shadow work: healing from childhood trauma

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trigger warning: this is a true story of childhood sexual trauma. names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

Her face looked disturbing as it loomed over me, peering down, expressionless. I just lay in my crib, limp, and unable to do anything as she touched me for what seemed like eternity. I felt like a science lab rat—voiceless and unworthy of consensus.

I was about 5 when I remember my next experience, this time with my friend Marlena, playing house as husband and wife. We were naked in my bed when my older brother threw the door open. He and my other sibling taunted me about “doing it” and dangled it over my head for years, threatening to tell my parents, calling me a lesbian, and when they were mad; telling me I was going to hell.

Another time I was at my playmate Monica’s house and her mother caught her pulling down her underwear. She ran me out of their home and forbid me from playing with her ever again.

For several years I experimented with my friends; curious, confused and excited—I found myself attracted to the same gender—a direct result I’m sure, of being molested at the age of 2. I enjoyed these friendships and even the thrill of possibly getting caught. I was about 10 when I remember the first time where I found myself angry with my friend Amanda for wanting to tell her father that we kissed. I realized then how scared I was, and how uncomfortable it felt to harbor these emotions of what I didn’t know at the time was a cocktail of shame and guilt. I felt like I was doing something bad, and I was a bad person for doing it.

During this time, I became very scared of men. I had an older cousin who lived with us for some time who tried to flirt with me and be alone with me and touch me. “You know our family is a type of religion where we have to marry someone in our family.” I stood dead in my tracks, a look of being dumbfounded on my face. Another time, I remember him walking into my room and trying to look at and touch the underwear I was wearing as I was tucked in bed, unsafe against his predatory hands and lustful eyes. I was too embarrassed to tell my family, we were quick tempered and hot blooded—I didn’t want to even imagine what the men in my family would do to him. I just wanted it to all stop and go away. I became more and more ashamed of myself and my body, retreating inward where I had no say in anything and no courage to stand up for myself.

My female experimenting ended as I transitioned into middle school. Pushing it to the back of my mind, assuming it would disappear if I ignored it enough. I abandoned this part of me as I went through puberty, as if it were a rite of passage or a coming of age requirement to leave myself behind.

I was a teenager when, ironically, my family had moved to the home of my old friend Amanda. One day, after being gone for years she came back to that home to visit. I sneaked a look at her behind the blinds through the kitchen window as she caught up with my brother on the back steps. I remembered opening the back door, pretending to need to talk to him—the look on her face of disgust when she saw me left a permanent scar. I felt like a monster.

It was in that same house when I tried to come out as bisexual to my mother. I was in my late teens and had been secretly dating females. My mother looked at me like I was a demonic beast. She didn’t understand, she interrogated me with a bunch of questions; “what about your boyfriend? Is he just using you for sex?!” “you don’t know what you are talking about! You are going to hell! You learned this from your friends and the tv!” she continued to berate me through my closed door before finally retreating to her room. About an hour later I heard her voice again; “Mabelyn, let’s just pretend that this never happened. Don’t tell your brothers or anyone about this, ok!” I felt completely rejected and undeserving of her love. Worthless, like a piece of trash discarded out the car window. I couldn’t make sense of it then, but this only added to all the shame and guilt that was bubbling inside—ready to explode like a wild, untamable, violent volcano.

It was the winter of 2016 when I had my first panic attack. I was working at my new job as a preschool teacher. I was in a classroom filled with children the same age that I was when I was first molested. It hit me like a ton of bricks as I fled the room, unable to breathe.

“Have you ever experienced any trauma?” My therapist asked me as I sat in her chair choking and crying at the same time. Before I knew it, the words had already left my mouth; “I was molested by an older female child when I was two, my family doesn’t know about it.” I explained how I felt like a horrible person, I remembered the look of Amanda as I told my therapist between sobs that I ruined all of my friend’s lives. For years I tried to stay away from young children. I had convinced myself that I was infertile and did not want kids of my own. When my siblings became fathers, I avoided their babies like my life depended on it… 5 years that I can never have back. Babies made me uncomfortable, and deep down I truly believed that I was going to grow up to be a pedophile, as if I had contracted some type of disease when I was 2 and it was incurable.

“You’ve been making up stories in your head Mabelyn,” the therapist told me.  “Lot’s of children experiment,” she said, “and you weren’t forcing anyone and pinning them down, your friends were figuring things out too.” I had never looked at these situations that way, I just knew, or thought I knew, that I was sick and a menace to society. Hearing her say these words in a sense gave me the permission that I wasn’t able to give myself to finally begin to heal. Over 20 years of suppression was awakening. I remember seeing my clinical herbalist Allison, as she mentioned the idea of Saturn Returns; and how this is a point in your life between the ages of 27-29 where Saturn digs up all your shit that you have never resolved and throws it in your face,” here you go!”

I knew I was on the right path, and I could finally start to forgive myself, and move through the pain of healing within, this time choosing to relive each trauma again in order to heal and move on, transcending the suffering into lessons of love.

To be continued…

 

Love always,

Mabes