by Shana Nizeul
I’ve always felt like everyone could see it. See the dirty things that were done to me all those years ago- see the shame and the pain that I’ve felt for most of my life. And see the big Scarlett M that is forever burned into me.
Some people have scars on the outside, they wear them everyday and everyone can see. However, it’s the emotional scars, the ones that no one can see, that are the most hurtful. We try to hide these scars, putting on a brave face so no one can see that we are hurting. I know, because I have also done that for most of my life. There are things that happen, that can never be undone. They can never be taken back. And those things will haunt us forever.
I never told anyone what happened to me until much later in life. I was too ashamed and embarrassed. This man that I knew, who everyone thought was an amazing man, just wasn’t. For his own sick pleasures and fantasies, he took something from me that I can never get back. He took my childhood. That is something that no one should ever have to give up. For 3 years, my elementary school gym teacher took advantage of, used, and scarred me for life.
He used to take me out of class to demonstrate gymnastics to the gym classes, and keep me after my regular class to “help put away the mats”. It was the 80’s, and the standards were a lot more relaxed back then. No one really thought much of a gym teacher hanging out with his students. I guess they never really thought much about the “hot buns” birthday spankings he gave out on a regular basis either.
I will never forget the first time he molested me. It was backstage in our elementary school gym, on the blue wedge mat that we used all the time during class. I will never forget that mat, or the blue and purple leotard that I was wearing. And I will especially never forget the way the top of his head looked while he was down there, between my legs.
I know reading this will make most of you cringe, and rightfully so. It is a horrible thing to think about- that a grown man would ever do that to a child. Well, this is what happened to me. This is my scar to carry. I will never be able to forget the things that he did to me. I can never remove these memories from my mind, or even attempt to forget what happened. But forgetting really isn’t the healthy thing to do with any of it. Is it? But forgetting is what I wanted to do, and before I could heal, I had to punish myself first. Because the hate you feel for yourself from a sexual trauma is raw and real. And I can tell you that I hated myself for a very long time.
I self medicated with alcohol and mindless sex to feel numb. So I could forget the awful things that happened to me. The things that have quietly shaped who I am. When you equate sex with love, then your view is totally warped. For me, sex was love, but it never really meant anything. There was something so broken inside of me, and I never let anyone get truly close. Some days I felt good, and some days I felt really sad and angry. The insecurity that followed me around was like a black cloud. There was this deep need to be found attractive by men. To feel wanted.
The thing is, when you are violated on such a deep level, at such a young age, it so hard to trust anyone. You don’t even know how to love another person at that point. Trust is such a delicate thing, and faith in another person is even more fragile. To show another person your scars is terrifying. For them, it’s hearing the experience for the first time. But for me, it’s happening all over again, and I feel the shame every time. That is what has kept me from talking about it openly, and why up until now, only a handful of the closest people in my life knew.
It wasn’t until I was 30 years old that I decided to get help. This thing had eaten away so much of my life already, and I decided that I couldn’t let it win another second. The first person I told was my now husband. I told him everything, and you know what? He still loved me. He stayed with me through the crying, the self-hatred, and the years of talk therapy, to get to where I am now mentally. I no longer hate myself, and I even love some things about me. But one of the most important things I’ve learned is, that I am responsible for my happily ever after.
I slowly told all of the important people in my life, and that was almost 4 years ago. I still go for talk therapy sessions every other month to keep stock of my life and feelings. I will always react to certain situations in the way an abuse survivor would, and sometimes, I even still jump when I’m touched. I really don’t think that those things are ever going to go away. This is what I live with because of my scars.
When people tell you that life’s too short, it’s mostly because they have regrets and they know they can never go back. There is no magic time machine to bring you resolution. All you can do is work out your problems and feelings, to fix your current situation. My life now is beyond what I had dreamed. I have actual love in my life, with a husband who supports and understands me. My family and friends are a wonderful support system, and it is because of them and talking everything out that I have overcome. My Scarlett M has healed over, and while I’ll never be perfect, I am whole again.