When I was 6 my stepmother hit me for the first time. I had a mark on my top when I came home from school. I learned that doing something that wasn’t allowed resulted in a beating. Unfortunately it wasn’t clear what was and was not allowed.
A year later I cried one night when I heard my stepmother and father arguing loudly. She came to my room and told me she’d hit me if I cried. I learned not to cry.
We were left outside for long periods of time and I learned that my stepmother didn’t want us around. I learned not to complain. I learned not to need anything.
When my grandfather drove me and my brother to my granny’s house, I learned that my brother was older and I had no choice but to do what he told me. He told me to sit in the seat next to my grandfather. My grandfather would put his hand down my pants and molest me on the journey. I didn’t like it. It was uncomfortable, but in comparison to later stuff, it was nothing.
When I was 8 I told a lady from Social Services that I wanted to go and live with my mother, despite being warned not to. That day my father told me he was sad that I didn’t want to live with him any more and that he didn’t love me. I learned that even when I speak up for myself, it makes no difference.
When I was 10 my stepfather came to wish me goodnight. When he kissed me he shoved his tongue into my mouth and said “Not like that a proper kiss”. He went on to teach me “what boys did to girls” over the next few years. I learned anyone could do anything to me and there was nothing I could do.
When I was 12 I told my mother about the abuse. She lost her temper with me and told me never to talk about it again. I learned to shut down. I learned that I couldn’t trust what I felt. I learned to not feel. I learned that it was never safe.
When I was 18 I learned that no one knew anything about my past. I learned that I could be whoever I wanted to be. I buried the child, grew a shell and lived a successful life.
When my first child had to be delivered at only 26 weeks old I learned that my body was as hateful as I’d always believed. I learned it was outside of my control and that this time it had killed my child.
When my daughter was 3 years old and started asking me constantly if I was happy, I learned that it was not ok for my screw ups to affect her and I learned that it was time to change.
When I started Cognitive Hypnotherapy I learned that I was ok. I learned I wasn’t broken. I learned that bad people did bad things to me.
When I took my stepfather to court 6 years ago I learned that I was believed. I learned I could tell my story, and deal with a huge amount of pain.
When he was found not guilty because my mother didn’t corroborate my story, and the defence cleverly suggested it was all stuff my grandfather did, I learned that it wasn’t about me. It wasn’t my fault. Bad stuff happened and the judicial process was not sophisticated enough to deal with it. I learned I was ok.
When I struggled last year because I felt my core was rotten, too rotten for anyone to care about the child me, I learned that I have great friends. They helped me re-connect and forgive the younger me because she was just unlucky. Bad people did bad things. She couldn’t change that.
And all through I learned that I am ok. I am strong. I can deal with anything.
I learned that no matter what you can be happy and connected with your friends and those you hold dear.
I learned that everything can change always.
And now I’m still learning. I’m learning that it’s possible for my head to be fine but for my body to hold on to the fear.
And because I’ve learned that everything can change, and because I have great friends, I am working on that now too.
It’s not what happens to us that causes the problem, it’s the meaning. It’s the meaning that hurts and the meaning is prone to misinterpretation.
You too can change.
You too can learn to see that it’s amazing that you are here, reading this with me now.