Share the pain so that you may GROW

Share the pain so that you may GROW

I was turning 50 the year I learnt my parents knew about sexual abuse that had taken place in the family home during my childhood. A family member had died, altering the family dynamics, and in the aftermath, things were said that had been suppressed, lying dormant, for years.

The morning after the funeral I entered the kitchen of my childhood home on the farm, thinking we would reflect and reminisce but my mother began talking about a distant cousin facing assault charges. Astounded that she would bring this up at a time of grief and mourning, like a bolt out of the blue I said ‘he is not the only man in our family who should be brought to justice’. And my mother said: “Are you talking about Xxxxx?”

I said: “You know?” My mother said: “Yes”. Both she and my father knew! Suddenly I was in a flood of tears, saying over and over: “I didn’t know you knew, I didn’t know you knew.”

The gates to my past burst open. I was like a scared five-year-old, wanting my mother and my father to hold me, reassure me and help me feel safe. But to my parents the sexual abuse was something to be swept under the mat, and definitely not to be aired in the local community. “That happened a long time ago. Get on with your life,” was their attitude. I tried to hug my mother but, getting no comfort, retreated to the kitchen doorway, where I stood alone, tears streaming down my face, sobbing over and over: “I didn’t know you knew, I didn’t know you knew.” For decades my sister and I, believing our parents did not know, had a pact not to tell them  about this terrible “secret”, because we didn’t want to upset them. Now I was hit with the realisation that they’d known, and had done nothing about it.

They still welcomed the perpetrator into their home! I felt like a piece of meat and that my soul, the tiny part of my soul not yet devoured by my eating disorder saboteur, was shredded. I ran from the farmhouse in tears and cried all the way home. Besides a shattered soul, my heart felt wrenched from its sockets. When I arrived home from the three-hour journey I phoned George, my rock, my anchor. He urged me not to call my parents; after all, they could see I was upset. “Yes,” I sobbed, “but why don’t they care?”

Monday dawned and I went to work in a state of shock and despair. I felt like I had lost my parents. My mother had made light of the sexual abuse, saying: “It happens to others, what’s so special about you?” I was not special, but rape was a criminal offence. I cried and cried some more. Action could have been taken against the perpetrator years before. By keeping the ‘secret’, instead of saving my parents from pain, I had added to my own.

I felt DEPRESSED and my psychiatrist increased my medication. ‘I’ll feel like a zombie, but this is better than feeling like I’ve lost my foundation,’ I thought. There was no point making charges against the perpetrator. Too much time had elapsed and it would be too stressful for me. I felt extremely alone.

I thought of George, and had the most intimate conversation with him since our split 14 years earlier. During our marriage I’d been an injured soul, trying to cope with my illness and my mother’s rejection. Sometimes the loss of George and my family unit almost overwhelmed me, and I strove to be grateful for what I had left: a lifelong friendship and our four lovely children. George said to me again, not to contact my parents, so I had not. He said: “They know where you are, if they want you as their daughter”.

I encourage others who have been abused in any way, to share their experience with someone they trust.  The sooner the better but it is never too late. If we don’t share the load, it is ongoing, weighing heavily on us and affecting many aspects of our life, especially relationships. We need to share so we can heal and grow. This lovely letter arrived yesterday, reminding me:
Well June, your book A Girl Called Tim was absolutely absorbing and captivating. It was an excellent insight into living life with, and overcoming an eating disorder. It was deeply personal, you could almost feel the pain that you were experiencing through some of the trauma of your childhood and the ongoing relationship with  your mother which seemed to cause you alot of stress. I can so relate to the illness that you had and how it was trying to take over your thoughts and your mind. I have experienced a very similar battle in my recovery from schizophrenia. I admire your strength and courage for documenting the sexual abuse of your childhood. It is an extremely important part of your recovery and healing to be able to acknowledge it openly and not let it define you or confine you, but ultimately to leave it behind you! I had a girlfriend who was raped by her cousin as a child and had let that fester for 17 years, she didn’t address it for that long and it had become so difficult to reach the true her and to help her to accept it, and start the healing process.
Truly amazing what you achieved throughout those decades of impaired mental health. That you did so well at school, went on the trip to America, then settled down with George and had a family, worked constantly, absolutely incredible. Is amazing how we can function so well given the heavy price that mental illness places on us. You are a testament to that.
A Girl Called Tim showed your hope through the exerpts from your diary. Almost each time you decided to make a new start you truly believed that this would be it, you would be able to start afresh and be rid of the illness. Which in the end came to fruition. A remarkable journey with a silver lining. Maturity is a life long quest, we can keep improving, and can keep getting happier. Was great the evidence of the emergence of your true self, the support of your children and George towards the end of the book.
I would like to thank you for sharing so much of yourself and your journey in A Girl Called Tim. And as we say at GROW, which is a World Mental Health Movement, may the best in life and love and happiness be ahead of you.
Share so that you may grow.

 

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