I am 57 and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I rarely divulge details but I will a little more here. Starting from age 14 months (yes MONTHS) until I was 16 I was beaten, burned, drugged, raped and sold. I had a forced illegal abortion when I was 13. Both my parents knew about the abuse; my father participated. I know I am not alone and I am writing this for myself and others like me who are 45 or over.
We suffered before help was available; before rape or childhood abuse was openly discussed except with the most extreme and obvious events. I was raised believing I had worth only for how much work I could do and for how I could satisfy a man. I was raised believing I had no right to say no to anything, to anyone, at anytime. I was raised without a basic belief in the sanctity of human life; even now I have a hard time believing in my worth as a disabled, older, overweight person who cannot work or attract a man. I have tried suicide three time, the earliest at age 3 ( I lit my nightgown on fire) and the last in early 2012 after my (recently brain damaged) husband abandoned myself and my two teen children.
My memories started when I was 32 and I have been in therapy for depression since. Only recently, since the last nonfatal suicide, have I been diagnosed and treated for PTSD.
I have found that I am one of millions, both women and men,in just the US that are under served by the mental health community. We are not recent victims, we can’t claim the flash of emotion that garners the attention of many caregivers. We have had to find ways to survive that caregivers see as successful coping mechanisms needing no attention or get treated for unhealthy coping mechanisms without the medical community realizing the underlying damage. We are outcast for our coping mechanisms: jailed for drug use or alcoholism; judged for lack of parental skills for unplanned, unwanted or even wanted children; we are discriminated against for our weight, judged self reckless and threatened with extra financial burdens for insurance or transportation (esp airlines) and discriminated against in the workplace; we are emotionally disabled and unable to cope with over stressed health, lives, and work. We fill 12 step groups without sometimes even knowing yet ourselves why we are the way we are.
I fell our nation and especially the medical community need to look past our symptoms, past our coping mechanisms and realize that a huge percentage of over 45’s that suffer from what we now know are PTSD symptoms – especially depression, weight problems, substance abuse, relationship problems – that they take as basic causes of our health problems and see them as the PTSD and abuse/rape survivor symptoms that they are.
I finally was diagnosed with PTSD after my last nonlethal suicide. Even then, in long term (1 week) treatment, I was not able to see the PTSD therapists they had on staff because I was not military. One tech broke the rules and introduced me to one PTSD therapist who I now see weekly. She has introduced me to the concept of Post Traumatic Growth, the first words I have heard that make me hopeful for a future not controlled by depression, out of control thinking and low self esteem.
It’s a shame I had to wait this long for proper treatment, but I feel most treatment is aimed at children, youth and young adults. It’s time to recognize that this is not a 1980’s and on problem but one that has existed forever, and certainly for many of our older and elderly adults. We deserve a healthy today and tomorrow.
Written by: Lori B.