I totally lost it. I could not go a day without crying. I was contemplating secondhand suicide. I was driving by accident wishing it was me. I didn’t want to commit suicide I just wanted to die. I do not get sick and I rarely took off from work but I could not deal with the pain anymore and got myself booked off sick for almost 3 weeks and got put on medication of which one was sleeping pills. My coping mechanism was gone and I broke down to the ground, and I just could not pick up the pieces.
I could not understand, because my situation at the time was not that bad. The guys who tried to overpower me. They did not get away with it. It shouldn’t have been such a big deal, but it was. I could not go anywhere. I was out at the club and a guy grab my rear and that could happen to anyone, but that broke me. I could not understand. And I didn’t think to revisit what my stepdad did to me. I finally decided to go see someone. He helped me reflect on my childhood and made me see what was causing my pain. By this time my stepdad was dead for about 3 years and I did not even think about him. Because besides what he did, he was just a terrible father to me and abused me mentally until the day he died so I was not trying to remember him at all.
My therapist help me to put everything in perspective and I started to deal with what happened to me. It is still an ongoing process, but I must say where I am right now is very far from where I used to be.
I am 8 months into 2023 and I could not recall a day this year where I was truly sad. Yes, I still get frustrated and irritated about the fact that I find it difficult to be around men, but I am in a better place. I do not get a fright every time someone comes into the room as much as I use to and I sleep unmedicated.
And what I learned was, that I have to work through everything and not around it so that I can have a breakthrough and not a breakdown.