Personal Growth
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In the early morning hours as I began waking up to a new day the image of the bottom state level memory drawer, my survival monster and something else emerged. Behind the survival monster was a vortex, a rabbit hole into my unconscious. The survival monster guarded that opening to my own Alice in Wonderland down the rabbit hole world! It guarded that world from me protecting me from it, until it was time to go there. It was time to go there!

Like Alice I've been on a journey; a journey of re-connection. I have long struggled with human relationships; first my families of origin, then with others. I believed if I could just heal my family relationships I would be okay. I didn't. I couldn't. Yet years later I find I feel I failed them all. Logically I know better. My heart is trying to catch up. My journey down the rabbit hole showed me how I came to believe: "connection leads to abandonment; I can't tell or it will get worse; if I tell it will hurt someone; if someone gets hurt it is my fault; if they are hurt then they can't connect to me; therefore I will be abandoned." With all that going on I couldn't find my voice buried under so much fear. A friend told me that fear is false evidence appearing real. It may be but when you are in the fear it feels very real!

It occurred to me that there is a lack of understanding about what makes sexual abuse such a long-term trauma. In our sexualized society people seem to hone in on the 'sexual' part. I do not know how anyone else feels about this but for me the physical act since it was not done in a physically painful way has been the least of what is in my trauma drawer. The physically beatings and witnessing those of my siblings was worse. The sexual abuse began while I was young (about 3) so it became a part of what you do in a day. Just part of your to do list: go to school, do your homework, brush your teeth, kiss everyone good night, have sex with dad in your bed at night, don't say a word. After enough repetition a human can become conditioned to most anything and it becomes their normal. It is accepted, dealt with and you go on. It doesn't matter if you don't like it. You learn that what you want doesn't matter. (therefore you don't matter).

The distorted thinking about yourself and the secret is where the long-term harm comes in. What the secret did was to disconnect my family from each other and make growing up very confusing, chaotic and insecure. The secret also disconnected me from myself. Possibly the worst was when my mother found my step dad in my bed with me when I was 13. It was a terrible emotionally intense scene. My sister who was about 11 became hysterical at hearing our parents yelling and screaming. Later, after the dust had settle my mother told me it was my fault and we didn't talk about it again until I confronted them in my adulthood. Though hard to understand it is not uncommon for a women to pick the man over her children.

Women are taught to 'stand by their man' and 'children lie' and 'you have to have a man to survive.' I'm not making excuses for her but a woman's reaction to her daughter's sexual abuse is more gray than black and white.

Behind adult's perception of my independence was a terrified child trying to grow up at the same time she felt totally responsible for keeping her family together. It kept me living on the edge of the loss of my family if people found out? The terror was a double-edged sword, driving me to excel which made a cover story of the families 'wellness' but not able to integrate my successes. I couldn't accept my value, worth and rights as a human being. I lived by the belief I was never enough and I couldn't do enough. My family went to church, were active in our community activities, had vacations together and all of us did fairly well in school. On the outside we looked like the 'normal American family.' So who would believe me anyway? I had trouble believing it all myself.

The truism is that I could never do enough to make the secret go away; I failed. I failed because succeeding was not a possibility. I believed it was all my fault and people would eventually find out what a 'worm of the dust' I was. The repetitious shame of failure and the glowing reports from other adults about my parents left me feeling trapped in my failings. Church taught me I was to honor my parents. There was nothing taught about them honoring me. I was to do what they told me. What I did or didn't do could bring shame to the family. I had to be vigilant and on guard about my behavior. I still live with the fear that I might do something, by accident to cause harm to another human being. I've come to realize this affects by ability to set and keep healthy boundaries for myself. Lately, I've begun to do better. It is what gets triggered when I have to face anyone I perceive as having authority, like judges, attorneys, clergy, and even peers. I realize now I am the authority in my life. But I'm a baby in learning how to apply it to my everyday life. The misuse of power by my early attachment and authority figures lives in the world behind my trauma monster. Now that I have gone into that world and come back another time it is easier to see the fear-based place that makes me feel like a child again. I can embrace, honor and integrate that part of me in a loving way. I reconnect with my body wisdom. I honor what I have survived. I affirm my survivorship. I acknowledging my dignity, worth and value as a human being and move into thriving. I shrinking my rabbit-hole world. It is not so big. I am now a woman in charge of her life.

Deborah Chelette-Wilson is a relationship coach, authoress and speaker whose powerful message for women is "It's time to stop waiting for permission to be all that we can be(without being a bitch about it)." Her inspiring message helps women harness their personal power, find peace within and become part of the shift in creating healthier and more loving relationships, beginning with the one with their self. In order to honor someone else's heart you must first honor your own.

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