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Perfect people .. Adult survivors of child abuse

Updated on October 11, 2009

One in four women in the United States is sexually abuse by the age of 18. Thirty-five years ago, I became one of them when the teenage son of a family friend threw me to the ground and violently raped me. Fifteen feet away in another room my parents played cards unaware that the rest of my life was altered in those few short moments. Like many survivors, I never told, hoping to bury the pain and shame away in some secret place. Like a sickness though the events of that night would spread through out my life almost destroying it.

Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse may have symptoms including :

  • Low self-esteem
  • Perfectionism
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse

I was no different. My lack of self-esteem and a conviction that I was damaged drove me to an overwhelming and impossible quest for perfection.  I felt I had to work longer, push harder and do more just to be on the same level as the so-called normal people. I worked 80- 90 hours a week while raising 6 children , maintaining the perfect weight , keeping the perfect house , and even finding time to volunteer. But nothing was  good enough to remove the shame in my eyes .  Driven by the anxiety  that others would discover how truly flawed I was. Bouts of  depression, fueled by physical exhaustion  set in when I failed to achieve my standards for personal perfection.  An addiction to diet pills  kept the whole doomed  system running at full speed. At least for awhile.

It all came crashing down when overwhelmed by the added stress of an abusive ex husband turned stalker, panic attacks  left me an  agoraphobic binge drinker. Within four years  I was picked up for 3 dui’s charged with a felony and forced in to drug rehab. I lost my children , my job  my home and the remainder of my self worth. A blessing in disguise  though I was diagnosed with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and sent on for further treatment, through a combination of desensitization and cognitive therapy cured. 

Therapy was not easy. I had  to face all the fears and anxieties that I had spent my adult life running from. I had to remove the  source of the sickness  and dig out the roots it had spread. Forced to look at my life as a whole,  I discovered a deep sense of compassion for the girl I was and respect for the woman I am. I learned to forgive him and myself .

Three years later, I have put my life back together  I know a peace  I never realized was possible. Where I  once  believed that only  the perfect people deserved happiness , not the flawed or damaged  like me . I have since discovered that there are no perfect people and we are all flawed or damaged in one way or another. I have even learned to accept and love those flaws as the idiosyncrasies that make us human and unique. I am perfect just as I am and the funny thing is I always was. 


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    • Jean Marie 360 profile image

      Jean Marie 4 years ago from Salt Lake City, Utah

      Thanks for writing about perfection! Excellent post!

    • profile image

      sab 7 years ago

      Sometimes I feel the effects of my child abuse will never go away....I still get anxiety when I have to sit and concentrate on something. As a child, I was a perfectionist and had a lot of fear around learning. Although I frequently attend therapy and have done some work around this, I still feel that it's blocking me from being more successful in my career. I am so frustrated. Any thoughts?

    • wendi_w profile image

      wendi_w 8 years ago from Midwest

      Thank you and you are so right! This was a very difficult piece to write I appreciate the kind words.

    • Kaie Arwen profile image

      Kaie Arwen 8 years ago

      Ah, you didn't just put your life back together............... you took it back! The things that made you feel as it were broken came from those who had no right to mess with it in the first place.

      You felt damaged; I felt dirty, and yet neither of us was what we believed ourselves to be. We are perfect, and we are survivors. I'm glad you found your way back..............