Monday, June 2, 2014

Check the Box

***trigger warning: sexual abuse***

I put a check next to the "yes" box on the form. I've filled out forms allowing organizations to perform background checks on me before, to get a job, to rent an apartment. But never, outside of psychiatric offices, had I come across a form that asked  me whether or not I have been sexually abused. Until I filled one out so I could volunteer at Vacation Bible School.

It caught me off guard.

It's understandable. You're surrounded by children. It's important to make sure you're not going to hurt them. But what does my checking the box "yes" say about me? That I will be a pedophile? You know, the whole, hurt people hurt people adage? Still, it sort of hurt when I checked the box "yes". Like the mark stained me. People would look at me differently. Would they keep their eye on me more than they would someone who checked the "no" box? What if I were a man?

Both men and women are sexually abused all over the world. It's an awful, infuriating fact about our species. Too often the physically stronger of us prey on the weak. Most often, it's men against women. Misogyny runs rampant in our society. Thank God there are organizations such as MOCSA, and projects popping up on social network sites that are tying to put an end to this violence, such as this Tumblr project:

You can share your story. Right there. You don't have to keep it secret anymore.

You also don't have to find a literary agent.

I quit working full time almost three years ago with a goal in mind: publish an autobiographical novel about a sexual abuse survivor. That didn't work, so I tweaked it into a memoir about my experiences as a sexual abuse survivor.

Still, no literary agents were pounding down my door.

But you know what? I've discovered that I don't need to sell a book to be happy. I'm happy. I have you. I have me. I can say what I like on here. When I decided to pursue the goal of becoming a published author, I thought I was doing it to make me feel good about myself. Instead, after all the rejection, I'm starting to feel worse. So instead of becoming a published author to feel good about myself, I became a blogger. And guess what? I feel good about myself.

Uncensored communication is the best therapy for someone who was told not to tell, or Mommy would be so upset she'd have to go back to the hospital and have shock treatments again.

I tried, Mommy. I tried to keep it secret. I didn't want to lose you. But secrecy breeds shame. The longer I kept the secret from Mommy, the worse I felt inside.

So I told her. And we both survived. No one ended up in the hospital getting electroshock therapy. I was threatened with hospitalization when I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, but I chose to start eating again rather than get sent somewhere with needles galore.

Over time, with therapy, after reading lots of self-help literature, and especially after cutting back my hours at work and starting this blog, I have healed myself. I am a sexual abuse survivor. I have good days and bad days. They are always the same day. Life is hard. And it's beautiful too.

As much as I love writing this blog, it doesn't pay the bills. We've been barely scraping by these last three years. I'm thinking of going back to work full time. I'm tired of my family being broke. I want enough money to send Katie to science camp and to eat out once in a while. My part time income affords us few extravagances now. I want to take our kid to see a movie. I want a new dress. I want to eat a nice meal and drink a good glass of wine with my husband. But more than anything, I want to quit constantly thinking of money. Or lack of it. Money is so boring. I'd like to spend less time worrying about it.

I'm glad I've cut back my hours at work these past three years. I get to do things like volunteer at Vacation Bible School, go on school field trips, bring goodies to school parties. I get to spend unscheduled, stress-free time with Katie during summer vacation. We'll have to juggle our schedules once again if I go back to work full time. But not only would it be less financially stressful for our family, I think it would be good for me. The rejection I've been receiving trying to make it in the published world is wearing me down. Katie deserves to grow up with a mother who models self-confidence and authenticity. I can do that best by working for money as a librarian and writing freely, for free, on my blog. Giving up the idea that I have to check the box next to "published author" in order to feel proud of what I've done with my words.