Why I can’t own my story

by JL

Why I can’t own my story--a story of sexual trauma
JL’s self portrait

Scratchy white tulle, a silky pink ribbon wrapped around my waist, two little pink bows in my short brown hair. This is how I remember, the first time. I wrapped my skinny arm around Pooh’s neck. I couldn’t go anywhere without him.

It was Easter Sunday and everyone was arriving. My mother, always the hostess, was pouring drinks and toasting to Jesus’ resurrection. The doorbell rang once again and I knew it was him. He was my absolute favorite person. I ran toward the front door and wrapped my skinny arms around his neck. He lifted me up and twirled me around. Giggling nonstop, my body was full of joy. He placed me back down on my feet and patted the top of my head. Everything was normal.

All of a sudden, it’s dark. I can’t catch my breath. My body hurts. I bleed. What is happening?

I sit up frantic to catch my breath. Slowly, I count the tiles on the ceiling. One, two, three. It’s not working. I touch the warm green blanket that covers my legs. I take what my therapist calls a deep cleansing breath in and out. I remind myself that I am safe. I am over seven hundred miles away from my childhood home. I can feel the heat of my husband’s deep sleep. There is a light snore coming from the dog’s bed. I am okay.

My entrance to the world was not welcomed. Born into a family of addicts and disordered eaters, I learned to hate myself very early on.  At the age of three, I was raped. It happened again and again. I learned not to trust anyone. Too many people took advantage of me throughout time. At the age of 22, I was diagnosed with C-PTSD.

This is my story

This is the story no one knows.

To the world, I was a planned third child in an upper middle class family in the suburbs. I attended blue ribbon schools, was an A level dancer and the president of the Future Business Leaders of America club. I graduated with a 3.8 GPA only to move onto college and then a master’s program.

My life was perfect. My life was full of danger and evil. I was passed around like a rag doll hanging by a thread.

I am only allowed to share one side of my story. The shiny, pretty side is the one everyone sees as it keeps everything in balance. The truth is I live the past each day. I can’t escape the nighttime. My body remembers each movement, every breath, and all of the gut wrenching pain.

My story is complex. My story is not unique. My story is mine.

My story is full of the unknown. The why, the who. I cannot share my story as me. There are too many moving pieces.

Will I hit the submit button?

I don’t know.

The fear of sharing is bubbling up my throat. This story is too complex. Not this story, my story. It is mine. But I cannot own it. It could bring intense danger into my life. I don’t want to have this fear. Sometimes I dream of screaming my truth from the rooftop of a New York City tower. Maybe one day I will.

I am slowly learning that I can own my story in my own way. I am in control of who gets to know and when. I own how my story is told. I own my story. This is my story and until I can speak my truth without anonymity, this is how I will share it. I have found a way to own my story.

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7 thoughts on “Why I can’t own my story”

  1. JL-
    Your story and the way you have begun it is perfect. As others have said, it is yours to decide how and when you want to share it. I applaud your bravery. I am so sorry for what happened to you….. unfortunately, as you know, hidden abuse is not an uncommon thing. I too have shared that journey, and it took many, many years to share my story. But this is not about me.
    I encourage you to share it, but do it however you feel safe.
    I love that Winnie the Pooh quote you used…… I have a plaque with it in my bedroom. You are brave, you deserved none of this.
    I am thankful for your strength in posting this… keep going!

  2. We all have parts of our story that we don’t want to share until we know we are safe, loved and have learned to stand up to the lies we have told ourselves about what happened. I am sorry you were hurt. You deserved better. I wish I could give you a hug, wipe away your tears and be a friend in your journey. It can be so hard — find a shoulder to lean on.

  3. Dear JL,

    You were so brave today!! I admire you so much for sharing your story. It touched my heart more than you can know. I know, this being the first day it is published, you may be second-guessing whether this was a good idea or you may feel anxious, but I hope over time, you will begin to experience feelings of pride in yourself for doing such an amazing thing! I have only know Anne Moss and her blog a short time, but each of the two times I have shared a piece here I have ultimately felt a little more free. I wish this for you, too. And you are so right – you share your story in your way and in your time – that is how you have power over it. Thank you for your bravery – it helps the rest of us be brave, too.

  4. JL – we hear you, we see you, we acknowledge that this happened.
    This is a safe place and you can tell your story here. It’s yours.
    Own it. Tell it. Shout it.
    You control your story. And we will listen.

  5. Thank you. Thank you for sharing your story in this way. For permitting yourself and others to know there isn’t one right way to make it through this pain and fear. You are a hero in your own story. You are showing up to healing in whatever way you can everyday. I can feel your story, the truth of the betrayal you experienced, the fear you continue to experience, and the fortitude with which you approach your recovery. Even in anonymity I see you. The human that is more than a name or a location but a human who deserved better and who now bears a weight that none one should have to shoulder alone. Thank you for showing up for yourself and for all those survivors who are not yet ready to step forward. Thank you for giving voice to what often cannot be said. Sending you love, light, and peace.

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