It’s been an interesting four days since I made my last blog post. I had spent quite some time writing it, rewriting it, deleting it, and beginning again. I finally decided that if I was ever going to be completely honest, I just flat-out had to post it. After all, I knew when I began my blog that this story was going to have to be the destination. My secret had been kept for over 50 years and it was slowly killing me.
I’ve had a couple of people message me and say that they were confused as to why I had let that instance “bother” me because it really was no big deal. Of course, these two people are not of my generation, a generation in which bearing a child out-of-wedlock was most definitely a “big thing”. It was something that brought much shame to the mother and the father, to their immediate and extended family, and in the end to the child if and when he or she was ever told of his or her birth story. Back then, it was a “huge” deal and everyone did their best to keep it a deep dark secret in hopes that it would never be revealed. It was such a shameful thing that there were “places” such as the Florence Crittenton Home where these pregnant young girls were sent. Normally, their families spread the word that their daughters had been sent to live with an elderly relative to somehow help out the relative. I have no idea where Mom and Dad said that I was or if they even acknowledged that I was gone. Of course, the fact that I did not go until I was almost eight months pregnant probably helped whatever story had been told. Things are much different these days. Becoming pregnant before marriage is an accepted way of life now. I won’t get into my thoughts about that because that has nothing to do with my story.
For those of you who have sent loving, supportive messages, I truly thank you. When the messages began to come in, I could only clinically read them. I had to keep all emotion out, knowing that if I read them with my heart, I would be overcome with emotion. I had lived in fear for several decades that this secret would become public. Now, I was the one who had made it public and that was a scary thought. However, I was able to go back this morning and read them all and let the words sink in. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the love.
But, I would like to talk about why I decided to even tell my story.
I did NOT tell this so that anyone would hate my father. Although he was one of the major players in my story, it really wasn’t about him. It was about ME and how I looked at the things that were happening in my life. I thought that I was the reason that my father didn’t love me. I thought that the things that I did were to blame for his need to abuse me. I thought it was all about me. My fault. I thought that as a 10-year-old child, I had the ability to bring about the abuse. I thought I was bad and for that reason, I deserved what was happening to me. I thought that I was most definitely unlovable, undeserving, and unworthy. In reality, it most likely was not about me at all. It was about him. I just grew up thinking it was about me. It was about his illness (and most certainly he experienced some sort of mental illness.) It was about his anger and his inability to love. But, no matter what it was, it does not warrant hatred from anyone not involved. You can hate the actions, but you cannot hate the man. In my eyes, hatred belongs only to those involved in a personal way. And, true, I did hate my father for many years. But, that was because I did not have the insight to realize that he was sick. For whatever reason — his experience, his upbringing, his generation, whatever — he did not have the ability to love me. And I promise you, it takes a lot out of a person to actively hate someone else. It drains you. And I finally had to just stop the hate. My hatred of him was doing nothing to him. It was only hurting me. If you take his abuse of me and his abuse of my mother out of the equation, my father was a good man. He was a hard worker. He was a successful businessman. He was a good provider for his four daughters. He was a good friend to many people in our small town. In all of those respects, my father was a good man. I now try to look at those things.
But, you say, he never abused your sisters, so maybe it was about you. Well, that certainly makes me stop and wonder. And, I guess you have a point there. I do not have the answer as to why I was chosen. But, I was. I, and I alone, have to figure that one out. However, unless I find some hidden diary in which he wrote down his reasons, I will most likely never know why I was chosen. And I don’t even know if finding out the “why” would change anything for me. It happened. I suffered because of him. But, I am recovering. That’s what counts.
I was most certainly not the first child to be abused and sadly, I will not be the last. Child abuse happens far too often, even in today’s world. Child abuse is a crime and the abuser should suffer the consequences. A large majority of those abusers are never exposed and never suffer any consequences. But, the children suffer. More importantly, the child who is abused is scarred for life. And THAT is the biggest crime of all. The thing is — I THOUGHT I was the only one who had things like that happen to me. I had no idea that there were other children whose parent abused them. I did not know that there were people out there who could have helped me. I told my story because there are STILL people out there who think they are alone in their abuse. They need to know that they are not alone. They need to know that there are millions of us out there who have experienced, and who still are experiencing the same things. There are adults out there who still believe that their experiences of abuse have never happened to anyone else. There are adults who struggle with depression, PTSD, and other problems because they think they are alone. THAT is the main reason I decided to tell my story.
I have been amazed at the number of people who have contacted me to say that they, too, had similar experiences and that they have never been able to talk about those experiences. Some said that it seems as though I easily speak of my past. Believe me, it’s not been easy. I have struggled with talking about my past. I spent years and years and years not talking about it. I spent years keeping it all bottled inside and it was slowly eating away at my soul. I finally reached a point where I knew that it had to come out if I was to survive. I am still embarrassed to admit what I did and what I experienced, but when I look at the options, talking about it was the only thing that made sense. And, as I said yesterday to my therapist, at my age, I am at a point where I don’t really give a flip what others think. Those people who are my friends and who care for me are not going to change their minds because they finally know about my past.
I do, however, worry about my children and my grandchildren. I never, ever want to do anything to embarrass them. I told my girls when they were teenagers about Allen. I didn’t tell them about the abuse, but have openly spoken about it with them in the last few years. Unfortunately, I was not the one to tell my son about Allen — my ex was the one who did that out of spite and that was the reason I told my girls when I did. My ex also used this information against me during our divorce trial, so word of it got out in the town in which I spent 25 years of married life. That was extremely painful, but I learned to bunch all of that crap together as being part of an ugly, public, painful divorce from a man who was and still is spiteful. But, that’s a story for someone else to tell; I am done with that part of my life. Thankfully, my children have been very supportive about my decision to talk about my past. I just pray that my openness never brings them pain or embarrassment. My son, my two daughters, and my six grandchildren are the best things that have ever happened to me. I love them beyond measure and never wish to bring them pain.
So, why did I do it? Why did I “out” myself? Because of the many others out there who are still hiding their truths. For those out there still thinking they are alone in their depression due to abuse — please know that you are not alone. Find a friend, find a therapist, find someone to talk to. You will be amazed to discover how many other people are JUST LIKE YOU. They have the same memories, the same guilt, the same fears, the same regrets. Together, miracles can happen. Together, you can find a way to overcome this terrible, terrible thing that has happened to you. You can’t erase it; you can’t cover it up forever. But, you can live through it. Don’t spend your life alone, thinking you are the only one. I, too, am one and I am living through it. Come join me in this thing called life. I hear it’s quite grand.