In my house, chaos ruled. The only consistency was inconsistency. I learned quickly that the rules could not be understood, but I still tried to understand. Like most children who grow up in an abusive household, I worked hard to make sense of my environment. I made “logical” conclusions about cause and effect. I knew that there were very few actions without consequences, so I did my best to be invisible. This seemed to be my best strategy to avoid abuse. In reality, there was no way for me to avoid abuse as long as I lived in that house. But I was sure there was a secret formula. There had to be a way to stop the abuse because I was sure that somehow, it was my fault.
Since I started recovering memories, I have rarely been able to grasp the order of events. Memory recovery does provide a clear understanding of the event, but does not clearly delineate the time frame or my age. And it is more confusing if the events happened within days of each other. Sometimes I remember being abused but do not remember what event I may have associated with that abuse. But I have learned that I always associated the abuse with something. This makes my recovery work a bit more complicated.
Lately, I have experienced some success with my advocacy work. While my first reaction is always excitement, my second reaction is anxiety. In my family, success was almost as bad as failure. If I succeeded at something, the family rallied to ensure it didn’t affect my self-esteem positively. In some extreme cases, they would go behind my back to derail my success.
If I suddenly appeared confident, it set off alarms in my home. Confidence was absolutely detrimental to their ultimate goal. I might realize I was not the problem and I might start talking again. So my success was met with the same punishment as my failure. In reality, it was not a punishment. It was just another excuse to sexually abuse me. But I didn’t know that.
So early on, I learned to be scared of success and failure. I realized that either would bring negative attention. Invisibility became the ultimate goal. So, I did well in school, but not too well. I did well at sports, but not too well. I focused on being as average as possible because average was safe. There was no attention for average. Blending in to my environment was the most successful deterrent to the trauma around me. At least, that’s what I thought.
And there is nothing wrong with blending in. Some people can live a fulfilling life without wrecking havoc. Not everyone is here to turn things upside down. If so, we would live in a state of anarchy. But advocacy is about making change. And while I can come up with a million excuses for keeping quiet, there is something inside of me that is steering this ship in another direction. There is a longing deep down to shout from the rooftops that something is wrong. And I cannot ignore it. I cannot lay low when I could have helped stop the abuse and trafficking of children by their families. I cannot stay quiet knowing that I can help adult survivors of child abuse move past the inner turmoil that threatens to keep them from thriving.
I must move past my own fear of the attention that seems so threatening. I must convince my inner child that my success had nothing to do with my abuse. I must help her to understand that the abuse had no correlation with any of my actions. I must come to understand that it had nothing to do with me whatsoever.
And it will be this understanding that will move my work forward. Without that, I cannot succeed and I cannot fail. I can just be here, invisible, unseen, as I have been. And that is not life. It is simply another cycle of abuse without an abuser. Just me … oppressing myself … continuing the life I have always lived. And that is not why I am here.
I am not here to be abused.
I am not here to be oppressed.
And I am definitely not here to be quiet.