By Suzy, CCASA Guest Blogger
I grew up in a family where no one was more valued or respected than my grandfather. Nobody argued or disagreed with him ever. He began sexually abusing me at the age of 10, eventually raping me, and this continued until I was 17 years old. My family had no idea anything was wrong. Friends had no idea that I was hiding anything. Growing up in a close knit family where everyone did as he told them, speaking up was not an option for me. Twelve years after he died, I was still afraid to tell my family. I honestly didn’t think any of them would believe me. I don’t think that I ever told anyone else before I told my family. I had spent two years preparing myself to not be believed and to not be welcomed as a part of the family. Fortunately, my parents and sisters did believe me. However, we are not welcome on my grandfather’s side of the family. But, I look at it as they are not welcome in my life.
For years, my body tried to get me to deal with my childhood trauma. I once had a doctor who misdiagnosed my continuous horrible headaches as me not wanting to go to school. Then at 40, the trauma couldn’t be ignored. Over two months I saw my doctor 22 times, went to urgent care twice, and the emergency room once. I had also filled 22 prescriptions. Finally, I ended up in a pulmonologists office and he was the one who recognized what was happening.
He diagnosed me with vocal cord dysfunction. My vocal cords spasm and if I cannot relax they constrict and crush my wind pipe making it impossible for me to breathe or speak. What was amazing about this doctor is that he was able to express his concern without alienating me, causing me to shut down. I was shocked by what he said to me that day, “It isn’t diagnosed often; in fact it’s pretty rare and is typically diagnosed in people who were abused as children and if that was the case, you need to find someone to talk to and deal with it.” That statement changed my life. When there is no medical explanation, we may need to ask other questions to find an answer. I never would have connected my medical issues to my childhood trauma.
As adults we need to pay attention to the children in our life as well as the adults in our children’s lives. Nobody should ever assume that it will not happen to someone they know. My family and friends never thought it would happen to me. Talk to your children and make sure they know that they are valued and respected above all else.
If you are living in silence, find one person that you trust and tell them your story. It will make a difference in your life.
Image Credit: Arilulu (Original Artist) of http://www.polyvore.com/healing_mind_body_soul/set?id=1521011