Like any other survivor, it is very difficult for me to talk about my childhood. It brings up feelings of shame, embarrassment, and sadness. But talking about what happened to me is the only way that I can begin to heal. It breaks the silence that has kept me in bondage for so many years. And the more I share with others, the closer I am to loving myself again.
I do not remember when my abuse started. The earliest memory I have is my dad carrying me to bed and molesting me while my mother was downstairs sleeping. My counselor and I have estimated that I was six years old or so. I have a lot of other memories, too, but I'm not sure how old I was in a lot of them. Either way, my father sexually abused me for many years. Because it began when I was so young, I never really questioned whether it was right or wrong until I was in my teens. Sure - I knew that it made me feel dirty and bad. But I trusted my Daddy... I was his little girl... and I loved him. That's the way it is supposed to be. Children are supposed to trust their parents. Parents aren't supposed to violate that trust.
My father was not the only person in my life who ever hurt me. My older cousin sexually abused me (only once) when I was in elementary school. My brother physically abused me over a period of two years. My mother was also quite emotionally abusive at times. She was not there for me much when I was young, due to serious problems with Diabetes.
To complicate the situation, my family was actively involved in the Southern Baptist Church. My father often served as a pastor or minister, thus my brother and I learned to perfect the "model family" show. We were given strict rules to follow, partly because we were a "Christian" family and partly because my mother was a perfectionist. No one ever suspected the hidden secrets behind the doors of our home.
I was around 15 years old when I told my mom about the problems between my brother and I, and the problems between my dad and I. The problem between my brother and I wasn't really a problem anymore, since he had been long gone to college. The problem with my father, however, was a serious matter. I don't remember ever seeing my mom cry like I saw her cry that day. At first, I thought she was going to help me. Instead, she became angry. She forced me to confront my dad about the accusations I had made. He denied them, of course, and she believed him. The situation was "resolved" by grounding me and telling me to never talk to anyone about it again. I took this very seriously. After that day, I swore that I would never bring it up again. And for a long time... I didn't.
My teenage years were filled with depression and anxiety. Once I had friends who could drive, I tried to stay away from home as long as I could. And when I was home, I tried to stay in my room as long as I could. But I didn't always have a lock on my door, and my mom was hardly ever home at night when my dad was home. I couldn't always succeed at hiding.
My depression often became severe and I was suicidal many times during high school. I threatened to runaway often. My eating habits became similar to anorexia. Yet my grades remained as high as always. My one dream was making it to college, because that meant escape. It meant hope. Besides, I was also a perfectionist. Studying took my mind off of my problems... at least some of the time.
In high school, my hobby became chatting on the internet. I made tons of online friends, who I trusted more than I had trusted anyone else in my life. Several of them soon knew about my problems with my father. Getting to know some of these people was one of the miracles God gave me to thrive on.
By the time I was 16, my hope was running dry. I didn't know how much more I could take. The molesting was still going on. I was confused, ashamed, depressed, and filled with fear. I did not know where to turn. Then, one of my online friends, whom I had met in person, offered to take me in. He wanted me to be safe and happy. At first, I was taken back. I thought he was crazy. This man lived over 1,000 miles away, and he was old enough to be my father. I didn't know if I trusted him enough to risk my life. So I turned down his offer. But six months later, I knew that I had to leave home somehow - one way or another. I asked him if the offer was still open. It was. So at 17 years of age, on July 28, 1998, I ran away from home.
The next year was full of heartache. My parents discovered where I was, but they could not force me to come home since I was 17. Instead, my mother insisted on keeping in touch with me over the phone. We didn't talk often, but when we did talk she laid the guilt on me pretty thick. She insisted that I was wrong about the abuse and that my dad would never hurt me. She told me that I had ruined her and my father's lives and that nothing would ever be the same again. I put up with a lot of emotional abuse for a while. I hadn't learned how to set boundaries quite yet. Thus, even though I wasn't living at home, I was still in a great deal of pain. I was also suffering from PTSD and anxiety attacks.
It wasn't all bad. I was very lucky that the man whose house I lived in was a Christian and had no bad intentions. He took informal guardianship over me and was able to get me back into the public school system so I could finish high school. I stayed in his house rent free with another young woman. He chose to live elsewhere, so the situation would not look suspicious.
Around November, when the gray skies took to looming low and the snow turned dirty, things took a turn for the worse. Doug, the man who had been so kind to me, moved away. He had been a great support for me and it was difficult to adjust. Meanwhile, I had been working at a store called CALDOR. Sales picked up at that time, and I was scheduled more and more hours every week. I had trouble handling my school work and work at the same time. I usually either walked or rode my bike to work in the snow, also, so I was exhausted at the end of the day. I also struggled with insomnia.
Over time, I became very depressed again. The holidays were very difficult, since it was the first time I'd been away from home at that time. A few very special people came into my life that made life bearable, but it was still difficult. By January of 1999, I was suicidal again. It was around this time that I started engaging in self-degrading behaviors. Then, about a week after I turned 18, the dam broke. I couldn't take it anymore. I knew that if I didn't get help, that I was going to commit suicide. I checked myself into the hospital on March 3. It probably saved my life.
I had a lot of interesting experiences in the hospital. I was there for three months, which is a very long time these days. The hospital would not release me until I had a different place to stay, where I had more support. By the grace of God, a family from the church I had been attending offered to take me in. They hardly knew me, and I hardly knew them. But it was safe, it was shelter, and it was love.
I graduated from high school in June of 1999. By that time, my depression was much better and I had hope for the future. My mom and my brother came to see me graduate, then drove me back home. It was very hard to leave, and I still don't know if it was the right decision. I wanted to be closer to my family so that we could all work things out. A couple that knew my family would be letting me stay with them over the summer, and I already had a job lined up. Everything fell into place. I worked through the summer, and had a little contact with my mom. Unfortunately, nothing ever got worked out. So I left in August to go to college, which began a whole new chapter in my life.
My freshman year was rough. My first roommate turned out to be a late-night partier and had her boyfriends over all the time. I also, once again, struggled with my long-distance relationship with my mom. We talked on the phone often, fighting almost every time. I started counseling, eventually, and started setting some boundaries to protect myself. That made things worse. My mom was very angry, but all I wanted from her was love and acceptance. Most of all, I wanted her to believe me. But she was too deep in denial.
My sophomore year of college was better. I made good grades and was fairly happy. I stopped going to counseling, however. I also had other issues to deal with. The past summer I had been in a very bad car wreck which caused me numerous back problems and stress. I struggled with my health and became quite discouraged. Plus, I still had my family problems looming over my head. I had been stuffing everything inside for too long.
I hit bottom during my junior year. I started drinking. I started skipping classes. Everything was going wrong, and I knew it. I isolated myself from everyone. The depression came back, worse than ever. The suicidal thoughts came back, too, worse than they had ever come before.
I made the mistake of my life when I went home for the Christmas break of my junior year. A month living with my father ruined me. One day, I completely gave up hope. I resolved to kill myself. January 2, 2002, I overdosed on Ativan and Demerrol. My mom found me the next morning, unconscious. She drove me to the hospital and saved my life.
The ironic thing about my suicide attempt was that no one admitted to my face that they knew it was a suicide attempt. I lied, and lied, and lied about it. My parents seemed to believe me. My doctor didn't. When I was out of the hospital and visiting my doctor for a follow-up, he was the one who confronted me. I continued lying to him, but he threatened to send me to the state institution if I didn't fess up. I figured he would send me there either way, so I stormed out of the office. I went straight home, packed my things, and drove back to college. But after three days of no sleep, no food, and hardly any moving out of my bed at all, I once again checked myself into the hospital. This time I only stayed about a week, and this time it really helped.
The second semester of my junior year was concentrated on therapy and getting better. I continued with my classes, but I focused my attention on my well-being. My therapist turned out to be a Christian survivor of abuse, as well, and she wouldn't let me play any games. It was the first time I really started talking about my experiences of sexual abuse, and it was also the first time I really really knew that I was beginning to heal. That was the beginning of a long journey for me. A journey that continues on today...
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