Hello life, meet the girl who lived...
I am recovering my life. I am learning to accept who I am, love what I've become, and appreciate the struggles I've had to endure and overcome to reach where I am now. I am recovering every day. I am not going to sit here passively. Life is so much more than simply getting by. It’s more than managing. It’s not just about “dealing with it and moving on.” It’s not about fixing what you think is broken or forgetting everything that you have been through. The journey of life isn't only about learning how to put everything behind you and getting past it.
For me, recovery is about finding wholeness, experiencing life mindfully, and expressing my truth. It is about continually finding out and reexamining what I want my life to mean. I've decided that I want my recovery to be focused on creating a purpose in the world. I can choose what I want my purpose to be, and so can you. My recovery is all about redefining who I am. I want to slowly start to live my life fully in every moment and enjoy it. The way I know how to do that is by remembering why I chose to start the worthwhile journey to recovery in the first place. Rock bottom was a good place to start, because the only place I had to go was up. I am still working my way through the challenges. I am by no means fully recovered or completely healed. I don’t intend to give anyone false hope. But I am here, and I have survived, despite the attempts to end my own life. I can only guess now that because I am still alive and breathing, I have a reason to be here. And since you’re here, reading this: thank you for making it to this moment, too.
This is my story:
I am Wendy, 24 years old, and I am a survivor. I never liked saying that. Acknowledging it. Admitting it. Because when I say those words, I have to own the fact that what I wish didn't happen, actually happened. Sometimes I believe it was all a bad dream and I force myself to believe that I made this up. But I know that’s not the real story. My real story happened because of a choice, one person - my late father - decided to make. I have to accept that.
My father chose to rape me for ten years. I was five years old the first time and 15 when he stopped. I never told anyone until after he died. I was silenced by the shame I felt inside and the love I had for him. I was too scared to speak. I couldn't say no, I couldn't fight, I couldn't do anything at all. I was a child and I was his daughter. Even after my abuse ended, I didn't know I had any other choices but to keep his secret. Eventually, his one year anniversary came and went - a day that will forever stay with me - and for the first time, I felt that I wanted to get better, and be proactive about making that happen. In the months that followed, I broke my silence. It happened slowly and in fragments. But every day that I'm alive, I'm taking back a day that my father thought was his. He isn't here now and he's not in control of my life, but it's a good feeling knowing if he were still around, he would never have the satisfaction of seeing me give up. I'm now beginning to find my freedom, and enjoy what it has to offer.
I know that I'm taking the right steps towards recovery from being sexually abused, but I also continue to work towards healing from the severe emotional and verbal abuse my father put me through on a daily basis. It's still a struggle. He told me repeatedly that I was worthless, useless, stupid, lazy, and wouldn't amount to anything. He made me feel that I failed him. He called me disgusting names. He would humiliate me in public and make me feel that all I ever did was disappoint him. I had to constantly walk on eggshells around him and hope that I didn't do anything to set him off. But no matter how hard I tried, he manipulated every situation - twisting my words around, and somehow making me believe that I was the bad guy. His presence and his lies - at times - still continue to haunt me. It was very difficult and very painful to accept the real truth, because it was never truly clear to me until recently. My father was masterful at making the line between what’s right and wrong blurred. He was thoughtless and insensitive. He needed control so badly that he wouldn't even let me use my own bathroom without his direct permission. He told me to “suck it up” because I didn't have any idea what real pain was and he told me that I should just end my life and get it over with because he didn't care anymore. He had me convinced that what he was doing was out of love, that he was doing it for my own good, that I was being punished for being a bad girl, and that he was entitled to do whatever he wanted because I was his "property." I hate remembering how much of my life was wishing I was dead because of how he made me feel. It makes me want to cry, scream, and causes my blood to boil a little. My father's anger and lack of self-control terrified me. It is deeply unfortunate that I didn't realize the depth of his depravity until after he died. Maybe if I had, I would have gotten myself help and would have been in the place I am now a while back. But at least I understand now that the underlying problem wasn't with me. It was with him, and in knowing that, I have begun to release the pain that has held me captive in his prison for so long.
Speaking out and telling my story is one of the most terrifying things I've ever done. Even though I’m still wrecked with a tidal wave of emotions, I am no longer silenced by the shame and guilt he instilled in me. I am speaking out because I can and I am allowed to. My father made me afraid to live life and that fear motivated me to stay hidden. But hope motivates, too. And that is how my story of recovery began. I hoped. I’m emerging from that hope into a new world where the words pain and love are not synonyms of each other and where saying “I love you” doesn't entitle you to do whatever you want. I’m entering a brand new world where lying, control, and possessiveness are not the foundations of a healthy relationship. Saying I’m nervous about it would be an understatement, but in spite of the anxiety, I’m still genuinely looking forward to the good things I believe are coming.
I haven't always been able to look forward to things. There have been days, weeks, months, even years where thinking ahead and staying strong wasn't possible. To be honest, it's still very difficult for me to do that now. Sometimes things are just extremely overwhelming and before I learned good coping skills, I attempted to live my life where I hid all my secret pain. That didn't work well because in the moments when I felt exhausted and ready to give in, the way I coped with everything was not healthy or safe. I hurt myself for eight years, starting when I was 13 by cutting myself (I finally got the right help and support I desperately needed to stop at 21). I also burned myself and bit my skin. I did these things to get to a place of oblivion. I just wanted to forget every image, every word, every touch, everything that reminded me of him - and that meant destroying myself. But I had to accept reality - my choices were taken away from me. My father stole my innocence and my childhood was gone. I didn't have a choice in that. But I realize that I truly have a choice now after all, and I don't want to lose my will to fight. My father is no longer alive, but I'm still here and I have the chance to make myself proud. I can do small things every day - good things - for myself and for the world. Eventually, these little things will make a positive difference. This is the reason why I won't give up. I know I have the potential to do something that can change someone's life for the better, even if that person is just me. I deserve to live and be happy, just as much as every other person. I have the power to make something good come out of something bad and create something beautiful when once all you could ever see was destruction and ruin. I plan on using my power now in ways that are beneficial to myself and my community.
I know that I haven't always had that kind of insight. Up until recently, I didn't even realize that I had any other choices but to be the person other people wanted me to be, and that usually meant fully complying with whatever anyone asks of me. I still struggle with it every single day but I'm slowly starting to realize it's okay to say no. Thinking back, I've made good progress since I first broke my silence. I remember how many countless days I thought my tears wouldn't stop falling. There were nights where I pleaded with myself to end the misery and give up. There were too many times that my wounds were stitched up in the hospital and then I was simply sent home, when what I really needed was to mend the broken pieces of myself and make my heart whole again. But that takes a lot of support, commitment, dedication, insight, effort, and time. I don't think I understood completely what I needed to do to fuel my journey towards healing. All I wanted was someone to prove to me that I wasn't considered damaged goods because I was abused by someone who was supposed to love and protect me. I wanted to know that I was good enough, and that no matter what, I should keep fighting to get better.
Thankfully, somewhere buried deep inside of me (and with a lot of guidance to help find it), I knew I was stronger than what was happening. I was stronger than my pain and I was absolutely sure of one thing: that no matter how awful I felt about myself or how wonderful he conditioned me to believe he was, somehow I knew what was right. I knew that I was stronger than what my father did to me. He could not destroy my soul with what he did. He could do his best to desiccate my body with his abuse, but he could not ruin my heart. He could not ruin me. He could not break me, solely because I wouldn't let him. And learning that there was a goodness inside of me that nobody could penetrate was a very long road; it was emotionally and physically draining, but it turned out to be life altering. Knowing I have an inner resilience and a fearlessness about myself is very empowering. That belief will always give me something to hope for, something to work towards, something to never give up on. And from that moment, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't give up no matter how difficult things got. I would redefine outdated world views and introduce myself to new possibilities. I would do my best to live in the now and appreciate the immensity of the moment as fully as possible, and try my hardest to see the beautiful uncertainty of my future take shape. I will not waste my ability to create something remarkable and of true value in the world. I have power now and I refuse to do anything less than something amazing with it. I am not saying it's easy. Actually, it is extremely hard. It's exhausting at times and frustrating at others. Sometimes I just feel like saying, "I quit." Then I remember, I don't want quitting to be an option and so I will continue to move forward, however slowly, because recovery is something that's always worth continuing. And though I still don't have everything figured out, I have great support on my side that is helping me on my road to recovery. I am a work in progress and I have made significant strides so far. I haven't been admitted into a psychiatric facility in over a year and a half and I haven't self injured since October 6, 2012. My journey towards healing is well on its way. Because when I look back now, I know that my father didn't taint my soul, he didn't cause my pure heart to turn as cold as stone and he didn't change me into the mean spirited person he showed himself to be. I'm still me, and when I feel that I have nothing to be proud of after a long day, I will always count that as a victory. I still fight to make it through a lot of days but I know that even some lost battles doesn't mean the war can't be won.
I don’t remember the exact moment when I uncovered this insight, but something made me realize that I deserve better than what he did to me and what I was doing to myself. I’m happy for that discovery. I've always believed that adversity is the best education, and what I endured have been battles of trials and tribulations. I am horrified that I was abused growing up, but I am proud that I can say "I am a survivor." Even though I am now officially in the aftermath of my abuse, I am in the infancy stages of my recovery. There is a silver lining, however, and this is it: I live, learn, and love more intensely. Because of the experiences I have endured, I know that I can do more than survive. I can overcome, I can thrive, and I can say “I am winning.” I am a continued work in progress. I will keep growing, ever changing, in every way imaginable, creating a life that I will always be proud of. And looking back on every moment that led me to now, I can safely say that I’m thankful I didn't destroy myself. In spite of a seemingly never ending cycle of hurt, I am slowly learning that it’s more than okay to loosen these chains and break free. I’m watching the world through new eyes. I am going to be okay because I deserve to be, and I’m giving myself the permission and the acceptance to do what I need to do to move forward. I am healing and I will learn to truly love being alive. Please let yourself do the same, and I will continue to hope for brighter days. It has been the catalyst of my healing from day one and it has jump-started my personal growth.
So my mission in life, and for this website, is to take my internalized hope and externalize it. I want the hope that I have innate within me be available for everyone that needs it, and I want you all to see that recovery is worth it and possible for each of you. The process is not quick, and there is no manual that could ever be found that could give you exact instructions on how to do it. It's about changing attitudes and beliefs, values and feelings, the role you play in the world, and the goals you have for yourself. You have to make a commitment and dedicate yourself to change what you need to. Recovery is an incredibly difficult journey, but it's also extraordinarily worthwhile and empowering. And if there is anything that I can promise you right now, it’s that you deserve nothing more than to give yourself the opportunity to recover. Strive for healing. It is possible, and it is worth every hard moment when you are able to finally say “I feel better" and truly mean it.
Remember that we are ALL works in progress, but in no way does that mean recovery isn't worth the effort and reward. I'm here to promise you that when you have no hope left, I'm still here - and I'm not giving up on you. You can make it through these terrible times. Sooner or later, there will be better times waiting for you up ahead. You might not realize it now, but you are absolutely worthy of love, happiness, and respect. And whether you feel it or not, you are good enough, regardless of what anyone else might have made you believe. I know that your "inner" voice might be loud right now saying all kinds of bad things about yourself, but let mine be louder - I am promising you that the negative committee that meets in your head are speaking outright lies. There isn't anything wrong with who you are. You are a beautiful person. Don't let anything or anyone stand in your way on your road to recovery, not even yourself. Don't let that voice push you down. Give yourself a fighting chance - an opportunity of a lifetime - because there will come a day that your voice will be stronger, more resonant, and will touch more lives than the people who hurt you. Never forget "that even your worst days in recovery are better than your best days in relapse." - Kate le Page.
While knowing the benefits of recovery is helpful to keep motivations up, it doesn't make the process any less daunting, unfortunately. I fully understand the fear, confusion, and even the uncertainty of trying to figure everything out. You can't do it all at once. It's an impossible task. It's overwhelming and frightening. The world can be a terrifying place sometimes. But I assure you this: though it might seem dark right now, there is still light. And I'm here to make sure you know that you have hope, you are loved, you aren't alone, and your life matters greatly.
** I am telling you all of this because I want everyone to understand that no matter what kind of trauma you have gone through in your life - whether physical, verbal, sexual, emotional, or anything else - it is NOT okay. Every type of abuse hurts. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. There are no mitigating factors for abusive behavior. No one should ever invalidate or minimize your experience(s). The frequency, duration, and severity of abuse - in my opinion - is inconsequential. Abuse, in all forms, can ultimately cause lifelong repercussions if not treated. Please get help if you need it. I believe that things can get better. There are so many people in the world that are living proof that it's possible. Right now, I am one of them. **
And I intend to keep hope alive for you...
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