Dear Dr. Archer,
My life has been a horror story. My first memory is of my mother dropping me on the ground and kicking me out of the way. Whenever I looked to her for comfort or protection, she'd kick or shove me, and tell me not to touch or come near her.
She told me repeatedly she should not have had me, that she should have had an abortion. On more than one occasion she told me I should do a favor for the family and kill myself.
I tried that at age 9, but was found by a family friend. I was beaten for days after I was returned home because of the embarrassment my family felt.
My father was a violent alcoholic who took pleasure in torturing me both physically and mentally. My brother and sister were both sexually abusive towards me, and my parents knew about it. I was told I deserved everything that was done to me.
I was raped, tortured, burned, cut, beaten, tied up for days, locked in closets and crawl spaces, starved, and at times left lying in my own blood and fluids because I was too weak to get up and clean myself.
I was once raped by a family friend and three months later, found out I was pregnant. My parents beat me so severely I miscarried, and there was so much damage the doctor said I'd never be able to have children.
I had one relationship in my 20's which was a duplication of what I lived through as a child. When he left me, I attempted my second suicide. I'm now in my late 40's and struggle with self abuse, self hate, feelings of worthlessness and uselessness.
I can't even recall one happy memory or one thing that would bring a smile to my face. I think about suicide every day and, honestly, I don't know what keeps me from completing the act.
I have scars from my childhood and scars that have been self-inflicted. Some are so bad I can't wear short sleeves or shorts, even on the hottest days. I've been hospitalized because of my tendencies to harm myself.
Presently I'm on a cocktail of antidepressants and antipsychotics which seem to quiet the voices in my head and help me feel more in control, but I never feel like a person, like a living, breathing human being.
I have no contact with my family. I've moved several times because I'm afraid they will find me and the torture will begin all over again. I know I will never be normal. The world frightens me; everything is a danger and harmful. People terrify me, I have no friends and I don't trust anyone enough to let them get to know me.
I have no reason to get up each day, yet I continue to do so with no understanding as to why. The concepts of friendship, relationships, love, comfort and compassion don't have meaning for me.
Is it too late? Am I too damaged to even hope for something better? Something good?
It is never, ever too late to make a change for the better and you should never, ever give up hope. You will overcome this -- you will!
You have experienced such abuse and tragedy in your past, you could be bitter, angry and defeated, and yet, Emily, I do not sense that in your letter at all. I sense a quiet, gentle, yet strong reserve and a dignity that few possess.
Even though you may not think so, it is possible to find happiness. Many who suffered horrendous childhood abuses are overly hard on themselves, feeling they will never be successful or at peace, but an abusive childhood does not define a life.
The past can and must be put to rest. You have the power to do so once you decide that is what you should do.
I can tell you are a wonderful person. You are who you are, Emily, and no one will ever be able to take that away from you. You are a good person that had a bad childhood, but that can be overcome.
The first step, difficult as it can be, is to let go of any blame and anger you may have. That’s right. It’s time to forgive….not for them, rather for you. They are responsible for their own actions, and you are only responsible for yours. In order to move forward you must let the past go -- that was then, this is now.
You're free from them, Emily. They may not have been good to you, but you can be good to yourself. Knowledge is power, and we're never too old to learn.
The Experience Project is a place where people share their stories, much like what you did here, with others who have had similar experiences. To share stories with others who understand and have been there, can bring peace and comfort into your life. I also want you to check out HAVOCA, which provides information, support and advice for adults who were abused as children. You are a very strong woman, I can tell. Put that power into yourself, Emily. The worst is behind you, and the best is what you make of it from this point on.
You are the master of your mind, heart and life. You can have a long, loving and harmonious relationship with yourself and others. Read about others who overcame their own childhood abuse here on my website:
Never, ever take your eyes off your goal to be happy, Emily. You can do it. I know you can. All the best.