‘My brother started the ‘naked man’ game when I was 6. I felt so empty I thought I might just float away.’: Woman overcomes sexual trauma, now uses kindness as an ‘act of rebellion’

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“I am the middle child of three adopted children. I was the most confident and looked different to the rest of the family because of my brown face. My childhood looked perfect on the outside. We went to a nice school, had a dog, played outside in the garden. I had friends round for pancakes and spent summers camping in the Scottish highlands. There was so much right with the way we were raised that it took me a long time to accept that some things really weren’t okay.

‘Sort it out amongst yourselves’ and ‘stop being so jealous of one another’ were phrases I heard a lot growing up. I have my own children now so I know that siblings don’t always get along. I can understand why my parents really wanted to believe that everything was normal.

Courtesy of Rachel

I wondered if maybe my mom was right, that my brother was jealous of me. So, I tried to make myself smaller and less colorful. I believed he hated me because I wasn’t lovable. The coldness and cruelty I experienced from him made me feel like I was a bad person and whenever he was around, I felt scared.

The ‘naked man’ game started when I was six. It was the only time in my childhood my brother was nice to me. As a child I bed wet, struggled with insomnia, heard voices, and had strange out of body experiences. Being abused by a family member left me vulnerable to more abuse and I continued to be used and abused by people all through my childhood and into my early twenties.

Courtesy of Rachel

A lot of my memories are fractured and there are huge black spots where I can only remember the before and the after. When I was thirteen, a girl at school took me to visit her ‘friends.’ We skipped school and took a bus into town. The apartment we went to belonged to adult men. That’s where the memory stops. The next thing I remember was standing at the bus stop afterwards, smelling of smoke and feeling totally dead inside.

At age fourteen, I ended up in hospital after overdosing because I just wanted the pain to stop. No one knew what to say at home, my cry for help wasn’t answered. I started to believe I was too much for anyone to handle. I left school, took drugs, slept around, put myself into risky situations, and felt more and more worthless.

I found out I was pregnant when I was 17 whilst doing a foundation art course. I knew something was wrong because I had a throbbing pain in my right side. I took myself to the family planning clinic who sent me to hospital where after a scan it was confirmed I was having an ectopic pregnancy. They begged me to call my parents but I refused because I couldn’t bare to see the helpless looks on their faces. The ones I had seen when overdosing. I didn’t want there to be silence again. The silence was deafening and the lack of comforting words was too painful to deal with. I texted my mom and dad to tell them I was staying with a friend and then went into the operating theatre and had my right fallopian tube removed along with the baby that would never be. I went home the next day and said I felt like I had flu and went straight to bed. Nobody noticed and nobody asked me if I was okay.

Courtesy of Rachel

The summer I turned twenty-two I was living alone in a damp studio apartment so no one would find out about my battle with bulimia. I was taking drugs, going home with strangers, waking up and not knowing where I had been. No one would have known because I didn’t let anyone get close enough to find out but I was terrified that people would see through the cheerful and smiley exterior that I presented.

Something in me finally snapped when I was raped by someone I had been seeing. I could no longer pretend to be okay. Walking home from his house in a mini dress but no underwear because it was still lying on his floor, I felt so empty I thought I might just float away. I knew if I didn’t start fighting for myself I was going to end up dead.

This will be my tenth year in my journey towards self love. Recovery certainly hasn’t been linear. It has definitely been a process of two steps forward, four steps back, but I have a life now which I never thought possible for me. Therapy quite simply has saved my life. I have done lots of therapy over the last ten years and it has helped me understand that it wasn’t my fault, that I am lovable, and there are people I am able to trust and rely on.

I have a chosen family of amazing and supportive friends and although it was difficult and scary, I met a man. A very special, kind, funny, warm, and empathetic man who showed me that you can have a relationship based on friendship and love where you can learn to feel safe. We now have two beautiful boys and a dog named Elvis. I work part time for a friend and do bits of writing and painting in my spare time.

Courtesy of Rachel

I set up my Instagram account @littlegreenshootproject at the end of last year to talk about my journey since seeing a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with emotionally unstable personality disorder which is a mental illness that stems from trauma.

Through my Instagram account, I have become a walk leader for the mental health mates charity and I’ve started a sea swimming group that will meet once a month all year round to swim in the sea and then sit on the beach and talk. I also send a monthly care parcel to someone who is struggling with their mental health. The idea is they will pay it forward by sending someone else a care parcel in the future.

Courtesy of Rachel

I like to think of my kindness as an act of rebellion. Mental illness wants you to be alone but human connection with kind people brings you back into the light. I hope by facilitating these groups I can help others feel less alone.

Courtesy of Rachel

The saddest thing is my story is not unusual. I have spoken to so many people who have been sexually abused. Stories about a piano teacher who touched them inappropriately during a lesson, childminders who abused them while they were in their care, grandfathers who fondled them, youth workers who groomed them, fathers who crept into their rooms at night. There are too many people who have lived this pain.

To anyone out there wondering, it doesn’t matter how big or small you feel the incident was, your pain is valid and real, and you deserve to have your voice heard. Reach out and speak to someone who you know will listen. That might mean going to a therapist or a charity that supports those who have been victims of sexual abuse or it might be through a community like @inner_child_chats. Please know though that you are not alone!”

Courtesy of Rachel

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Rachel. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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