Breaking Free - #WhenIBecameFree -The Heartland Project

I've been working on a project, #WhenIBecameFree - The Heartland Project. The goal was to interview survivors of abuse who have used their life experiences to better their rural community.

At first I had a lot of survivors willing to share their story, myself included. Then something happened. As it became time for those interviews to occur these strong people, except for one, backed out while saying they weren't ready to tell their story.

That is how painful surviving abuse can be - the residual effects last decades. Far longer than any of us would ever want.

I have my notes scattered about and a lot of research that has been collected by a team of students I had been working with - now comes the task of putting it all together while continuing my search for survivors.

I truly understand the hesitation. It is one thing for a survivor to purge their soul while they are going through an initial healing process, and quite another thing to ask them to do that when they are at a stage in their life when they have created, built, a new world for themselves, even if it has been from using their life experience.

How do I know this? Well, I know this because I hit that wall myself. A few years ago I had no problem talking about the abuse I endured throughout my life, and how it all impacted my body, mind and spirit.  I openly purged my soul here on this blog. Sometimes the words and memories surged faster than I was able to write them. I was healing - I needed to get out all the poison that had been eating me alive.  I needed to do a self inventory and being that I am a  communicator, I needed to do that openly - almost as if I was validating my existence.

However I am a different stage now - much further along in my healing. I have created a life free from abuse and find for some reason recalling the steps I've walked is harder now than it was when I was openly bleeding. I hit a creative wall and could no longer find my words...then something happened....

This afternoon I was out and about with my eldest son, Justin.  As we were driving he turned to me and said, "Don't you wish sometimes you could have stayed a kid forever?" - My knee jerk response was a firm "No!" I then went on to explain how I never wanted to return to my childhood, that there was too much pain in it to want relive it again. The conversation ended there.

Then this evening I had helped my youngest son, Kyle, fill out an application online for Kmart. I commented on my Facebook how things have changed and how much of a pain it was to get through the online application.  I then remarked how I once worked for a Kmart when I was 14 but had lied to get the job saying I was 16. I spoke about how I worked there until my spleen (I had an enlarged spleen throughout my childhood) sent me to the hospital.  No sooner than I hit post did a flood of memories come back.

Memories questioning why as a child, an ill child, was that allowed to even happen, came flooding to the surface.  I immediately thought to myself how I would never allow my children to do that, especially being sick.

With that more memories came flooding out - one by one the pieces of the puzzle were being put together. It was easier to allow that to happen than it was for my parents to deal with the truths that were all around us. They did the best that they could considering the times, resources, and society.

You see here is the thing that doesn't make sense to someone looking in - that spleen was incredibly large. So large in fact that doctors pulled me out of school because they were afraid another child would bump into me with a binder and it would rupture.  I was in and out of hospitals on a regular basis, weeks at a time.

The decision was made to pull me out and the school would send a tutor to my home, and that was to be my education. It was a very lonely existence. I still had friends, but it wasn't the same anymore - I wasn't the same anymore. Years prior to all of this I had felt like an accident of nature, now I felt like that emotion had just been validated and I was in fact a mistake.

All that time sitting at home with memories from earlier in my childhood of being a victim of child sexual assault threw me into a depression. I tried to keep my mind active to prevent it from happening.  I tried so much that the tutor was unable to keep up with me.  I was like a sponge trying to learn everything I could so I did not have that idle time to remember the dark secrets I had been keeping for so long.

The school ended up sending a new tutor. The same thing happened again except this time the tutor utilized our time by bringing me to her home so I could watch her small children while she went shopping.

Eventually I was just an ill teen sitting in my room with too much time on my hands. I often refer to my teen years as the dark period, a black hole. There was so much chaos in our home. My father was also ill, very ill. He had heart-attacks left and right, survived cancer,  and fallen down a slippery slope known as Rheumatoid Arthritis. He had been a hard-working man who didn't know how to be disabled and idle. He numbed his emotional and physical pain the only way he knew how, with alcohol.

My mom was a hard working woman although she was incapable of dealing with her emotions, she ignored them or allowed them to fester. My siblings from my mother's previous marriage are much older than me. They all had issues of their own which added to the chaos behind our all American picture perfect closed front door.

Don't get me wrong there were some great times, just not enough to erase the shroud of darkness hanging over my head.

I was the "good girl" - so I kept to myself and did my best not to add anything more to the drama.  I remained like that until one fateful day I decided the world did not need my presence. I was tired of hospitals, I was fed up with memories of being sexually abused by a few different men - they were secrets I no longer wanted, and I couldn't get out of my head that I was a freak of nature - a mistake that needed to be fixed or better yet, erased.

At the young age of 14 I tried committing suicide. Obviously I screwed up that attempt, thankfully. However, it was because of that lame attempt I was finally able to share some of those secrets. When I told my mother what I had done, I also told her why I even attempted something so heinous.  I shared just one of the incidents when I had been sexually assaulted at the age of 9.

Now what I am about to tell you will sound cold, and it was - but please keep in mind everything else you had just read and maybe you will understand why my mother responded the way she did when she told me that I was never to speak about being sexually assaulted again - that it was disgusting and if my father found out it would kill him. She had said that to me as she walked out of my room leaving me with my tears, alone. I can remember what was playing on my television, Trapper John, MD.

Do you see the pieces of the puzzle falling together? Mom had so much to deal with, and considering she was incapable of dealing with real emotion, it was easier to shove what couldn't be fixed aside and just deal with what she could control. Typical co-dependent behavior. She didn't want my father to have yet another excuse to drink. In her mind she was preventing more problems, not adding to them.  It has taken me a lot of years to figure that one out and come to terms with what was while forgiving those actions or lack of action.

So, having shared all of this should now explain why I was a 14 year old child with a medical condition working illegally at a retail store. It was something I wanted to do and allowing me to do that was easier than dealing with me having too much idle time on my hands to hate my existence.

Twisted thinking, yes but when you're living in a tornado of chaos how can anyone think straight?

With this post I have made it past a hurdle, that wall which was preventing me from moving forward in this project.  If you only knew the sigh of relief that was just released from my body.

Now we can move forward with the good stuff. The path that these building blocks has taken me down on the road from abuse to surviving to thriving. Hopefully others will follow and want to tell their story along with mine!

And we're off! #WhenIBecameFree- The Heartland Project.


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