Footprints of a Survivor is a weekly column written by Kim Mukwa, a survivor of childhood physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Each week, she reveals the layers of pain she lived through, the damage it caused and the steps she is taking to heal emotionally.
I have a photograph of myself in a pretty little outfit and beautiful smile to go with it. But as I look at it, even now I try to recall what was happening during that time and realise that maybe the abuse could have been going on during the time the photo was taken. Nonetheless, all I have with me is the shame of it all – the shame that has caused me to build fortresses around me as a way of protecting myself from further hurt and pain.
The thing is that even if the abuse has ended, it replays in your mind for a very long time, even the rest of your life, because they are memories of actual events. Without realizing it, you live a life of reacting to what happened to you without even realizing it.
With me, I lashed out by engaging in rampant sexual behaviour. I was just a mess, trying to find love in all the wrong places with people that were also broken and confused like I was. After sex, I felt dirty and used and vowed to never do it again, but because I was a mess, the cycle went on.
I attempted suicide once. I just took some meds that were lying around. As I waited to die, I experienced every ill emotion that I had ever felt. I was ready to leave this world at 17 years old. After this attempt, I never attempted it again. It’s something that now just plays out in my head when I am wrung out and I am dealing with it.
One of my coping mechanisms is the weeping I go through every now and again. I just find myself a teary mess and ask myself why it happened to me. Why couldn’t I have been one of the many that had happy childhoods? These are questions with no answers.
I am ashamed of everything that happened to me because I never had a normal childhood save for a few years when I lived with my grandfather. I do not blame myself for what happened because it was not my fault, but I do regret some of the choices I have made in my life. At the same time, I was just reacting to the bad situations that had happened. I don’t know if what I am saying makes sense at all…
If there is one thing that I am grateful for, it is the grace of God that has enabled me to deal with my internal turmoil, which has tormented me for years. Hey, I still do experience the hurt and shame of it all, but I know now that it was not my fault that someone had it in their mind to use a child to fulfill their sick and twisted fetish or attempt to bludgeon the side of my head with a tool. It was not me but them.
I have to forgive them in order to forgive myself for the dangerous ways I reacted to the trauma. I am now in the process of giving them back the shame that I have lugged around for years. Like an onion, I am peeling off one layer at a time, peeling off the shame, pain, rage, pity and hate I feel inside.
The love of God and His Word has made it possible for me to begin letting go of it all. Even though I sometimes feel the need to hold on to it, I know that for the sake of my mental health, it’s imperative that I continue unpeeling the layers every single day in order to become the best and truest version of myself.
A few days ago, we were talking about the house where the sexual abuse occurred, and I just felt that I could never return to live in it because I know it will trigger something in me. It occurred to me that it was something I had to do as a way of working out the pain and shame. I will surely let you know when I decide to return to that house.
As the Bible says, everything works out for the good of them that love the Lord. I know that what I went through and how I am dealing with it will become a survival guide to someone who is experiencing the same.
Until next week, it’s bye for now.