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Let's Talk About it. Question & Answers from 4 Part Series on Personal Trauma.

1. What motivated you to get to a place to be able to talk about it or now share it with the world on your blog? You can never fully be yourself if you are not at peace with all of you. The good, the bad, the ugly down to the most painful. It got in the way of me truly living. In the way of me letting the love of my life in. It became a major problem in our relationship, and I didn't want to lose him. I also didn't want to give these people this kind of power over me because most of the time the abuser goes on living their lives and the victims are left in this turmoil to figure out how to be and feel normal. When it happens as many times as it did to me you even lose your sense of what normalcy is. I had to educate myself to truly learn what normal was and what it should look and feel like. Talking about it became therapy. 2. I'm sorry this happened to you, are you ok? It's because I'm ok that I have the courage to write my story and share it with the hope that it will help someone heal or help people care enough to ask when they see the signs. So yes, I'm ok. 3. How do you think your past, as it relates to the trauma you shared, impacts you now as a mother? As you will see in upcoming blog posts that I'll share, every decision I've made in my parenting journey has been influenced by my trauma in some shape or form. That's one of the reasons I shared the series early on because it will make the other articles make more sense and help you understand why what some considered simple decisions weren't so simple for me. It's hard to go through something like that and it does not have an impact on you. 4. Were you ever worried that your trauma might scare your boyfriend away given that it was so close? It was a concern of mine at first. To be honest. It was a concern of mine my entire life up until the point that I shared. I never shared it with anyone besides one of my cousins. I was always embarrassed by the ordeal and suppressed it and decided that not revealing it would keep other’s ability to judge me away. But when you suppress things like this and not deal with them, you are only hurting yourself. I was coming out of a bad relationship when I met my husband. That combined with isolation, being away from family and friends, and having so much time to think about all of the trauma I experienced in life put me in a really bad place mentally. I think telling him was a cry for help. I was in a dark place and suicide became a daily thought for me. The only positive and happy moments that kept me going from day to day during that time, was the phone call I'd get daily from my niece and the time I'd spend with him. Something about him gave me peace and I kept wanting to live one more day just to spend time with him again. When I realized that I was in such a dark place, I started speaking to a counselor and the first session went well until the timer went off. Now, I was left to go home and process everything I unlocked and revealed. I don't think I meant to share anything with him that day, I think the emotions and weight of the situation became too heavy to carry, and in that moment, he made me feel safe enough to share. As I pointed out in my article, I felt so embarrassed and ashamed after telling him. But telling him was the best thing I could have done for myself at the time. He was there for me and continued to be even after we initially broke up, he genuinely cared about me healing. 5. Did this experience impact your relationships intimately in any way? It's been hard for me to be intimate after my experience, any tips? Um, I think in general sexual trauma does several things. You either become closed off by sex completely because it triggers ptsd from the event, turned off by the sex that abused you, become promiscuous or a sex addict, or learn that those are isolated incidents and have no problems connecting intimately. You can have one of these feelings or all at different points. Prior to revealing the trauma, it didn't really have any impact on me that I noticed. After revealing it and having to go down memory lane of the trauma, I didn't want to be intimate in any way which is one of the reasons I pushed my then boyfriend away. I couldn't get the images out of my head. Being touched in any way became a challenge for me, a trigger. We dated on and off for a while and then he left for an IA deployment. We broke up prior to him leaving but still talked almost every day. I would send emails and packages and during that time of him being away, I realized I missed him like crazy and wanted to be with him. So, I decided to stop pushing him away and let the decision be his whether to go or stay while I dealt with healing. He was always so respectful and supportive of whatever space I needed. So, during that time he was gone, I took full advantage of going to counseling and doing research on overcoming intimacy issues after trauma and I did. From day one though he has always been respectful in this area. Even before knowing about my trauma, he always asked for permission, which I think gave me the time to mentally be in control of the situation and not feel like my power is being stripped away. Although it started out sexually, our time together was never simply about sex. Well maybe the first time was if I'm being completely honest, but after that, we genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. With time I learned to separate the 2. I think the more trust we built and the safer I felt in the relationship as a whole, allowed me to fully explore my intimacy with him. He also didn't give me a hard time or make me feel bad when I simply couldn't separate them and needed him not to touch me. I think having a partner that truly understands and is supportive helps with the healing process in this area. When he got back, sex became part of therapy for me, and I was determined to replace the bad touch experiences in my mind with positive touch moments I could go back to. When done right and with the right person,

I think intimacy can be medicine to the soul. There are also therapists that work in this specific field that can provide you with resources as well. 6. Do you think that you would have healed sooner if you took your counselors advice and told your mom sooner? After realizing that my mom herself had been a victim, it didn't make sense to me to transfer my pain to her in order for me to heal. Seeing your parents in pain does something to you. My mom keeping me close also meant I got to see her in her most vulnerable state. I got to hear her prayers first thing when she woke up and at night before she laid her head down to sleep. I got to see the tears in her eyes following the phone calls to my siblings in Haiti. For 13 years, I got to see the tears of defeat and pain as I read the immigration letters denying Visa's for my siblings in Haiti to join us in the USA. I got to hear the panic in her voice whenever there was news a grandchild or niece or nephew was ill. I got to sit in the Doctor’s offices translating symptoms and diagnosis when she wasn't feeling well. My mom was always in a state of pain because she carried her family on her back. Their pain was her pain. Their worries were her worries. Their scars were her scars and she worked tirelessly every single day trying to bring peace and comfort to their lives. She was the leader of her family and took the role and responsibilities seriously. Even when I wanted her to simply take a break, her response was always that she couldn't because so many depended on her.

Although it was unspoken, I think we got to the point where we realized we had more in common then we knew. My purpose in life became to bring her happiness. I knew I'd find a way to overcome my trauma without adding that to her pain. I wanted to be something positive in her life. The one person that didn't need anything. Every conversation would be to bring her joy and happiness because I saw firsthand how many directions, she was being pulled in. I'd give my all for my mom. I'd go through everything I'd been through all over again if it meant relieving her of her struggles and pain in life. That's why I never told her.

7. What advice would you give to someone that has gone through something like this, but doesn't have your courage to reveal it to anyone? I'm a big fan of Brene Brown. When call to courage came out on Netflix my husband called me over and said, hey I watched something that I want you to watch. We sat on the couch together and watched it and within the first 5 minutes I was crying. Without giving it all away, she basically talks about vulnerability and having the courage to be in the arena and reach your full potential. I'd been living my life for so long by other people's terms and worried about what other people had to say or thought about me that I was suppressing my own growth. And what was crazy was that these people weren't in the arena. They hadn't been through the things I've been through; fought the fights I've fought so why in the world would I care about what they thought. I didn't have to tell the world about my trauma and nor do you. Courage isn't about revealing your most personal trauma to people who don't know you or have a need to know. It's about having the courage to fight back and taking a stand that you won't be defined by that trauma. I was determined to heal, and I had to do that on an extremely personal level before I could share it with others. Me sharing now wasn't about courage but to me more about purpose and how I view my overall experience. I want to help others. Like you there are sadly so many that carry these scars and so little safe spaces to truly deal with and grow from the experience. I want to be a safe place for others and to do that, I decided to be vulnerable and share my story. Courage is about deciding whether that experience will defeat you, define you, or give you purpose and go from there.

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