I am sharing my story in the hope that it helps anyone out there who has suffered similar experiences. To reach out and let you know that there is hope for a better future.
My earliest memories of a life before trauma was when I was 5 years old and living in Melbourne with my Mum, Dad, older brother, sister and younger brother.
I have many happy memories of that time in Melbourne. We were a typical family in a quiet street with other children around our age. Often our days were spent playing in the street, on Dad’s homemade billy cart, or going to visit our neighbour’s houses to play in their yard.
One of my favourite memories was sitting outside on the nature strip under a little tree that shaded me from the sun. Directly across from the tree outside my home, was another tree. My sister and I would gather our tea party sets and choose a tree to sit under and play pretend tea parties.
Life changed dramatically when I was 6 and half years old. The family minus my father moved into my paternal grandfather’s house. I remember the day that we had sold our house and unlike a typical move where you take things with you to set up in another house, everything of ours was being thrown out, including all our toys, books and furniture.
I don’t remember my first day moving in to my grandfather’s house, but I very quickly learned that my childhood as I knew it would never be the same. I shared this house with 12 other children, 6 women and 1 man; my grandfather. The children there had no toys, no tv. We were not allowed to play, unless rewarded with rare free time. Everything was orderly and structured, with daily jobs and strict timetables. If we weren’t sleeping or having our main meals, we were cleaning the house from top to bottom. When that was done, we were in church. The church we went to just happened to be built into the house. Which meant that the only time we left the house was when we went to school.
The only time I had to be a child was at school. Though with what was happening at home, it quickly began to affect me socially, to the point where I became withdrawn. I clung onto the teachers that showed me warmth, were nurturing and offered a warm smile. It was these teachers that showed me that there was still kindness and love in the world. These were the teachers that gave me hope.
The sexual abuse, the beatings, the harsh punishments for the most menial errors and the removal of any time or affection with my mother became my world. I would lay there at night and pray for an escape. Pray that someone would come in and take us away from this place. I would often wet the bed through fear and be too afraid to tell anyone for fear of another beating.
Though we had school hours away from the house, I remember feeling how difficult it was to be living in dual worlds and how hard this was at times to keep adjusting between the two. One minute we were in a world where everything we did was monitored, scored and assessed and the next we were free to be children.
For three years I lived to a strict routine and a life of absolute misery, until the day my mother walked out of the house and didn’t return. My brothers and sister and I were later collected from the school via police escort and then moved to Central Victoria, with nothing but the clothes on our backs.
Though it was sudden and unfamiliar, it was a strange and wonderful feeling to have found my new sense of freedom. I was in a new school, a new place and new environment to adapt to once again. For the most part this continued, until the sexual abuse began again with my maternal grandfather. Though this time it was hidden. It was done in secrecy, without any acknowledgement. There was no verbal threats of keeping it a secret, it just was.
I was 9 by this time and though I had moved from living with my maternal grandparents and wasn’t experiencing this on a daily basis, the occurrence was frequent, as my mum had not only a strong dependency on her parents but they were her only means of transport.
By the time I was 12 I had a random conversation with a girl in my street. I was telling her that we were about to move into a house that would be close to my grandparents house. It was then that I told her that my grandfather was abusing me.
Months later when we were settling into our house, I heard a knock at the door and opened it to find a policewoman standing at the door. I immediately knew why she was there.
After full disclosure of the abuse from both grandfathers, my whole family went into completed denial and I received no parental or family support whatsoever. I was literally left on my own, as the entire family sided with my grandfather. So in order to cope, just like my family did, I carried on as if nothing had happened. I literally put it to the back of my mind and continued on with my schooling. In some ways it was ok. No longer having to be subjected to the abuse was the biggest reward. I felt relieved that I no longer had to pretend to be happy about seeing my grandfather. I no longer had to endure the secret abusive encounters. For the most part, I was free for the first time in 7 years.
It was however the emotional abandonment from my mother in particular that hurt the most. Not once did she come to me and ask how I was; I was 14 years old. Because she couldn’t cope, I stepped in to look after her emotional needs, forsaking my own to nuture hers. She never stepped in to be my guardian, to be my support. She never once thought to.
It wasn’t until I finished school and I no longer had the routine of school to keep me busy, that the pain, and many issues associated with the abuse and my family’s denial, started to surface. The pain became so intense that I couldn’t numb it. It appeared out of nowhere. It was constant, agonising and frightening. There many times I just wanted to die. I wanted to end it all.
It felt like I was buried under a mountain of pain and I had no idea where to start. I didn’t know if I had it in me to begin sifting through the intense pain I felt and I was afraid of where it was going to take me.
It was during this period of agonsing and unrelenting pain, that I felt I had to make a decision. A decision I now know saved my life. I could have gone down the path of self-medicating and suppressing whatever was trying to gravitate to the surface. I could have done anything to avoid facing the many issues I knew were there. Instead I did what I felt I needed to do to save my life. To give myself a better chance at life and that was to face my pain, and sort through the myriad of issues I had.
I had no idea how long this path would take and where it would take me, but I knew that the pain I was in had to end. And for it to end I knew I had to dive into it and sort it out. I was determined to be something despite my childhood trauma. Somewhere in the depths of me I knew I deserved it; the little girl inside me deserved to be healed. She deserved for me to make things right.
For just short of a decade of my life I faced my pain and all my issues head on. Through severe episodes of depression, anxiety panic disorder and suicidal thoughts, I sought counseling to sift through and process what I had been through. I read books on any topic that I needed and wanted to learn more about. I challenged limiting beliefs I had about myself and beliefs installed via the family culture. I sought help by way of people I loved, respected and looked up to. I did everything I could to know what real love was, install new beliefs, know that I was worthy and to discover who I was despite the abuse.
This was not an easy path. It was long, hard and at times so unbearable that I wanted to give up. But I held on, believing that better days were ahead. Not realising that all the while I was re-creating a better future for myself. That throughout the hard yards I was actually transforming my life. I was beginning to learn who I was. Beginning to believe that I was worth something. Finally believing that I could have the same chance at life that everyone else around me had.
I am here today, having completed a university degree, running a successful business and happily married to a devoted man that I deserve, with 3 beautiful children. I have created a new story that has broken the cycle of abuse, secrecy and pain for the future of my children. For that I am proud that I did what I needed to do, to spare my children the heartache and suffering I did
Facing my pain was the hardest, longest battle I have ever endured and I would do it all over again to get to the rewards I am now reaping.