Broken

It started when I was 10-years-old. I don’t know exactly when it stopped. I guess when he moved out of the house, or when I moved out of the house. Even though I don’t see on a regular basis anymore, I still battle the after effects everyday.

It happened slowly over time. At first it was just a hug or a kiss or a caress that all just felt like too much. It was a hand up my shirt or down my pants. Nothing that was easily identifiable, just uncomfortable.

He took advantage of my trusting nature. He took advantage of my rule following nature. He took advantage of the trust my parents put in him. He took advantage of the situation in which they left him in charge. He took advantage of me.

He destroyed my confidence. He told me I was worthless.

He destroyed my sense of self. He told me no one would ever love me.

He destroyed my trust. He told me no one would ever believe me.

He left me broken.

I have fought for years to try to rewrite the message that plays in my head: I’m not good enough, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not worthy of love. Some days are better than others in believing it.

But… In my brokenness I have found healing.

In my brokenness I have found strength.

In my brokenness I have found hope.

Through that brokenness, I have used my own pain and experiences to help others. I have been able to help others know that while abuse shouldn’t define who you are, it will always be a part of you.

Through my brokenness I have comforted others and let them know that I understand, and I survived.

Through my brokenness I have been able (I hope) to help a little girl rebuild and redefine herself after a horrible event happened to her.

I think that as hard as it has been, and continues to be, if I can help one other person know that they are not alone, then my brokenness can be used for good.

Tools

Each of us has our own set of tools, our own proverbial toolbox. Throughout out lives we are faced with challenges, opportunities, and experiences, that help shape who we are and provide us with “tools” for our toolbox.

What we do with those tools can help us connect or separate us from others.

Some people use their experiences to separate themselves from others, sometimes positively, and sometimes negatively.

They might use them to make themselves seem more elitist or powerful than they really are. The experiences they had and the opportunities they were given make them somehow better than the average person. That trip abroad, or vacation they took puts them in a class by themselves.

But others use their challenges as ways to differentiate themselves out negatively. More of a “poor me” attitude. No one else could have possibly experienced the same types of trauma that they have. Maybe they had an abusive or absent parent. Maybe it was an illness they or their spouse had that sets them apart. They use their experiences to push others away.

In that case, the experiences become tools of destruction. Each experience is used as a way of separating from others and destroying, rather than building, relationships.

I try to see my experiences in a different way. I try to see each tool in my toolbox as a way for me to connect with others. I try to use my positive experiences, as well as my negative experiences as a way to connect, support and empathize with others.

When I sit down with one of my faculty members, a student, or a parent, I try to use those tools to share an experience and build a relationship with them.

Having a toolbox with tons of “tools” or experiences in it is only beneficial when those tools are used in a constructive way.

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http://www.dreamstime.com/

Relationships

I work with junior high school students. There is one student who I have worked with quite a lot this year. I have been working with her on helping to help her deal with a difficult situation that she faced last year. But sometimes, I think she’s the one helping me.

We were talking today about the abusive and controlling relationship she was in last year. She has worked hard to get beyond this relationship and learn to trust again. But she is currently having a disagreement with her parents about the concept of dating and they are telling her that maybe she shouldn’t be dating at all. Her response to me was that she shouldn’t be punished and not allowed to date anymore because she dated the wrong guy.

As often happens, our conversations typically stay with me long after we have finished talking. I am divorced, actually I’ve been divorced twice and I have just started thinking about dating again. I tend to be a little bit (ok, probably a lot) negative about dating and relationships just assuming that I am not very good at it and I have a bit of a defeatist attitude.

But as I began to reflect on my conversation with this student today I thought that maybe it wasn’t me, but that I picked the wrong guy (s). I shouldn’t “punish” myself or not date again, just because I messed up in the past but that maybe I should give myself another chance and try to learn to trust again.

So rather than give up completely on the idea of finding companionship with someone and closing myself off before really giving it a chance, maybe I need to take a chance on relationships and give myself another try at finding the right guy or at least being open to the idea.