All the things I did not know

Submitted to JCW by a brave survivor. 

I thought that if I never said it, it wouldn’t be real. I thought that if I didn’t think about it, it would just go away. I was sure if I just ignored it, it would cease to be. If I kept my eyes closed I wouldn’t have to see it. If I closed my heart I wouldn’t have to feel it.

It was a secret. It was always meant to be a secret. He told me not to tell and I promised myself that I wouldn’t. That did not seem like a hard secret to keep. I certainly did not want to tell my story. I didn’t think anyone would want to hear it anyway. I did not want anyone to know how disgusting and dirty I was. I did not want anyone to see my shame. I was convinced it was somehow all my fault. I wanted help but it would have come at too high of a cost. It was better to stay quiet then to face the humiliation.

I pushed it so far down and tried to forget. I avoided mirrors so I wouldn’t have to look myself in the eye. My eyes are a copy of his. They hold all the pain and expose all of the truths. I damaged my body. I bruised it and burned it in an effort to replace all of the pain I carried inside. I tried to cover the handprints that are forever engraved on my body. I wanted to erase the bruises and the scratches that only I could see. It was futile. It only served to make me even more ashamed.

I ate everything I could get my hands on. At first just to fill my mouth so nothing else could get in. Then I used food to fill all the empty spaces inside of me. As my body got bigger it became easier to hide. Nobody could see me. Nobody noticed me. Nobody touched me. I was ugly and gross and disgusting. I wanted my outside to match my inside.

I learned not to speak. I learned to guard my thoughts and my words. I was so afraid of saying the wrong thing that I said nothing at all. People thought me cold and standoffish. I was so lonely. I could only view the world around me. I could never really participate in it. I lived my life quietly, but I was never really alive.

When I was just three years old my mother told me that my father would never hurt me. So I learned that the burning fire between my legs and inside my body must not actually be pain. I trained myself not to feel it. I made myself get up and move no matter how much I really wanted to fall down and cry. I practiced in my room until I could stand up straight and walk even when my body was screaming for me to stop.

My body became the enemy. I hated everything about it. It betrayed me just by growing and changing the way it was always meant to do. I resented the opportunities it gave to him. I was angry that even though my mind could drift away, my body insisted on staying and recording every single touch. I prayed for everything to just shut down and stop being. I wanted to be swallowed up deep inside my bed and just disappear. But, eventually, I would open my eyes and the reality would come crashing in.

I was so alone and so afraid. I was a freak. There had to be something so wrong with me. Nobody else seemed to have the same difficulties that I did. Everyone else seemed to be able to move and run and jump with ease. I was always worried that if I moved too quickly I might just break apart. I envisioned pieces of myself falling out and landing on the ground in front of me for everyone to see. I taught myself to run and jump. I joined every sports league available. I wanted to be just like everyone else. I wanted to be normal. I knew that I was not.

I carried guilt and shame and remorse around with me all of the time. It was my fault. I knew it was my fault. I just didn’t know how or why. I felt that my presence ruined everything. Nothing could ever be good if I was around. I was a nothing and nobody. Nothing I did mattered or counted. I might have good intentions but I still seemed to get it all wrong.

I thought that was my lot. That was just how things were meant to be. I was beaten down so many times that I eventually decided it was easier to stay there. I stopped trying. I put one foot in front of the other and made it through each day. I was tired. I was afraid. But it didn’t seem to matter because I didn’t seem to matter.

I thought that was the way it would always be. I was wrong.

I never meant to tell my story. I don’t know what I was expecting when I decided to start therapy. I was hoping for a little help with my self-confidence. That was all I wanted. I just wanted a few tips on how to stand up for myself. I figured 2-3 sessions tops. How hard could it be?

I didn’t know you would really hear what I was saying. I didn’t know you would ask questions. I didn’t know you would pick out one line from all the things I said and zero in on it. I didn’t know it was possible to be so afraid. I didn’t know I would feel so hopeful. I didn’t know I could feel anything at all.

I didn’t know that telling the story would be so hard. I didn’t know that all of the feelings I had denied for so long would come rushing back all at once. I didn’t know how overwhelming that would be. I didn’t know how intense the pain would be. I didn’t know there would be flashbacks and nightmares. I didn’t know how helpless I would become. I didn’t know I would feel even more alone than before. I didn’t know how scared I would be. I didn’t know how needy I would become. I didn’t know I was actually going to have to shatter in to a million tiny pieces before I could start putting myself back together.

I didn’t know I would have to trust someone. I didn’t know that trust involved faith. I didn’t know how important it was going to be for me to tell the whole story. I didn’t know that there would be words I could not say. I didn’t know I would be grateful when someone said them for me. I didn’t know how much I wanted someone to believe me. I didn’t know how hearing that somebody did believe me was going to affect me the way it did. I didn’t know I had been waiting my whole life to hear it. I didn’t know I would forget to breathe. I didn’t know that you could feel comfort and fear at the same time. I didn’t know that it would matter so much what another person thought of me.

I didn’t know that hate was such a powerful emotion. I didn’t know that you can hate what a person did, but not necessarily hate the person. I didn’t know that you could hate someone sometimes, but feel pity and sadness at others. I didn’t know how much I hated myself. I didn’t know how much blame I put upon myself. I didn’t know how guilt can eat away at you and warp your way of thinking.

I didn’t know I was capable of doing the work and making the changes. I didn’t know I could step out in to the open even when the voices inside me told me to run away and hide. I didn’t know that at times I could be strong and brave when I always thought I was a coward.

I didn’t know how much I was going to need someone. I didn’t know how much that would scare me. I didn’t know that once I knew what it would feel like to have such a person, I would be afraid of losing them.

There is so much I didn’t know. There are so many things I still don’t know. There are so many worries and so many fears. But there are also so many hopes and so much possibility.

I didn’t know how much I love to laugh and sing. I didn’t know how much fun I could have just cooking with my friends. I didn’t know that there are things I am actually good at. I didn’t know that I have something to offer this world. I didn’t know how good it could feel to do something for someone else. I didn’t know that if you smile at someone, they usually smile back.

I didn’t know that my past does not have to predict my future. I didn’t know that I could make it on my own. I didn’t know that I could have friends and that I could be a friend. I didn’t know, but now I do.

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