TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains childhood sexual abuse. 

Somebody once told me “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. Those people only experience hard times every so often. Maybe a small setback in life, a bump in the road to that promotion you worked so hard for. “Never mind, you will get it next time” they tell you. It could be a kid breaking his leg, right before an important hockey tournament. Both of these are “tough” to handle at the time but you know that things will get better. Your mind is prepared for things to get back to normal again and you are usually surrounded by loving family and friends. You have support.

When suffering from chronic child abuse, the pain is constant. It doesn’t go anywhere and you as a child cannot leave because it is happening to you in your home. The hurt and the pain is happening behind closed doors and it’s like being in prison without visitors or any chance of parole. You are completely alone and you have no support and no love. Most often it gets worse, and you may be like I was, locked up in a dark room and restrained. I was completely stuck and without being able to see, I was terrified of what was coming next. In those moments I let my mind run away into a happier place. This is called dissociation where you separate your mind from reality into a different place. It is something a lot of abused kids do because the reality is just too frightening and painful. Sometimes I used to hum and sing quietly to myself letting the vibration in my throat soothe me.

If the abuse is physical and/or sexual in nature, you often have injuries and bruises in places where other kids don’t get “hurt”. You know this because no one talks about it. If the abuser is a parent, they will not take you to the ER for an STD. That would implicate them, so you are left to suffer. I had several STD’s and it was so bad that I couldn’t go to the bathroom. In the end, it was one of my teachers who saw my distress and got my “mom” to reluctantly take me to the hospital. This happened more than once and each time the doctors treated me and sent me back home for more abuse.

I was an active and expressive kid. Most often I was in a “fawn” state which means I was trying to be invisible and do what I had been told. I was hiding from my abusers and staying out of my parent’s way. I practiced not making any noise at all while hiding under my bed or at the back of my closet. If my so-called father was working and “mom” was busy, I would play in my room. I liked to draw, play with my Legos, teddies, and my cars. I also liked to make up stories about what I had seen and been through. At the time they were just stories that I played and acted out in my room. I didn’t know what I was doing.

Once I got a bit older, I could go outside on my own. It was like being set free!  I grew up on the edge of a big city and I was lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with lots of kids. To begin with, I was scared of everyone and I used to sit and watch the other kids play in the playground or on the street. I often ran off to be alone and make my own games whilst coming back to secretly watch the other kids play. I enjoyed making superhero suits and my imagination was my escape. I would be outside for hours, only coming in for something to eat when I was hungry. That was the way back in the ’80s. Kids would be outside all the time without their parents.

The other kids started taking an interest in me. They came up to me and asked me questions and if I wanted to play. I didn’t know “how” so I just stood and watched them. I had a red trike that I loved riding on the road outside our apartment. I think I must have been about 4 years old. A few of the other kids asked me to race them and after a few races, I started winning. I was just too fast and it felt great! Once I made a few friends, more kids came to our road and asked to race the “new kid”.

As I grew older, I got braver and went further away from our apartment into the small wood in the park. My parents separated and lived on opposite sides of the city. I now had two new places to make friends and play. When I was outside I made friends easily now that I knew how to do it. My friends became my escape. I could be a kid again and forget about my life for a while. I got to climb trees, play sports, and explore the parks and even the forests nearby. My parents had no clue where I was, so long as I was back by a set time. I got to play at my friend’s apartments and yards but I could never ask any of them to come into my apartment. This meant that I had to make excuses for my parents. I always made up that they were working or asleep. I had no idea if that was true and I was not going to find out.

There were times when I tried to run away but I soon learned not to as the abuse got much worse. After all, I had nowhere to go. I was just a scared kid. I would be in pain for days afterward from the punishments. I was so hurt once from the handcuffs biting my wrists that I had trouble holding my arms up to hold my pencil at school.

School was my refuge. It was somewhere I could go and relax during the day, knowing that I would not get hurt. I got a homecooked meal each day and not feeling hungry felt so nice. The routine of each day was my comfort. I knew what was going to happen next unlike at home where I was scared to death. I also made more new friends and it opened my world up a bit more. My parents were happy to let me go to sports and games clubs after school and I got to try new things which made my body stronger. It made me want to learn more new things.


As an adult, I cut my family off and left. I started my life the way I wanted to live. I worked hard during the day and put myself through night school. As I explored, tested, and discovered new things, I started journaling. It got me through the first few years. I was good at soccer and street hockey and I joined some youth club teams when I had some free time. I started making more friends and I could lean on them for support when times got tough. My friends could see that I needed help in certain areas which I had never known, like opening my first bank account. I had no idea what a bank account was. Until I started earning my own wages, I had no need for a bank account. Being a grown-up is different from being a child. I learned that my friends cared about me and that I could ask for help if I needed it. This was all new to me. I had never asked for help before. There were so many pieces of paperwork to fill in to get a job and get medical insurance. I never knew either of those existed. With my friends there to support me, I moved from strength to strength. I realised that now that I had my own money, I could buy myself new clothes and things that I wanted.

I always sought nature and the outdoors when I was a kid. In my adult life, the outdoors made a big part of my life too. I made time to go out to the park and sit and read and write. I went hiking in the mountains with friends and I loved running. I enrolled in lots of different classes, and I spent most of my evenings out rather than home alone. It was a way to connect with my friends away from work and my social network grew, as did my confidence!

Do you have someone you can lean on when you are feeling down? Someone you can share a coffee with on a cold rainy day and talk to? Who is your person? Be kind to yourself because you deserve it. You have come this far and you can make it all the way. I could do it and so can you!

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