“It is OK to hurt” my therapist says as I sit on the floor in the corner of the room. She says it again; “It is OK to hurt Gemma”
I am grateful for my therapist. It has taken me a long time to trust her as much as I do, two years in fact, but she is patient and kind. She took the time to get to know me and she never judges me. I know I am safe with her.
“You have a right to be heard and to be believed” She tells me. She has told me this before but I am never sure whether I truly believe it.
I lean back against the wall. “I feel so much all at once” I tell her. “I don’t know how to make sense of what I feel”
She explains that I am beginning to feel everything that I was never allowed to feel as a child. She says that all the emotions that I have been too scared to let myself feel for so many years are beginning to come to the surface. I hate that, it makes me feel out of control. I hate not being in control of my emotions, something my therapist knows all too well.
“I feel angry” I tell her. The more I face my truth, the more I own my story, the angrier I am becoming. “It is OK to be angry” she says. “Who do you feel angry at Gemma?”
I think for a moment before I answer; “My stepfather and my mother and my nan” I hesitate for a moment; “and sometimes myself” I whisper. “I should be stronger. I should be able to cope with what happened and how I feel”
“You are strong Gemma” my therapist replies. “I know you don’t see it but I do. I see the inner strength in you every week when we meet”
I am a survivor she says. I survived so many years of abuse but I have had to cope alone for so many years that I am afraid to let people in to help me. She explains how, for so many years, the word “strong” has meant coping on my own, keeping my secret and never crying. However, she begins to make me see that being strong can be asking for help, telling my secret and letting myself cry.
“I want to cry” I tell her. “It is OK to cry” she responds. I fight back the tears.
I feel so tired all the time. I have so many emotions running through my head all the time; sadness, anger, pain, fear, confusion. Mainly sadness though; that one is the worst. It is there all the time, like an aching in my heart.
My therapist explains that with everything I am going through that it is normal to feel tired but that it is nearing on exhaustion because I am refusing to let myself feel all the emotions. She says I need to let myself cry, that it will be a release and help me feel better. I know she is right but I am scared; crying will make the pain real. Crying will make me vulnerable. Being vulnerable means I will need more support. Doesn’t that make me weak?
It is OK to be vulnerable, she tells me. Being vulnerable doesn’t make me weak, if anything it will show just how much strength I have. I look at her with a questioning glance; she explains that even though I have been demeaned and demoralized and hurt, that even thought I am terrified, that I keep going to the police interviews and I keep going to therapy every week. “I have to” I reply “I have to help other victims. I have to stop him. I have to protect other children”
She looks at me and tells me with conviction in her voice, that that right there is my inner strength, the strength she sees in me every week. The strength that no matter how tired or scared I am keeps me going and stops me giving up. The strength, she says, that made me decide to start my blog to help others. The strength that made me walk into the police station that day.
“You are not your abuse Gemma. You are not your trauma; you survived. You have the power to keep surviving”
She tells me that everything I feel I am allowed to feel, that it is normal for an abuse survivor to feel the way I do. However, she tells me that I am allowed to have a voice, my own voice; not my stepfathers, not my mothers or my nans, but mine, my own voice. She says that they cannot control me anymore. She says that people want to help and support me, that they believe in me.
“Believe in yourself Gemma. It takes a lot of courage to face what happened to you. It takes a lot of strength to speak up. You are stronger than you think”
I often hear people ask how an adult could hurt a child. I would ask; how can someone know abuse is happening and just stand by and let it happen? To me, that person is just as bad, if not worse than the abuser.
I have experienced sexual, physical and emotional abuse. I have been raped, beaten, battered and broken. I am exhausted from fighting every single day to not give up. I am terrified of facing the abuse. However, I will keep fighting and I will speak up.
I will speak the truth, not for attention or for myself, but for the children. I will speak for the children who have been through what I went through and for the ones who are living through it now. I will speak the truth in place of all those people who stand by and let the abuse happen.
I have survived. I am still here. I am confused and a little, if not very lost, but I am still here. I will fight to find my way back through the memories and through the fear and I will do it by being a voice for others.
I will destroy the person my abusers made me; I will find the courage to be myself and to own my story. I have to face this and I have to allow myself to feel the emotions that come with this journey.
Somehow I have to dig down deep to find that inner strength; I have to find the courage to let myself be vulnerable.
No matter how scared I feel inside, I cannot be afraid of my truth any longer. I am allowed to be vulnerable.
My abusers deprived me of my freedom but now I am allowed to have a voice. Now I am finding my voice.
I have a right to be heard.
I have a right to be believed.
Thanks for reading.