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December 4, 2011

I have written only once about this topic previously (on my blog). Some events are so harrowing, they either shape who we become or we move past them.

Our neighbor molested me when I was young, just eleven years old.

About the age my girl is now.

He was a dad, with girls of his own. It wasn’t just once, and it didn’t just happen to me.

There’s way more to the story that I won’t go into here, except to add that I did testify against him in both civil and military court. He did go to jail. He was also courtmartialed.

This series is about fear. How it shapes us. The impressions it makes on our souls.

What happened happened. I focused on my studies, athletics, family and friends. I never felt this experience held me back in any way, despite knowing it was always there. I didn’t share it with people, of course.

Who wants to talk about something like that?

In my last piece MISTAKE NUMBER FOUR, I discussed the attempted rape I experienced in college. I think my instinctive response to fight back with everything I had was directly related to what happened to me as a child, when I wasn’t able to defend myself against someone so much bigger and stronger than I. 

It wasn’t until I had a daughter of my own that the anxiety set in. I didn’t even realize what was happening, to be honest. I had to return to work and the thought of leaving my precious baby girl with a total stranger (an incredibly sweet woman in my own home, where my husband worked from his home office) caused me to spin into postpartum depression.

My world turned gray.

Though the circumstances were entirely different, taking that leap of faith, trusting someone else not to harm my child as I had been hurt, completely took over my entire thought process, even when I wasn’t consciously thinking about it. It was such a terrible thought, I stopped thinking, stopped functioning in any normal way.

I’ve since learned much about hormones and the havoc they wreak on your body, thoughts, moods, (even sleep!) and how pregnancy (and post-pregnancy) affects all of that. I researched, I read, I got help. I had a wonderful female OB/GYN who immediately recognized what was going on with me and put me on appropriate meds—and sent me to a therapist, pronto.

Given the experiences I’d had in my past, you would think I’d been in therapy my whole life. However, I’d never been before. I’m fortunate that I found someone great, and he has helped me work through much of what I didn’t understand. 

Embracing what you fear most about your past is something many people run from their whole lives—we see it every day with drugs and alcohol. I’m convinced that’s why my ex-love killed himself — his addiction to alcohol and anger stemmed from his rough upbringing. While I dabbled, as most kids do, I never did anything hard and I fortunately don’t have an addictive personality. Unless you count coffee. Then, yea.

Listen, I’m not the poster child for mental health by any means. I recognize when the gray is closing in, when I start to get defensive and turn in on myself. That’s when I take a step back. I retreat. I don’t shout out or attack. I’m steely and I fight back in my own way. I’ve learned to ask for help. 

And I write. I always, always write. With honesty, I give you a glimpse inside my heart.

I own my fear, but my fear does not own me.
On a much lighter note, my new book THE MANCODE: EXPOSED is now available — woot! Please visit Amazon to download your copy for only 99cents this week (no Kindle required — they have free apps for your computer, smartphone, or tablet). 

A WALK IN THE SNARK (also just 99cents this week) has hit #1 on the Kindle Motherhood list wow, eleven or twelve times now. Take that Jenny and Tori with your fake boobs and blonde hair and your millions — ha. Redheads so rock. (Call me.)

You should follow me here, on TwitterFacebook, and Goodreads. I’m the redhead who uses naughty words. 
  1. Great post! I love your honesty and I commend you for tackling these subjects.  Why do we gloss over the hard stuff, internalize is and think we'll be able to work through it alone, silent?  Those are times when we need the most support.  Fear can make us retreat, go to a dark place and paralyze us.  I'm glad you sought help, made it through and are sharing your story!

  2. Landon permalink

    Oh, Rachel. How can I say “sorry” enough times? Even when sexual violence is committed against boys, it's usually still another man doing it and that makes me ashamed of my penis at times. Not being funny, for once. We men have fear, too, whether we admit it or not, but it's so much different than a fear like yours and I won't even try to compare the two. Just so sorry, but glad you're dealing and VERY glad that I've met you. 

  3. Thx Cari — it's something I didn't talk about for years & years. I still don't speak about it much within my own family. We've all moved on. What is there to say? Nobody means for it to happen. It's nobody's fault. As a parent now though, I know I'm hyperaware of who my kids are around. 

    My 6yo son wanted to be dropped off at his best school friend's birthday party yesterday–he wanted to be a big boy & not have a parent there–& I struggled DEEPLY with it. We know the family well & felt it was a safe situation so we let him go for an hour on his own & my husband went for the other hour. These are good people & I had no fear that anything would happen. Truly. 

    But it's stuff like this that many parents probably don't think twice about that trips me up. And maybe that's ok. 


  4. Landon, you are the sweetest heart. It's not your fault, but I appreciate your kind words. xxoo

  5. Becky Sain permalink

    Wow… You are so brave for posting this.

  6. Thx Becky. People say that, and I appreciate it. I guess I feel that as a non-fiction writer, I'm compelled to be honest about certain aspects of what has shaped me. Any stigma attached is unnecessary and that's one of my main goals. {hugs} 

  7. Raine Thomas permalink

    I hope your post reaches out to others who might be in that gray place, Rachel. It's always helpful for people to know they're not alone. Having worked in the field of mental health for more than seven years, I can say that these issues aren't discussed nearly enough. Kudos to you for sharing and overcoming!

  8. KellySGamble permalink

    Very brave piece, Rachel.  I hope it reaches those who need to know they aren't the only ones. Hugs to you.

  9. Hey  –  you,

    Beautiful, brave, tender post.  Sending you some love & adoration  🙂  I truly like your writing.  I do.
    We often do not recognize what IS happening when it is happening. – I wonder if we are meant to.  I believe that connecting the dots is important, is empowering  – do you know Ms,. that your writing is a space/place allowing some/many of us a sacred space to pause, reflect ~ to connect.
    Allowing – Opening –
    an opportunity to move on.
    xo jo

  10. It's appalling and horrific that a man think it's OK to do this – or even knows it's not but does it anyway!

    Your post is really about fear and I can relate to that a little bit. My experience was not sexual, but a divorce. Oh, a divorce? Tonnes of people get divorced and I know it. Most of them aren't divorcing a man with multiple personalities. I didn't know it (and we'd been together ten years) and I had fear afterwards. Not fear of being physically hurt of course, but fear because one moment my life had been ordinary and in control and the next it was careening down the freeway at a brick wall with no brakes. What I feared was that lack of control, that I didn't control how my own life turned out, that things were just done to me and I couldn't stop them. I got panic attacks as a result. I even collapsed in Heathrow airport, hyperventilating to the point the airport staff wanted to call an ambulance.

    I'm not comparing my divorce to molestation, of course not. But the brain is a complex thing and we don't always understand how it responds to our experiences. It IS important not to let the fear own us.

  11. Julia Rachel Barrett permalink

    Powerful post, Rachel. Tough to read.  Been there, done that. 

  12. Thank you, honey. {hugs} and love to you, woman. 

  13. Thank you for your post.  So getting defensive is the first step into the depression?  I never knew that but it certainly explains a lot. I went through abuse from 4 to 16. I can blog & talk about it now, though.

  14. Erica Lucke Dean permalink

    Amazingly courageous post. You are an inspiration to anyone who has had to endure something like this. I can only imagine.

  15. IDK that it's the first step into depression. For me, I find I start becoming that way and it's a sign that things aren't right with ME. It doesn't mean that across the board it's that way for you or everyone else. I don't claim to be a doctor or to diagnose people. Let's make that very clear. 

    I'm so sorry for your abuse. It's so common & I hope you've gotten help, sweets. Talking about it is a freedom in and of itself. xo

  16. Thanks, luv. You are such a beautiful, wonderful friend and I appreciate your lovely, kind words. xxoo

  17. TateTwo permalink

    Understood. Actually, I leaped before I looked about the depression statement.  I understand completely that you might not be a professional but you actually make a lot more sense than most “professionals” I've spoken with.  🙂

    Actually, now that you've so kindly pointed that out, the depression symptoms I experience from time to time make perfect sense.  I get defensive, then anxious.  The next sign (for me) is that I cry at commercials – even the stupid insurance ones. 😛 

    I appreciate the warmth of your response.  I have received counseling and have no problem speaking of the years of abuse from childhood until I met my 2nd husband.  I use a sword and shield when the memories come back but thankfully, that's not as often as it used to be.  Before my husband, my life seems like a bad B movie 🙂  God bless and keep writing.

  18. Thx dearest Jo. Your response is so moving to me. I can only hope that I do all those things. xxoo

  19. Hugs back, groovy girl. xo Your support means the world. 

  20. thx Raine. I hope people will feel free to discuss issues, here or with their friends or family. there's no shame in it. that's my point. there WAS, certainly, when I was too young to process it. but that's gone now. xo

  21. Deep sighs and open hugs… the kind only one survivor can give another. I'm proud of you, sweet friend, for being our voice.

  22. Love this honest post. Thank you for sharing. I would've loved to have read this after I had my daughter too. PPD, especially when preceded by trauma, can be hell and it feels like you must be the only one to feel this way. I too got help, and can realize when the “grey” is starting to sink in. Hugs to you, Rachel.

  23. Amhargrove1 permalink

    While I adore your humorous posts, the last two were truly impactful. I have a 21 year old and it hits home. Thanks for being so candid about your past… It is a difficult thing to do.

  24. Incredible post, and  it makes me admire you even more for who you are. You didn't shut down, though you may have had some dark times. 
    The old saying “we're the sum total of our experiences” is only partially correct, and you're living proof that you took what happened to you and became a stronger person because of it. 


  25. Amazing how many of us there are in the world…Thanks for sharing your experience.  Pregnancy hormones…been there, experienced that!  8 months pregnant with 2 broken legs required that I go through labor and delivery, care for my newborn, toddler, husband and home with casts up to the knee on both legs (one pink and one blue since we didn't know what we were having).  Depression cyclone, anyone???

    I have to talk myself down occasionally, even now if I start thinking about the possibility of my kids getting hurt anywhere near the way I did, and every time I have this conversation (or argument, really) with myself it is right before my cycle or when one is supposed to happen…menopause magnifies everything 5,000 fold, and for this little 'Mama-Drama Queen' that is impressive to see!  Thank God/Buddha/The Universe/etc. my family is used to it, and would know I was really messed up if I weren't dramatic.

    Cheers to keeping things real, and fun, and real fun! 

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