Child abuse like many other things in our lives is a tough topic to discuss, like drug addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders and all the other topics that we worry, that when we are vulnerable and share the realities of our lives, that someone somewhere will ask questions we can't answer or will criticize or think differently of us than they have.
This past week, I have been received many private messages and some public comments. I have been asked, "How did your mother not know?", "Has your faith gotten you through?", "You look so normal!" and many more. One that stood out to me this week, is "You look so normal."
What exactly does that mean? I really contemplated this statement. This was written in a message with many other sentences, but this line stood out to me. I look so normal? I was slightly stumped. I was trying to imagine what "normal" looks like.
My hair is shorter - highlighted light on dark and a bit spikey, My right arm is covered in tattoos, that hang below my sleeve (and some others), I have a nose ring and I don't like dresses and skirts. I am a supervisor for a public agency, but most wouldn't know it. I have an associates degree that took me 7 years to get and the bachelor's may never finish. Normal? Hmmmmm
Not sure what looking so normal, truly means. On Facebook most of us put out best selves out there, most of us show the best of the best and the happiest of the happy times.
When was the last time someone posted - "today sucked, I gained 20 lbs, I hit a parked car, I drank too much, and my anxiety got the better of me." Its been a while, I am sure. We all want to put our normal best selves out to the world.
Glennon Doyle Melton has been challenging everyone - especially women to put their truest honest selves out there. How do we break the barriers down and let people see inside our spirits and our hearts?
The reality of my normal...I was raped from a very young age, my biological father treated me as though I was his lover and not his daughter, my brother struggled so much the he lived on the street, did drugs, had some assault charges, drugs and stolen property charges over the years.
I cared for my mother - and sometimes had to remind my self I was the daughter. She was amazing - and fought hard. I was taught from a young age how to act, how to be the best damn actress anyone would ever meet. It was inherent in my life to scan the horizon and assure that my words didn't hurt anyone, even if that meant keeping the truth hidden deeply away. I would have full conversations with myself before speaking to another - to anticipate their reactions and responses.
All of this seems far from normal. I would thrash in the night, I would clench my teeth so hard that migraines would ensue for days. I would have days of a full battle within myself to be able to get out of bed in the morning. I would do everything to protect those in my life and I would also keep everyone that knew me at arms length.
Most of this seems far from normal. These are realities of child sexual abuse, well child abuse in general. Today I can happily say with hard work and determination of no longer being controlled by the abuse, the memories or his control - I am somewhat normal. Well kind of - I love adventure, will try anything once and I really don't care what anyone thinks.
But the reality is traumatic experiences change our lives forever. Yes they make us who we are today, but they change our lives - for some they continue to force us to hide and remain hidden, they make us fear the world and everything around us. But for some of us - its a challenge to continue to be more and more free, the challenge of taking on the world and living as loud and as bright as you can.
Why do I seem so normal?? Hours and hours of therapy, of hard work and determination, of failing and getting back up again and trying again - and living each and everyday helping those around me, wether it be a text, call, message, post or face to face connection.
Normal is all relative - this is my normal, what is yours? And for those of you fighting your internal battle - relating to the childhood trauma or any other trauma...one step at a time. Bit by bit...start there - in your mind and bit by bit you will find your normal.
"Being quiet and hidden, is no longer an option." - p.saum