I was contacted today by a woman who asked me to share her story with you. That’s what this blog is about — sharing, encouraging, educating, empathizing. I sat for quite a while after I read her words and let them sink in while tears rolled down my face, then I cried into the shoulder of my Atticus. Some things are difficult to read or hear. But what is most touching is how she’s chosen to rise above the abuse in her past and is willing to share very intimate memories and feelings so that you’ll know you are not alone. Please welcome Helga.
We’ve all got stories that need to be heard. We all feel that our story is special and unlike any other. We’ve all experienced a time when someone has sighed and said ‘you just don’t know what it’s like’ and we chortle inside and look at them in distaste. Of course we know. We know perhaps better than anyone. They are the people who don’t know that we know…confusing isn’t it? The truth is we are all human beings who have experienced loss and hurt. No one’s story is more important than the other. Pain is pain. Suffering is suffering. The ability to feel, sympathize, and empathize with another is what makes us divine creations. So I am here to tell you that I understand. I know where you are coming from. I have walked in your shoes – they are just a different size.
This is my coming out story. These are the mud stains on my shoes.
The first cut I ever made was when I was 13. My stepfather caught me doing it. ‘Don’t ever let me catch you doing that again!’ he warned. ‘Or I’ll show you what a real cut is.’ After that, I developed an unhealthy fascination with knives. I had found a hunting knife in a pile of trash. I hid it outside and would play with it. I ‘accidentally’ sliced myself open really bad once. My stepfather was the one who bandaged it. He never knew – I told him that I cut it on a knife I hadn’t seen in the dishwater…I suppose the fascination with self harm started even earlier though when I would dig pens into my thighs. He found me out then too – when he made me sit pantless on my bed. I was eight or nine. It’s hard to remember.
My self-mutilation was not limited to knives. I hurt myself in many ways – sexually, physically, and mentally.
I had such high anxiety that I was hungry all the time. And when I did eat, I puked it up or had severe diarrhea. Sometimes I did it on purpose. He told me I was stealing food when I was hungry in-between meals – but the truth was, I was trying to survive, in my own way.
The years of my childhood are hazy. I have whole years I cannot remember. Most of my memories are specific incidents. I would assume the ones I cannot remember are just too horrible – which scares me to death when I consider what I do remember.
Rape. That’s the worst one. I was a first grade girl forced into a horrible nightmare. I can remember every sight, every smell, and every sound. I remember the way the moon shone through my window the first time, and the way the sun shone thru my window the second time. And pain. I will never forget the pain.
Then it gets hazy again and I remember being beaten. I was beaten mercilessly for things I didn’t even do. I was called a liar and was forced to do terrible acts of submission. One time he made me kneel on all fours for hours while he called me ‘Rat’ and threw things at me.
And then I remember being forced to build my own cage. My room was sectioned off and I was locked in there with nothing but a camping bed and a Bible. Days stretched into months…
I never had jewelry. No pretty little dresses. No fashion jeans. No fun hair styles. My hair was not allowed to be cut. I had to wear shapeless dresses that hid my form and heavy socks or stockings. I wasn’t even allowed to shave my legs once I hit puberty. No pretty things for a pretty girl. But wait. I have another secret here. When I became of age and it was no longer considered child abuse, he called me beautiful. He called me pretty and desirable. To this day it is a struggle to be ok with being ‘pretty’.
Let’s go back to cutting. Years have passed since we have left him. I have moved on. I am in college, about to graduate. I have a great job that I have been promoted in several times within a short period. I live in a safe home with loving people. I have a healthy, safe relationship with a Godly, loving man. Let me tell you about this man.
He knows my story, every detail. When he and I were just friends, he came over once and bandaged some cuts I had made on my leg. He never told me to stop doing it. He just looked at me with sad eyes and said ‘I will always be here for you.’ When my family moved away and I was struggling with depression, I got out my razors again. My now boyfriend once again bandaged my bloody cuts. He took my hand in his and he cried. He said, ‘I can’t ask you to stop because I know this is a part of you that I cannot understand. But please know that every time you cut yourself, you scar my heart.’
That is love. I had caused more pain to someone who cared about me than I caused to myself. I’m done with self mutilation.
A coworker just recently discovered through bits and pieces of conversations who I am. She had read the news reports. Her first words were ‘I’ve worked with you for over two years and I never would have guessed. You are such a normal, well put together person.’
See people, this is my point: We all hurt. We all have stories. We have all been in dark places. Those dark places do NOT define us! They are not who we are, they are just the foreshadowing of who we can become. Yes, I still have nightmares, and yes I still battle with the past every single day. My soul was wounded – not just my body. But the fact that I keep trying, that I keep living, and that I thank God for every morning I wake up is what makes me who I am!
Your shoes show a lot of wear. They’ve been patched. They have some muddy spots. They are stained. But every one of those spots tells a story of how you’ve gotten to where you are today. The day you found out your cancer was in remission; when you lost your job; from when you picked up your first needle, to when you put the last one down; when you held your first child; when you said goodbye to a loved one; when you stood up for the first time and said NO MORE!
And they are comfortable to you, are they not? You have been the one to wear them. They are a part of you.
And, eventually, there will come a point when you are ready to let those old shoes go….
I wear the same shoes as you, just a different size.
You are only as strong as your ability to believe in yourself, so believe me when I say this: You are so much more then the mud stains on your shoes!