*Survivors of childhood trauma deserve all the peace and security that a loving relationship can provide. But a history of abuse or neglect can make trusting another person feel terrifying. Trying to form an intimate relationship may lead to frightening missteps and confusion.
Whether the trauma was physical, sexual, or emotional, the impact can show up in a host of relationship issues. Survivors often believe deep down that no one can really be trusted, that intimacy is dangerous, and for them, a real loving attachment is an impossible dream. Many tell themselves they are flawed, not good enough and unworthy of love. Thoughts like these can wreak havoc in relationships throughout life.
Hidden trauma from childhood sexual abuse can cause survivors to unconsciously, sabotage relationships, here is my story.
There Once Was A Man I Loved
As I sit here writing this, I stare at my computer screen and have that familiar bitter taste of the sadness and pain build up once again in the back of my throat. I take a deep breath and continue to think about my life.
There was a man I once loved, when we met we instantly had a connection, we became best friends. His parting comment on the first night we talked will stay in my heart forever, He said “Have you ever met someone you knew was going to be your best friend for the rest of your life, it’s like when you were in kindergarten on the playground and you instantly like that one kid, well, that one kid is you”
That is when I knew for sure that my life was forever going to change.
There was a time that we shared everything with each other. We shared laughter, tears, experiences, walks, faith and traditions, good times as well as bad. We shared our most intimate secrets with each other.
It was Unedited, Trusting, Fully immersed. Unaware of what the future would bring. We created so many wonderful memories together, our walks, our trips, our talks and just experiencing life.
Smiles and laughter we shared when we were different people than we are now. When we were learning from, growing with, and just enjoying each other. Smiles we shared when we had no idea what the future held for us, but we didn’t care. We were just being us. Smiles when I picked you up after your hospital stay, when my youngest held your hand at Disneyland leading you to all her favorite rides.
And now you are you, and I am me.
There was a time when we were once strangers, then we became everything to each other, and, eventually, seemed to somehow become strangers again. A stranger, who will forever, I hope, leave a space in our hearts and our minds. One who leaves memories in the way that one leaves a carving on a tree? A carving that someday may have other memories carved over it, making it invisible. But, it will always be there, no matter how deep it becomes buried.
I became the girl who didn’t believe it would ever come crashing down, who thought we had a forever love.
Yet, one day, it did.
When it did, I felt as though I was moving from place to place, not really living but simply existing. I wish I could describe to you the pain I felt as I held back the tears all day and then finally releasing them at night. It was so hard not having you.
We broke each other’s hearts and left both our lives in ruins.
For so many reasons, I didn’t know how to say it. How could I say something that I didn’t even realize myself? That my past abuse was clouding my judgment causing me to retreat within myself. As easy as it was falling for you, it also terrified me, causing anxieties and deep-seated insecurities I’d long buried. I was waiting and hoping for irrefutable proof that you chose me — for you to tell me or bring me fully into your world. Making me really feel I was your one true love. Instead, my jealousies and insecurities just caused frustration and anger.
I adored you, utterly and without reservation. My downfall was, I didn’t think you could possibly feel the same way about me. That has as much to do with me as it did with you — and everything to do with what went wrong. Never dealing with the pain of my childhood and the truth I buried so deep inside my brain.
We still don’t know what the future will bring. Maybe someday our paths will cross again. We will have traditions we have built with someone else and special occasions that were once only arbitrary dates on a calendar will become important. We will have photos on our phones of experiences and people we did not share.
Please believe me when I say that I let go, but I didn’t give up on you. Even though I left, I was so confused, I still loved you. I was so deep in pain from my childhood, triggered by your behavior that I panicked and ran and hid. Divorcing you was never an option for me. But hurting each other because we didn’t have the tools to make things right by each other wasn’t an option, either. I had to stop chasing your love and start giving it to myself and understand why I sabotage relationships — and I suspected you needed to do the same.
I’m sorry for the ways I hurt you. I’m sorry I didn’t have the courage to say the words that weighed on my tongue for months after we separated; I should have shared with you the pain of my memories coming back and trying to make sense of what was happening to me and that it was overwhelming me. That I was having flashbacks of my father every time I looked at you in those last few months. I kept waiting for you to say these words to me. That you couldn’t live without me, that you loved me more than life itself. That everything would be ok. I’m sorry I didn’t just ask what you really wanted and that I didn’t believe it could ever be me. I’m sorry it all fell apart. There was nothing I wanted more than to keep it — keep us — together, and I regret I didn’t have the strength in me to do more in that end, to explain my pain; I was too afraid and confused. How where you suppose to understand when I didn’t even understand what was happening to me.
I still hate that it ended, but I’m grateful for the lessons I learned in the ending. It pushed me toward Jesus and started me on a road to healing, toward doing the work I’d never before found a reason to do, to face my past completely. To finally face the horrible truth of what my own father did to me, starting at 4 years old. The pain was too much to face so; I buried it deep within my mind only to come crashing back at my most vulnerable time. Caring for you the way I did showed me the places in myself that hadn’t yet healed from my childhood, the cracks I’d painted over but never really filled. Those cracks made me more fragile and vulnerable than I’d allowed anyone, especially myself, to believe. I’m filling them and healing them now. It has taken me a long time to reconcile all that happened to me.
Unfortunately, we will fade from each other’s lives but hopefully, burn brighter in the lives we have created for ourselves with the new people we will love. The one’s that will teach us that we can find love again, and teach us to find happiness again.
We will have new smiles. Separate smiles built by separate memories. Smiles full of love and family with the people who have accepted us fully, as we have accepted them.
But, it’s true what they say: time heals all wounds. Eventually, I realized that seeing your picture didn’t sting as much, and hearing your name didn’t make me want to cry. Talking about the day you decided to divorce me didn’t make me want to die anymore and hearing about the new girl you were pursuing didn’t make me retreat inside myself.
I knew that I am getting over you when I started typing this letter. All because I had typed,” loved” in the title. As in the past, because unfortunately, that is where our story sadly belongs. A distant memory.
So thank you for all the life lessons you have given me. Thank you for the wonderful memories, the laughter, especially in the early days. Thank you for picking me to minister to you when you were hurting. Thank you for making me feel special that day in Pavilions parking lot. Thank you for making me stronger. But most of all, thank you for teaching me that I am capable of loving and caring for others in need, a ministry that I am growing in today.
After all this time, and all this pain, I’m still unable to construct a wall of emotion to keep you out. A position only you and the children share.
It’s this knowledge that, if I learned that you were dying, I would want to come see you one last time. If you needed help and I was somehow the only one who could provide it, I would without hesitation.
I suppose there is one thing I can be proud of in all this: When I promised you I’d always love you all those years ago, I never broke my word.
Even through all the pain, You will always have a special place in my heart.
*Survivors of childhood sexual abuse do not have to allow the trauma to continue interfering with their lives. If you are a sexual abuse survivor, the first step is to talk to someone about it, either a trusted friend or a counselor. If sex abuse is threatening to destroy your relationship, you should tell your partner about it. Therapy can help you understand the patterns in your life created by the abuse, including the ways it has been affecting your relationships. Figuring these things out can set you on the path to healthy and thriving relationships.