Tag Archives: CSA survivor

When Your First Kiss Causes a Full-Blown Panic Attack


By Ryan Moreno

Photo source: Unsplash.com/Ryan Moreno

Do first kisses usually cause panic attacks?

I don’t mean a heart-racing-weak-in-the-knees anticipation kind of feeling, either. I mean a full-blown, honest-to-God panic attack.

Thought I didn’t realize it at the time, mine did. The muscle memory is still with me. My heart is hammering my chest just from the memory. I remember the physical sensations, the thoughts that ran through my head and the emotional upheaval as clearly as if it’d happened only yesterday:

Sweat beaded my lip and brow, and ran its cool fingers down my spine. I was so flushed, my body was burning up. I hyperventilated and my heart beat so hard I thought it would jump out of my chest (due to a heart condition, when I’m having a panic attack, I can look down and literally SEE my heart pounding). It felt like I was on a roller coast (I LOVE roller coasters, but I didn’t love this one – it felt more like drowning), and the contents of my stomach were threatening imminent reappearance. This was my first kiss panic attack. I was 15.

It took him hours to wear me down. Maybe days. That part is kind of hazy. He was also 15, but either much more experienced or simply more confident than I. He was persistent and wore me down. That I was quite attracted to him might’ve helped to tip the scales in his favor. Even while we were kissing – French, of course 😉 – my heart ran a marathon. That fight or flight syndrome. I didn’t know what to do, how to handle the sensations running through me. I let him take the lead and he devoured me.

Kissing came easier after that. Until a few weeks later when I became uncomfortable with him slidding his hand up my skirt and attempting to fondle my breasts. He called me a prude. I’d never been called that before and had to find a dictionary. When I told my mother he’d called me a prude, she said I should be proud of that. At 15, I was just as uncomfortable with the idea of being a prude as I was with his hands on the covered parts of my body.

I don’t know if he really was looking to “score” or just wanted to fool around a little. After establishing my “prudishness,” he quickly lost interest. And I became a subtle stalker. I didn’t have the confidence to confront him, so I prank-called his house multiple times, wrote a lot of bad poetry, broke a few of my figurines, and cried. It wasn’t the first time – nor would it be the last – I cried over a male who didn’t deserve my tears.

I hated to say no to him…when I was younger I had that “want to please everyone” personality. I hated confrontation. It made me sick to my stomach. But at the same time, I was willful and stubborn. Great tug-o-war combo. I still sometimes struggle with wanting to make everyone else happy. But I’m less afraid of confrontation.

Something inside wouldn’t let me say yes to him…So I was a prude. Until I was 19. A guy I’d known for several years (my brother’s best friend, in fact), who was a couple years younger than me, said the right words, at the right time, and wooed me in just the right way…I let him in where another male hadn’t been since my CSA 15 years before (I talk about that HERE.) Eventually, this younger guy became abusive and the end of our relationship was a disaster and emotionally traumatic for me…but that’s another story for another time…

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Filed under Anxiety, Blogging, Life, Mental Health, Musings, Survivors, Writing

Guest Post: This is the Reason Writing Your Story Helps You Thrive by Rachel Thompson


Photo source: Unsplash.com/Milada Vigerova

Photo source: Unsplash.com/Milada Vigerova

I tell people right away that I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, but I didn’t used to. I held that shame and fear of judgment in tightly for years, a filmy veil of anxiety separating me from everyone else. I didn’t feel I could really get close to friends or even lovers, always holding back this ugly secret. If anyone saw the real me, the tainted, used me, they wouldn’t want to pursue any kind of relationship.

It’s a common mindset after trauma – to be in victim mode and not even realize it. Total nonsense, of course, because I’m awesome. Ha! But this is what shame tells you, one of many horrific stories we learn to believe.

Therapy and meds helped me a lot to overcome those lies, but the damage is incredibly deep, it never truly leaves us. I moved from victim to survivor, but it took a lot of work, and if I’m totally honest with you right now, I still argue with myself sometimes; I minimize, or tell myself that it could’ve been worse, which is just so incredibly fucked up. How much worse would it have to be? I was only 11 when a man stole away my childhood…and then he came back for more.

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Cathryn Lavery

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Cathryn Lavery

Eventually, I found the courage to write and share my story, despite the voices in my head telling me to shut the hell up, that nobody would care to read about yet another victim, that talking about something that happened 30-plus years ago would be seen by total strangers as a pathetic bid for attention (when truly, who cares? It’s my story, dammit, and I matter).

I moved beyond surviving into thriving. Writing, no publishing, my story, became such a huge part of my recovery, I truly had no idea the impact on so many others and myself.

That’s where I changed my paradigm and fooled that wretched little voice: I made friends with Shame. She’s been with me longer than almost anyone, and she has a lot to say, too. So, I let her speak, and Broken Pieces was born. I released it in 2013 and it’s still #1 on Amazon’s Women’s Poetry list, #2 on Women Authors, and Top 20 in all of Memoirs, which blows me away.

It’s won gosh, like 10 awards, but more importantly gave rise to a huge community of survivors, and that means more to me than anything else! #SexAbuseChat (every Tuesday at 6pm pst/9pm est) on Twitter with survivor and licensed therapist Bobbi Parish, the #NoMoreShame Project Anthologies (published by the Gravity Imprint of Booktrope), and a 100+ person strong private survivor support group I moderate on Facebook are all the result of that first book. So is the Gravity Imprint!

Broken Places followed in 2015, with more amazing reviews, awards, and top rankings. I’m writing the final Broken book now, Broken People, for a Winter release from Booktrope. Apparently, Shame still has more to say.

I’m still just as busy as ever with writing, business, publishing, my advocacy work for other survivors, and most importantly, being a mom. Beyond surviving, I’m now thriving, though with occasional triggers, I stumble my way back.

My kids vaguely know something bad happened when I was younger – my son will be 11 in September. He’s very protective of his mama, and I love that about him. I’m raising him to be respectful of all women, including his almost-17-year-old sister with whom he bickers constantly over the Xbox and Squeakers, our girl cat. He has a lot of females in the house to learn from!

The lessons are there, though, and that’s what matters; I tell them both often, “you get what you give, and you give what you get.” Give mad, get mad; give compassion, get compassion. Him: Give money, get money? Me: Welcome to Capitalism (and book marketing).

I survived, and now I thrive, because I give what I get.

**********************************************

Rachel-Thompson1Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released Broken Places (one of IndieReader’s “Best of 2015” top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. Rachel is published and represented by Booktrope.

She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, bitrebels.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly.

Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and the live Twitter chat, #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish. She is also the director of the Gravity Imprint for Booktrope, bringing stories of trauma and recovery (fiction and nonfiction) to life. Read more about the Gravity authors and their books here.

She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

Author Site: rachelintheoc.com
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Filed under Anxiety, Blogging, Booktrope, Depression, Gravity Imprint, Guest Post, Life, Literary, Mental Health, Published, Survivors, Writing

I Still Remember…


Trigger Warning: Memories of Childhood Sexual Abuse

 

Stronger Than You Think2 cropped graphicI still remember my first sexual encounter. I was 4 years old. I remember every detail, as if I was a spectator, rather than the child. I don’t remember the physical sensations, but I do remember every word spoken, every scene enacted. Since it’s with me more than 35 years later, with more clarity than any other moment in my life, this must be the definition of trauma.

In reading fellow Booktrope author Rachel Thompson‘s memoirs about surviving her own childhood sexual abuse (CSA) trauma – Broken Pieces and its sequel Broken Places – for the first time a couple of months ago, many of her essays and poems struck a cord within me as a fellow survivor of CSA. My experience was different than Rachel’s, but some of the demographics are the same; my abuser was also someone I knew, though he was a child himself (8 years older than I) and the abuse occurred only once. Probably because my parents, and his, put the fear of God into him. But it didn’t stop him, only kept him away from ME. I know of at least one other girl, a good friend of mine, who he sexually abused, perhaps more than once; we didn’t discuss it much, even when we grew up. My abuse was also in the late 70s, at a time when such occurrences weren’t talked about.

Unlike Rachel, I never strove for perfection (I was always awkward. Still am, a bit, come to think of it.) or became a straight-A student (Geometry was my high school nemesis). I did, however – as I can see from the distance of 25 years – suffer from depression as a teenager, which probably contributed to me becoming an introvert (I still have to give myself pep talks  sometimes in order to interact with people in a crowd), who writes sometimes dark and depressing poetry. This was recently confirmed by my therapist, who also confirmed that my sexual “acting out” as a child was a direct result of that one incident, experimenting with both boys and girls, well into my teenage years. I’m not sure why it stopped then. Perhaps because at that point I realized I could get pregnant and knew I wasn’t ready for that.

I never forgot my experience. Not Innocence cropped graphicTo this day, I can remember every minutiae, as if holding a magnifying glass on the scene, every word that was spoken down to the image that goes with it. It’s almost as if it was another little girl, another blonde, green-eyed, 4-year-old pixie of a girl experiencing that and me watching and cringing, helpless to do anything to stop it. Then again, watching that same little girl seeking out that same experience with other children.

Later, when I was about 10 years old, I had a crush on this same boy who abused me, with whom I went to church and school (K-12) for years. Until he married and moved away. I saw myself as sick, that I would crush on someone who would victimize a child – only I didn’t think of it in those terms until I reached adulthood. All I knew was that I was ashamed to have tender feelings toward him, and didn’t understand the why of any of it. I’ve always wondered, but never asked: did she, the woman he married, know what he’d done? They’re divorced now, have been for many years. And when out of the blue, my parents received a Christmas card from him and his new wife “Wendy,” that’s the first time I remember having a “trigger” – it really scared me…as nothing had prior to that in a long time… Was he trying to say something? Send a message? Why did he marry a woman with MY name?

Was this why I became introverted? (How to make friends when you’re carrying around this huge secret.) Why books became my best friends? (Books cannot hurt or betray you.) Why as a teenager I would stare for hours at the ceiling above me? Why for years I couldn’t sleep in the dark or without my stuffed animals? Why I would shut myself inside my bedroom and throw my Birthday Girl figurines – I had all of them at one time; none of them survived – against my bedroom walls until they shattered into tiny pieces? Why the calm descended after each of those girls shattered? (Throwing things and hearing them break against a wall is very soothing. Cleaning up after yourself, not so much.) Were they ceramic substitutes for my own body? I had too much survival instinct, or else too much fear of hell to attempt suicide (though one summer spent with my cousins on our grandparents’ farm in Texas, I carried a thick rope, and when I was alone, would twist it tightly round my neck) – raised in a conservative Christian household, I learned from a very young age that suicide is a sin…and there’s no repenting THAT sin.

cropped-cropped-cropped-Stigma-Fighters-V1Though I’ve never really been secretive about this, I’ve not made it a regular part of my conversations, either. Since becoming friends with so many other writers – collectively known as Stigma Fighters – who, like me, live daily with some form of mental health issue, and who have become such inspirations to me through their bravery and selflessness in sharing their stories and their encouragement, I knew I needed to be brave enough to share some of the darkness within my own soul, in hopes of lending my support – and the occasional hug – to others like us.

 

(Stigma Fighters logo used by permission. The lines of poetry in the graphics are my own.)

 

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