The truth will set you free.

Dedication: My three children and husband.

I do not think that I fully understood my inner strength until I was old enough and wise enough to understand what it meant. I must have been in my early 30s.

At almost 8yrs old we migrated to the UK from the Caribbean twin islands of Trinidad & Tobago. This was in the late 80s. The community and culture I knew was ripped from under my feet. The security and safety of my grandmother’s arms snatched away just like that. Life as I knew it would never be the same again.

It’s hard to understand what it is like to have a mother and father but to still feel so deeply alone. He was in fact my step father but as I had known him since I was 3yrs old, he was my dad. He adopted my sister and I and we were promised this wonderful life in the UK.

My mother left us alone with him for approx 5mths as she returned to the Caribbean to tie up loose ends. That’s when the abuse really started to intensify. He was in his 60s, us 7 & 8 years old. Scared, confused and very alone in this Alien world where everyone looked different from us and told us to speak slower so they could understand us. We became victims of sexual abuse. Our innocence stolen by this man who we called ‘Dad’ and loved dearly. After all we were in UK and should be grateful right?
As soon as our mother returned we told her what had been happening to us. It was swiftly thrown under the carpet. So it continued but this time she knew, encouraged it. Her temper was short and we were often beaten on a daily basis. Throw emotional and mental torture into the mix, my childhood and teenage years was a whirlwind of heartache, fear, self loathing, anger, betrayal and total sadness. Caused by two people who were meant to love and protect us.

2002 I finally spoke up about the abuse, by this time I had a young daughter and there was a switch inside of me that could no longer live in mental turmoil and slowly die internally each day because of all the hurt I carried.

My local doctor was a life saver as was the therapist I had in 2003 who had years of experience in childhood sexual abuse therapy.

Going to the police and speaking up was one of the most scariest moments in my life, talking to my therapist about the horrific abuse memories I carried inside of me took me into a different level of courage. It was so painful but equally liberating. I felt as if I had finally breaking free from the cages and shackles from my past. I finally started to feel clean and alive & not just surrender to pain and hurt. I began to heal and believe that my life was worth more than sorrow and heartache. I found my real smile.

Over the years since my childhood I have overcome OCD, Depression, Self Harming, Anxiety, PTSD and have learned how to release all the anger I carried and love myself for who I am inside. To celebrate the joy of being able to be myself and shine my light that was once dimmed by the terrible deeds of my parents.

I am now married and the mother of 3 daughters, one who has a Rare Chromosome Disorder and requires a lot of support. In becoming a mother I was able to realise how I was failed as a daughter. In a weird way I was able to learn from the worst how to become the best I can be.

My now eldest 20yr old daughter left me a voice note the other day which said ‘you have never told me I was not good enough’. It really warmed my heart and made me feel achieved. The same when I look at my daughters and I see them being themselves, laughing, living in light and feeling safe.

That little girl in me who had to survive and endure so much is the one who is really amazing, she just didn’t know it then. I do now. Still we rise.

‘There is nothing more painful than carrying an untold story inside of you’ – Maya Angelou.

I hope to inspire and give courage to anyone reading this to dig deep and take those first steps towards breaking free from anything that you are carrying inside of yourself that is not yours to carry. Shame, fear, guilt and anger does not have to be your ongoing story. We may not always get the love and support we require as children but when we are grown we have a choice to start looking for it from within and owning who we really are. We were all born innocent and even though innocence once lost cannot be reversed we do have a daily choice to decide that our true peace and happiness is something that belongs to us and us alone. That with the right professional help we can chose to feel better & move forward to live our best lives. Undertand that holding on to hurt will only harm us more.

I no longer speak to my parents but I have forgiven them for failing me and also themselves as human beings. I do not need their ‘sorry’ because they no longer have any power over who I am. It would mean nothing.

I forgave them for my own sanity and peace of mind. What they did was inexcusable but now I am free from all their rubbish and pain.

Everyday I chose to be happy it is a two finger salute to them and my past. They didn’t win.

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Leanda 'Rastarella' Falade

Events organiser and Radio Host living in Nottingham UK.