*This series for #SAAM is stories of tremendous courage as Survivors have spoken/written them. There may be graphic and/or triggering information or language. Please make sure to take care of yourself as you read through and practice grounding exercises as needed.
Some might think that Day One was the day they were first abused, or the first time they recalled their abuse. I in turn think of Day One as the day I consciously decided it was time to start my healing journey. I can tell you the exact date and time, as if giving time of death on my past; October 19, 2018 at 12:48pm. That was the day I faced the darkest recesses of my mind, where I had kept the unnamed secret for thirty odd years, where I had repeatedly battled myself to keep the monsters at bay, and in losing the battle, began to win back the person I was intended to be.
I remember calling to set up an appointment with a therapist, and when I was asked for the reason, I calmly told the receptionist I was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. The words sounded foreign to me, as if spoken by another. This was the second time in my life I had said these words out loud to another human being. The first time the little girl I used to be was met with disbelief, shame and anger, enough to keep her silent for all these years. The adult I am now was therefore completely unprepared to hear the receptionist’s soothing and compassionate voice on the other line, a person who I had never seen, tell me how sorry she was that I had lived through this and was struggling, and how courageous I was to finally seek help. I recall barely keeping it together the rest of the call, as I gave her my information, and she gave me the appointment in a weeks time. As soon as I hung up, I felt darkness start to close in, my breath came in ragged gasps as I struggled unsuccessfully to keep the panic away. My mind shouted at me, “what are you doing, you can't do this, no one is going to believe you.”
NO ONE IS GOING TO BELIEVE YOU. There it was, the so called truth of it all, the source of my shame, fear and anger was finally out in the open for everyone to see, or so I thought. How could people but notice that a shell of myself was going about my daily life, was tossing sleepless at night, pondering so many unanswered questions for another seemingly endless week. But I believed, even if I wasn't fully prepared to admit it, I knew with every fiber of my being, that I had lived through this, and I could no longer hide from my truth. My old tactics of denying or minimizing the effects this has had and continued to have in my life no longer served me. The wall I had painstakingly erected around myself over the years, came crashing down around me, and for the first time, I stood defenseless, vulnerable, to face my past. I needed a new battle plan, a new armor, and a new army.
I reached out a cautious hand to a dear friend, and was again greeted with warmth and compassion, and her words often ring in my ears, on those days I trudge into my therapist’s office, like an uncooperative child dragged to the doctors. She said, “it won't be easy, and there will be days you’ll question if you should go on; the answer is you MUST go on. This is the beginning of an emotional roller coaster for you, but this time you won't be alone.”
So here I am today, four months on this roller coaster, facing truths, facing self doubt, learning to allow these emotions that I’ve denied for fear of being overwhelmed to come through, to be witnessed by my wife and my inner circle. More allies have joined me on this journey, as I’ve learned that I need to reach out to those I truly trust. I’m learning I don't have to wear my Wonder Woman mask all the time, it's ok to have bad days. There are days I falter, but like my friend said, this time I’m not alone. This time I have wonderful support and new coping tools I’m learning along the way to help me get up, dust myself off and keep climbing the mountain slope ahead. I may not be able to see the top yet, but I know it's there.