** Heavy trigger warning for adolescent abuse by a family member, self harm, substance use, miscarriage
It all started before I was even born.
My parents never really got along and definitely were not in love, I doubt they ever were. I was the only girl in a family full of men. I have no biological sisters and had zero positive female role models growing up. That made it very hard to understand my own social norms being a girl myself in early childhood.
I remember how much my parents would fight. Screaming at each other, hitting each other, and constantly being intoxicated. I was only 2 years old the first time I saw violence in the home. I remember hiding under the kitchen table with one of my brothers, sobbing, as he covered my mouth so my parents didn’t know we were in the room and could hear everything. Shortly after that, my parents split up and I was taken to my grandparents’ house where I continued to live until I was 8 years old.
At the age of 6 years old, that’s when it first happened.
I remember feeling so afraid, so numb, and so confused. It was a day I’ll never forget and to this day it still haunts my dreams. The feeling of having him on top of me, covering my mouth as I screamed and cried for him to stop. If I cried too loud, he would push harder and tighten his grip on my mouth. I felt betrayed and I remember how much it hurt, how much pain I was in. I remember closing my eyes and praying for him to stop, praying for one of my brothers to come into the room and see what he was doing and stop him. All I could do was lay there and let it happen. I was not strong enough to push him off me. I was only 6 years old. When my father sexually assaulted me. It continued every summer until I was 17 years old.
I remember telling my mom that I didn’t want to see my dad anymore and I told her the reason why. I tried to tell her in as much detail as a child could. Her response has been in my brain forever and they pierce me still to say out loud: “He would never do that. He isn’t that type of person. Stop lying.” From that point on, I remember feeling trapped. If my own mother wouldn’t believe me and didn’t care, why would anyone else? I decided to bury it and never talk about it or bring it up to her or anyone ever again because it didn’t matter, and nobody would believe me anyway.
This lead me to believe that what was happening to me must be normal. That this is what dads do to their kids. I knew no better, and I had no power over it. All I could do is remember that this is how he showed love for me. If I didn’t accept this form of love, I would be punished. By the age of 12, I had started to self-harm. I didn’t know how to cope with my emotions, with how horrible I was feeling. I remember the time I cut so bad I almost died, I was rushed to the hospital and barely survived. At age 13, I got drunk and used drugs for the first time. I remember it making me feel free. I felt like I had finally found a way to escape how I was feeling. Even if it was only for a short period of time, it was long enough that I continued to use and drink heavily throughout high school [in secret, of course]. As I grew up and went through high school, I was the outcast, the loner kid, who had very few friends. I didn’t really feel like I fit in anywhere. I was bullied and teased lots which caused my self-love to decrease gradually over time. I feel like a lost cause and that nobody even needed me alive.
I remember telling the police about it at some point, but of course, because I was a minor they needed to speak to an adult. The adult was my mother, who had already told me I was making it up. She told the police I was lying and that none of it ever happened. So, the case was dropped before it even started. I became very distant with my mother and to this day, we don’t speak of what happened or anything from my childhood. In a nutshell, I was alone. Because of my mom’s denial, I became a liar.
This was around the time of my first suicide attempt at 16.
By this time, I had tried multiple different things to try to help me feel better. From counselling to even being baptized. Absolutely nothing would make me feel anything. I was just numb. I remember being in the psych ward for most of my high school career. 3 months admitted, 1 month out, then straight back again. It was a vicious cycle. And at the time it felt never-ending. This is around the time I decided I did not want to continue to see my father. I tried to cut off communication with him entirely and no matter how hard I tried, he would find his way back into the picture somehow. Until one day, at 17, I said enough was enough. I completely removed him from my life and it felt amazing. I finally felt free from his grasp.
I met a guy and settled down right after graduation.
When I turned 18, I became pregnant and was so happy. I felt like my life had finally had a purpose. I was destined to be a mother. Little did I know, I was in an extremely abusive relationship and my partner was upset that I was pregnant. He caused me to miscarry. I was devastated. My heart and dreams felt completely crushed. I felt stuck and didn’t know what to do again. At 19, my best friend was murdered, and I was shattered in a way I never even thought was possible. How could I continue living without my best friend? Why would somebody kill her? A million different thoughts ran through my head and I was extremely depressed. This is when my drinking started to kick start, I didn’t know how else to cope and my partner left me alone to deal with it and wanted nothing to do with my healing process. After some more time had passed, I realized that even though I was unhappy, I continued to stay in that extremely toxic, abusive, manipulative relationship for 6 years. He was all I knew, all I was allowed to know and all I thought I wanted. I was back in the same position I was in as a child, except with a new monster. He would isolate me from my friends and family, and gaslight everything that happened.
Finally, at 22, we broke up. I was completely broken. He and I had spent so much time together that I felt like I didn’t know what to do without him.
I became homeless. I lived on the streets in chunks for 6 months. Stayed at local homeless shelters when they were available. I was falling apart. My drug use increased, as did my drinking. I remember having a drink everywhere I went. I couldn’t be without it. I started using other drugs and, in all honesty, much of my time being homeless I don’t remember. It is all a haze in my memories. I had multiple overdoses and trips to the hospital. This is also around the time I was diagnosed with PTSD and began taking medication to help treat it. I was doing so many reckless things and it got to a point where I knew I had a problem and I needed help to fix it.
I went to treatment for 2 months. And then, shortly after, began pursuing my dream to become the person I was meant to be. I enrolled myself in school and began to work through my past traumas and work alongside my counsellor to achieve the happiness I had so longed for. I am doing a lot better for myself now and I am finally starting to believe that I do have worth, that I am important, and that I am loved.
I shouldn’t let the past be the only thing that determines who and what I am. I am destined for so much more than that.
My hope in sharing my story is to show others that even though terrible, horrible things happen to us, it DOES NOT define who we are. I used to say things so horrible about myself that I started to believe that they were true. Now it’s my turn to take back my power and show the world that I am a warrior. I’ve fought a hard, intensive battle. But, it only made me stronger, made me grow, and shaped me into the person I am today. I no longer want to be a slave to the things that destroyed me. I want to take back my power and scream it from the rooftops.
I have been fighting since I was a child.
I am not just a survivor,
I AM A WARRIOR.
-Anonymous, Fraser Valley BC