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Archive for July 22nd, 2008

This post is part of a series in which I am providing an overview of my healing process from child abuse. The story begins here.

In November 2003, I reached a place of questioning whether I had, in fact, been abused as a child. I had no memory of any abuse. However, my life fit the profile of an abused child so fully that I had to wonder if maybe I had repressed some memories from my childhood. However, I was certain that it would have only been once, and I was certain that I had never been penetrated. I had built my life (which I now know was my host personality’s belief) around being a virgin until marriage.

I tried and tried to remember anything, but I couldn’t. I was certain that there was no physical abuse because there would have been a medical record of it. However, maybe I could have been sexually abused in a way that left no marks?? So, I called my sister and asked her if she had any memory of me being abused as a child. My sister hesitated at first and then said, “I don’t exactly remember, but I have always had this bad feeling about mom.”

Immediately, I had my first flashback, although I did not recognize it as such. It was a body memory, and I could feel myself being orally raped. I felt incredibly sick to my stomach, but I knew it was true. In that instant, I knew that I had been lying to myself all of these years. I knew why I hated my mother so deeply, even when I tried in vain to forgive her for the emotional abuse that I had always remembered.

To say I was an emotional wreck is an understatement. My own mother!?!! But moms don’t do that. You hear about fathers sexually abusing their children, but mothers!?!! No. And yet, I knew it was true. I knew deep inside of myself that I had always known, but I didn’t want to know.

There was no “unringing this bell.” I knew now, and I had to deal with the consequences. I just did not have the first clue how.

I immediately became very sick. I had such severe reflux (something I had never had before) that I developed laryngitis and could not talk at all for five days. (My therapist later told me that this was a fitting metaphor for my childhood – “losing my voice.”)

I did not know what to do with this information. I did not know where to go or who to tell. Definitely not my husband, who disliked my mother already. Who would believe me?

The first person I told was a woman from my church. I had previously requested a Stephen Minister, which is a “lay person” (church member who has no background in the ministry), for another issue, so I asked to meet with her. I told her about this new awareness. She asked me a bunch of questions, and all I could say was, “I don’t know.” When did it start? When did it end? Why did it end? How many times?

I did not know the answers to any of these questions. All I knew was that I had been sexually abused by my mother, and I had no idea what to do about it. I also believed that my life was over and that I would never be okay again.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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