Dear Depression

You shake me to my core

You slowly take until I don’t feel anymore

Some days are good, many days are bad

I am sick and tired of feeling sad

I wish I could just snap out of it

Most days I feel stuck inside a pit

Maybe someday I’ll know what it’s like

To get to be happy and learn to love life.

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I am diagnosed with Persistent Depressive Disorder also known as Dysthymia which is a mild, but long term type of depression. At my worst I’ve had almost as many bad days as good days during the week. My bad days look like irritability, loss of emotional feeling, and fatigue. I would find myself having a good day, but wrapped up wondering when a bad day would hit. Bad days would come from the time I woke up until I woke up the next day and there was nothing I could do to make it go away. While emotions are sometimes difficult, it is so much harder to feel nothing about anything. 

Most people are aware of the characteristic of depression where people don’t want to get out of bed. Most days I find myself laying in bed awake, but not able to physically pull myself out of the bed. I have stared at the wall for hours at times because I couldn’t get up. Some days I wonder what the purpose of life is and why we are all here. I often feel no interest in anything and spend my days at home sleeping because it’s too difficult to get dressed and leave the house. 

The thing about PDD is individuals normalize their feelings or behaviors because it is long lasting. You begin feeling like the irritable, sad, sleepy person is just who you are. With PDD depressive symptoms have to be occurring for two or more years. 

I saw a therapist for 4 years in high school due to coming into state custody at 15 years old after disclosing sexual abuse. I also had athletics and school which made it difficult for me to have time to be a sad person, however the characteristics of sleeping often and irritability remained. I then went to college where I discontinued therapeutic services when I feel I needed it the most. Being away from family, wrestling full time, cutting weight, going to school, working, and dealing with my personal life was very difficult, but I never realized I needed help. I believe I went through several difficult spurts of depression throughout college. 

I’m the type of person that tries to handle issues independently. I believe I have had to care for myself the majority of my life so it makes sense to continue into adulthood handling issues alone. I kept disregarding the possibility of depression until I realized it was taking over my life. I spoke with my therapist from high school and she suggested taking medication to regulate the serotonin in my brain. I always prided myself on being 24 years old and having never taken medication for mental health. After all, I’m supposed to be this tough person who is able to handle anything and can talk about my trauma. I get so wrapped up in being a certain person for everyone else, I lose sight of my own health. I quickly realized I wasn’t as tough as I though I was.

When you’ve lived a childhood of observing domestic violence, constant drug use in the home, experienced physical abuse where you’ve almost died, and endured weekly sexual abuse for 10+ years you wonder why you ever thought you could make it out without mental health diagnoses. 

I began taking the medication and immediately saw results with the first pill I took. I felt no irritability and rarely had feelings of dissociation. The crazy thing about medication is, you can’t miss days or else the symptoms return and sometimes they’re worse than before which happens to me often. 

I’m sharing this because we don’t talk about mental health enough. Someone who may seem happy with not a care in the world could be dealing with things you know nothing about. If you know someone who is diagnosed with depression or may be depressed, just check in on them whether it irritates them or not. I know there are times where I wonder what it would be like to be gone. I often tell people I don’t think about hurting myself, but when I think of people who commit suicide, I understand because I live the same pain. This is why it’s important to check in. My friends and family constantly call or text to see how I’m doing which helps me feel someone cares. 

I’ve realized life is hard and for me, it never stops being hard. Sometimes it makes me chuckle when a new significant negative life event happens, because it happens so often I’m not shocked anymore. There’s always going to be something difficult happening in your life and it’s all about how you choose to react. The world stops for no one whether you lose someone, are sexually abused, have mental health diagnoses, etc. Life doesn’t care what you’re going through, because it always continues with or without you. The purpose of the hard times are to see if you’ll allow it to make you stronger or let it wither you away. 

Depression, I want you to know you will not win in the end. You may beat me some days, but you will not take my life. Some things that keep me going are my job, my family, and knowing other people need me. If you’re having negative thoughts about yourself always look at the adverse thoughts. You have a purpose whether you’ve found it yet or not. Make sure you have someone you could call if you start having negative thoughts. The worst thing you can do to yourself is handle depression alone. 

 

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Why Didn’t You Tell?

“Why didn’t you tell”, is one of the most frequently asked questions that I hear other survivors say that they are asked by the people they choose to disclose their abuse to. Looking from the outside in, this may seem like an appropriate question, but it can often leave room for the assumption of blame by the person disclosing.

The Department of Heath and Human Services Children’s Bureau estimates that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18. If you know anything about statistics you know that they can be skewed, especially when your sample size relies on those who disclose to someone who is able to get them help. Darkness 2 Light reported that 38% of child sexual abuse victims disclose their abuse and of those only 40% of kids tell someone of authority who report the incident. So that leaves the burning question, why didn’t you tell?

The purpose of this blog post is to explain some of the reasons that a victim of child sexual abuse struggles to disclose their abuse. Know that abuse experiences are different for every single person and the categories I have chosen to discuss are popular reasons, but are not the only reasons someone may not come forward. I want people who have not been victims of child sexual abuse to understand why many individuals, both children and adults, have difficulty coming forward and those who have been or are victims to understand you aren’t alone.

Fear

The driving force of child sexual abuse is the instillation of fear into the victim. If a perpetrator does not instill fear, then they are subjected to being caught doing something they know to be wrong. Fear can be expressed to a child in many different ways.

“If you say anything you will get in trouble”

“If you tell, then I will hurt you or someone you love”

“If you tell, I could get in trouble”

“If you say anything, no one will believe you”

“If you tell anyone then it will break up the whole family”

The list goes on and on and on. For children, it is easy for a perpetrator to instill this fear from the examples given. Children are made to believe that the perpetrator will/can hurt their family, their pets, their friends. They are made to believe that no one would ever believe them and most children are close to their abuser, therefore they do not want to get them in trouble.

Shame

“What will my friends think”, “What will my girlfriend/boyfriend think”, “How will people react”. Many victims feel any overwhelming embarrassment for the actions that took place and think that if their peers find out about it they will be an outcast. When I was in high school I was on the bus going to a wrestling tournament with several other boys and girls. I remember there was a boy who was a year or two older than me that made the joke “why don’t you go have sex with your dad”, mind you this person was not aware that I was sexually abused by my father. For some reason children make jokes about incest and rape which shows victims the response they will most likely receive from their peers. Child sexual abuse is the stealing of a child’s most important possession, their body. When this happens, victims can feel like they have lost all control of everything in their lives.

In our society we view men as masculine. You’re supposed to enjoy the outdoors, beer, and shooting guns. As for boys, they are supposed to learn masculine ways to handle emotions and grow up to be a “man”. It’s portrayed as acceptable for young boys to look at female porn and sleep with older women. These are all reasons in which our society makes it difficult for many young men to come forward about their abuse. It’s not viewed as masculine for a boy’s body to be taken advantage of. We also make it difficult for boys to understand they’ve been raped when adult women take advantage of them. It’s viewed as cool to have sex with an older woman even though the understanding of children not being able to consent is the same as an older man with a young girl.

One of the most difficult things for me to realize on my own path of being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse was the confusion between body stimulation and consent. I’m reading a book called “Hush” by Nicole Braddock Bromely who explains perfectly that just because it felt good to your body, doesn’t mean you consented or were okay with what was happening. We have sex organs for a reason, but the reason was never intended for children or in the bounds of rape. For a long time, even after I disclosed and met other survivors, I felt disgusting as I felt like I was the only one whose body responded in this way. I was so confused as to why I felt terrible in my mind, but my body was responding in a way that felt good. This is by far the biggest battle that I faced in trying to understand whether or not the abuse was okay or not okay.

Family

When we think of children, we think of young people who are selfish and feel like the world revolves around them. The most fascinating thing I have ever discovered is the thought process in children who consider disclosing sexual abuse. I met a young woman who told me that her abuser was a family member who was revered in her family and she knew if she disclosed then people would not believe her because of how much they loved him. You see, my dad was disliked by mostly everyone so when I decided to speak out I didn’t have to consider his reputation, how it would effect the family, or risk no one believing me because he was not a popular person. It is amazing how much child victims consider how the non-perpetrating parent will be effected and how the family as a whole will be effected by their disclosure. Some children would rather face the sexual abuse than break up theirs family, which is the most selfless thing I’ve ever heard of.

Guilt

Many victims of child sexual abuse wear the repercussions of their perpetrators actions in their back. They feel that if they say something then that person, who they may really care about, will go to jail or get in trouble. Many feel that when the family can not handle the truth of the abuse then it is their fault for breaking the family apart. One of the most difficult things for me to realize as a survivor of child sexual abuse is that it was not my fault and there is nothing I could have done to stop it from happening. As a child you do not have the ability to consent to sexual relations with an adult which is why it is a law.

  • My Disclosure •

My father and I lived alone together the majority of my life which made me an easy target for manipulation. My father would not allow me to see the rest of my family and would make me stay home alone during the summer for fear I would spill our little secret. I was sexually abused from the time I was about 5 until 15 so trying to figure out that the abuse was wrong was the most difficult thing for me as I had become normalized by what happened in the homes I lived in with my father. I remember we only had basic cable andIn the summer I would watch Live with Regis and Kelly, The Price is Right, The Young and the Restless, Days of Our Lives, Opera, Rachel Ray, Judge Judy, Dr. Phil and Ellen. I remember watching Dr. Phil, Ellen, and Opera where these kids would be invited onto the show to talk about child abuse, rape, and other things happening to kids. As I child I would recognize the tone of the topics and how the crowd would react as well as how proud the host was that the child was speaking about it. I truly feel that those shows impacted my life and taught me that what was happening behind closed doors was not okay. On October 22, 2008 I told a teacher at Tascosa High School that my dad “did things to me” and from there I was able to begin healing, but the road to that day was 10 years in the making.

If someone makes the choice to tell you about their childhood sexual abuse, whether that be a child or adult, JUST LISTEN. Give them the ability to get it out and be supportive. Understand how much it may have taken them to trust someone with what happened to them and know it’s not easy.

** If a child discloses something to you, call law enforcement or the child abuse hotline in your state **

If you are or have been a victim of childhood sexual abuse, talk with someone you trust and always remember that you have a voice worth listening to.

My Story

The purpose of this blog page is to open the door for communication through using my voice about my story. I want to empower individuals who are or have been victims of child sexual abuse to find their voice as I have found mine.

While I have told my story at various events in front of rather large crowds, I realized I’m missing a group of people that see me through social media. This first post will be about my story as a survivor of child sexual abuse.

Disclaimer: Some of the things you are going to read may be difficult to hear and/or may trigger traumatic events.

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My story begins as early as I can remember in a small town called Borger, Texas. I lived as an only child in a home with my biological father. At age 5 my father began a technique called grooming by taking showers with me and asking me to wash his body parts as well as him washing mine. The grooming quickly turned into what is called conditioning by way of fondling. After fondling became normal, it was never enough. At about age 6 or 7 I was purposefully exposed to a pornographic VHS tape that I was required to watch. Several years went by where I was being fondled weekly, but to me it seemed like normal interaction between father and daughter.

Fast forward a couple years and my dad got married. Although the sexual abuse slowed down tremendously, it did not stop. A year after they were married, they got a divorce and we moved into a new home, just me and my dad. Our next home was a one bedroom apartment in the backyard of an elderly woman’s house. This house would be the place where the abuse would increase heavily. My dad began using the excuse of needing to check if I was going to start my period as a means of touching me sexually. To make matter worse, a one bedroom house meant sleeping in the same bed with my dad every night. Often times I would wake up to my dad touching my private parts.

I got the opportunity to participate in the great sport of wrestling for the majority of my childhood and began wrestling in Borger when I was 8. After my first year, the program was discontinued for lack of participation and someone buying out our facility. I then transferred to a club team in Amarillo, TX called Maverick Elite which required an hour drive to practice and an hour drive back. You’ll find with many child sexual abuse cases there is co-occurring abuse. My father had an extreme issue with alcohol where he would drink until he was inebriated daily. I would be busting my butt getting beat up in the practice room with boys while my dad sat in the car and drank. Somehow my dad decided drinking and driving isn’t safe anymore so let’s teach my 10 year old to drive (stick shift).

At a tournament in Lubbock, Texas my dad got extremely drunk and was screaming at me during a match in front of everyone. Now of course I won the match, but it was by tech fall and not by pin so he was angry with me and began shoving me out the door. One of my awesome coaches followed us and told my dad to knock it off which resulted in an argument. My dad was later arrested and I moved to Amarillo to stay with my Nana.

A couple months passed and child welfare allowed me to move back in with my father as he had completed services for alcoholism. My dad got an apartment at the Quail Creek Apartments in Amarillo and I started my new life in a new city. The majority of the worst part of my abuse happened in that apartment. No longer was it just fondling, awkward kisses, or forced oral sex, but now it had upgraded to intercourse. I was treated like a wife, not a child. I was expected to kiss him before he left for work, clean the house and stay at home all day during summer breaks, have lunch ready for him when he got home, and get him a beer when he wanted one after work. Once again in a one bedroom apartment, my dad slept on an air mattress in what would be the dining area. The most profound way to explain precisely what sexually abuse is like, in my opinion, is a memory of laying on his air mattress trying to push away from him until I hit the wall and there was no where else to go no matter how much I tried to get away. My dad had a plan that if I ever got pregnant we would blame a boy I went to school with to cover it up. Also, part of my discipline at that point was oral sex and he would tell me “you have 20” which stood for the notion of down and up equals one as to oral sex. The abuse was happening in some form at least once a week.

I ended up telling child welfare that I didn’t want to live with my dad because he was an alcoholic and I went to live with my paternal Aunt for a couple of months, then returned back with my dad.

The abuse of course continued to the point where if I wanted to do anything with my friends then I had to do something for him. One day, my dad got extremely drunk and threatened to take wrestling away from me so I told him he should just kill me because wrestling is my life. My dad hit me in the head twice and began strangling me to the point where I couldn’t breathe and I thought I was going to die. The next day I had shot blood vessels in my eyes, which I blamed on wrestling, and my dad bought me some shoes to make up for it.

Fast forward to October 22, 2008 I was 15 years old and my dad dropped me off at Tascosa High School and I knew that would be the last time I saw him. I went to the front desk at my school and although all the counselors were in a meeting I told the AG teacher who was watching the front that that my dad “does things to me”. I completed a forensic interview at The Bridge and my dad was arrested that day thanks to my amazing team.

My dad is still serving time and was sentenced with 45 years and 20 counts of sexual abuse to a minor.

The purpose of this blog is not to make you uncomfortable, but to educate you that this happens everyday to kids all over the world. If you have a story that you need to tell, please share it. You can email me or direct message me on social media if you need someone to talk to. I encourage you today to find your voice and speak up for yourself.

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