When I was 7, I was sexually assaulted by two teenage boys. It wasn’t as severe as some other people have experienced, but looking back I can see it was a pivotal moment in my life that shifted my behaviour and my way of thinking.
The details of what happened are not important. What is, is that after it happened, I didn’t tell anyone.
I don’t know why I kept silent. I had the best parents in the world. And I know that if I had told them, they would have helped.
I had actually forgotten about this incident. I had buried it deep down inside and had covered it with so many layers of mistreatment and hurt that it wasn’t until these last few years of investing in my mental well being and most recently seeking treatment for PPD that it all fully came out.
When that memory resurfaced it became clear that an abundant of damaging behaviour soon followed it.
As a teenager and into my late 20s, I developed a dependence on mentally abusive and sometimes physically abusive men. Men who used me. Men who sexually assaulted me. Men who put me in such scary situations that I look back now and question how I am even here today.
And I hid it all. From my family and friends. From the good guys that I dated. From my therapist. From everyone.
I covered it by looking happy, or strong, or committed to be positive. But inside, I suffered with so much pain.
But that’s not what I want this post to be about. What I want to write and share with you is that even though we all have a story to share, it’s important that we reflect on them, no matter how painful, so we can learn and help our children so they don’t suffer as we did.
When I was a child, I never learned how to talk about the things that were truly hurting me. It was just expected for me to know how to speak if something was wrong. If I scraped my knee, for sure I’d say something. But if I was feeling something inside that made me uneasy, I didn’t know how to communicate it. And because I never communicated it, I somehow convinced myself that that’s how I’m suppose to be treated. And it all escalated from there.
So I’m writing today, to express how important it is for us as mothers and stepmothers, to be our children’s advocates when it comes to mental health.
We need to show them how to speak up when they’re feeling sad or scared. Speak up when they’re happy. Speak up when they don’t know what they’re feeling.
We need to ask them the right questions and help them connect their feelings to events.
We need to empower them to speak their mind and teach them that saying phrases like “I don’t like it” is NOT a bad thing.
We need to explain that being positive is a fantastic mindset, but sometimes, really shitty things happen and we need to look at the problem logically to get our minds through it.
We need to put our ego aside and understand that in order to help them they may need other resources like a therapist to work through things.
Our kids need to feel supported all of the time – even when they fuck up. And they need to know they have a safe space to talk about things – with no judgement.
The more they feel supported when shit hits the fan, the more they will trust that they can come to us when things are not OK, or even a little bit off. Because it’s the little things that can quickly get out of hand.
It’s important, it’s so fucking important, that we connect with them. That we break down that expectation or assumption that they know how to communicate everything that is going on in their brain. Especially in this digitally immersed world where we are judged by likes and comments. Where it’s easier for them to hide in the dark, or create fake identities, or to feel not worthy.
Our children are the future, and their mind and mental well being is worth investing in.