I am excited to have my friend and fellow writer Tracy Nall contributing to Emerging from Broken with her guest post on how her search for answers about depression led her to realizing that child sexual abuse was at the root. This article articulates how hard it is to tell someone and describes the setbacks, feelings and damage when someone reacts to that horrifying experience in a minimizing way. Please help me welcome Tracie and as always please add your comments and feedback. ~ Darlene ~ founder of EFB
Understanding Depression Led to Facing Sexual Abuse by Tracie Nall
I have traveled a long road to get to the point where I can now speak out about the abuse I survived.
I knew that I needed help before I knew the reason why. Or at least before I would admit it to myself. Depression was something I had battled since my childhood years. By my late teens, I was working in a bookstore, and I found myself regularly drawn to the self-help section, searching to answers for questions I hadn’t articulated.
One hot summer day, the kind of day when no one wants to leave the comforts of their air conditioners, the bookstore was completely empty, and we hadn’t had a customer for hours. I wandered to the biography section to re-alphabetize books and look for a new read. It was that day I came across a little book where the author shared about her experiences with depression. I skimmed through several chapters, and then hid it behind a stack of books. It scared me how much of my own life I saw reflected in her words.
Two weeks later, I was at another bookstore on my day off (bookstores are my very favorite places) and found another copy of that book. I wasn’t looking for it. It wasn’t even sitting in the right section. I re-shelved it, and left the store.
I couldn’t get away from that book about depression, though, because the next day at work someone came into my store looking for it. I finally bought a copy of my own to take home and read. But I went back to the other store to get it – not wanting my coworkers to see me purchase a book about someone with depression issues and start asking questions.
I still have my copy of that book. It is marked up, highlighted, the margins written in…If you look closely at those margins, there are small snippets of my abuse story written in code. Those snippets were the beginning of me admitting to myself what had happened in my childhood. I started counseling sessions soon after that.
My counselor was sweet. Her office was painted light blue, and there was crochet doilies and covers on everything that stood still. She reminded me of a grandma. I spent several sessions dancing around my reasons for seeing her, before I realized that I would never tell her anything of importance. I just couldn’t see her in that light. I called the office the next day and cancelled my future appointments.
But my heart was bursting to talk. To tell someone what I was starting to admit and the memories that were coming more and more often. My uncle sexually abused me. I tried writing it down, but promptly burned the paper, not wanting anyone to find it.
I decided to tell a close friend. He had grown up in an abusive home, and I thought that would make it easier to tell him. I showed up at his house with my marked up book, and a container of chewy spice drops, and asked if he would help me do something. I had planned to go to the graveyard where my uncle was buried. I was going to try to make peace, or get closure, or maybe just yell and kick the tombstone a lot. I didn’t know what exactly I was going to do, but it seemed like that was the place to do it. And I knew I wanted to leave those spice drops there as a sign that I was no longer under his abuse or control.
We stood by the tombstone, and I stammered out, “My uncle. He, um, he used to….well, when I was little, he made me play this game. with these spice drops. And he….”
At that time, I didn’t know words like “grooming” I didn’t know that sexual abusers sometimes use games as a way to molest children, and I didn’t know how to tell my friend what happened. I said, “He touched me,” I don’t know exactly what I expected. A hug? Support? Something.
But what I got was, “Did he hit you?” I shook my head. “He didn’t hit you. So what’s the big deal? You are way overreacting.”
What’s the big deal? That definitely was not what I was expecting. Then he asked if he could eat some of those spice drops I was carrying around. We left the graveyard. I drove, and he sat in the passenger seat eating spice drops. I felt sick.
I continued to write letters and memories and notes, and then quickly burn them. The reaction of my friend confirmed my thoughts that I shouldn’t let anyone know what I was dealing with. I kept silent for several months, and pulled away from friends. I called that counselor back and got another appointment, but after just a few minutes sitting on her crochet-covered, flowered chair, I knew the visit wasn’t going anywhere. We ended up talking about cookie recipes.
The next time I spoke the words, I was in coffee shop late one night. A guy sat at my table and we started talking. At one point in the conversation, he told me that he was four years sober, after an arrest for drugs that scared him and changed his life. He was so calm about it. No hiding, no stammering. When he asked me about my family, where I was from, I found myself staring at a painting of a coffee cup hanging behind him and saying, “My uncle molested me.” It came out of my life just like that. I was stunned….and the guy sitting across from me was probably a little stunned, too. To his credit, he didn’t freak out on me. He said something like, “That sucks. Guys like that should be shot,” and asked if I was okay.
I don’t remember that guy’s name (he asked for my number, but never called me for a date – I can’t say that I’m surprised), but I will forever be grateful to him. I still felt broken after that night, and it was a long time before I spoke those words out loud again. But his simple response allowed me to see that what happened to me was wrong, and it was a big deal, and I wasn’t overreacting or crazy.
Through her journey, Tracie found “Emerging from Broken” and other great sites, including Band Back Together. She has become instrumental in the daily operations and is an Officer of the Board for The Band Back Together Project, a group website “that provides educational resources as well as a safe, moderated, supportive environment to share stories of survival. Through the power of real stories written by real people, we can work together to destigmatize mental illness, abuse, rape, baby loss and other traumas so that we may learn, grow, and heal.”
The site is the brainchild of Becky Harks of Mommy Wants Vodka, and came from her desire to connect with others in her same situation after her daughter was born with a previously undetected neural tube defect. She, along with Jana Anthoine of Jana’s Thinking Place, launched Band Back Together in September of 2010 and it has grown to house over 2000 stories from individuals and over 300 specific resource pages.
Band Back Together would like to invite you to join in helping break the silence behind so many things that we all feel we can’t or shouldn’t talk about. They’re our stories, good or bad, and it’s time to own them.