The Survivors Speak Interview series is dedicated to amplifying the voices of survivors by providing a platform to share our stories and connect us through experiences and healing. Read stories of Childhood Trauma as survivors share their pain, their hope, and their healing. Share your story in writing.
Sharaya’s Story: Brooklyn, NY (USA)
Please tell us what inspires you to share your story.
Sharing my story is a part of my healing process. I’ve been in and out of therapy for 16 years but the process feels ever-changing. I am hoping my story will reach and touch other women who hide behind their accomplishments, and makes excuses to isolate due to various forms of anxiety.
Introduce yourself: tell us about your passions, interests, family life, favorite quotes, etc.
My passion and interests includes watching light-hearted tv shows (Golden Girls, Mike & Molly), shopping online, spending time with my wife and our dog, Kensi (3 year old Maltipoo, which has brought so much joy to our lives). In addition, I enjoy learning more about my craft as a therapist via forms (webinars, virtual trainings, MedCircle).
I have so many different passions and things I’d like to do but fear and anxiety keeps me trapped most times. My bucket list includes traveling and learning to be fearless – within reason.
Besides sharing my life with my wife, dog, and closest friends, I’ve disconnected from my dysfunctional immediate family.
Please share your story in as much or as little detail as you are comfortable.
Here we go:
As long as I can remember, I’ve been depressed – starting from age 3. My father abandoned my mom and I, got married and had my little sister and brother. They were teens and used to be together daily until my paternal grandfather passed away. This was the beginning of my fathers addiction to crack cocaine and my mother’s spiraling depression.
As you can imagine, I was emotionally neglected and felt abandoned. I was often left with aunts, uncles and my grandparents – which my grandmother was physically disabled and my grandfather was old and unbeknownst to me, pedophile.
At age 4, I remember being slapped really hard by my step-mother to the point of her leaving a handprint on my face. My parents did nothing but my aunt tried to kill her (I love that woman). In the same year, when my aunt/uncle was supposed to be watching me one day, I ended up with a gash in the middle of my head that required 27 stitches. I don’t know the true story of what happened.
Beginning in third grade, age 8, the bullying started. I got my period at age 10 – then my breast came bursting in. That’s when the sexual abuse started. My grandfather would often brush up against me and claim it was an accident. When I was alone, he would touch my behind and/or touch my body inappropriately. When he thought I was sleep, he would try to put his hand in between my legs but I would always wake up and push him (had he been younger or stronger, I believe I would’ve been raped). Between ages 11-15, a cousin and uncle would make an inappropriate pass, sexual gesture toward me that keep me away from them for years on end. At 15, I started dating this boy I liked (nothing intimate) until one day, his brother, who was 18/19 at the time, took my nameplate necklace from me and said I couldn’t get it back unless we had sex. I was more afraid of telling my mom I took my necklace off for him to see then to go home without it so, we tried to have sex. Fortunately, he was “too big” and couldn’t get it in so he ejaculated on my breasts and face. I felt so disgusted. When I got home, I took a very long shower. During, I started bleeding. It was at that moment I realized he’d taken my virginity and caused some scarring. I told myself that if this was sex, why would I wait until I found someone special? I became promiscuous.
* I realized two years ago that my first sexual experience was rape*
This was the onset of my poor relationship with men (which is probably why I dated women from age 18; hindsight really is something).
Between ages 15 and 18, I engaged in a three year relationship with a 42-year old bisexual pedophile. That relationship resulted in me learning great things about how to survive (he taught me about credit, driving, saving money) but I also lost or never gained integrity. I ended up pregnant which resulted in an abortion, his kids and family hated me (but not the situation or held him accountable). He made me engage in a threesome with an alcoholic local prostitute and I learned of his bisexuality to young teen boys when we had dinner with his “friend” and it ended with them kissing each other. Lastly, he threatened me with a gun when I broke it off but I didn’t care. I was ready to die at that point. I started cheating on him with a girl from high school and he threatened to kill her if we didn’t stop seeing each other.
During this time, I was also going to church with my mom, which is where I met this man. During my time at church, I was humiliated by boys I liked and by girls I thought were my friends. Experimented with marijuana but never really enjoyed being high. I always felt out of control and scared when under the influence.
In 2005, my mother had a psychotic break brought on by untreated major depression from her own experiences. She was later diagnosed with Schizophrenia (which I know now is probably Schizoaffective Disorder given her age of onset was 39). I was contacted by the police because they found her on the roof of Port Authority Bus Terminal getting ready to jump. I became increasingly angry, irritated and depressed. I had to give up my apartment to take care of her when I spent most of my life trying to get away from her. It was during this time I engaged in self-harming behaviors such as excessive alcohol use and partying. Luckily, I stayed away from drugs. Meanwhile, I remained estranged from my father and half-siblings. He’d remarried to someone new by this time but he was still a functional addict.
*Later on, my mom told me about her addiction to coke, which I never knew. She was also a heavy drinker in my younger days and used excessive corpal ways of punishing me including verbal abuse*
I know this was a lot to ready and very heavy. Many Black girls from urban neighborhoods experience this or worse and it’s taken many years to make peace with this and explains why I’m on this path.
What are some of the challenging ways your trauma has manifested in your life?
In 2011 when I left my mothers house from taking care of her, I moved in with my – now wife. My began harassing me telephonically because she didn’t want me to be gay. She kept trying to impose her beliefs on me so that I’d feel guilty – which I did not. Add working full time and going to school full-time, I began experiencing panic attacks.
Since age 22, I’ve been in and out of therapy. However, recently, I was diagnosed with CPTSD. As such, GAD and mild depression as a result. I also developed an intense fear of driving over bridges and driving long distance, which didn’t exist when I was younger.
I also have issues experiencing sexual pleasure and orgasms. It’s easier for me to let someone do what they want to me or please my wife in a way she wants without being pleasured. This came up after we got married eight years ago. When I was younger, I really didn’t know what I was doing but I could get away with it because it was easier pleasing a man. They didn’t require much. Being with my wife has revealed my insecurities, shortcomings, inexperience and traumas – which has greatly affected our love life.
In addition, I have a love/hate relationship with my mother. I love her because she’s my mom and is working hard to manage her illness but I also hate her because she couldn’t protect me, take care of her herself and is codependent.
* I forgot to mention that I was sexually assaulted by the pastor of our church as well. He pretended he was going to pray with me and when I closed my eyes to pray, he grabbed my face and kissed me. I was around 18 at the time. I told my mother and she had a talk with him. She said she believed me but continued going to the church and serving as his missionary. I also told her about her father molesting me. She believed me but told me to stay away from him yet I still had to run errands for him. He would always antagonize and gaslight me for telling*
When did healing begin? Was there a catalyst moment and how did you reach this point?
I thought I was healing when I started therapy 16 years ago. I was wrong.
Healing is beginning …now.
I pushed my traumas down in order to show up for my wife and help my mom.
I pushed my trauma and pain down to finish undergrad and graduate school and even recently with obtaining multiple promotions with the organization I now work for. In order for me to excel and enjoy the next phase in my life, I have to really dig deep and face myself and fears head on.
What has your healing journey looked like day-to-day: techniques, modalities, practices, tools you use?
I now go for long walks, journal, listen to uplifting podcasts, attend weekly therapy, stretch my body in the morning, only drink on occasions and learning to regulate my mood, emotions and thoughts.
Education has been the greatest motivator and change agent for me.
What are two or three things you have learned as you heal that you believe are important for survivors to know as they heal?
1. Healing is a personal journey and takes time. You will lose and gain friends and support along the way. Relationships will change.
2. The road to healing is not linear; it’s different for everyone.
3. Honor your emotions and lean into the uncomfortable-ness of it.
Share Your Story
Sharing your story is a powerful part of your healing journey. It helps you find and reclaim your voice and it helps others who are trying to find there’s. It lets us all know that we are not alone when we can connect through shared lived experiences. Use the link below to submit your story in writing.
Looking for Ways to Connect With Other Survivors and/or Receive Support as You Heal?
Survivor’s Circle Peer Support Groups might be just what you need.
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