On Sharing and Transparency

I want to add a warning to this blog. There is graphic material contained within having to do with childhood sexual abuse. Please, do not read this if it is going to be a trigger for you.

Every time I share a blog I am showered with positive comments. Many people thank me for sharing such intimate details of my life. I tend to be extremely transparent and it’s taken me some time to figure out why I have little difficulty sharing to the depth I do. I say little because there are still things that I am not ready to talk about due to shame and guilt. I have faith that I will get there eventually, though.

Growing up, as I have written about here and there, was hell for me. So much so, I am often amazed I have turned out as well balanced as I have. There are years of unbalanced living in my past but, now, I can say I am proud of who I have become. When you know the truth of the obstacles I have faced and overcome you will understand. Or, maybe not. I write so I can understand myself. Having others appreciate my growth is less important. 

My life was irreversibly changed when I was four years old. 

I lived with my mother, father, sister, and an uncle in a suburb of Boston MA. As a quick background . . . my maternal grandmother died at a relatively early age due to complications from alcoholism. There were underage brothers and sisters of my mother when her mother passed. I’ve been told that because my mother was the oldest of the children it fell upon her to “make arrangements” for her younger siblings. This is why her brother, Ted, came to live with us when I was a toddler.

At this time Ted was in his late teens if I am remembering correctly. Around this time, my father had an affair and had moved out of the house. Babysitting fell upon my uncle, Ted, so my mother could work. This gave him unfettered access to me, unfortunately. I believe I was his first victim but I’ll never know.

I do know the first time I remember inappropriate behavior . . . my uncle was not the only one in the room. He had an audience. An audience of a few of his friends. I don’t remember their faces. They are merely dark shadowy shapes sitting on the couch. My uncle was in an armchair facing a wall full of windows. I was standing in the room. The windowed wall was to my left. In front of me was the couch holding two or three young men. To my right was my uncle. His pants were zipped down and he was playing with himself. I remember feeling uncomfortable and crying. He motioned me over with his left hand as his right kept rubbing himself. When I was close enough he grabbed my head with the hand he’d beckoned me with and forced my mouth onto his penis. Even at four I remember knowing how wrong it was. Glancing at the others I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t stop him. To this day I can not figure out how monsters like that find each other. 

That incident, and the dozens that happened in the following years, ground me down. I can still hear the words, carried on breath that smelled of an ashtray and alcohol, that he whispered into my young ears as he lay on top of me. “No one will ever love you. You are never going to be worth anything more than sex.”.There are days when his words still bang around inside my head and smash any thoughts of self worth I’ve nurtured to fullness. I hate that this is the truth . . . but it is. 

The truth that matters here is I have been able to overcome most of what happened to me as a child. In fact, I have used my childhood sexual trauma to reach depths of strength most people never have to access in their lifetime. When Becca was killed I had to reach down and find that reserve of strength again. Somehow, in my fog, I knew it was there. But, that’s a different blog.

My uncle, the child molester, was also an arsonist. 

When I was five he set the house on fire while we were all in it. My sister and I were already in bed when Ted ran upstairs. He scooped up my sister in his arms then grabbed my hand and pulled me out of bed. He’d set the fire under the back porch and it had spread to the basement. My feet could feel the heat through the wooden stairs as I hurried down to the first floor. I remember my mother panicking, we raced away from the house because there was a propane tank that was going to blow up, and firemen hurrying everywhere. My uncle just kept hold of my hand and held my baby sister. I often question why he saved us.

That wasn’t the last time his propensity for arson affected our lives. He liked to set kittens on fire in order to make us keep quiet about his abuse. I was told this would happen to my family if I ever said a word. Why would I have doubted him when he’d almost killed us once before?

Do you know what I learned to do? Keep my mouth shut. At all costs . . . keep it all hidden. I remember a day when Ted was watching all of us girls. Six or seven of us in total. There was a little house set behind a larger house across the street from where my cousins lived on Dwight St. One of my aunts, Ted’s sister, lived there. I am not sure where our moms were but he was left in charge of us for the afternoon. One by one, he took us into an upstairs bedroom. I knew what was happening when one of my cousins was called into the house but I didn’t say anything. I wonder if we all knew. Were we all molested? Did any of us get through those years unscathed. I don’t know. And, might never know because we don’t talk about it. 

I was conditioned to NEVER TALK ABOUT IT.

When you don’t talk about things they can never be healed. Or, understood.

I spent decades being quiet about things. Years were lived just surviving. I carried so much pain, deep down inside, for so long that when Becca was killed I knew I didn’t have the strength to carry more, silently. I didn’t realize this immediately after her death, of course, but in the years since I’ve come to understand that I can not live with untold pain inside of me. It is not that I want pity. I don’t. I want release and healing. I want lightness. 

I want understanding from those who love me. Who matter to me. I don’t ever want my actions or silence to cause another person pain. So, instead, I continuously share. 

As I said in the beginning of this blog . . . I am often complimented on my willingness to share the private details of my life. But, do you know what I remember more often? The few people who comment, disapprovingly, on the fact that I am too transparent. As if I am doing something wrong. Or, looking for attention. Or, pity. Or, worst of all, I’m somehow broken. 

I’m not broken. I am being fixed.

Holding everything in doesn’t make one strong. Being stoic is not necessarily an attribute to aspire toward. Keeping quiet creates a barrier between yourself and the rest of the world. A world that holds the people who will support you. When you are removed from others you are fashioning a space in which you are completely alone and this can lead to exacerbated pain and hurt. I think, and have learned, healing will not take place in an empty world. 

This is why I share. And, share. And, will continue to share. If my openness bothers you then maybe you should take the time for some self reflection and figure out why. You may be missing out on the support and love you need in order to find healing within yourself. 

Connect with each other. Say the things that need to be said. Listen to the words that need to be heard. Share your stories. Honor the storyteller. Just listen when someone talks. Without judgement. Engage with each other.

I’ll keep sharing. I have to. It heals me. 

Author: Diane Neas

I'm a mother, artist, and writer. A decade ago I lost my daughter. I find writing, and painting, heal me. Sharing my story of loss and healing lightens what I carry. And, hopefully, my words help another along the way.

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