By Kayla Cole
I believe that the direction of a person’s life can be determined by one small decision. For me, the catalyst was an itch. At the time, I was 5 years old and watching cartoons. I just scratched the itch without thinking anything of it. But unbeknownst to me at the time, I was being watched by my stepfather, and that itch sparked a sexual interest in his mind, one that prompted his decision to start abusing me. For the next few years I was taught to perform sexual acts that no child my age should ever experience. I was molested and mentally abused, yet I didn’t realize anything was wrong with the situation until I was older. I was never threatened or forced into anything. It was “our secret” for 11 years before anybody in my life found out the truth.
I wrote my Mom a letter during my sophomore year of high school and left it in her truck. I knew I was going to crush my family’s world, but I couldn’t continue hurting myself because of his actions. I made a decision to stop accepting my reality as having to live with abuse. I wanted it to change. However, everyone thought he would change now that the problem was “in the open.” He became very good at walking the walk and talking the talk, but he continued. The physical touches stopped, but the stalking, videotaping, and mental abuse continued. At 15, I was afraid that if I kept bringing it up I’d be taken away from my Mom and family, so I found ways to cope.
I was stuck in the mindset that I had “no way out.”
My world was small and unchanging, even though I tried to find ways to escape it.
The toll his abuse took on me did not show up physically like bruises. I was the one who left the marks on my body. I needed something to calm my mind from racing thoughts and discovered one night that when I cut my skin I focused on that specific pain rather than the intrusive thoughts. The self-injury then led to an eating disorder. In six months I lost 60 pounds. My nights were flooded with hate toward myself, and the cutting continued, too. I had anxiety anytime I was supposed to eat, which led to more cutting and more depression. I was spiraling downhill fast, and nobody around me caught it.
And the abuse continued: He spied on me in the bathroom by using a small hidden video recorder. He chipped away part of my bedroom door frame so he could get down on all fours naked and pleasure himself while I was in my bedroom. If I went out back of our farm, he would find an excuse to mow the grass where I was. One night I even remember him being in my bedroom while I was sleeping, and I prayed that when I rolled over he would go away. I worked at the same retail store as he did, but during the night shift, and often I had to come home and spend all day alone with him in the house. I literally had no escape from him.
When I reached my sophomore year in college, I woke up consciously and realized I needed a way out of the life I was living. He pushed my Mom and me too far, so we moved out of the house. By this time, I no longer had an eating disorder or cut myself; I had decided that my body was not going to be controlled by any man or hurt by my own unstable thinking again.
This was a big step forward, but I still had another critical problem to contend with: I saw things—people and figures—that were not really there. I wasn’t technically hallucinating because I was 100 percent certain that they weren’t real. They were like a child’s imaginary friends, but these fictional characters weren’t nice to me. I had been seeing them for years, and they were extremely distracting, upsetting my normal life. Finally, I told a good friend of mine about this problem, and he gave me some advice. He said, “Ask them why they are there. Ask what their purpose is.”
The next time it happened I did just that, and the response had a profound impact on my healing journey. These imagined people and their associated story lines would preempt me from remembering the abuse. They kept my mind occupied. Since the age of 7, my brain had found a way to protect my conscious mind from my reality of abuse! After the questioning, the visions began to happen less and less, and it was time to come to terms with what had happened in my childhood and move on.
I was 20 years old at the time, and I knew that I had to find forgiveness in my heart. I forgave my family for how I felt betrayed. I also forgive my stepfather. It’s not easy to forgive the man who took away your childhood innocence, but it was the best decision I ever made. The letter I wrote to him talked about how I was accepting my past and said that I forgave him for everything.
I even thanked him at one point, saying he opened my life to a world of helping other people find peace from similar abuse.
I finally found the positive in all of the negative experiences I had endured. I walked up to my stepfather at work one night, after avoiding him for weeks, and handed him my letter. As I walked away I felt like I was able to leave behind my anxiety and depression and everything negative about my life with him in it. It was exhilarating, and I encourage anyone who’s been abused to do the same.
I don’t blame my family or myself for what happened to me. My abuse happened at the hands of one man. It was his decision to touch me and mentally abuse me. The only decision I made was to remain closed off in my world. Abuse doesn’t have to define you. It is nothing to be ashamed of, and it is definitely not a good reason to hurt yourself. At some point, you must determine that—regardless of the circumstances surrounding the abuse—there is hope. There is something positive that will come from the experience when you make the decision to transform your life.
Kayla Cole is a freelance writer and a psychology graduate from the University of South Florida. She believes her purpose in life is to guide others to achieve their own goals, dreams, and aspirations. She writes a weekly flyer for her company called L.I.F.E. (Live It Fully Everyday) to motivate her coworkers. Being a fitness enthusiast she also co-writes about her journey to a healthier lifestyle on WordPress at swolesisters.wordpress.com. Her latest project is an abuse recovery workbook which she hopes will inspire other to grow from their past and transform their lives for a positive future.
This article is a chapter from the book Transform Your Life! written by 60 real-life heroes and experts and available at Amazon.com, BN.com, www.Transformation-Publishing.com and all ebook formats.