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Surviving the Storm

**** MAY TRIGGER ****

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I guess I always had the memories of abuse, but it wasn't until May of 1998 that I was able to acknowledge the abuse and all the ways it has affected my life. Suddenly, all the pieces of the confusing puzzle that is my life began to fit together. While it was extremely difficult to re-experience the abuse in the form of flashbacks and all that comes with it, it was sort of an awakening for me. I had spent most of my life in a haze, refusing to acknowledge the emotions and fears that were strapped so tightly to my heart, but suddenly I was free and strong enough to face them head-on.

The abuse by my gymnastics coach began when I started taking classes in 1984 at the age of 6. While all the other little girls were practicing the balance beam or uneven bars, my innocence was dying. It was cold and dark and hard lying on the floor behind that curtain. I was so alone, so afraid. Afraid to run, afraid to scream, afraid to cry. And so I did nothing except lay there like a corpse. I let my soul crawl into the dark recesses of my mind and stay there until it was safe to come out and live again. Until I could put on my "little girl" mask and play dress-up and dollhouse like the other girls.

I believe that my rock-hard mask and ability to dissociate was what kept me alive all those years. But, as I got older, I outgrew the mask and it began to crack and crumble. I was determined, however, to keep my guilt, my shame, my fear all locked up inside. And so I suffered in secret. I began to cut myself in 6th grade as a result of the ugly, shameful skeletons in my closet. At times my intent was to die, sometimes it was to punish, at other times, it was merely to "feel". It had become such a reflex to push away my emotions, and I was so dead inside, that I needed a physical stimulus in order to "feel" anything.

I finally began going to therapy and dealing with the ancient secrets that had gotten me to this point after my parents saw cuts on my wrists. It took me a while to be able to trust people with my secrets, but when I finally did, it was really nice to have someone listen to the complex thoughts and emotions going on in my head. And even more, to tell me that I was normal and not crazy! That what I was feeling was OK, and that it was OK to acknowledge and express those feelings.

It was that permission to experience my feelings that has allowed me to heal. I still go to therapy and still have to look for other ways to cope besides cutting, but I am OK. I am surviving! I know I have alot to deal with yet and alot of work ahead of me, but I finally WANT to be alive. I can finally look at life and realize there are sunny moments that show themselves between the clouds.

And someday, the air will still hold the familiar scent of rain, and a rainbow will remain silhouetted against the dark stormclouds, but the storm will have passed. The storm will have passed and I will be bathed in the warm rays of the sun...

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