Step away and reevaluate.
When you step away from a situation and reevaluate it, sometimes things will come to light that you had no idea were even going on. You realize that you have compromised. Your meter for right and wrong, what is tolerable or not, what is acceptable or not, have been skewed. When you are in deep, your vision is not as it should be. You let things slide. You forgive and forget. You blur the bad and make it livable. You move on and just push that behavior aside because it seems, at the time, easier that way. Most of the time you minimize things going on around you because it is how you have coped.
Coping with sexual abuse for me, for a long time, meant minimizing.
Minimizing is not accepting. I could not truly heal until I stopped minimizing and saw things for what they really were. This was complicated for me until I started stepping away and really reevaluating each situation.
It was not until I stepped away from many people, that I realized, I had incorporated “minimizing” into my daily life.
I ran some of this by my best friend last night. I am fortunate to have a friend who I can shoot ideas off of. Because you may be downplaying it and you tell your friend and she shouts “She did WHAT?” And then you say ,” Oh, it is kind of bad isn’t it.” Then if you let that sit for a few days and get away from the situation you may realize it is far worse than you thought. You may realize that minimizing has allowed toxic people in your life.
I did this last night. I realized I had given a pass way too many times to people because I didn’t realize how bad what they were doing actually was!
When I was 18 years old I met my brother. He wanted to find his birth family. He found us. I have to say it is one of the top days of my life. Meeting him was like that missing piece was finally filled. I had an immediate bond and connection with him. We talked frequently, visited, and I welcomed him with an open heart.
Years later in conversation with one of my cousins I mentioned that I had just visited with my brother. To my surprise my cousin did not know I had a brother. I thought everyone knew. I didn’t know this was a secret. I am so proud of my brother and always acknowledged he was my brother. Infact I have shouted it from the rooftops, shared pictures of him on social media, etc. So I was shocked to later receive a call from my cousin’s mother saying that this was NOT my place to tell other people I had a brother. This was NOT my secret to tell AND further more she yelled, ” How would you feel if I called your daughter and told her you tried to kill yourself? And that you were in a mental hospital? Lets see how she would feel If I did that!” So…I am now having a family member tell me, that they want to tell my daughter, who is a child, the things that were done to me, against my will, which then led to my attempted suicide.
I hung up on her. And time goes by, days go by, and the sting doesn’t feel as bad so I just go back to how things were. She didn’t follow through with her threat so far, so I’m just not going to think about it. That’s what I tried to do. I tried to do my normal routine.
But the truth of the matter was I had no idea my brother was still a secret to anyone! I was not maliciously telling family members about my brother. I was proudly speaking of him. But that was apparently still a secret.
It is hard to keep track and take care of other people’s secrets.
Especially if you don’t even know it is one. People’s secrets get so involved sometimes I don’t think they even know what is the truth anymore or what they have conjured up to save their own pride. Either way this family member took something that I innocently said and threatened to tell my daughter about my past.
Stepping away from the situation and reevaluating, I realize what a HORRIBLE thing that was for her to say. I am just giving a snap shot of her words. There were many more. She was trying to hold what she thought to be MY secret over my head. And how cruel. She made that a secret as did the rest of the people around me. So I had to live through abuse only to have it thrown back in my face that she will tell my child. The more I talked to my friend about it the more furious I got.
Whether it takes hours, days or 10 years, if you realize that you have minimized an atrocious thing like what she was threatening to say to my child, it is time to face it!
In speaking with my friend, I came back to why I wrote this blog in the first place. Secrets. They are so damaging. They can rip apart an entire family and an entire foundation out of your life.
I was stuck in this life of minimizing other people’s actions, making excuses for them, just to not face the reality that many people, including my own family, were thoughtless and cruel.
I was used to minimizing as a coping skill but I had not yet realized that coping skill was no longer needed now, today.
With her words weighing me down I realized that in reality, any person could tell my child these things. They were things that I planned I would tell her bits and pieces of when I thought she was old enough to understand. But you don’t always want to tell your daughter you were molested, tried to kill yourself, and were put in a mental hospital. I would not say that was a SECRET I was keeping from her. I was protecting her from any pain it would bring her to know those things happened to her mother.
The two secrets cannot be compared. I shared with my mid 20’s in age cousin something I thought he already knew about me having a brother and his mother then compares the brother secret to my abuse secret. And I get she was angry that she did not get to tell her own son about my brother. But that was no fault of my own. I’ve had him in my life 20 years. She had 20 years to tell her son that I had a brother that was adopted and found us. She chose not to. But threatened to tell my child of abuse that happened to me.
Which takes me to my second point that I feel is crucially important. There are secrets that I wouldn’t really consider secrets. I would more say they are the pain from the past that is kept away from hurting someone in the present. You can’t really keep a brother who is standing in front of you flesh and blood a secret, but you can keep your daughter from knowing you’ve been raped. At her young age, that would be completely inappropriate to tell her. There are some secrets like sexual abuse only you have the right to share. There are secrets that I consider confessions, that don’t need to be repeated. I have been with many people as they were passing away and they released all their secrets to me. Those will never be repeated. There are things that HAVE to be honored to the person who has experienced it. Those are secrets of the heart and they need to be protected. I have shared my heart secrets with few. I knew them never to be revealed. Your hopes, dreams, pain, those are yours. Secrets of the heart are yours and yours alone. I have shared the secrets of my heart in this blog in hopes to help others. But telling my daughter these details should never have been forced upon me.
I would have never told my daughter certain things. She could have and chose not to read my blog although she does now know what I write about. Unfortunately, because of one woman, I had to tell her things I wished I didn’t have to… I sat her down and I told her everything. I had to. I realized after talking with my friend that certain people would be willing to hurt me by telling her those things.I tried to pretend that my cousin’s mom would never tell my daughter, but that wasn’t realistic. It was only a matter of time before one of them did. Do you have any idea how hard it is to tell your daughter what I had to tell her? I am sure there are some that can. It was heart-wrenching. But if anyone was going to tell her, I was. Not some vindictive hateful person who has decided to use my pain and suffering to make her point. Now it is all out there. Everything I tried to protect my daughter from, every pain I suffered, every detail, she knows. Now no one can threaten to hurt me or hold any secrets over my head.
My secrets are no longer leverage.
I wanted to share this story because it was quite an awakening for me. It was a huge realization that I continued in my life to minimize BIG things so that I didn’t have to face them. Big things like relatives that were cruel.
Sexual abuse has so many aspects that I have talked about. Your feelings, their feelings, family feelings, friend feelings, and all of those things can be very overwhelming. They can be overwhelming when it happens and can still be overwhelming years later. So to manage those feelings I have realized that I have allowed certain people, certain comments, certain events to happen. I decided they weren’t that bad or I just ignored them and moved along. But you just cannot do that. I cannot do that. I cannot just slide through life not holding someone accountable.
I cannot have people in my life because it is easier to just ignore them than it is to confront them and let them go.
The time for minimizing is over. This coping skill is no longer needed and in fact is detrimental. Each person will reach this mile stone and I hope that it is sooner than later.
No one should ever be allowed to victimize you again with their words, with your past, with their own agenda. And the only person that can stop that is us.
We have to stop. Step away. Reevaluate. Not minimize. Hold someone accountable. And decide if that person is really someone that will:
1. Help us grow.
2. Allow us to feel loved.
3. Make us feel valued.
4. Are worthy of walking this path with us in a way that honors and respects us.
Let those people go who you realize you’ve tolerated only because you lacked the ability to do anything else.
Use this time to grow away from them.
Then find and keep those that will keep the secrets of your heart. They are priceless.