For a long time, I have wanted to write a book about growing up in my family with incest, my father my perpetrator. Because I am a Psychotherapist and work with survivors of abuse and trauma, I felt it was important to do this. I recently wrote my book, My House of Lies, which is going to be completed in 2019. In it I reveal my terrifying childhood and the painful and rewarding road to recovery.
I started my sexual abuse memories six months after I entered Narcotics Anonymous in 1987 and was no longer on sedatives and sleeping pills. In my earlier years I used a mix of drugs. I was 37 years old. Unbeknownst to me I had Amnesia with symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Once my flashbacks began, I was unable to work, I gave up my private practice and began my healing journey back to a new life.
When I was being sexually abused, I was hidden behind a closed door, late at night with my father. I was alone with no one to help. The abuse created an aloneness that was terrifying, isolating, cold and painful. I was trapped. This occurred while my mother was sleeping in her room down the hall, as well as with my sister, but I felt as though I were a million miles away. I had a dream that captured this experience…I was stranded at night in a small boat in the ocean surrounded by hungry sharks. I watched them circling, seeing their cold eyes, knowing I was about to be eaten. I felt completely helpless; adrift in an expansive ocean with no one to save me. My father, the shark, was standing by my bed, looking down at me with his hungry eyes, while he motioned for me to move over and make room for him. I dissociated to escape; then used addictions to further distance myself from this horror and to disconnect from me. I was a secret to myself and others.
This secrecy created an invisible wall that I hid behind. Deep down inside myself where no one could see, I was trapped, still living with my father in my bedroom and obeying his demand “don’t tell.” His finger to his mouth, whispering “shush.” I believed his threats, that I would die if I told.
The first step to my sexual abuse recovery was admitting to my addiction. Saying I am an addict to a community of people connected me to honesty. For the first time I let others see I was suffering as well as exposed my self-destructiveness. Something I never showed to anyone. I learned to pick up the phone and reach out saying, “I need help.” Until this point in my life I never admitted I needed help. Instead I showed a competent self to the world around me, wrapping myself in sedatives and sleeping pills, my adult version of a child’s security blanket.
Telling on myself, so to speak, in Narcotics Anonymous brought me closer to the secrecy of my abuse. Six months into drug recovery I started having flashbacks. I knew something awful was trying to surface but I didn’t know what. I did know that, in spite of connecting with this community of people, I still felt alone. I tried to describe to others this isolated feeling. I was Lori in recovery socializing, letting people in, making friends, sharing honestly what I was going through, but there was also my deeper self, watching, protecting, hyper vigilant, on guard, never relaxed. For the first time I connected with symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I thought my acute hyper vigilance was my DNA, me. I developed this early in childhood. Listening acutely for my father, needing to know where he was in the house at all times, guarding my secret from my mother, sister, and later my brother. Being careful not to show my hidden feelings, careful to not be “seen.” Living behind my wall of secrecy.
When I identified I was a sexual abuse survivor and my father was my perpetrator, I joined Incest Survivors Anonymous, once again sharing my secret with a community of people. I did not realize then that I was opening the bedroom door in my childhood house and freeing my child self from the bondage of abuse. The little me no longer had to live behind a closed door with my father. This brought light into the darkness. My secret was out. I was no longer alone to bear the weight of my father’s shameful, sick behavior. It was the start of healing the deep aloneness that I felt.
Sexual abuse survivors need to heal their aloneness in their abuse. You cannot heal in isolation. You need people to help in this process. You need to tell your secret to be free of your abuser. Otherwise you continue to live in it, never ending the cycle of your abuse. You may get into destructive relationships, you may live in addictions, or you may inflict self-harm in a multitude of ways. You cannot learn how to love yourself as well as be self-respectful.
I will say that it is very scary to tell. We often feel ashamed, damaged and unlovable. We fear that if we tell, no one will understand or people will be repulsed, particularly significant others that we are in relationships with. However, not telling causes us to live in a deep mistrust, believing we cannot be loved…living with the thought, if they only knew would they still love me?
Telling my secret brought my terror, my father’s threats to the surface. I lived for a period of time believing I would be killed for telling. Yes, it was frightening to expose this secret. But I came to realize I was only reliving something I already lived through and I lived in it as a child. And Wow! What an incredibly brave little girl I was to have survived without the help of an adult.
Through support groups, survivor friends and a multitude of therapies I learned to love my inner abused child self and reparent myself back to health. I learned to create safety. I learned self-respect. I learned to love myself, and I learned to nurture myself.
BUT FIRST I HAD TO OPEN MY BEDROOM DOOR, TELL ON MY FATHER AND EXPOSE HIS DIRTY, SHAMEFUL SECRETS–NOT MINE. I WAS AN INNOCENT LITTLE GIRL.
Lori Golden, LCSW
An invisible wall protects me
keeps me safe
But I am alone
I long to be seen
I long to be heard
I long to be touched
But my needs are
Like the wall I hide behind