Victim to Victor
How I was able to use childhood trauma to help a friend
This morning, I received a text from a friend asking me to call her. I'm just like most millennials and prefer texting, but this was one of my yarn friends. We haven't been able to knit together in almost 3 months. I miss my peeps. So I gave her a call and I'm so glad that I did. For privacy purposes, I’m going to call her Joan.
The phone call started with her telling me how she felt like she needed to tell me how important self-love is… that especially as a woman, we needed to be self-sufficient and love ourselves. I'll admit it: self-love is not my strong suit and it's very apparent in my Facebook posts that she'd been reading. I thought that she'd requested I call her so she could tell me that I was worthy of love. This isn't something I've been told very often in my life so always great to hear. But the reason she wanted to talk was so much more than I had imagined.
I'm very open with my story so most of my friends and maybe even my acquaintances know that I come from a very rough background. Abuse out the wazoo in all the ways imaginable. I tell my story because you never know who is listening who may need to hear it.
This morning, Joan starts to tell me a story of a little girl who may have been abused. One of her friends wants to remove her from her situation and help her. First off, Joan wants to know if she’s crazy in thinking that the little girl might have been abused. The girl is 11 years old and wearing pull ups due to incontinence. At this point, I chose to tell her more of my story - something I don’t usually share as part of my testimony. I too struggled with incontinence - both bowel and bladder. I was bullied: called names like seaweed pants or stinky. As an adult, I now believe some of this incontinence to be because of abuse I’d suffered that I didn’t realize until I started working through other traumatic experiences. It wasn’t until after I felt safe again that the issues of incontinence dissipated. I let her know that in many cases incontinence without a medical issue is usually due to abuse.
Joan asks me about her friend. Should her friend ask the girl outright if she’s been abused? I let her know that I thought her suspicions were valid, but that asking outright may not be fruitful. I shared with her that I didn’t remember a lot of my abuse until after my abuser died. Until the little gwen in my head was safe again. I let her know that she really needed to spend time with the little girl and gain her trust. Really give her a safe space to go to. Once she feels safe, she may start to open up. And I let her know that the little girl really needed to get into counseling. I’m 29 years old and digging through this trauma shit 20+ years too late is for the birds!
Joan asks questions about resources and how the process works for her friend to start helping this little girl. I shared with her more pieces of my story. I was able to get my sister out of an unstable situation when she was 15. The first thing I did was go to court and file for custody. At that point, she could legally reside in my home and attend school in my district even though the court proceedings weren’t until months later. I let Joan know that the girl would qualify for medicaid assistance and that her friend could receive aid in helping to care for her. I was also able to share a few local child counselors with her that may be able to talk with them and help them as they go through this process.
As a child, I just pushed through. I don’t know how. I don’t really know that I had a driving force. I’d say ignorance was my greatest weapon. I had no idea that everyone didn’t live the way I did. I wasn’t allowed to go to friend’s houses and they weren’t allowed to come to mine out of fear that our secrets would be revealed. I was isolated. And I think, while a horrible thing to me at the time, it was the greatest thing that helped me get through. I didn’t know anything was wrong. And even as a teenager, I had learned that other people didn’t live that way, but I did. School was my escape. I focused on my education. I focused on my love of music. I had outlets. I never really thought about why those things had happened to me - they just did.
As I emerged into adulthood, I realized that my life had been pretty fucked up. I started to feel very unloved and very unworthy because if you love someone, you can’t treat them that way. You can’t abandon them. You can’t hurt them. You can’t put them through these things in the name of love. I just knew that I wanted to help people who were just like me. And until this morning, I thought the only way to do that was to do it all on my own.
This morning I was able to help indirectly. I didn’t take the little girl in my arms and hold her the way I needed to be held. I didn’t drive her to appointments or bring her into my home. I offered support, resources, and words of wisdom to a loved one. And that was more than enough. Today, I was able to use my story and experience to help someone in need. Little gwen was a victim and today grown up Gwen was a victor.