Q: When does a little secret actually become a lie? A: When you start modifying your life because of it.
This is a hard subject to tackle. It’s hard to hear about it. It’s awkward to talk about. But it’s important. I am beyond the open pain and agony of reliving it. I am no longer in the victim role. But it has taken years…over 20 years in fact. And I feel like talking about it because I know I am not alone. The fact is that if you are a woman reading this post, 1 out of every 4 of you has experienced it.
The four letter word that took me almost 20 years to say out loud is…rape. It is such a very, very ugly word. Even now, I feel like using a pot holder or a pair of tongs to dangle it out away from my line of vision. I am going to talk about this tonight because for some reason it is on my heart. Maybe because I made the mistake of watching grown up TV for once in a long time a few nights ago and I caught an episode of a show called The Secret Lives of Women and it hit home pretty hard. The episode was all about this. And I am very thankful to say that as I watched, I didn’t have flash backs and didn’t feel sorry for myself. I realized that I really am no longer a victim held captive or defined by this event.
The show was informative, helpful, and shed a lot of light into some of the poorer decisions I have made in my life. It made sense of some of the self destructive times in my life where I think I was literally trying to slowly kill myself or at least wishing to die…because I felt dead inside anyway.
At least a good 10 years if not more of my life was spent in this dark, destructive phase. I felt disengaged in my own life…unconnected…and like I was just watching my own life happen in some out of body-like experience. I didn’t feel like I was living it. I felt completely out of control of my circumstances, fate, path, and future. I felt very much like a pin ball…just being bounced around to where ever I got tossed or spanked around to (This may have been elevated for me because of growing up with a mentally unstable mother).
I don’t feel the need to get into the details of my experience. That is not the point here. But I can say it was brutal, devastating – like all other horrible rapes happening even now as you read this (about 2 a minute). And I will say I was between 13 and 15 somewhere between my freshman and sophomore year of HS. I think this is important. As a mom, an aunt, a friend of my friends girls…I want to be very aware because most do happen between 13 and 30. However, I think being overly afraid of anything or living in constant fear is not a good thing either. This is not a scare tactic – or a call for panic. It’s just me blogging out my guts.
So, I lived alone with my little secret. Soon, I found my secret needed to be fed. It needed some attention and some sympathy. But I couldn’t find the words or time or way to tell anyone about it, so my secret became angry…and my secret starting feeding off of me. It had already consumed any innocence that had remained at that age the very moment that it happened, so it started eating what was left of me…my self esteem, self worth, my dreams, my hopes, and my relationships.
My secret wanted me all to itself. My secret lied to me. It told me that it was all my fault and that I deserved what had happened. And since I was no longer the virgin that I had still wanted to be my secret helped me seek out people who would treat me like I felt I deserved to be treated, which led to more incidents and abuse, which made my secret get even bigger. Soon my secret was bigger than me. It almost claimed me.
But I am still here. And I am blogging this because I don’t have any more secrets. My secret was revealed during the court hearing at my first divorce. My husband wrote in a long, detailed affidavit, all about my secret that I had decided to tell him about…an affidavit that my own father read. This is how my dad found out about my secret. Right there in the county office. I had finally trusted someone enough to tell someone about my secret and it was used against me. It was used as an excuse to abandon me. It was thrown under the all encompassing “irreconcilable differences”.
But I know it wasn’t the rape itself. It was all the anger, depression, separation, sexual inhibitions, confusion, physical and emotional distance that the rape had caused because it was left unaddressed. I had let it become a full blown infection in my life because I never treated it.
Then I made another critical mistake. Just as I was trying to recover from my “big reveal” and from the heartache of my current divorce, I entered into another relationship. I thought it was safe because I had known this person for 20 plus years. I thought maybe this was the person I was supposed to have been with all the time, because he was the one person that I had made a real connection with in HS during those terrible years. I allowed myself to be rescued. I believed that this person had always loved me and sought after me all these years. I welcomed the attention I craved but didn’t feel.
And instead of taking the time and years needed to just find me, address my secret and treat it with the attention it deserved, I rushed into another marriage. My secret pulled the blindfold over my eyes and took me hostage again for another 5 years. If you have read some previous blogs or the about me page you know that I am now single again. I am a common statistic in so many ways. But I refuse to be a quiet one now, so help me God.
I am not letting either of my exes off the hook so easily to say that I am the sole cause for either divorce – especially in the second case. I admit, however, that I brought in unaddressed issues into both marriages. I also believe fully that things could have been worked through and I could have still remained married. It just would have taken the right person to do that with. But here is the key…I had to be ready to admit it, WANT to move beyond it and be ready to move from the victim to the victor role. The affidavit was the trigger that brought my secret into the light. My second divorce was the catalyst that has caused that massive shift in my thinking.
The wake-up call for me was actually during the 2nd separation. I was finally ready to put on my gloves and box my secret to the ground. The problem is that I was married to a man that never really loved me in the first place. He loved himself and idea of rescuing his high school dream girl. While I was trying to put my gloves on, he had already moved on to rescue a new damsel. Yea…he brought in some unresolved issues too.
Oh…it is an ugly, ugly story folks. I can see myself losing my entire reader base right here. But if I can raise some awareness to anyone else or say some of the ugly things out loud that so many women still keep hidden…then it is worth it to me. I’m putting the smack down on the secret and I am doing it for the best reason…for me and my girls. Not for a man.
Here goes my old and faithful mantra – don’t isolate yourself – but be careful. Don’t keep your secret all to yourself only to let it eat you to pieces, bit by bit, year by year until there is nothing left but a hollow, shriveled, bitter shell of a woman. I know some of those. It is heartbreaking and devastating to them and their entire families.
Playing the martyr and victim is really not as admirable as you think it is. If you could see an accurate reflection of yourself in the mirror you would see selfishness, pride, fear, anger, depression and a whole lot of lies and confusion. However, you would also see a very valuable, worthy, wonderful person that so many people love beyond anything you could ever possibly imagine. You would see someone capable of such vulnerable strength and unbelievable accomplishments. But you don’t see those things because you don’t love yourself…you don’t even like yourself. And the truth is you will be a prisoner held captive by those lies until you are ready to face that real, ugly, and beautiful truth. And the worst part is that until you do you cannot fully love anyone else either…not even your own children.
But there is hope. I am proof of that. I have started addressing my secret head on for some time now. I am also proof that an infection as bad as I had let mine become will probably show symptoms of its existence for the rest of my life in some fashion or another. I definitely have the scars to prove it. But the most important first thing is this…in order to break out of prison, you have to first realize you are held captive (paraphrasing a famous quote here that I can’t seem to find). No one else can do that for you. Breaking out of a prison of any kind requires a lot of risk, effort and usually pain. For me the risk of breaking out finally outweighed the reality of just sitting there in my cell, watching life pass by, and knowing I would eventually die in my little tiny cell, probably all alone.
I can’t end it here on this downer. I’m not going to pretend like my life is all roses and beauty now. I’m not even saying that I am in some great place of achievement and accomplishment in life according to the world’s standards. But in my own heart and mind, I am free. I am not defined by an event or a label. And this thinking has spilled over into other areas of my life. In the end, freedom is more valuable than any material possession.
But here is a warning. I did actually make attempts to address my problem in my first marriage and even a bit here and there before. I went to some counseling to try to sort some things out. And the scary thing is that I THOUGHT I had made progress and overcame it because I took the time to talk about it. That IS helpful. But for me anyway – part of the reason I even went to a counselor was to just seek out some kind of attention or sympathy. I needed to hear how pitiful the whole thing was. In some ways the counseling fed into my very comfortable victim role. These sessions usually lasted about 4-5 visits and then voila – I got my sympathy fix and I would go a few more years until it caught up with me again and I needed more sympathy. I never stuck around long enough to let them dive deeper to get to that healing place.
Simply saying you were raped out loud doesn’t fix it. It’s about as effective as putting a band aid on a broken bone. You have a little something to show for it, but it can cause more damage than good (such as your dad reading the news in an affidavit). You have to want to stop being a victim. I cannot express how life changing that revelation has been to me. You have to want to start living your life and not be afraid to be real – even if that is sometimes painful.
You have to recognize what happened, but then be willing to cast it off of who you are because you no longer should be defined by it. You are no longer a victim of rape…you are not even a “survivor” of rape. You are a capable, awesome, strong woman who happened to be raped at some point in your past. If you were an ex-convict…would you want to always think of yourself as that? Hi, I’m Matilda…I am an ex-convict. NO! Yea for you – you got out of prison, you are free…but you are still defining yourself by your past chains. WHY? I am not saying to deny it, or hide or pretend it didn’t happen. Claim the victory and then move on to embrace who you are now to become! Can I get an Amen, sisters? Wow…that was quite the grandstanding monologue.
I can’t explain it, but friends I have known for years say they can see some kind of difference in me. I have better relationships with my friends and some family than I have ever had before (not perfect…but real and authentic and healthy). I have some control over my future – or at least I feel like I am making conscious and better decisions in life that will affect my future, rather than just letting my life take me where it happens to go and blaming everyone or anything else if I end up in a place I don’t like. I feel like my eyes are open. I may not always like what I see, but at least I can handle situations better than when my eyes were shut. And I’ll end with this…I no longer want sympathy for what happened. I want to bring attention to the situation and to the hope of recovery – not bring attention to me or the details of what happened.
There is so much more that could be said, but this is already twice as long as my normal ranting. I hope if anyone is out there struggling with this or knows someone – that it helps to know and hear you’re not alone and that there is more than a handicapped life of captivity and sympathy for you and your little white secret.