by Christina Enevoldsen
I wrote a fictional story about a little girl being sexually abused by her father. It was for a project I was working on and I didn’t intend for it to be autobiographical, but when I came to the part where the child was lying in bed listening for her tormentor’s footsteps, it hit me. I was flooded with an overwhelming sense of being alone. When nobody else was around, HE could get me. I wasn’t only physically alone—unprotected—I was completely without an ally. There was nowhere to run, nobody to hear my cries for help, nobody to believe me or comfort me. In the whole wide world of people, I was alone.
To my mom, I was in the way. I was nobody but a trouble-making weirdo. I intentionally did things to get her attention. I shaved off my eyebrows, I wet my pants in church. But she never addressed those issues. She pretended that she didn’t see. Just like she did with the abuse. I was alone.
The sexual abuse wasn’t limited to the night and neither was my fear. I don’t remember anytime when I wasn’t afraid. Even when my dad wasn’t around, the abuse awakened my awareness of how bad the world was. I KNEW evil. I had seen it and it had touched me. The world was a bad place and I couldn’t keep bad things from happening to me. I wasn’t enough.
I couldn’t tolerate being alone, so when I was seventeen, I married my high school sweetheart. Not only was the marriage abusive, but it didn’t cure my loneliness. I had someone there physically, but I was just as alone as I’d always been.
I always had to have a best friend. Being best friends was a mutual agreement to always be there for the other. It was a kind of guarantee—just like I thought marriage was supposed to be.
I was driven to be with others, but whatever the relationship, I always felt alone—as though I lived in a bubble, isolated from human touch. Whatever piece of my soul that was supposed to connect with another person was broken. I didn’t have any sense of self, didn’t have my own feelings or desires. Not being with someone else made me feel like I didn’t exist. I had no sense of being without being with somebody.
To my father, I was an object to be used and to my mother, I was invisible, so I learned that I wasn’t a valid person. I was a lonely spirit floating above the earth, an observer, never able to participate in my own life. Without power to affect anyone with my presence. A hollow being.
I’d tried to escape that feeling all my life through relationships, but none could fulfill me. Nobody could validate my existence. My invalidation came through others—namely, my parents—but my validation had to come from within me. But I’d already learned that I had no effect so how could I have power to make any difference in my own life? If I was my only hope of an answer, then I was hopeless since I knew I was NOT ENOUGH!!!
At first I was angry with myself for not being enough and then I was angry at my parents for pointing out that I wasn’t enough. And then something happened. While I was busy articulating what I was angry about, I realized that my parent’s treatment lied to me. I’m not just an object. I’m a human being who deserved to be protected and treasured. I am worthy of being seen and acknowledged and valued. They didn’t see me as a person, but that’s not a reflection on me; it’s an indication of some fault in them.
Nobody heard my cries, but I deserved to have them heard. Removing my anger from myself and giving it to my abusers allowed me to have compassion for myself. I started to feel the love and affection toward me that they never did. I could listen. I could see my pain. I could comfort myself. They weren’t there for me, but I could be there for myself.
I learned to listen. One day I wasn’t feeling well emotionally or physically. I was tired from overworking and from being around draining people. I heard myself say, “I wish someone would take care of me.” Other times, I’d had that thought and wondered why nobody did take care of me, but this time, I knew I was that someone. I was asking me to take care of me.
I didn’t need other’s permission to nurture myself. I could pamper myself and be as good to myself as I wanted others to be. I could draw limits around my time. I could rest and fix something healthy to eat. That was liberating.
I’ve been slowly learning how to be there for myself and I’m getting better at it all the time. I’m growing in trust toward myself because I’m becoming more consistent in being able to depend on me to fulfill my needs. I’m a good friend to myself.
My parents weren’t there for me when I needed them, but I’m here for me now. I’m really here. I was all by myself one Sunday afternoon and I thought, “I’m not alone, I’M with me.” It was so real to me that I’m a whole person by myself and I’m good, fulfilling company. I’m enough.
I’m Christina Enevoldsen and I’m the cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse and the author of The Rescued Soul: The Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal. I’m a Strategic Interventionist and Certified Professional Life Coach with a specialty Life Story Certification. As a survivor of incest, sex trafficking and a 21-year long abusive marriage (now remarried to an emotionally healthy, loving and supportive man), I bring personal experience, empathy, and insight as well as professional training to help childhood sexual abuse survivors thrive.
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