Submitted Date 02/20/2022

I am a survivor of child abuse. I used to be a victim, but I'm not anymore. When you are a victim, you live to survive. You do things that you hope will bring you good results. Results like not getting hurt. Feeling safe. Getting positive attention. Feeling loved. Being ignored by your abuser. Or sometimes having your abuser be nice to you. When you are a child that lives in survival mode, you don't know what that means. All you know is trial and error to get the results you want. Sometimes your survival instincts take a back seat to what your authentic self really wants. I'll explain. As a child, my authentic self before and outside of my abuse was larger than life. Full of laughter, sunshine, and a fire that could move mountains. Sometimes that fire was my temper. I had, and still have, a flashpoint temper that hits hard and fierce and usually is gone pretty quickly. Trauma and ongoing events made me live in an angry place for a very, very long time. As I came to understand myself and how I have been shaped by my trauma, I realized that the anger was really more accurately described as resentment. Pain from betrayal. Hurt. Lashing out in anger was a way that I used my voice when I had reached the breaking point. When the stress of living in survival mode had taken its toll on my nervous system and I couldn't stand it anymore. This has been something that carried into my adult life that I am finally starting to understand about myself.

I've decided to start writing my story because I am tired of living in survival mode. I lived there for years. Years of my childhood. Years of my marriage. I'm not there anymore. I'm safe. But the patterns and habits I learned in those years are still here. It makes me angry with myself when I revert back to survival mode habits. When I go to the angry place without giving myself a chance to pause and reflect. To remember I am safe. I never wanted to talk about my abuse for a number of reasons. First, it was a family member. My brother, actually. And it was something that was never acknowledged, validated, talked about in my family, even after the somewhat violent revelation of my secret abuse to my parents when I was in college. But that's a later part of the story. I was taught not to rock the boat. I was not believed, at least not outwardly, when I tried to explain what had happened to me. So I withdrew in shame. I have only told very close, trusted people from that point on because the need to talk about it was great, and I slowly have been able to acknowledge out loud that I was a victim. However, it is still difficult and brings a lot of shame and humiliation to admit. Thinking about specific instances of abuse still triggers fear, self-loathing, and sickness. But my desire to heal now is bigger than my desire to remain silent. To abide by the wishes of others to keep the peace. This story is mine, whether anyone believes it or not, so why shouldn't I share it? It shaped who I am. Is an integral part of every relationship I have had. Another reason for my hesitation is that I sometimes brush off what happened to me as if it was "no big deal". I mean, fuck, everybody nowadays has trauma they have to deal with. Or not deal with. Why should mine be special? No one cares to hear it. Just deal with it and move on. Talking about it isn't necessary. Healing and moving on is.

But talking about it IS necessary. Because you can't really release it until you can use your voice to talk about it in a way that acknowledges what happened, how it affected you, and what you have learned about yourself as a result of it. And not that I am talking about this to try and become some kind of inspiration or anything, but maybe talking about it will help someone else. I know that I wasn't even able to admit what I experienced until someone I knew was brave enough to share their experience with me. Knowing you are not alone is a huge thing. So I will write, talk, and share what I have experienced and learned. So that I can heal. So that I can grow. And so maybe someone somewhere will also be able to get on their own path to healing. It only takes one step to say "I'm sick of living like this. I'm sick of only surviving. I want to really move past this so I can be who I know I am meant to be before all this shit that happened to me turned me into a victim." I'll tell you this. Healing yourself is NOT very fucking easy. Really healing is the hardest thing I have ever done. It comes in waves. It lulls you into complacency as you progress and then slams you up against the wall again and again with trigger after trigger, memory after memory, lesson after lesson. It's ugly. It's painful. It's depleting. And it's lonely as fuck. But I decided to do it, and there's no way I'm going to go back to the shell of the person I was before.

So this is the start of my storytelling, but it's not the start of my story. My story starts when I was very young. I wish I could remember exactly how old I was. I have tried to remember a specific event during that same time period to help me get an idea of a timeline, but it is fuzzy. Except for the worst memories. Those are clear as day, of course. My best guess is I was about 7 or 8. Looking at pictures of myself then and knowing how old my brother was at the time, that seems about right. I grew up the youngest of five kids in a very Catholic family. I don't really mean that in a negative way. I hold a lot of resentment still for my parents and also their parents, because generational trauma doesn't just start from nowhere, but I don't blame religion. I just know that the way my parents cling to their religion as if it is the be-all and end-all solution to any problem is not the belief that I hold. Mainly because it did nothing for me in my time of greatest need. Also because even in the best of families with a strong religious, faithful upbringing, bad things can happen. But as an adult, I feel it is how those bad things are addressed and what is done to confront those things that make all the difference. I think that is a big part of why I ended up doing so much of my own healing on my own and why it took so long for me to get to this point in my life.


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  • Jackie Hemingway 5 months ago

    Karen, for some reason I gravitated towards your profile today. Now I know why…After reading this, I will tell you — I too am a survivor of childhood abuse. Reading this resonates with me in so many ways, I can read parts above and say, yes, I could have written those exact words. I spent many years pushing down those painful memories, denying in my mind the pain I suffered. One day, as with so many who have suffered abuse, something triggered those memories and it all came flooding back to me. Finally, after decades of suppression, I decided if I was ever going to have a real chance at finding a life worth living (suicide often tempted me) I would have to get help. And I did. I started counseling and it literally saved my life. Now, after continued years of some really awesome therapy, I decided to write a story about my abuse and my abuser, mine was a neighbor. It is a fictional story of revenge, I wasn’t sure at the time if it would truly help, but surprisingly, it did. It is the very first thing I published here on WriteSpike, called, The Unwanted, at the very bottom of my stories list here if you’d like to give it a read. Writing about ourselves, whether it is directly about our past, whether that be one of abuse or not, can often be a cathartic experience. Just getting your thoughts from your mind to the written word is helpful, no matter the storyline. If I had given in to those suicidal thoughts and been successful in my attempts, I would not be the person I am today — I’m working on my third novel, I am the happiest I have EVER been in my life and it has been a remarkable journey getting to know and be the real me that has always been there — just beyond the pain…

    • Karen Spezia 5 months ago

      Jackie, what a gift to receive this today, in this moment. Thank you for sharing your words with me. I will definitely be reading your story. I could not have needed this more. ❤️