The Monster Is Closer Than You Think

Photo credit: Annie Spratt

I don’t talk about this often, I just quietly tell my story to people who have gone through the same thing. It’s my way of trying to be the light. It’s also my way of warning people that the monster is closer than you think.

When did I know? I didn’t, that’s the thing. What I did know was that I was searching. Searching for what? I’m not entirely sure. The answers. The part of me that was missing. Love. Freedom from my own thoughts. The truth. Something was missing, that was a certainty; I felt it deep within my soul.

I tried so hard at everything. I knew that I had to be kind, because somewhere in my life I’d experienced cruelty. So I smiled. I tried to be a good person. I lived with a conscience and when I did wrong, I said I’m sorry. I hated myself so much. I could not even connect to my own body – it was foreign to me like a distant planet.

And there were so many things that didn’t make sense … like why I couldn’t remember my early childhood, why I needed to sleep alone, why I so desperately felt the need to escape.

I read once that if you know that something is missing, you must search until you find it, and even though I searched for a long time, that’s what I did, and I found answers that changed my life forever. In ways that feel only a little less broken now. And sometimes I miss the old me, the me who never knew …

… but this is me now.

An outsider might have thought that my childhood family was a happy one. I don’t think anybody could have imagined the darkness festering behind those walls. As a child, my grandfather was the light of my life. He was always the life of the party, and the one who would take us to the park and buy us treats.

But he was also the one I had to lie with at night.

My father was the one who was strangling me because I was screaming.

My uncles were the ones who would take turns. Sometimes one at a time. Sometimes together.

My granny was the one who knew.

And my mother was the one who was never there.

And all this before I was five years old.

My whole body crashed under the weight of all those realisations, all those memories. I felt like my soul had actually broken into a hundred thousand different pieces. I went onto antidepressants. I stopped going out. I never thought I’d work again.

But my search was over. And I was grateful for that. I now knew why I could never let anybody hold me. Why, despite the fact that I am smart and assertive, I couldn’t stand up for myself when my boss started bullying me. Why, when I’m afraid, when I think that something is going to happen to me, I go weak from the waist down.

As a survivor, you pay. You pay every single day. Do I want to live? Or do I want to die? If you’re strong enough, and if you have enough within you, enough faith and hope and just enough light that you can shine onto other people, then you will choose life. But if you don’t, you’ll choose the alternative.

And my thing is about light and life and kindness and goodness. And about choosing to be light, as much as possible, wherever I go. I don’t always get it right, but that’s what I choose.

And when other people see that light within me, it both touches me and humbles me, because I know I’m doing something right.

I can never change what happened. But I can change what I bring to every day.

And I can change what you know. That the monsters are closer than you think. That you can never be protective enough of your children. That somebody always knows. I never had a mother who looked out for me … but if there’s just one adult who can protect you … if I had just one adult who protected me … just one … I would have been okay.

And finally … if you have a story like mine, know that even though these things may happen to us, it’s really what we do with it that makes us who we are.

It’s a part of who I am but it’s not who I am. And that’s why I am starting to share my story.

I’ll be your ray of light if you need me to be.

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