I feel like an imposter. Even after 47 years, the feeling that I have a secret to hide has never left.
At 5 I was targeted by a man posing as a good church member in my grandparent’s church and was molested. As anyone who’s gone through this knows, it doesn’t matter how many years pass, the hurt and self-blame is imprinted on your soul. When that happened, part of the internal clock inside me stopped at 5. As I grew, I experienced trauma for different reasons, at different ages, my internal clock stopping each time. I went through all of the teen angst you could dream up, complete with stammer, a blush that a beet would envy, and breaking out in a full-body sweat if anyone looked at me. I found my “safe place” where I hid, out in the open, on the stage. I was certain I would be a famous movie star, and even went to London, England and graduated from theatre school.
Like stepping stones across an ever-moving stream, my life lurched from one crisis
to the next, always with the dirty secret of what “I had done” following me like my shadow. Nothing fit. I didn’t fit. I was pretty sure my life had been driven off into the ditch, and that it was officially a wash-up. My first marriage failed. And far from becoming a famous actress, after theatre school I never acted again. The veneer was off. It was brass-knuckles time. Post-traumatic stress left me feeling like a ravaged soul, stripped and naked. Depression scoured me, over and over, grinding off my edges like beach glass.
It was only when I had my daughters and loved them so fiercely that I would have died for them, that I realized the harder thing for me to do was to live; to show them what it means to grow through adversity. To show them, however imperfectly, how to keep going even when the way is dark. When I decided to fully live, change came.
The awareness came in quiet moments, in the simple joys that don’t rely on vanquished dreams or unfound fame. They came with acceptance. With the growing wisdom that, far from over, my life was just beginning.
I can’t tell you when the rawness of the flashbacks grew less, or when I learned how to find joy even as I felt depression breathing down my neck. But I did. And slowly, I realized that even as I grieve for the person I could have been, and yearn for a life unmarked by tragedy, the person I am has found joy. Those stops along the way in my psyche, when the clock stopped? They allow me to write stories from the point of view of a 5 year-old child. Or an awkward 10 year-old. Or a forlorn 15 year-old. Because I am them, still. But now I am also a grown-up woman who has learned to inhabit my own body, has learned to breathe through the flashbacks, and count my blessings during my depressions.
My secret is out: I am a survivor, still wrestle with self-doubt and self-worth, and with accepting love. My journey, as is yours who are reading this, is far from over, but it is my joy, my privilege, to be a part of empowering young people to think for themselves, to know themselves as worthy.
As I look around me, I am surrounded by love: a wonderful, kind husband who makes me laugh and saves me from being morose; two beautiful, strong daughters who face adversity like seasoned pros; four cuddly critters (two dogs, two cats); and a beehive full of 60,000 honey bees who call me “Mom” (no, that’s just the children’s writer part of me making stuff up; they tolerate me and have only stung me once since I started beekeeping last summer). I live in a beautiful old Victorian home that feels like a warm hug every time I walk back into it, and in the mornings when I’m drinking my coffee, I gaze out at a backyard the size of a city park that has the loveliest trees I’ve ever seen.
I am blessed.
Find me at: