I was pinned to the floor with a grown man holding me down, using a piece of glass to cut open the back of my hand, and the backs of both of my ears. The man was my step-father and I was 11. He was punishing me for breaking a glass while doing the dishes – cutting my hand for being so clumsy, and my ears for not listening to him when he told me to be careful.
This was my life. For 10 years this man abused me, emotionally and physically, and eventually, sexually. He told me every day that I was ugly, useless, stupid, worthless, and unlovable. The beatings would range from hitting and punching, to throwing me down the stairs and across rooms, to strangling me and holding me under hot water.
I became aware of him entering my room at night when I was 9. The anger over my helplessness grew for years – as did the thought that I was a worthless and useless ‘thing’.
The Teen Years
Going into my teen years, although I was safe from his abuse, my already fragile self-esteem was degraded further with each insult, or snicker launched my way by some person that was dealing with his/her own issues in a negative way, because I was so reliant on others for acceptance.
I was looking for someone else to show me my value; that I was lovable; that I was smart and pretty and worth being around. Each time someone else failed to do so, it destroyed me.
Living as a Victim
Living the life of a victim was difficult, emotional, and traumatic. It meant I relived my traumas over and over again. It meant that neither my friends and family, nor I, knew how I would react to any situation. I played the poor me card on many an occasion.
Most of these times were internal. I had a record that would constantly play on repeat in my head. The one that repeated his words – ‘You’re an ugly, stupid, waste of space that nobody will ever love’.
And it seemed like everyone else agreed. Relationship after relationship would end, and friendships were difficult to maintain.
I was creating what I believed.
For some inexplicable reason, one day I just woke up and saw myself for who I was… a victim. I took a really hard look at myself and realised that I was responsible for it all.
Of course, I wasn’t responsible for the abuse, nobody ever is, but I was in control of how I chose to deal with it. And I wasn’t dealing with it very well at all. It defined me.
I realised in that moment that there was nothing I could do about the past, but I had complete control over my present. I was a victim when I was a child, but I had survived. Everything changed in that moment. I became a warrior. And, whether or not you can relate to my experience, if you are a victim of trauma, you too can turn it around and become a warrior.
Becoming a Warrior
These are a few tactics that worked for me:
1. Love myself:
This came after spending some time recounting all the things I had encountered in my life, especially the abuse. I reminded myself with each memory that I had survived it. Many times, it was not pretty, but I came through every single time, learning and growing with each event. I was struggling, but I was alive, healthy, safe, and moving forward.
2. Face it:
I needed to face what had happened, and let it go. That doesn’t mean I have forgotten about it. It means I had to really appreciate the facts: My abuse was not about me. It was about him.
3. Look hard:
When I took a long hard look at myself, I saw an emotional wreck who could find something negative to say about a beautiful sun shining day. That was not the person I wanted to be! I was ready to take responsibility for my own actions, to take back my control.
4. Redefining myself:
To change my life, I began to wisely choose my thoughts, reactions to the actions of others, internal dialogue, and view on life. I began to fight to see the world through the eyes of the person I wanted to be, the person I deserved to be.
Side note: Therapy is something I tried many times, and while it helped with some things, it did not help me to become a warrior. For someone else, therapy will be exactly what they need.
Being a warrior is amazing. While life still has its challenges, I am grateful for my opportunities to learn, grow, heal and share with others.