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Perfect people .. Adult survivors of child abuse
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
- 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.