When Personal Agency is Compromised...It's a Living Hell
I should know. I lived my first 50 years inside an insanely huge lie.
Imagine living in a somewhat fairy-tale world with a decent life eked out, having a family of your own, a job you like, lovely friends in your life...and then, one day, you realize: It was all a lie. You finally admit it to yourself. Your entire existence was based upon someone else's pedagogy, and it wasn't at all kosher.
To me, my past is much like The Truman Show--smoke and mirrors for my first 50 years. And I mean rancid nasty smoke and mirrors.
Until it wasn't.
My ex-father (he doesn't even deserve that title, but I haven't figured out what else to call him) molested me until I was 14 years old. Hard to imagine if you know me.
And yet, it's ever the truth. But through a miracle of consciousness and sheer determination to survive, I had wiped away every single memory of it completely, never remembering a single bit of the terror until five decades later.
To do this, I created my own fantasy life of childhood bliss. It's how I survived. I always thought it was just that I had a clever imagination. And I do, and it saved me, but the reason it was so active is horrific. I even used to proclaim in high school that my family had absolutely no problems, and it was so weird to me, but we were like the Cleavers on "Leave it to Beaver." One of my childhood besties vividly remembers me saying that to her. Remarkable. But if you're being raised by the devil himself, and a mother who put her head in the sand and ignored all of the tell-tale troubling signs and never did a god-damned thing to evacuate herself or us children....well, then, you have no choice in the matter. You go to extremes. You make some crazy shit up so that you can get by and have a semblance of a decent life. You tend to do something like that, or, as we know also, go the way of drugs, addiction, sexual promiscuity, or, much much worse: suicide.
The fear and pain are very real, but the mind and spirit have a tendency to make amends with those aspects and collectively figure out what to do to survive. Humans are incredibly adept a basic survival.
For me to survive, that little 5-year-old-victim needed two things: food, and shelter. Yes, she needed Love, but let's just assume that wasn't available in that house on West Maplewood Drive just a few blocks from Columbine High School. Nope. Scarcely so. And yet, she thrived. She had a courage, vulnerability, and ambition that was her secret weapon, and it got her out in one piece, seemingly unscathed.
Until the walls of deception began to shatter.
I began to remember the truth when I was 50 years old, and by the grace of God, I survived processing it. I almost didn't. But, I did survive. And now, I thrive.
One of my breakthrough moments was at a women's leadership conference in 2020 right before Covid-19 hit the world like a tsunami. We were invited to participate in a sacred, holy experience, to walk a labyrinth. The space was held by the highest angelic light and love, the leadership of the conference, and, by God, of course, because God was welcomed into our hearts for that entire weekend.
As I sat between two of my dearest friends, a wall that seemed as the one in Jericho started to crack. I've always been blessed with an ability to see and understand spiritual events, interactions, angels, and imagery and on that night, as one of my best friends held my hand like a truest sister, I saw the wall around me. It was around my entire being and INSIDE of me, around my heart, my belly, my sacrum, my lungs. It ensconced me. It was old as time imemorial, and, thank God, it had become ready to crumble.
I've never really been able to cry in front of people. There wasn't much if any crying in my childhood home, and I learned so well to stuff all of my feelings that I was good at just ignoring what went on inside of me a lot of the time. And I'd never been held by a friend in that way--someone who knew enough to know that something big was happening, and could just hold my hand as I saw the beginning of what I needed to start seeing.
At the time, I didn't really know very much of what the wall represented. I was going through a divorce, and I thought it all attributed to the end of that era of my life.
Little did I know it would symbolize the wall that a little 4-year-old version of me would start building the day her mother told her, "Suzanne, we don't talk about THOSE body parts," when I told her my ex-father's penis had been near my head. That's the first memory I've uncovered as of this writing that signified the start of the illusion-making fantasy-creating game I had to begin playing.
There had been a penis near my head. That little 4-year-old knew something about that wasn't right and she was highly intuitive and most certainly FELT his ardor that also felt somehow very wrong. So on that day, that little girl began to re-weave her story. She began to doubt her intuition. She began to lie to herself in order to save herself. She began to tow the family line that seeing that person's penis on the regular in plain sight as he walked around nude quite often was somehow just normal and how things were---even if her little strong intuition may have been telling her something quite different.
She was 4. She needed basic things. She needed food, and a home, and a bed. She needed to survive. So what was the message?
This is just how it is, and you will obey. Or else.
I've learned that that belief system was precisely the core cause of what I'd later uncover and call extreme co-dependence when I began intensely studying myself in my 40s.
And so this all leads to my story of how my personal agency, or sovereignty, was stolen from me. I lived a purely transactional childhood: The perpetrator said, "I get to do what I want to you, because theoretically I own you, and you need me for basic survival. You in turn have a place to live and a masquerade-like life. Your mother must not know. And by the way, THIS is love. I love you. This is how we show each other. Isn't that nice? Isn't that so so very nice? This is love. I love you. Thank you for loving me so much that you keep our little secret. Love is so special, isn't it? You're my baby girl."
He would call me his baby girl until the day that I told him never to contact me, or else I would call the police. He was a masterful manipulator and frankly should have gone to prison decades ago for his heinous crimes. God knows who else he raped--he was of course a faithful Boy Scout leader also. I pray he's in his own mental prison, and pays his dues in many ways in his future. He doesn't deserve to walk a free person, but alas, he's denied it up and down Monaco Street, as they always do. They never seem to want to take responsibility, or heal their own perversions. It's terribly sad and unimaginable to most of us. And yet, one of my therapists who's worked with women for 35 years on these complex traumas says she's never once witnessed a perpetrator accused of childhood rape own his crime, apologize, or make amends. I'm glad I heard that early on in my recovery process, so that I could stop wasting my precious life hoping he would confess and we could move on. Doesn't happen. Don't even bother. Now I have that solid truth to share with clients facing similar circumstances because it's so important to dare to face these kinds of truths. They are what set us free on all levels.
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