Sometimes I want to scream, "STOP!"
I meet with a lot of women struggling with healing from abuse. I wish society knew just exactly how rampant that fact is - the struggle is real.
Too real, in fact, that filling your life with distractions is a lot easier to do than digging deep and facing those horrors once suffered. They have to be faced so they can be nurtured and healed.
The distractions I am talking about is running to the next wounded male to be his "be all and end all." Those hurting males will tell that woman no one else can help him, no one else understands him like they do. No one else. The bond is forged. A bond that will soon turn into yet another festering nightmare - cycles repeat.
That caring "understanding" woman will put all her needs aside for him - the more she does, the more he will expect and the less he will appreciate. It will not be long before that relationship is all about keeping him happy, or else. She, once again, is lost - not knowing who she is and why this keeps happening to her.
I've been her. I know this pattern too well. It is hard to look in that mirror and tell yourself you must own your own actions because now you're walking into that battlezone - willingly.
I became her the moment I was first sexually molested as a child. My self-worth was stolen from me and I didn't even know it at the time. I didn't even have an understanding of what happened to me - I didn't even know how to name it.
By the time I became a teen and accepted the fact some men were interested in me, I found myself automatically being drawn to the ones who were walking around with gigantic gaping wounds. They made me feel important to their existence, for a short while - long enough to forget there was a soul inside of me who also existed. Distractions.
Although then I rarely drank and never did drugs, I thought I could heal men who did - they told me I could.
At one point when I was about 19 I was dating a guy named John. A beautiful Italian man. His mother was from Sardinia. He had long flowing black hair and just absolutely gorgeous eyes plus he was an addict. My beautiful distraction.
I got so wrapped up in his addiction to drugs, heroin, that I researched everything about it that I could. I read every book - called every helpline and learned everything I could. I was the only one he could open up to - I was the only one he trusted. I had a purpose. I was important to him, or so I thought. I was clean and he needed cleansing.
I can remember watching the movie Panic in Needle Park, trying to understand what made him tick, why he needed to put a needle in his arm - something I wouldn't even contemplate doing. That need to understand became my distraction, my chosen way to numb myself.
I justified all of this by highlighting his good qualities - he worked, he was close to his family and I thought he paid attention to me.
One night I was so wrapped up in the distraction of the relationship that I phoned an old counselor I had when I was 12, Mrs. Settles. Mrs. Settles never heard my truths about being sexually abused as a child, but I am pretty sure she saw through my walls - at least now I can recognize she did. She recommended a book to me, the exact title I cannot remember but it was something like Why Good Girls Love Bad Boys. It was the one book I never read, I didn't see myself as good nor him as bad.
She more than likely wanted to scream at me, much like I do to so many of the women I try to help guide.
My relationship with John didn't last long, why and how it ended is now just a foggy memory to me - then, I was probably devastated.
When good men came along, I was bored. If I couldn't detect a gaping wound in them, I was not interested. It didn't matter how much money they had, what their job was, nor how great they treated me. There was nothing to distract me - if anything I didn't trust their intentions if they seemed pure - I look back now and wonder what was I thinking - the problem was I was thinking too much and needed distractions, my pain was too much to handle. I had no self-worth and didn't recognize in myself, what they saw in me.
It is hard for people who have never had such impactful trauma in their childhood to understand the twisted thinking of a victim not yet ready to be a survivor. I know this. I hear it all the time from friends and professionals. But I do.
Like the time when I was dating my ex-husband and actually we ran into John at a party in the woods with some friends. John came up to me to chat, he didn't know I was there with someone. My ex quickly showed up and for a moment they both flared their chests out and took that stance men get when they're protecting something they own. Looking back I can remember in that moment I felt protected, by both of them - how twisted is that? John did take his leave but not before saying, "take care of her, she's a good girl."
Well, needless to say, my ex didn't take care of me - he almost killed me. And as for John, he is dead. He died in his 40s and from a life battling his addiction and the law. However, he was right about one thing - but, it took me decades to realize it, I was and always have been a good girl, I just didn't know I deserved so much more back then.
I do not regret my life, nor my years of struggle. They happened for a reason. I am grateful the struggle of healing is for the most part behind me. Now I actively walk my healing journey -
But, when I hear the women I try to guide speak about the "bad boys" in their lives, how they jump from one to another, sometimes I want to scream, "STOP!"
All I can do is listen and try reflect back at them what I see and hope that one day they will look in that mirror and take ownership of their own actions. When they can do that they will realize their self-worth - I know only they can do it, and will when they are ready to dig deep.
Until then, all I can do is plant some seeds of hope, much like Mrs. Settles did for me. One day I hope to find Mrs. Settles so that I can thank her. I wonder if she ever realized how that conversation we had that one night finally blossomed within me, before it was too late and I didn't have a chance to live rather than just exist. So, if anyone knows a Madeline Settles from Rogers Park, Illinois (she lived there in the 80s) tell her, Eva says, "Thank you!"